Suzanne's story: Living with multiple medicines

<!--td {border: 1px solid #ccc;}br {mso-data-placement:same-cell;}-->Find out about Suzanne and hear her speak about the value and challenges of taking multiple medicines.

Age at interview: 76
Number of medicines: 6
Cultural background: British (Caucasian)



Suzanne is a retired food service advisor who lives in a coastal area in Victoria.


Current medicines and conditions

Some medicines are taken regularly; some are taken only as needed.

  • Nexium (esomeprazole): reflux due to a hiatus hernia
  • Oroxine or the generic brand Eutroxsig (levothyroxine sodium): hypothyroidism following a total thyroidectomy after a benign tumour
  • Metoprolol: hypertension following an atrial fibrillation post-surgery
  • Magnesium and salt tablets: kidney impairment due to dehydration following an emergency relocation of her stoma
  • Gastro Stop: diarrhoea following a proctocolectomy and stoma
  • Codeine and Codapane (codeine phosphate): pain relief


Previous conditions and medicines discussed

  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Tamoxifen: breast cancer


About Suzanne

Suzanne has been hospitalised for surgery and treatment for ulcerative colitis, a benign thyroid tumour, breast cancer, post-menopausal bleeding and kidney failure and has had to take certain medications ever since. As a result of the surgery, Suzanne no longer has to take medicines for ulcerative colitis. Being fully informed about her medicines is important to her, so she will ask her doctors questions and has joined support groups. She keeps a written medical history which has been very helpful in discussions with doctors and hospital staff. Suzanne has had few problems with her current medicines. She believes they keep her well and have not restricted her life.

More about Suzanne

In 2006, Suzanne was only taking Nexium (which she has taken for many years) and felt lucky that she was only taking one medicine. She had been taking a number of other medicines for ulcerative colitis, which gave her side effects or were ineffective. That year, she had a proctocolectomy (removal of the rectum and all or part of the colon) and a stoma inserted, which meant she no longer had to take any of these medicines. Suzanne feels that the stoma has given her life back and she now has ‘total freedom’.

Following some quite serious medical experiences, Suzanne has commenced a number of medicines that she will be taking for the rest of her life. She had a total thyroidectomy (thyroid gland removal) in 2009 when a benign tumour was found. As a result, she now takes levothyroxine sodium to replace the thyroxine her body can no longer produce. Suzanne suffered kidney failure the following year due to dehydration following an emergency relocation of her stoma. She now takes magnesium and salt tablets to help her kidneys function normally. In April 2012 she had a hysterectomy for post-menopausal bleeding. When she came out of the anaesthetic, she had an atrial fibrillation and was subsequently prescribed Metoprolol to manage her blood pressure. Suzanne is allergic to the hospital-administered painkillers morphine and tramadol, which gave her very low blood pressure, and Stilnox, which gave her a panic attack.

Suzanne also had breast cancer 14 years ago and was treated with tamoxifen for five years. She found it extremely helpful to talk to other women her age in the support group about this treatment. She has also found nurses from the Royal District Nursing Service extremely helpful with respect to her medicines and stoma care, as they see her as a ‘whole person’. It’s important to Suzanne to fully understand her medicines, so she will ask her doctors questions whenever necessary. She also keeps a written medical history that includes her medicines, which has been extremely helpful when communicating with doctors.

Suzanne has experienced some minor problems with taking her medicines, but the benefits outweigh their risks. Remembering to take them is often the most difficult thing, but she keeps two containers full (one at home and one in her handbag) which helps her remember to take them at the right time. She doesn’t like swallowing medicines. Sometimes she feels quite sick after taking the morning tablets and she once vomited. Suzanne has to avoid slow-release medicines because the proctocolectomy means her body can’t absorb them. Her medicines also cost her a lot of money, particularly those that are not covered by the PBS. But she knows that when she takes them regularly, she feels well.

Suzanne believes she would not be as healthy as she is without her medicines and they do not restrict her life in any way.


Listen to Suzanne's story

Suzanne asks her health professionals where to find credible information.
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Suzanne finds she gets ‘restless legs’ that keep her awake at night if she forgets to take her medicines.
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Suzanne found it helpful to have her list when she was recently in hospital and saw several different doctors, who all needed to know about her medicines and medical history.
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Suzanne was recently in the situation of having to go to a hospital that could not access her medical records from the usual hospital she attends. Her family know about her medicines list in case of an emergency.
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Suzanne finds that, provided she fills her dose aid before bed as the last thing she does in a day, she generally remembers to take all of her medicines every day.
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Suzanne cannot take slow-release or coated medicines because she has a stoma. She is careful to remind her doctors of this when they are prescribing a new medicine.
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Suzanne sometimes finds taking her medicines bothersome but they do not intrude on how she lives her life.
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Suzanne thinks it is important for people to remember the purpose of their medicines.
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The Living with multiple medicines project was developed in collaboration with

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