Several times annually, we bring you stories of our customers, family, and friends on their experiences with night sweats and hot flashes as a result of myriad factors – menopause, hyperhidrosis, cancer treatments, etc. We’ve talked with our model Jean, about her experiences and breast cancer story, and CEO Alli has written about her own family members’ experiences with breast cancer. In that piece, Alli wrote about her 6 cousins who’ve had breast cancer and they cancer story. Ann is one of those six.
Wicked Wisdom: Q&A with Breast Cancer Survivor Ann
1.) Can you tell me about your particular type of cancer and what treatment options you sought?
I had Stage 2 breast cancer. Due to the high incidence of cancer in our family, I chose a bilateral mastectomy with TRAM flap reconstruction. (In retrospect, I wish I had chosen to have reconstruction after treatment to have had time to research better.) I also had chemotherapy, radiation and since the type of cancer I had was Estrogen receptor positive, I was also treated with Tamoxifen. After 2 years of Tamoxifen there were other post-menopausal drugs I could take (the names of those escape me), so I chose to have my ovaries removed. I wanted to knock the cancer out anyway I could – I had a 10-year-old and an 8-year-old and no time for this cancer nonsense!
2.) Did you experience any side effects either before, during, or after your diagnosis and/or treatment? *Of course, I’m interested in the night sweats/hot flashes, but if fatigue or insomnia, itching, swelling, etc. were a part of the side effects, those are great to note too.
The hot flashes were horrific with some of these meds coupled with the abrupt menopause. Since I am hot-natured anyway, you can imagine the consequences! I’ve never been much of a sleeper anyway, but my insomnia worsened and I was (and am still) always hot!
3.) Were you prescribed any particular medicines outside of chemo? Or vitamins/supplements that might help with the side effects?
I was put on the sleep-aid Zolpidem during and after my reconstruction surgery and have tried to discontinue it, but just cannot get any sort of restful sleep without it (or sometimes even with it!). I was also advised to take Vitamin D supplements.
4.) Outside of medicine, were there any non-medicinal things that helped you “cope”? Either tangible or intangible…like exercise, a support group, a certain piece of clothing, a prayer, book, or song?
Not really, although prayer, to me, is always calming.
5) If there was one thing you could share with another person just starting their cancer journey, what would you tell them about your cancer story? Advice on treatment plans, advocacy advice to healthcare professionals, advice to other moms, etc…basically anything you want to share!
Listen to your body (like Alli’s grandma!), be hopeful and get a second opinion. Even if you totally trust your doctor, there is nothing wrong with getting another opinion, especially if your life is on the line. Nobody wants to look back and say “If only I had…”. Also, don’t rely on “Dr. Google” but do your own research using trusted resources – in other words, be your own informed advocate.
As always, consult your doctor with any questions and medical advice. Sleep well, sleep wicked. Visit the American Cancer Society’s website for more information about various cancers.