In June of 2016, Catherine found herself in an appointment at the PEI Cancer Treatment Centre with Dr. Cipperly pinch-hitting for her regular oncologist. It happened to be his last appointment on his last day at his job, and we found him helpful, patient and kind. I wrote about the appointment in my book:
Sleep turned out to be a topic of discussion otherwise as well: Dr. Cipperly used the appointment as a general sort of cancer check-up in addition to reviewing the CT results. Catherine’s been exhausted for a long while, even more so in recent months. Her protests about her exhaustion to our family doctor, and to Dr. Champion, have gone unheeded, as though there are bigger fish to fry.
We’d been working under the assumption (read “I’d been working under the assumption”) that this was simply a side- effect of living with cancer. It turns out, in fact, that cancer, in and of itself, unless some major energy-involved organ like the lungs is under attack, doesn’t exhaust you.
And so, being a guy with answers to questions, Dr. Cipperly rhymed off the list of things that can make you exhausted: anemia (Catherine’s okay here), thyroid issues (she’ll get tested before her next visit), blood sugar issues (another test) and sleep apnea.
Dr. Cipperly wasn’t sure that he had the power to refer someone to the sleep clinic, but as it was a slow afternoon and no nurses were guarding the forms, he grabbed one and made a referral. So, with luck, Catherine will be seen by the sleep lab and they may trace her exhaustion issues back to something that has nothing at all to do with cancer. Which would be terrific, inasmuch as it would be something treatable. Catherine would love to not be exhausted all the time.
Catherine did go on to get a sleep study, and was diagnosed with sleep apnea. We bought a CPAP machine for her, and it proved an excellent investment, as her sleep immediately improved. She used the machine until she died, carting it to Spain and back with her because she couldn’t imagine sleeping without it.
CPAP machines are expensive and aren’t covered by public health insurance; we had to dig deep. To help those that can’t afford a machine, the PEI Lung Association has a refurbishment program:
The PEI Lung Association is actively looking for pre-owned CPAP and BiPAP machines. An increasing number of Islanders are being diagnosed with sleep apnea—a condition that causes people to stop breathing when they sleep. This condition can cause a host of other health problems including heart arrhythmia, diabetes, stroke, depression and more. Therapy can be very expensive, with CPAP and BiPAP machines ranging in cost from $1,000 to $5,000 — and many Islanders cannot afford them.
Students from Dalhousie University’s School of Health Sciences work to refurbish the machines for distribution to patients who could not otherwise afford therapy.
If you or someone you know has a CPAP or BiPAP machine you no longer use, please consider donating it today! Ask us about tax receipts for newer-model machines! To donate a CPAP or BiPAP machine, or to donate another respiratory machine (e.g. pre-owned nebulizer or oxygen concentrator), please contact Julia Hartley at email@example.com or by phone at (902) 892-5957 or at our toll-free number (888-566-5864).
Having seen how profound an improvement having a CPAP machine was to Catherine, I’m delighted to see this program in place; it was the destination for her machine after she died, and I’m happy it’s found a new life helping someone else.