Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tamoxifen Nights

At 10:30 I go to bed. It's a work day and I have to get up early. I decide to read a bit to relax. As I open my book, I begin to feel warm and sleepy.

Very warm. Very, very warm.

Oh shit, it's another hot flash. I read through it, dewdrops of sweat glistening off the hard mound of my tissue expander.

As the heat dissipates, I check the clock. It's 11:00, and I am beginning to get chilled, so I pull the covers up to my neck, pet the cat who has begun meowing, get comfortable, and turn out the light. At 11:04, another hot flash hits. I pull the covers off and turn the fan I have on my nightstand so it blows right on me. My skin soaks up the cool air. A few minutes later, when this hot flash lessens, I fall asleep.

11:24, I wake up, chilled from the fan. I pull the covers up to my neck again, and turn to lie on my stomach, which is easier on my aching hips.

With a tissue expander instead of a breast, lying on your stomach is like sleeping on a beach ball, so I prop pillows around the expander to try and get some balance. The cat curls up near my side, and I fall asleep again. 12:30, I wake up. I'm burning hot yet again, so I throw the covers aside, causing the cat to jump to the dresser. I look at the clock, and then turn to my left side. My hips are hurting pretty bad, and I put a pillow between my knees to try for balance.

I lie there, thinking about work the next day, chores I need to do, how much my body aches, how much I need to sleep. I try to get comfortable, using pillows as props.

At 1:43 I'm still awake. I wonder if I should start to read again since I'm clearly not fucking sleeping any time soon, but I decide not to. I pat the bed to convince the cat to come off the dresser and come sleep by my side. She gingerly steps down, and I pet her for a while. I make a little cave with the covers so she'll crawl inside and sleep beside my belly. My formerly feral cat finally does, and curls up next to me, purring. I pet her as another hot flash hits.

Now I have a problem. I really need to get those covers off me RIGHT NOW but I pretty much convinced the cat to come off her perch and cuddle with me. I debate - can I stand the heat? Is it fair to the cat to move the covers? As the heat builds to sauna-like strength, and my heels start to sweat, comfort wins out, and I rip the blankets off.

The cat jumps back on the dresser.


I turn to sleep on my right side, and feel the expander valve that is pushing through my skin dig into the mattress, and I vow - once again - to go buy a memory foam mattress pad to try and soften my night.

I look at the clock. 2:37.

At 3:33 my husband gets up to go to the bathroom, and as he opens the door I realize I had been asleep and am now awake.

And sweating. Covers off. I put my arm by the fan so the air will travel down to my chest.

It's 4:00 in the morning and I have to get up at 6:00. I don't have sleeping pills, but I decide to take a fioricet, a medicine I have for headaches. Although it has caffeine in it, sometimes it makes me slightly sleepy. It's worth a try - I can still get two hours, right?

4:15, I get into bed again, hips and legs and shoulders and back aching and wondering if if I should have taken a pain pill too, but I don't want to take the two kinds that close together. I take pain pills when I wake up, so I'll just wait.

Again, I prop myself with pillows and try to sleep on my stomach. At 4:30, I decide to turn ocean sounds on my iPhone and see if the rhythm of an endless loop of fake waves can lull me to sleep.

6:00, the alarm rings, and startles me awake.

I hit the snooze button and fall asleep again instantly. Ten minutes later, I do the same. And again. After the fourth time, I know I have to get up or be late for work and I've already missed my shower time, so I don't hit the snooze button this time. I pull the covers back and swing my aching knees over the side of the bed, knowing that now I could sleep for four hours straight.

As I wearily get up to go to work, I think that maybe if I start my night with an alarm and a snooze button, I'll get a deeper sleep.

The cat glares at me balefully from the dresser.

Tamoxifen has wrecked both of our nights.



  1. I totally understand about hot flashes. Not only am I on tamoxifen, I'm also getting effexor shots (in my stomach) once a month to stop the estrogen in my body.

    My family freezes, I have my air set on 70 all the time. My husband wears his sweats and fuzzy slippers, my oldest comes up in her coat, the other two are in blankets and I'm SWEATING!!

    It's horrid!!!

  2. Melatonin (3mg) works great for me. After about 20 minutes of taking it I feel sleepy and go to bed. It is a natural product, something the body produces on its own. Keep us posted! Thanks.

  3. I can't comment re: medication side effects but I can offer a few suggestions re: sleeping environment. Get yourself to a Kohl's or somewhere that has good bedding choices. You should spend the money on the following...
    a nice memory foam mattress pad, get a medium or thick (I have my own cyst farm in each breast & this item has made it immensely easier for me to sleep on my side AND it has helped quite a bit with my hot flashes)
    a leg/thigh pillow; this is a funny shaped item, kinda the obverse of an hourglass (keeps your legs, especially your femurs, thus relieving some of the stress on your hips; also helpful with hot flashes b/c you don't have as much skin on skin)
    lastly, my favorite, a hot flash pillow (not sure they call it that) - memory foam pillow that has cooling channels & a heat dissipating cover

    these three things have helped me IMMENSELY...

    I hope they help you some. I always thought it was crazy that Law & Order did an episode where Candice Bergen's character claimed that hot flashes/night sweats made her crazy & that's why she committed murder -- after numerous years of night sweats & difficulty sleeping -- I don't think it's nutso anymore!

  4. I also have a cat who is getting pretty frustrated with the covers on covers off routine. This sets him off meowing, which then wakes my husband ... sigh

  5. I went into 'premature menopause' after I started chemo last September. I thought that was it ... had the hot flushes and everything ... and then out of the blue ... just a little over a week from my initial diagnosis I have discovered I am not menopausal after all! Although I am not enjoying my 'first visit' for 12 months I am not missing the flushes either! Until you experience one - especially at night - you have no idea! My onc department does something Chillo Pillows - might be worth looking into?


  6. My stepdaughter gave me some melatonin, and I took it two nights but didn't notice any difference. That was before tamoxifen though. I think I'll try it again.

    I love all the bedding/sleep suggestions! I found a sleep speaker thing at Amazon too - a headband with speaker so you can listen to waves and stuff without disturbing your bedmate. It's pretty pricey but might be worth a try.

  7. I had the rage/irritability/anger/frustration, sleepless nights (or, multiple short-lived sleep sessions), and hot/cold flashes. Finally, my oncologist came up with the combination of Lunesta (ahhh, REAL sleep!) and Lexapro. Although Lexapro is an antidepressant, its major value is with the hot/cold flashes! I distinctly remember telling the oncologist assistant that I wasn't depressed, I was pissed! But, it worked. Go figger. It took almost six months to finally come up with this winning combination but I've been back to work for over a year, still on Tamoxifen, and couldn't be more grateful for the respite.

    Maybe you could ask your oncologist if this might work for you?

    I hope you'll be able to get rid of that expander soon. I'm looking forward to reading: "I had my first real night of restful sleep!" It's a big day, lemme tell ya.

  8. Arimidex does the same thing to me...only, along with joint aches and pains and insomnia....I also suffer with weight gain. You know, as if my cancer isn't enough to deal with! :D

  9. Five years of this crap? You've got to be kidding me! Yes, I say try the Lexapro and Lunesta!


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