Friday, 31 August 2012

Night Sweats! Menopause or Lymphoma Symptom?

Throughout the summer of 2011 I had been having intense night sweats that left my bed drenched.  I remember my hair being soaked and I looked like I had just gone swimming.  At the time, I was attributing the night sweats to my approaching menopause.  I'm just at the age that these things would be happening naturally to my body.  The night sweats continued to interrupt my sleep which added to my sense of lethargy and fatigue.  All this continued throughout the Fall of 2011.

When I went for my first visit to my family doctor at the end of November 2011, he asked me if I was having any night sweats.  Of course I answered in the affirmative and told him that I assumed it was my approaching menopause and bodily changes.  As it happens, the night sweats were a symptom of the lymphoma.  Once I started my chemotherapy treatments in January of this year, the night sweats disappeared.  However, they reappeared in March and I remember being scared.  This was not just a little bit of anxiety but full blown fear that the chemotherapy wasn't working and the tumours were growing bigger.  My oncologist reassured me in March that the tumours were not growing back but were, in his experience, actually gone.  He told me that the chemotherapy had pushed my body over the brink and into menopause which was causing the night sweats.

So this begs the question...How do you know whether it is night sweats due to menopause or night sweats due to lymphoma?!  For the last few months, I've started to have hot flashes during the day as well.  I can now tell the difference between the lymphoma night sweats and the menopausal night sweats/hot flashes.  For me, the night sweats I experienced last summer and last fall were sudden drenchings with very little warning.  Like menopausal night sweats, it helped to lessen the intensity of them by keeping my feet cool at night.  I would just uncover my feet and lower legs which would cool me off.  The night sweats and hot flashes that I'm experiencing due to menopause begin with a prickly heat sensation that starts in my chest and radiates up my neck and face to the top of my head and down to my legs.  I can truly feel the advance of the heat as it moves.  As soon as I feel it start in the middle of the night, it helps to throw off the covers.  If I sleep through the beginning of the night sweat, then it takes longer for the heat to abate.  Anyway, there definitely is a difference between what I feel due to menopause and what I felt as symptoms last summer and fall.  This really relieves my mind.  Even though my oncologist had reassured me in March, there was always that niggling anxiety in the back of my mind that wondered "what if".  What if the lymphoma was coming back?  Would I feel it?  Would the fatigue I feel because I've done too much be a symptom?  Would the night sweats be confused with menopause?

I'm confident now that there is a difference and I can definitely feel it.  Last night, my sleep was interrupted with another night sweat that started as a prickly sensation followed by intense heat.  It started in my chest and moved upwards and downwards at the same time.  I threw off the covers but it didn't help last night.  So I got up and went to the living room.  I spent time on the computer until my body was cooled down and I was tired again.  So although the night is interrupted, I still feel like I got a good night's sleep.

I have a check-up with my oncologist in a couple of weeks and I am looking forward to it.  I've been very tired lately and, logically, I can tell myself that it is because I've had a very busy month or so.  There is just that little monkey of anxiety sitting on my shoulder that wonders if I'm tired because the lymphoma is returning.  I really don't think so and when the "what ifs" start, I figuratively push them back inside the closet in my mind, slam the door shut and lock it.  This metaphor and imagery helped me cope while I had treatment.  I think it is a tool that I will be using as it helps to relieve the anxiety and relieve any stress.

In closing, I'm happy to be alive.  The fact that I have night sweats interrupting my sleep can be overcome.  In the big scheme of life, it is just another little irritant and all women have had to or will have to experience this as a rite of passage.  Life is good and full of experiences with family, friends, nature and my spiritual realm.  That's what really counts.

1 comment:

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