Buying a cancer drug in a foreign country. In a rural area. In a pandemic.

buying a cancer drug in a foreign country in a rural area in a pandemic

Last Updated on May 28, 2023 by Ellen

Around this time two years ago, I waited for a Croatian radiologist to return from vacation so he could perform a stereotactic biopsy with one of only two specialized machines in the country. That year, for a second year in a row, my annual mammogram found something suspicious. Somehow, I knew it would be breast cancer. It was, and I dealt with it.

Waiting was always the hardest part of my cancer journey. Waiting for the mammogram to be read; waiting for the first biopsy; waiting for the biopsy results during Croatian holidays; waiting for surgery; waiting for appointments with doctors in different countries to determine my treatment options; and finally, waiting to see if the cancer comes back. It’s that last one I had the most trouble with. It took me more than a year to stop projecting into the future with every awful “what if” scenario.

It’s almost as if all that waiting then, prepared me for waiting now. Waiting for the pandemic to end so we can resume our travel lifestyle — in whatever form that might take in the ‘new normal.’

We have been living at the Hangout Beach Resort in Malay, Aklan, Philippines, for three months (and one day). We are now officially in one place longer than any other. (The runner up is Mahahual, Mexico, where we stayed three months in 2016.)

Of all places to be hunkered down while the world waits out this pandemic, this is a great one. I love the people at the Hangout, the sea, the landscape. It’s a rural area, and so it’s not easy to find things like brewed coffee or American-sized underwear for Tedly and me. However, with patience and help, it’s possible to find anything – including my breast cancer drug.

Buying a cancer drug

I have another two-month supply of tamoxifen. It’s a drug that will hopefully prevent a return of my hormone-positive breast cancer. (It can return anywhere in the body, even at my mastectomy sites.) In the past, I’ve traveled with as much as a six-month supply. That gives me ample time to research and find a new doctor in a new country, make an appointment, get the doc’s opinion and another prescription for tamoxifen.

one tamoxifen pill on top of a tamoxifen box

In December, I saw a great doctor in Cebu. I’m due to see another oncologist now, since I’m supposed to technically do it every six months. But I’m fine, my risk is low, and I’m still in the Philippines in a rural area during a pandemic. So I’m not freaked out about it.

Ironically, I had told Tedly after the December doctor visit that I was considering skipping the June checkup anyway. All the blood work came back terrific. My hormonal tests, were normal, too. And so, here we are, six months later.

The pharmacist and staff at the Mercury Drug Store in Caticlan were so helpful. They took my prescriptions, verified, and ordered my supply from Manila. Due to the pandemic, it took a few weeks to get the pills. No problem. I don’t mind waiting — I am used to it.

When the order was in, a staff member sent me notice on Facebook Messenger. How cool is that?! I decided today that I will order another two months supply, just in case. Might as well. We anticipate being here through the summer.

The cost was essentially 62 cents a pill. That’s not the most expensive, and it’s not the least expensive. Greece was the least expensive, at a few cents a pill. A generic drug would have cost less. Nolvadex is the ‘name brand.’ But I’ve taken so many variations of this pill – a different generic in every country. So the doctor thought that by keeping the same brand, I might have fewer, less intense side effects.

All things considered, I know I am so lucky to be able to order and buy this breast cancer prevention drug, and I know not every woman is as lucky.


Sometimes things happen that never make this blog. Like when I meet fellow breast cancer survivors. I met one back in Cebu. Actually, I was on Bohol Island, and traveled back to Cebu to keep her company during and after radiation treatment. It was her second round with breast cancer.

That’s what sucks about the disease. You can limit your chances of recurrence with tamoxifen and mastectomies, but it can come back anyway. We are more acquainted with our mortality than other people. Life is now. Better to enjoy it while we can, instead of worrying and waiting.

I’m happy to report my new Filipina friend and fellow breast cancer survivor is doing well. And I’m happy to report I’m doing well.

Never in my life was I good at ‘waiting’ — for anything. Through the years, thanks to some soul lessons, I’ve learned how to be better at it. I’ve simply accepted things happen on God’s time, not mine.

Now, if that stupid pandemic would just hurry up and be over so I could travel again………….. (LOL)

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