I used to love spending time outdoors during the warm weather, but when I started getting hot flashes after my cancer-related oophorectomy, enjoying hot days got a bit trickier.
Spring is upon us, and that means summer is just around the corner! It’ll soon be the season for shorts, tank tops, flip flops, 85-degree days and humidity where I live in Chicago. For the fortunate people who enjoy the warm weather, I envy you and wish that I, too, could enjoy it.
Pre-cancer, I loved summer, and you’d find me outside all the time. My husband and I are hikers, avid kayakers and we love enjoying the outdoors with our pups.
However, with my cancer-induced hot flashes, being outside in the hot weather is really just a hot mess. When I say hot, it's not attractive. It’s sweating, unable to cool down, drinking a ton of water and wishing I had an air conditioner attached to me permanently. It’s breathing a lot, panting like a dog, stopping for breaks, slathering sunscreen on every 15 minutes, staying out of the sun constantly for my radiated skin, and just thinking to myself, “Why do I even bother?”
The truth is that even all the complaining and my being a hot mess, it’s still do-able. I travel with lots of sunscreen, wide-brim hats to cover my face, long sleeve swimsuits and breathable hiking shirts, portable fans around my neck, cooling rags and sweat rags. My hot flashes still occur in hot weather, and they can get bad, but being on Effexor (venlafaxine), a medication that helps with hot flashes, has really helped some of the extreme ones.
My hot flashes are caused by my ovaries being removed because my cancer fed on estrogen. Alcohol makes them even worse for me, so I avoid drinking a lot of the time. I sleep with fans, and wear layers constantly so I can adjust my own temperature easily.
My hot flashes won't ever end, but I want to be able to live with them and still enjoy the outdoors during hotter months.
Cancer has taught me so much about listening to my body, and if I feel overheated, I can’t ignore it like I used to. This new life with cancer is learning how to live, adapt and continue surviving with all the other warriors.
I hope to do so with grace, grit and gratitude.
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