I was woken this morning by the phone ringing. To be honest, I had woken before then a couple of times, and been too tired to get up so fallen asleep again. When the phone rang I was shocked to realise that I had slept for nearly 12 hours!
I had slept pretty well, apart from some very busy dreams (including a wander across the Mongolian steppe!). For once I even had hardly any lying awake time, worrying about big, scary cancer things and composing wonderful witty lines for my blog (which have always disappeared by morning). In fact the only thing which really troubled me last night was a faulty thermostat, which seemed to be more erratic than usual.
One of the side effects of chemo which I have not really mentioned is the “sweaty head” one. Charming! Chemo forces a kind of “microwave menopause” – in other words, menopause with all its symptoms in a matter of days/weeks instead of over a gentle timescale. If you read any of the breast cancer websites and forums, you will see much reference under the discussions on chemo treatment about this. (http://www.breastcancer.org/community/ and http://www.breastcancercare.org.uk/forum/ ). It amuses me that in the US women discuss their “hot flashes” and in the UK their “hot flushes” along with all of our other chemo delights. Perhaps one day I will study the etymology of the flush versus the flash but that is not for now. The particularly gross thing about this is that manifests itself in the form of very sweaty scalps in us bald women. Yuck! So this means that I usually wake several times in the night, throw off the sheet covering me and pat my scalp with a small hand towel beside the pillow, especially for the purpose and try and get back to sleep.
There is another factor to add in. Now that I have 5 chemo sessions under my belt, my system is pretty weakened and I am becoming progressively more anaemic. This has the effect of making me more sensitive to cold. So you can imagine the fun I have, lurching between a hot head sweat flush, throwing off the bed sheet and then drifting off to sleep. Only to wake up shivering with cold and retrieving the sheet, and pulling it over my head to try and keep me warm!!
My thermostat is well and truly faulty and struggling to cope with the temperature variances of chemo and microwave menopause – yet somehow I still managed to sleep for 12 hours! Now I think it must be time for my morning nap!
I happen to have a subscription to the OED. “Hot flash” pre-dates “hot flush”, interestingly.
There are the first known written quotations of each:
1610 J. FLETCHER Faithfull Shepheardesse I. sig. C 2v, “Farre from me are these Hot flashes bred from wanton heat and ease, I haue forgot what loue and louing meant.”
1781 H. SMYTHSON Compleat Family Physician 325/2 “At night hot flushes spread over the whole body.”