Managing the side effects of hormone therapies like tamoxifen can be challenging, especially during summer. Helen, who was diagnosed in 2016, shares her top tips for managing menopausal symptoms in the heat.
Hot flushes, sweating, muscle cramps and insomnia
This hormone positive cancer is a funny ol’business and I have found it particularly tricky to negotiate the medication side of things. Initially, I was prescribed letrozole, and what fun we had together! Joint stiffness and muscle cramping were just the start. I changed to exemestane, but my problems got worse. The joint pain and muscle cramps were, at times, crippling. Since January, I have been taking tamoxifen. There are still issues, but things have improved. Although, dealing with the fabulous, gorgeous, and beautifully-warm weather has been interesting! My biggest issues are with hot flushes, sweating, muscle cramps, and insomnia.
This is how I have been managing them.
1. Dress in layers - My first tip is to wear nothing that cannot be rapidly ripped off as soon as your temperature goes up. Dress in layers and natural fibres.
2. A small, hand-held electric fan - I got mine from Amazon and love it because it’s rechargeable! Concertina fans are great too and easy to carry in a handbag.
3. A cooling pillow or 'chillow' - This is a cooling pillow to slip in your pillow case for those unbearably hot nights. They are also handy for managing migraines.
4. Auricular acupuncture - I had a course of this as soon as I started on letrozole, and then a couple of top up sessions last year. It seemed to work really well to begin with for me but sadly, since taking tamoxifen, I haven’t noticed a difference. But I would definitely recommend it as I had 12 months of relief that I suspect can be attributed to it.
5. Find some shade - Seek it out wherever possible, as it still allows you to be outdoors, top up your Vitamin D levels, and enjoy the sunshine.
1. Wear layers to bed and change your sheets - When it comes to night sweats, besides the chillow, my best advice includes wearing layers of bedclothes that can be easily thrown off, and to frequently change your sheets.
2. Wear minimal makeup - I have pretty much given up wearing make up after it slid off my face within ten minutes of application one too many times. I still use eye makeup and lippy, but that’s all these days. The ‘au natural’ look is definitely the best one for those inclined to a sweaty face.
3. Carry around a lens cloth - Thanks to regularly steaming up my glasses with hot flushes and sweating, I generally carry around a lens cloth.
1. Try some form of exercise - On the days when I do more than just lounge about, I definitely have fewer problems with cramping. Either a short energetic walk, or a longer, more ambling stroll works wonders.
2. Remember to stay hydrated - Drinking plenty and keeping hydrated also seems to help. I tend to drink a lot of water anyway but on the days when I have less, again, I notice the cramps are worse.
1. Listen to audiobooks - I have always been prone to insomnia, but tamoxifen or venlafaxine have taken it to a whole new level. Chemotherapy also left me with tinnitus. To combat the tinnitus while falling asleep, I started listening to audiobooks and it’s delightful.
2. Remember to exercise - That old chestnut again. But it does work. I definitely sleep better after a good walk in the fresh air.
3. Sleep with the windows open - Earplugs are a godsend if your neighbourhood is noisy!
These are the tips I find most helpful for managing menopausal symptoms, and I have not yet found the warmer weather something to dread. Something to manage, yes, but it is manageable.
Helen writes her own blog, Getting Abreast of the Situation.
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