Cwtch: A warm affectionate hug, cuddle or snuggle that gives a feeling of a safe place or home.
So it’s definitely been a cwtch week this past week in our household. You know those times when everything happens at once and you’re not sure if you’re coming or going? That’s the one. It’s not all been bad stuff, just busy and lots to think about, process and do.
- Firstly I had another acupuncture session and quite frankly it’s not been doing it for me. I had very much hoped that it was going to offer some relief from the inferno that is my body temperature gauge but hand on heart I can’t say that I’ve noticed any improvement. I know that I’ve only had 4 sessions, but I’m disappointed that I’ve not felt any great shift. Cwtch needed. Thank you.
- Secondly I’d booked myself in to have an eye test as I definitely felt that my eyesight had worsened over the past year. I knew that this was playing on my mind as I dreamt about it all night long the night before; one of those horrible dreams that exaggerates everything and gives seemingly innocuous events a weird twist. I knew that what I was most apprehensive about was the test where they blow a puff of air at your eyeball- silly really, something quite painless, but made me anxious nonetheless. It took 7 attempts for me to sit still and let the machine do its stuff! The Optometrist was great and very thorough. He talked a little about the effects of Tamoxifen on eyesight and eye health and then asked me to undergo a test using something called an Amsler Grid. As you can see from the image, it’s a series of small boxes in a grid and the way that you use it is to cover one eye, focus on the middle with the open eye and then make sure that all of the boxes remain the same size and that there is no distortion. Tamoxifen can contribute to Macular Degeneration and when that happens the grid does not appear symmetrical but distorted. ‘Don’t come here to the opticians’ the Optometrist said ‘Go straight to the hospital immediately and they will inject you directly into your eyeballs to save your sight’. Cwtch, cwtch, cwtch please.
- Another 4 weeks has passed and so another Prostap injection was required. ‘How are you feeling?’ asked my practice nurse as she called up my records on the computer to update them with my current status. ‘Is there a medical term for crappy?’ I asked. She made a couple of recommendations of other avenues that I might try to access some support and relief and then as per usual pumped me full of more hormones; the very ones that make our house ‘side effect city’ and make me so hot I should be able to make a donation to the national grid. My guess is that I could supply enough heat to keep a city the size of Birmingham going well into the winter, no trouble at all. Perhaps that’s it? Perhaps all this time I’ve been whingeing and moaning about it, I should simply be selling/donating the effects to other good causes. Please don’t cwtch me, I’m too hot and sweaty.
- And so Monday dawned and this was the day of another appointment with my Oncologist- ‘she of the beautiful hair’ as some of you know her. As always she was attuned to how things are currently and listened carefully to my list of concerns- hot flushes, leg cramps, poor quality sleep, altered concentration, dry mouth etc. I bitched about Tamoxifen, was thankful for Tamoxifen/Prostap/Zometa and we talked about my physiological and emotional reactions to it all. She confirmed that the combination is ‘full on and fast-track’ in terms of efficacy and the intensity of my side effects is of some concern. We debated about the ‘quality of life’ perspective on this one; is it worth staying on Tamoxifen for the added protection of helping to prevent a recurrence or is it creating such a difficult set of circumstances that we need to explore alternatives if I am to have any chance of getting through the recommended time (10 years! XXL Cwtch please). She checked me over, I still have soreness from Radiotherapy but my scar tissue is diminishing which is more comfortable. We’ve agreed that I’ll switch the time of day I take my medication and monitor if that makes any difference at all for a month, if not the plan is that I stop it for 6 weeks, monitor the incidence of side effects and then potentially start on an ‘aromatase inhibitor (AI)’ as my cancer was oestrogen receptive (ER+) and that would be what I would be switched to anyway. Beyond that we talked about removing my ovaries, but that’s a discussion to be had again if things don’t work out with the aromatase inhibitor. I’ll be having a bone scan once I start the AI as it can cause bone thinning.
Aromatase inhibitors (anastrozole, exemestane and letrozole)
Aromatase inhibitors are a group of drugs used to treat breast cancer in post-menopausal women (women who have gone through the menopause).
There are three types of aromatase inhibitors:
Taken as a tablet once a day, aromatase inhibitors are a type of hormone therapy (also known as endocrine therapy).
How do aromatase inhibitors work?
Some breast cancers are stimulated to grow by the hormone oestrogen. In women who have been through the menopause, oestrogen is no longer produced by the ovaries. But some oestrogen is still made in body fat using an enzyme (a type of protein) called aromatase. Aromatase inhibitors stop this enzyme from working so there’s less oestrogen in the body.
An aromatase inhibitor will only be prescribed if your breast cancer has receptors within the cell that bind to the hormone oestrogen, known as oestrogen receptor positive or ER+ breast cancer. All breast cancers are tested for oestrogen receptors using tissue from a biopsy or after surgery. When oestrogen binds to these receptors, it can stimulate the cancer to grow.
When oestrogen receptors are not found (oestrogen receptor negative or ER- breast cancer) tests may be done for progesterone (another hormone) receptors. The benefits of hormone therapy are less clear for people whose breast cancer is only progesterone receptor positive (PR+ and ER-). Very few breast cancers fall into this category. However, if this is the case for you your specialist will discuss with you whether an aromatase inhibitor is appropriate.
If your cancer is hormone receptor negative, then an aromatase inhibitor will not be of any benefit.
Information on different aromatase inhibitors
Anastrozole, exemestane and letrozole all work in similar ways to each other and share many of the same side effects, although there are some differences.
- Our Grandson Flynn; officially the best looking baby in the world and the most advanced of course. He’s already smiling voluntarily even before he’s 4 weeks old. He’s had a bit of a week this week too, but sailed through it with flying colours. Steve and I chose slightly different names to represent being Grandparents. Steve is Bampy (*usually prompts an ‘Awwwwww I love that”‘ response) and I went for the Welsh Mamgu (pronounced Mamghee). I’m not Welsh, but loved the name and so we’re all trying to remember how it’s pronounced and spelt. We’ve opted for Mamgee as the spelling. And so with that Welsh connection, I was surprised and delighted when I unrolled a pack of Love Hearts that I was given by the lovely Debbie who organised Faye’s Baby Shower and found one featured here in the photo above saying Cwtch Me. It just seemed so fitting and right. Flynn + Mamgee = Cwtch.
With family very much at the forefront of our minds Steve and I have signed up to do the Memory Walk in September in aid of the Alzheimer’s Society in memory of Brian, Steve’s Dad. He lived with Alzheimer’s for many years and it is another cruel disease that is far too common and life-changing. If you fancy sponsoring us, just follow this link and we thank you in advance. Steve and Rosemary’s Memory Walk
Go give someone you love a Cwtch.