Yesterday, you saw the first of my unedited, exhausted thoughts from while I was recovering from surgery. Here’s the other one. Enjoy!

Night Sweats
Created February 22

Last night I slept, uninterrupted, through the night for the first time since last April. I tend to wake up naturally anytime between 6 and 7 no matter how poorly I slept, and this morning I woke up around 7 completely astonished. Our bedroom was bathed in soft winter morning light, and the cats were already up, trying to grab the icicles stuck to the outside of the windows.

It was not dark, I was not baking in my own personal sun, and I was not bathed in a light layer of sweat. Holy. Shit.

For those of you who have not experienced hot flashes or night sweats, kindly paint this picture: you are moving through your day, doing whatever it is that you do during your day, when all of a sudden the sun is no longer million of miles away, it is INSIDE YOUR BODY. I kid you not. One moment you are you, and the next second you are Apollo and approximately nine billion degrees. Because your body is intelligent, you immediately break into a sweat that does absolutely nothing to cool your internal sun. If you are, say, at a bar listening to a friend play the piano and wearing a sweater, you take it off (hoping that you are wearing something over your bra) and put your icy glass of water against the back of your neck. If you are, say, at home, your strip naked and fan yourself with whatever is available: a piece of paper, a shirt, an animal. If you are, say, at work and wearing a wig and makeup and a shirt that you cannot remove and someone is saying something that you should be hearing you simply sweat and hope that it’s a short flash, that you remembered to put on waterproof mascara, and that whatever you are wearing is washable.

At night, they tend to get worse for whatever reason. One moment you are asleep and the next you are boiling, kicking off covers and animals and trying to get a breath of arctic air. If your partner is amenable, you have preemptively lowered the temperature of the bedroom. During cancer and then chemo, these sweats are soaking. One night, you happen to be awake right before one hits and you witness your body turn into a firehose drenching your pillow and the towel that you now sleep on. You calmly get up, go to the bathroom (because, perversely, you also need to pee), drink a glass of water, change your t-shirt (there’s a pile of soft big ones on your dresser at least three deep) and the towel (ditto), throw the pillow on the floor, pull a new one into place, and go back to sleep. Once chemo is over and cancer is gone and you are now just experiencing the side-effects of temporary (you hope) menopause brought on by a drug taken to help preserve fertility during treatment, the sweats ease off. You no longer have to sleep on a towel or change your shirt, but you still have to climb out from under the covers, flip your pillow, and take a few deep calming breaths while it passes.

One time, Michael and I were at an outdoor concert and he was hugging me because it was chilly. I had a hot flash and he let me go with a grin as I started to unbutton my sweater. “Wow, is that what it’s really like? It felt like you just peed yourself.”

Then 30 seconds pass, a minute, or maybe two, and it’s over. Just like that. The sun is back in the cosmos, and you are back to your normal temperature. Actually a little cold because the sweat is still evaporating, doing its job to cool you down.


(Photo courtesy of NASA.)

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Holly M. says:

    Very accurate description of a hot flash, I must say! I have never tried fanning myself with an animal however. LOL! Missing you.


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