The Continuing Hormonal Saga, or I’ve Never Been So Happy To Have A Hot Flash

Yeah, the story of the hormones never ends. For those who came in late, I’m taking progesterone because my cancer cells have receptors for it. As a result, progesterone reacts with the cancer cells by stifling the hell out of them and helping me live longer. But I don’t get that for free. Progesterone comes with side-effects. I.e., BANG! Menopause is back!

Well, actually, it isn’t––it’s just the symptoms. But hey, if I have to endure night sweats and hot flashes, it’s a small price to pay. And I so wish that was all, but it ain’t. There are also disturbances in mood, in particular, anxiety.

Antidepressants have kept me functioning smoothly for quite a few years now but sometimes even my rather unusual cocktail of meds is no match for progesterone-induced anxiety. I just have to ride it out, remember it’s a side-effect and it’s temporary, not a sign that my meds need tweaking.

Anyone who’s ever had an anxiety attack––which is practically everyone I know––will understand what a neat trick that is.

Anxiety doesn’t give a crap about what’s real. It doesn’t arise from rational thought. It has nothing to do with how intelligent you are, even if you’re actually as intelligent as you think you are, and it doesn’t matter how much you have to do, or want to do, or that people are relying on you. You could be the most well-adjusted, sane, non-neurotic person on the face of the earth but none of that matters when neurons in a certain section of your misfire. You know how sometimes people actually go to the emergency room thinking they’re having a heart attack, and it turns out to be an anxiety attack? It’s not because they’re silly people or hypochondriacs who think every time they hiccup they’re dying or because they need to stop being so neurotic. Anyone who has to endure chronic anxiety attacks is going to get a little neurotic, but being neurotic is not why they’re having anxiety attacks.

Personally, I haven’t been able to leave the house in over a week. No hot flashes, no night sweats, just can’t do anything, can’t go anywhere, can’t walk it off, can’t think straight, can’t punch my way out of this wet paper bag.

I thought that my blog entry on admitting to my problem with anger management was the hardest one I’d write. But surprise! Owning up to this is a lot more embarrassing. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because it’s so personal; maybe it’s not my idea of being strong and positive about living with cancer (as opposed to dying of it).

Well, things like anger and anxiety are part of living, too, cancer or no cancer, and while life itself is sweet and far more desirable than the alternative, it’s also messy and shambolic, inconsistent, unruly, ungraceful, and sometimes it even smells bad. It’s bad hair days and having to apologise when you screw up and some days not knowing what the fuck to do. Or what the fuck, period.

For my fellow travellers in Cancerland, for anyone fighting a chronic illness, for all the people who love and support them: even when you’re doing well, you won’t do well all the time––even when you think you ought to be doing well. Life is a messy proposition. Even when it’s good, it doesn’t always feel that way. Take the days however you can, whether you can go out and punch the world in the face or kiss it on the lips…or you can’t bring yourself to leave the house. If it’s the latter, well, it is what it is. There will be days like that.

And then there will be other days, when there are hot flashes and night sweats instead of anxiety. Because at least the damned side effects don’t double up on me––I don’t have to sweat and be anxious. It’s been over a week since my last hot flash and right now, I’m sweatin’ up a storm.  It will be nice to get out of the house again.


18 thoughts on “The Continuing Hormonal Saga, or I’ve Never Been So Happy To Have A Hot Flash

  1. I love you too, because you’re this amazing YOU and also because you trust us enough to share your personal feelings. I think I’ve always been impressed with your deep core honesty and grappling with what makes us human (or sushi).

  2. I am grateful to be following you at this juncture. My daughter suffers from chronic anxiety. I’m glad you confide to your blog followers. ❤️

    • I know many people who suffer from chronic anxiety. It’s rough on them, and it’s hard for their loved ones to know what to do to help them. It feels completely emotional and people often feel like it’s a character flaw, but it isn’t. I’m glad your daughter has such good support.

  3. After we found (finally!) meds to control the depression, my brain got bored & decided to do anxiety. It is my considered opinion that anxiety is worse than depression. And I have the scars to prove it. Wish I could give you a hug for real. How about a virtual one?

  4. Thank you for sharing all this. Life is messy.. and inconsistent. Logic and bravery do not always win the day. Hang in there and know there are many of us cheering for you, even on those days (maybe especially on those days?) when your brain soup is keeping you from leaving the house.

  5. Thank you for writing about your experiences with depression and anxiety. Not only are you punching cancer in the nose, but your heartfelt personal shares help reduce the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Keep on shame-busting! Your honesty is wonderful!

  6. I am lucky in that anxiety isn’t one of my goofy brain’s bag of tricks. So far, anyway. I am on generic Prozac (which while it doesn’t *seem* to help, I have to confess I am at least getting household and yard tasks done, when before I was literally sitting in a chair the entire day before going to bed at night) and I entertain hopes of someday not having to use it – this is a new thing for me and I don’t know how it goes, usually. Anyway, isn’t one of the great things about the internet how we can reach out and find friends and consolation even if we can’t make ourselves leave the house? Hang in there, it looks like you know what’s what even if the emotions take control sometimes. You’ve lots of friends here.

    • Anxiety was never a primary problem of mine, either. Both my psychiatrist and my oncologist agree that it’s a side effect of the progesterone.

      But beware of generic Prozac. I was taking Prozac; when the chemist gave me generic fluoxetine, however, I might as well have been taking Tic Tacs. Generic drugs have a margin for error of 20% under or 20% over (another psychiatrist told me this). This means that generic fluoxetine can be anywhere from only 80% of the dosage on the label to 20% more than what it says on the label. I had to have my prescriptions rewritten so that I receive only brand-name Prozac.

      When you’re talking about over-the-counter analgesics, that’s not a big deal. But when it comes to something like antidepressants, that is, in my opinion, completely unacceptable. It could be the difference between being able lot function or being unable to cope. It certainly made a big difference for me. So if generic fluoxetine isn’t working for you, you might see if getting brand-name Prozac works better. If it does, it won’t be the placebo effect; it will be that much difference in your dosage.

      • Of course that should have been ‘…being able to function…’ In the last paragraph. Auto-correct sneaks up on my typos before I’ve finished making them and I don’t notice till it’s too late.

  7. Hey, Pat, I caught a bunch of YouTube videos of your presenting at the Hugos last night! *waves hello from Omaha, just up the road a piece* You made it much fun!

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