Zola-what…?

After my laparotomy I was on bed rest for 2 weeks after which I had to get a monthly injection of Zoladex 3.6mg for 6 months. During the 2 weeks bed rest the incision was slightly uncomfortable at the start but it healed nicely. The 6 months that followed was another story. Firstly, Zoladex is prescribed to breast or prostate cancer patients to suppress hormones in order to give your body the opportunity to heal. In short it puts you in PMS!

The injection itself didn’t hurt that much, for me anyway. Another girl told my sister it was one of the more painful things she had experienced to date, and she went to the same doctor as me. I guess my pain threshold is slightly higher. The issue that I did experience is getting hold of the injection. My doctor told me that I have to fetch the injection before my monthly appointment from the pharmacy as they don’t stock drugs at the practice. I thought that’s OK, sounds straight forward. Before my first injection I could get hold of one in pharmacies in town, apparently they order it for patients as needed. The only place where I could find it was at the private hospital’s pharmacy and they didn’t have stock at that point they had to have it couriered from the neighboring town’s hospital. But the courier wouldn’t arrive in time for my appointment. At the end of the day my mom and I had to go fetch it ourselves in order to make the appointment (doctors are fully booked in advance so moving the appointment wasn’t an option). Apart from that the pharmacy charged +-R2200 for the injection. So I decided to do my homework before the next appointment and found a recommended selling price list from the South African government on the internet, which indicated the RSP for Zoladex is +-R1700. So I decided to order the Zoladex through a different pharmacy going forward and ended up paying +-R1800 per shot. Which is a lot of money if you are on a hospital plan and not on medical aid.

As I was finishing my masters during this semester, I had to go home to my parents once a month to see my doctor. They lived 350km from the University. And during all this the side effects started. Oh what joy that was! The long term side effect could result in osteoporosis as Zoldex decrease bone density. For me the 2 big issues was acne outbreak and the mood swings. I had really bad acne a month after the first injection. Normally I struggle with bad skin, but this was really bad. The mood swings was no fun either. The one time I freaked out because my sister made a vinaigrette for a salad (something she has never done before) and poured it over in the bowl with the result of my meat being soaked in it in my plate. I was so irritated with this that I just went to my room and cried. My mom cam e to check on me and I apologized for my little outbreak at the dinner table and explained that I could help it as it was a result of the hormones. I had to work so hard to not get irritated and not want to bite everybody around me’s head off. It was a very long 9 months (it can take about 3 month after the last injection for your body to return to ‘normal’). And above all I was finishing my masters degree and searching for a job for the next year, going to +-10 interviews during that time. All you can do is push through.

Zoladex side effects may include:

  • hot flashes, sweating;
  • mood changes, increased or decreased interest in sex;
  • changes in sexual function, fewer erections than normal;
  • headache;
  • swelling in your hands or feet;
  • vaginal dryness, itching, or discharge;
  • changes in breast size; or
  • acne, mild skin rash or itching.

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