This morning I woke up and something new-ish had happened: I slept through the night without waking up at least once or without the aid of medication. I haven't been able to say that in months, probably since I had my surgery last fall.
When I was inititally diagnosed with cancer, I slept absolutely fine. My anxiety was apparently waiting or it was revving up big time to come at me. I had more anxious thoughts about the stink bugs (I HATE STINK BUGS) in my house than breast cancer. During the day I was a nervous wreck but at night, I slept peacefully.... well, with a cover tightly over me so the stink bugs couldn't crawl on me.
After my surgery in late September, I had a hard time sleeping because my right side felt like it was basically (pardon the harshness of my words) gutted. Righty and my right armpit were in just so much pain that I couldn't get comfortable for a long time. That's when the sleep problems started. In order just to get to sleep, I started taking a combination of anxiety meds and pain medication.
I told my boyfriend and other friends when this all began that I didn't want to be dependent on any medications in my post-cancer life unless I absolutely had to (for example, Tamoxifen). Before cancer, I wasn't taking any regular medication for anything so I wanted to keep it that way. I expressed concern to my friend Jo about the pain meds and she reassured me that if I was in pain, take the pain meds. I couldn't get addicted while I was truly in pain. She's a smartie because look at me, not addicted to pain killers. I didn't even get close to the danger zone.
Chemo, unsurprisingly, was a whole other ballgame. Unibrow prescribed me anti-depressants to help with the hot flashes that accompany chemotherapy. Worst. Idea. Ever. I absolutely could not function while on this anti-depressant. I have never suffered from depression in my life (anxiety, yes, but depression - absolutely not) so putting me on an anti-depressant threw my body into this horrible tailspin. I couldn't stop crying and didn't see the good in life anymore. I think I lasted a week and a half on the anti-depressant and stopped taking them.
Even though hot flashes have caused my inability to sleep through the night, I do not regret my decision to stop taking that anti-depressant. Every single night that hot flashes caused me to wake up because I was sweating and my blankets were serving as instruments of torture - I still would make the same choice I did. The positive attitude that so many folks have remarked on: it wouldn't have been possible if I was still taking that awful medication. A clear mind has helped me get through chemotherapy and deal with all the associated stress and problems.
When I woke up this morning and realized that I made it over six glorious hours without waking up sweating, I felt like doing a carthwheel... if I was able to do such a thing. I didn't have to take melatonin or anxiety meds to get to sleep either, which I haven't been able to do since starting chemotherapy. I'm sure radiation is going to make sleep difficult again but that's not going to start for another couple of weeks. Until then, I'm going to enjoy these small victories whenever they occur.