I hit my limit yesterday. So, my self image hasn’t changed from cancer. I think I am just the same as I was before all this nonsense. Sure, I was poisoned for four months. Then had the easiest amputation ever! Then went through the worst part of reconstruction (I hear) with the tissue expander. Then got radiation for 5 weeks. I mean, I know intellectually that I have changed, that this experience has scarred my body. Cancer and cancer treatment is EXTREME and your poor body goes through a lot. I know that. At least, I thought I did.
Yesterday was a beautiful day. It was hitting 90 degrees, and me and a new cancer friend decided to go on a picnic in Southie. Castle Island (which is poorly named because it is NOT an island) has a great old fort and amazing views of the transportation of Boston. You can sit and watch the airplanes in East Boston and the ferries and sailboats zipping through the harbor. It has great shade, and me and Meems sat in the shade and had spritzer and chatted. I had walked halfway, about 2.5 miles, then got an uber so I wouldn’t be carrying the heavy wine and mineral water. After, we walk back to Meems house, a gorgeous old Victorian. All in all, I walked a little over 5 miles. This is NOT extreme for me. I did the same through chemo, through radiation. I live in the city and walking is a fact of life. I walk a mile and a half a day when I’m not going anywhere but to work and back. If I have a hospital appointment, it’s usually over two. I walk a TON. Walking shouldn’t be a big deal.
I left my friend’s house at 5pm. She said she was tired and didn’t expect to do yoga on Sunday too. She talked about how she has to husband her strength now. I felt bad for her. I was tired a bit, but wanted to go out to dinner with my sister and her friends. I took an uber home and took a shower, then headed over to a great rooftop deck and enjoyed the company of new people. Anna is doing so well here and she makes friends so easily. It’s great to see her enjoy herself.
We called an uber to go to dinner. As we were waiting, I start to get lightheaded. No big deal, I think. I ask for a water. I sit down on a bar stool. I start sweating. It’s a hot flash. Ok… I’ve been having hot flashes since September. The doctors give me shots every 3 months to keep me in menopause because that gives me the best chance of having kids. Hot flashes are unpleasant and obnoxious but not debilitating. Until now, I guess. Until summer. I didn’t do too much for normal me, but for menopausal me…. I wasn’t too hot or too tired until the hot flash hit. Usually the hot flashes aren’t this bad, but I JUST had the shot, so maybe my body is reacting more intensely in addition to the hot day and the being outside.
I can’t breathe. Everyone’s voices sound like they are coming from a well, far away and distorted. I realize I can’t go to a restaurant when I feel like this. I tell Anna she needs to get me an uber home. I can’t even order my own uber. I am just trying to breathe and regulate my temperature.
Anna gets me an uber. She and her new friends are concerned about me. I am mortified. I mean, I don’t think I made a scene or anything, but that was embarrassing. I have to go home because I’m too hot, and they ordered an uber x that they didn’t end up needing because I went home. I am now the crazy cancer sister who is a menopausal old woman getting too tired and hot to go to dinner. Who am I? This cannot be who I am.
But it is. I get in the uber… the driver asks me something. I can’t really hear him past the roaring in my ears. I try to answer and throw up in my mouth. OMG, now I’m extra mortified. I cannot be the crazy cancer sister menopausal old woman too tired and hot to go to dinner PLUS the one who throws up in the back seat of an uber. I had a half bottle of wine, but that was over the course of the past six hours, and I drank at LEAST twice as much water. I am not drunk. I am just heat stroked. From hot flashes.
Anna is worried. Anna wanted to come with me, but I thought if I could just lie down in front of A/C in the dark, I’d be fine. I drink some sweet iced tea and eat four popsicles before I feel normal. The roaring quiets, I can breathe again, and I can stand without vertigo. That was… unsettling. I mean, I don’t know my limits until I reach them, I guess. And this was my limit. In the future, I will be much more careful about heat and alcohol. In the future, I won’t walk in the heat, even a very manageable distance. In the future, I will be more aware of how hot flashes affect me. I hope that this isn’t always me, this menopausal old woman who has to conserve her energy and cannot be out in the sun. But right now, this is me. And I have to accept that in order to avoid future embarrassment.
Edited to add that 5 days after this happened, I talked to Shelly, the Dana-Farber Occupational Health nurse, and she said that I wasn’t drinking enough water that week to accommodate how much I was losing from hot flashes. She said that I need to pound water (her exact words) so that doesn’t happen again this summer. The key time to drink water for heat stroke is three days ago, and with hot flashes, I have to drink more. So, there you have it, menopause and/or cancer sisters: pound water. Always. Cancer treatment advice seems to be 75% “drink lots of water.”