Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sleep - my catch 22

Some background info While pregnant with my son, Cooper (16 months old), I developed a condition called "incompetent cervix" and was placed on bed rest at 16 weeks for the remainder of the pregnancy and given weekly injections of "17P", a form of progesterone to prevent preterm labor which I was high risk for. It worked, and I was able to carry Cooper to 35 weeks. He did great, spent no time in the NICU, came home with us, but we soon discovered that he had severe reflux (common for preemies) so he couldn't drink very much at a time and had to drink small amounts frequently. He also had to be elevated for 30 minutes after drinking/eating to prevent him from choking if/when he refluxed following a feeding. For the first several months he drank every 2 hours. At night, the reflux seemed to be worse and he would wake up every 45-90 minutes all night long, every night. He also was sick a lot with reflux related respiratory issues - hospitalized twice for pneumonia at 3 and 4 months old - and every cold became a respiratory infection. He was frequently on antibiotics, steroids, and steroidal inhalers in addition to the Prevacid which I'm sure just prolonged and contributed to the sleep issues. We couldn't sleep train him until after the reflux was gone because stress and crying aggravated the reflux - he didn't outgrow it until 10+ months. Bottom line, in the first year of his life, Cooper only slept through the night (meaning for more than 5-6 consecutive hours), just 3 times and since it was such a rarity that I was convinced/worried there was something wrong with him so I didn't even sleep more than the usual couple hours at a time on those nights. I was sleeping for periods of 45-120 minutes at a time, all night, nearly every night, for over a year. As soon as I'd approach deep sleep, I was woken up. Fast forward to June '09 (and through October) When I met with my two oncologists (separately) I told them about the extreme sleep deprivation I'd been enduring, and the hormone injections received during my pregnancy. They agreed that the sleep deprivation certainly would impact a person's immune system, and that it's possible for hormone injections to increase a person's risk and/or feed an existing cancer, but they each said that it's unlikely that the cancer I had would have just appeared within the past year - that typically it takes much longer for it to develop, grow and advance to the point where it was discovered. It would be nice to know what caused the cancer, or made me especially susceptible to it, but we may never know. However, I knew that in order for me to be strong, fight, get through treatment, and give myself a good shot at avoiding a recurrence, I'd need to get a lot more sleep than I had been getting. So we began sleep training with Cooper. We had great success thanks to help from Bob and my mom, and were on a great roll - not sleeping through the night but at least getting 3-4 hour stretches of sleep which was a great improvement. But every teething episode, cold, etc. put us back to square one so it's been very challenging to get the sleep I've needed - especially with Bob being away so much. Eventually we decided I'd take an occasional night away at a hotel when Bob was home so I could sleep through the night once in a while even if Cooper didn't - I've done that three times so far. In mid-October I resumed working part-time. Getting better/more sleep became even more critical but Cooper's molars were coming in and taking FOREVER to emerge, causing him a great deal of pain. During the day he walked around smacking his cheeks while yelling "owwww", and at night he woke crying every 1-2 hours. FINALLY, last week, the 4th molar emerged and Cooper began sleeping through the night - and has for 4 consecutive nights now :) (I pray that I'm not jinxing it by announcing this haha). FINALLY, I have been able to sleep for 4-6 consecutive hours at night before being woken by a hot flash, or by Cooper. Catch 22 For most of the year, I had not been dreaming - or if I was, I was not remembering any dreams. I can count on one hand the number of times I woke up remembering a dream within the past 16 months. With more sleep comes the return of dreams. Normally that'd be OK, you'd think - right? WRONG. Out of the five dreams I remember having, 3 of them have been cancer related. Not cool. And, all 3 of the dreams I remember having since just before my diagnosis have been about cancer. These are scary dreams and I don't like it. I know and believe that dreams are symbolic, making me even more unhappy about these dreams. I understand that we work through feelings and anxiety in our dreams, but I don't like the direction of these dreams as they are not relieving my anxiety and are instead adding to it. I can't even tell you how many times I was feeling my armpits throughout the day today because of a really upsetting dream I had last night. This really pisses me off. I just want to say that I think it's freakin' BS that now that I can finally sleep for a good span of the night, I'm having these scary dreams. I think we can all agree that I've been really positive and doing the right things - juggling aggressive treatment, leveraging both medical and holistic healing techniques, taking care of Cooper, working, and managing the household. I very rarely complain...right? So when the f*** will I catch a break from the BS? Don't I deserve restful sleep? I mean, really!? Seriously!? I want happy dreams, damnit! ****we now return to our regularly scheduled ass kicking program**** Hey cancer, you're not allowed in my body, nor my dreams! Beat it!

4 comments:

  1. Hey, Julie- I'm sorry that your dreams have been so cruddy. Dreams often are tell-tale of what is on our minds. There have been studies done that show dreams are connected to our deepest thoughts, even our subconscious thoughts and worries. What you have been through already and what you are going through now is definitely life altering and scary to the extreme--you know this all too well. Don't know if these two suggestions would help, but they might be worth a try. While in bed when you're tired, read something you find distracts you well and evokes different emotions from you than the emotions your dreams have given you, even returning to youth novels like Little House on the Prairie. Also, playing music that evokes positive emotions may help while you sleep. I'm praying for happy sleep for you, my friend. Happy, restful, complete sleep for countless, consecutive complete nights... You DO deserve it many times over.

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  2. I agree with what Steve and Amy Beth said. My advice would also be to think happy thoughts before bed. But not like thinking of a future cancer free. While that is such a wonderful thing, it will cause you to fall asleep thinking about the cancer and stir up those bad dreams. Instead, remember some of the happiest days of your life: Your wedding day, you honeymoon, the day you found out you were pregnant, the day Cooper was born, anything from your childhood that was wonderful. That way you are thinking of actual memories as you fall asleep and your mind can pull those items from your subconscious. I hope this helps. You definitely deserve some good sleep and good dreams

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  3. I'm just going to say "f*** this s***" for you, so you don't have to put those words in the universe yourself. I'll take the karma hit for you. Hang in there, Julie. You are in my thoughts and prayers constantly. Hugs to you and the Coops.

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  4. Search for iSmile on iTunes. These helped me a lot when I was preggo. Just sort of mello, happy things. They are pretty bland so you can fall asleep to them...if I can fall asleep to them, anyone can.

    Dr. Mike suggests Gordon Lightfoot...

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