Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Foam Mattresses and Health

On May 7, 2007, I bought a new queen mattress and boxsprings. It was a Spring Air Backsupporter Mattress which had a memory foam pillow top. It was delivered on May 9. On May 11, I remember waking up feeling tired. Later that afternoon, I leaned over to get into a cupboard and was so dizzy and felt slightly nauseous that I decided that I couldn't drive up to Portland for the night as planned. For the next ten days, at least, I continued to feel dizzy, nauseous, and fatigued. I even slept a good nine hours on one or two nights and woke up feeling like I hadn't slept at all and that I might have even had a hangover, but I hadn't had any alcohol at all. I was so fatigued and sometimes even shaky that I didn't teach my classes the following week.

I tried to find answers and one thing that was suggested was that I had adrenal fatigue. I certainly had a lot of symptoms. One symptom is that upon standing from a sitting position or sitting from a laying down position, you feel dizzy. I started measuring my blood pressure and it actually dropped when I stood up - I documented this on my appointment calendar.

I eventually had my cortisol levels checked by my internist, but they came back normal. I saw a local naturopath and he suggested that we do a saliva test - which is taken by putting in an absorbent cotton into your mouth, let it absorb your saliva, then you stick it into a test tube. (The idea is that drawing blood causes a rise in your cortisol so blood tests can't be accurate - it's stressful getting stuck with a needle - the saliva test is less invasive and less stress-inducing.) The tube with the absorbent cotton (I think) is then sent to a lab. The results came back with low cortisol levels and something else - I'd have to get the test results to see. The diagnosis was adrenal fatigue, caused by chronic stress (at that point, I was a 4.5 year survivor of breast cancer, a divorced mom of an autistic-spectrum child, and had just received tenure the year before - there's no stress there, huh?).

But several months ago, I'm not sure what I was searching for, but I found a few sites that discussed foam mattresses and the outgassing that they need to do from the manufacturing process. That was around the time I was diagnosed with cancer in my skin, and then the bone mets, so I didn't follow up on it. In recent weeks, though, when I have time, I try to look up information. Here's a couple of sites to read over:

And another one:

While most of the health effects seem to revolve around autoimmune disorders - or allergic-type reactions, there is a suggestion that some of the chemicals that are outgassed are carcinogenic. Great, huh?

So, my thought is that I already had a somewhat weakened immune system from my cancer treatments five years ago. I tended to catch colds easier and they hung on longer than they usually do. Then I buy this new bed and I have fatigue, dizziness, and nausea.

My mammogram in September 2006 was normal. But, my mammogram in September 2007 showed calcifications that were eventually shown to be cancer tendrils throughout my breast tissue.

So, what happened between 9/2006 and 9/2007? Well, I'd started a new relationship, which is exciting but was also sometimes stressful. I had a lot of things going on at work. So, certainly, there was stress. But then, there's this new bed, which was more than likely outgassing toxic chemicals.

When the bone mets were found in Feb 2008, I asked Dr. Kenyon how long he thought they'd been there growing. His guess was "months". Not "years", but months. Could that be the bed? May 2007 to Feb 2008 is 9 months.

Could the bed have caused the recurrence or the mutation of my previous breast cancer? If you will recall, this cancer was different than the first one. My previous cancer was Her-2 negative. This was Her-2+. My previous cancer was lobular, this was ductal. The previous one caused a tumor. This one had "tendrils" of cancer in the ducts and lymph channels. The previous one was slow growing. This was medium-growing. My thinking is that the fumes may have caused whatever cancer cells may have already been there to mutate so that they didn't respond to the tamoxifen I was on. I think I read that tamoxifen is not as effective against Her-2 positive cancers.

My doctors guessed that the cancer tendrils throughout my breast may have been there a couple of years, but my thinking is that it may have actually only been months.

Will we ever know for sure if it was the bed? No. We won't. But the idea has been planted in my head and it won't go away.

So, after thinking about it - chatting with my friends Paula and Dwight while in Bandon last month - I have decided that my health is worth the $1600 price tag to buy a new all natural latex (rubber) mattress. It's a steep price to pay right now while I'm on sabbatical and especially after spending $800 last year on the new bed. But every night before I sleep, I think, "am I making things more difficult for my body to fight this cancer because of any toxic outgassing from the bed?" I've been sleeping okay- not obsessing about it - but the thought is there.

The red rash that is cancer in the lymph channels has not receded much in the past couple of weeks and I have some lymphedema there. It isn't advancing, which is the good news. But it isn't receding either. That is causing me me to worry about the bed.

The new one will be delivered in a few weeks. I am looking forward to it.


ann said...

I was so sick --nausea, fatigue, pain all over my body--from my memory foam topper that I took it to the dumpster. I spoke to a mattress specialist--he's on the net but I can't remember his name right now--he said "memory foam makes lots of people sick".hhzeybft

Dee said...

Hi Ann,
Thanks for your comment. I also had a couple of those memory foam or just plain foam toppers, too: one for my bed and one for my son's. But I tossed them within the past couple of months for this same reason.

I also didn't make the connection between the bed and the fatigue until recently, so it's too late to return the bed. I may try to sell it on craigslist, but I'm conflicted about it - do I want to pass on this mattress that may have caused my fatigue and nausea to someone else? On the other hand, it may just affect people who have weakened immune systems, so other people may be able to tolerate it without having any ill effects. If anyone wants to weigh in on whether or not I should sell this mattress - it's still in almost new condition - or not, I'd love to hear your opinions!

Priyanka jain said...

Memory foam mattresses creates a unique fit for each individual. Especially for those suffering from joint and back pain,a memory foam mattress may offer fantastic relief.Memory foam mattresses greatly reduce the collection of dust mites and provide allergy relief.

kajal roy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kajal roy said...

Nice post, memory foam mattress is really very helpful for back pain relief, my mom had back pain, then I purchased a memory foam mattress online from after a few days she felt better and got relief from unwanted back pain.

Kuldeep Kumar said...

Memory Foam Mattress are good for them suffering from joint and back pain. Now Memory foam mattress are available on online shopping portals it is easy buy now.