Thursday, July 30, 2015

Enter the Hormone War Zone

Hot Flash.  Cold sweat. Change at thirty-five
A scorching hot reminder that I am still alive
 Changes, changes, changes are happening to me
I wonder what it’s all about
I wonder why me 
The ovary snatchers had thrust me into Meno Meno Land.  No survival kit accompanied my crash landing at the base of the Mount Hysteria, and I wandered desperately through a scorching hot valley.  The volcano rumbled incessantly as I dodged lava streams and tried to deflect the molten rocks falling all about me. 
I felt alone in the inferno.  Sharing stories about cancer was easy.  A twenty-something Alaskan woman in her first year of marriage, battling for her life, is a jaw-dropper in any crowd, but discussing menopause with friends who were still young and vibrant left me cold. 
 I could no longer concentrate on their chatter, I was too busy waving down the waitress who’d been remiss in refilling my glass of ice water—the cool condensation-clad container that doubled as a freeze pop to roll on my neck. My relaxed friends didn’t seem to notice. As they were chilling out, I was melting into menopausal mush. They had time to ease into “The Change” to prepare, to change eating habits, to exercise.  They were on a gradual descent into the heat, while I’d been plunged into the inferno.  I’d crash-landed in six hours flat. 
Other than cancer, my ovaries had never given me any grief.  It is only the absence of them that had me yearning for the keys to the body parts room where I imagined them floating like buoyant eggs in a canning jar. I longed for them—especially at night—when a warm tingling in my cheeks rapidly moved to my neck and I found myself in hell dodging fireballs.  Impaled on a rotisserie rolling round and round in my bed, my once cool sheets threatened to suffocate me until a gust from the ever-present fan hit condensation beads on my skin and plunged me into an arctic freeze.  
My outfits consisted of loose sweat pants, a tank top, and a polar fleece jacket. My beverage of choice rotated between ice-cold water and jitter-laced coffee.  All thoughts of social interaction were peppered with panic; was there a chilly escape route?
It was hard to remember a life beyond cancers borders, where once upon a time I was a normal girl whose fairytale enemies bore benign sticks and stones. But my fairytale ending had been rewritten.
The twenty-three year old baldheaded woman turned her blazing blue eyes to face the malevolent cancer dragon.  She consumed mystical potions concocted to shrivel the creature, and her two children—born in defiance of the monster—forced it to recoil back into its lair. 
Several years later, her ovaries were wrenched from the malignant clutches of the cancerous beast, but as she smote the dragon it exacted vengeance, huffing and puffing its final death flame—a scorching menopausal heat—licking the back of her neck for eternity. 
My doctor eventually pulled the patch and prescribed a little green pill consisting of conjugated equine estrogens called Premarin—Pregnant Mare Urine.  I wondered if things could get any worse. I’d lost my reproductive organs and replaced them with horse pee to trick my brain into thinking I was still vital. 
 This is an excerpt from my book, Chemo on the Rocks: My Great Alaskan Misadventure. For more information about Chemo on the Rocks, click here