In previous blog posts, I’ve commended the Dutchies on their healthcare system; my first visit (including ultrasound, mammogram, biopsy and diagnosis), was all done in just 90 minutes… all appointments, reminders, notes, reports and results available online… entertaining staff, always with a smile and amusing footwear… and even a trolley-dolly wheeling round free tea, coffee and cake while you wait for your appointment. However, despite a national love of kaas, what they don’t offer is cheesecake. And sometimes a girl just needs cheesecake.
The clinical approach
I’m now taking daily tablets, which allow me to lead a pretty normal life (as normal as ‘normal’ gets when you’re a Wallin). I’m back in the gym twice a week, back at work, back on first-name terms with BA cabin crew at weekends, hell I’m even taking singing lessons! But in true Boxy fashion, I’m still playing with things to find my optimum (not just acceptable) routine.
My meds work with the hormone to which my tumours have now shown to respond – estrogen. A bit like taking the contraceptive pill, I take tablets every day for 21 days, then have a seven-day rest. During this time, my body has chance to reset, my blood levels return to normal, and then we go again. After the 28-day cycle, I have a blood test to see how my body has responded to the tablets, then adjust the dosage accordingly, to find the optimum dose – enough to do the job, but without wreaking havoc on my body in the meantime. After a few cycles, when we’ve found the optimum levels, the blood tests can stop and I can just carry on with things.
Side effects so far have been nothing significant; hot flushes (which most women get eventually, for me just sooner than most), the occasional headache (I rarely get headaches, so again, for many people this wouldn’t ever register as a side effect) and a slight tummy ache (nothing like the nausea of chemo, more like if you have paracetamol on an empty stomach).
The Boxy approach
The docs told me to expect the side effects above, while my body gets used to the meds, but said they’d settle down pretty quickly. So while they’re monitoring the clinical stuff, I’ve been experimenting too.
I don’t do being ill. I’m not a poorly person, I haven’t had a cold in five years, I’ve never broken a bone, I prefer an ‘air-repair’ to sticking plaster, I only take paracetamol if it really hurts and, despite two attempts to take me out, cancer hasn’t beaten me yet.
So when I started taking my meds in the morning and found my tummy feeling queasy by lunchtime, I figured I’d try taking them at night instead, to see if I could sleep through any side effects. Luckily, the side effects have disappeared 🙂 but so has my sleep 😦
I’ve tried the lot: melatonin tea, lavender spray on my pillow, reading, leaving my phone on silent / in another room, meditation, headspace, even counting sheep. But I’m struggling to stay asleep for more than an hour or two, so tonight, still not asleep by 03:20, I got up and headed for the kitchen.
The Golden Girls’ approach
Well. if I’d auditioned for a role, it wouldn’t have been my age that was a barrier, it’d have been the lame and decidedly pathetic contents of my fridge.
My first thought is a bowl of cornflakes – I read somewhere ages ago, that a small bowl of cereal can help you sleep. Mum used to give me a glass of milk before bed when I was little (although I suspect it may have been laced with Warnicks or something?!) so the concept has legs, right? I open the cupboard and – ta-dah – I have cereal! I then open the fridge to find only enough milk for my morning cortado, barely enough to cover a single cornflake. Shit.
Option two – make some overnight oats ready for breakfast, so when I do eventually get to sleep, I can lie in and simply grab them from the fridge when I’m ready – winner! Sadly, despite having some fresh berries with which to embellish said morning excitement, any sign of greek yoghurt in my fridge is as non-existent as the milk to cover my cornflakes. Bugger.
Finally, the go-to university late night snack. With one last hope, I reopen the fridge and retrieve my last remaining slice of bread – you know, the tiny bit you get when you’ve bought an artisan loaf, had it sliced, and the end piece is barely big enough to cover the spoon with which I’d hoped to polish off my cornflakes or overnight oats? By this point, I don’t care – the minuscule slice of crumbs and seeds fly into the toaster… and promptly burn. Damnit.
And of course, while I’ve been writing this, my cup of (decaf) tea has gone cold. Damn you insomnia – now I understand why the Golden Girls always resorted to cheesecake!