Surviving & Thriving on Aromatase Inhibitors: My Story
By Marianne A.
I became a breast cancer survivor in January of 2021. Surgery was behind me, I was taking an aromatase inhibitor (AI), and I had my final radiation treatment. I was full of joy when I rang the bell to signal the end of my active treatment! Finally, I could breathe again, after months of tremendous mental strength and courage. Though I was physically fatigued from radiation, I was ready to focus on building my stamina and my overall health – body, mind, and spirit.
I was experiencing some slight joint pain in my hands, which I assumed was from the AI. I thought, “I’ve handled everything else; I can handle this too.” However, what I didn’t expect was the downward spiral of my mental and emotional health. I felt sad. I couldn’t concentrate. I wasn’t sleeping. I felt lost. This was not at all how I thought a breast cancer survivor was supposed to feel. This post-treatment “low” was surprising and troubling. I thought, “I survived breast cancer. Shouldn’t I feel elated? What is wrong with me?”
When I shared my concerns with my oncologist, she reassured me that my feelings were normal and quite common among cancer survivors. She explained that trauma from a cancer journey is very real. Then she suggested I contact the Breast Cancer Coalition for support.
That one suggestion was a game-changer for me in many ways. At my BC101 session, Holly validated my concerns and I was soon connected to a supportive PALS mentor. I was encouraged to participate in the Surviving & Thriving on Aromatase Inhibitors series of four classes. The facilitators of this program are amazing. I learned the importance of movement, mindfulness, and nutrition to offset the joint pain and other potential AI side effects in a supportive “sisterhood” environment. It was inspiring to meet other survivors and draw strength from their journeys, advice, and support. I felt validated and empowered. I learned that my AI side effects were manageable, that my emotions were real and okay, and that mental health is just as important as physical health for survivorship. Throughout the program, I began to reflect and consider how I want to live life as a survivor.
Months after finishing the program, I am happy to say that my healthy habits are still going strong. I’m exercising regularly, eating better, monitoring my side effects of the AI, and choosing happiness as I “shed the negative” in my life. I am in a much better place physically, mentally and emotionally.