when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 textile designer Pauline Birse from Selkirk knew something of what to expect with chemotherapy - nausea and likely hair loss - but she was completely unprepared for the night-time sweat-soakings she experienced.
Pauline would waken with dripping wet pyjamas sticking to her from neck to ankle and had to change them – and her bedding – four or five times a night.
Sweating can be a symptom of some cancers or caused by cancer treatment. It is highly distressing and interrupts sleep when a patient needs rest the most.
Loading article content
Pauline says: "Personally I feel nobody can possibly understand the extent of trauma that these side-effects can have on people's lives.
"When I said 'cold sweat' people would suggest putting on a jumper. The reality of a cold sweat is constantly frozen neck, constantly frozen bald head, and every half hour it feels like standing in snow naked.
"It disrupts sleep altogether. I would go to bed wrapped in big towels. I asked a lady I knew to make me pyjamas out of bath towels because there was nothing on the market."
Sometimes, Pauline could not muster the energy to get up and would spend the night crying, waiting to dry off.
While particularly distressing at night because of their effect on sleep, the sweats can occur at any time of the day.
Pauline has worked all her life in the Borders textile industry as a dressmaker and designer. Fed up of having to wash all those pyjamas, she decided to use her professional skills to improve sleepwear for people in her position.
Thus began a three-year process of development by Pauline, backed by Borders cancer charity Lavender Touch, which has now led to the creation of Bamboo Touch – Drench to Dry pyjamas. They are made from processed bamboo fibres, which have very high absorbent properties. Wearers previously tormented by cold, wet, sleepless nights say the pyjamas are a life-saver.
Pauline explains: "Bamboo's wicking properties are fantastic, it dries quicker than cotton and absorbs 60% more moisture. It feels like silk."
The pyjamas have a number of special features, including a stand-up collar for warmth, a double yoke on the front and back for twice the absorption and insulation around the upper body, which gets cold and wet first; and extra length from crotch to waistband, in case the wearer has a swollen stomach due to medication or is wearing a catheter.
Pauline added: "One lady said that since her husband had had the pyjamas, she had been able to put her arms around him and cuddle him again." Another wearer said that after five years without any consecutive nights' sleep, he has been able to sleep through for 10 nights in a row, adding: "In terms of quality of life this cannot be overemphasised."
Pauline, 49, found Lavender Touch, which provides complementary therapies to people with cancer, a great support when she was ill and proceeds from pyjama sales will fund the charity's work, helping hundreds of families affected by cancer in the Borders. Although the charity has only been able to support the production of 100 sets so far, inquiries have been pouring in from the UK, Europe and the US.
Now with demand growing, the charity hopes to attract the outside investment needed for larger-scale production, helping more patients get that precious good night's sleep.
For more information, visit www.lavendertouch.co.uk, email email@example.com or ring 07932 174317