Lately, I must admit, I am so hot! I mean smokin’!
By this I do not mean hot in the sense that I think I look amazing., although my hairdresser did fix my hair color finally to make it look more normal. I mean hot, as in my body temperature. My chemo induced hot-flashes which are exacerbated by my daily dose of Tamoxifen have started to really irritate me.
Yesterday, as Maeve and I were putting away the clothes in her room (actually, I was putting the clothes away — she was lying down complaining), I was overcome in the course of a half-hour by two body-consuming hot flashes. For those of you lucky enough to never have had a hot flash, or those of you men who will never have to endure them,this is what they are like:
It starts as a tingle in your belly. Then hundreds of ignited spiders carrying blow-torches are let loose, crawling up your spine, out your limbs, and finally landing inside your head, pushing to escape out the top of your skull. You must at this point, remove items of clothing. I have tried on many occasions to ride it out, leave on my jacket or sweater, but there is no way. I always end of tearing off my hat or sweater or whatever I can take off and remain decent in public.
Once the heat wave passes — anywhere from 60 seconds to 10 minutes — you are feezing. Fever-like chills replace your previously sweating persona and you scramble to replace the items of clothing which lay in a heap around your shivering torso.
These flashes happen about 10-15 times a day. Maybe half occur while you sleep, which means you are no longer asleep. Instead you are throwing off covers, peeling off layers, tossing and turning before you are searching for your sweatshirt again and pulling the covers back around you to stop the after-chill. Since last May when the hot flashes stated I have not slept more than an hour and a half at a time. This is fine though, anyone who has children knows that once they are born, you never actually have a full nights sleep again. Maybe between the ages of 7 and 12 you can get a few solid hours but once they become teenagers — forget it; they sleep less at night then when they were babies.
Two recent studies have found that breast cancer survivors who have finished treatment experienced more depression and far higher levels of fatigue, sleep problems, and difficulty working and concentrating than healthy subjects. One possible reason may be that Estrogen deficiency is a side effect of cancer treatment.
So Maeve asked me yesterday as she watched me go into a heated trance and rip off my sweater, why this was happening to me. Although I was not prepared for the discussion that ensued about Estrogen, Menopause and getting your period, she seemed to already know far more than I expected. She is 9, so I guess it was time to explain some of this to her anyway. Normally, a woman experiencing menopause would not still have young children around, as she would be somewhat older. But my kids are learning so much through my cancer experience — both good and bad, sometimes I think they had to grow up a little quicker than they might have if things were different. But I also think they will head into their adult lives with a little more knowledge and compassion than they may have otherwise.
If you want to you can read All About Hot Flashes here.