What does it mean to be hormone receptor positive? At a basic level, hormones that each of our bodies make naturally are fuel for the cancer. If there is estrogen or progesterone in high amounts in the body, then the cancer has more fuel to grow and spread. When the fuel is block and removed as much as possible, then the cancer cells are deprived of the fuel they need.
How does this happen?
Most women have their ovaries removed and then take medication to suppress any remaining estrogen and progesterone. The combination of surgery and hormonal medication plus other medication that aids the hormonal medication pushes each person into premature menopause or fully into menopause.
What many patients don’t understand is that there are so many other consequences of being in menopause that affect quality of life. Estrogen and progesterone are integral in many types of health, like heart health, bone health, hair health, skin health, etc. Once menopause is fully present and any remaining hormones are suppressed or removed, the side effects of menopause can be overwhelming.
For those of us living with cancer, there is a constant balancing act between the medication we must take to stay alive and our quality of life. We have to ask ourselves and discuss with our doctors consistently how much of ourselves we are willing to give up to stay alive. And, eventually, when is it time to prioritize quality of life over quantity.
If you know someone living with MBC who is on hormonal therapy or who has had their ovaries removed to stay alive, please remember that what we have to do affects our wellbeing, affects our ability to regular our emotions, affects our ability to be present and feel human. And maybe, just maybe, some grace can be extended on the bad days. We are all doing the best we can.