Until very recently, I had never been able to get a woman to tell me what a “hot flash”, supposedly the quintessential symptom of menopause, felt like.
I’ve been in meetings, mostly when I was still in my 50s, with women of a certain age when the subject of menopause came up but when I asked what it felt like they’d just clam up, get red-faced, and inform me that men ought to be really glad they didn’t have to experience it because they’d be scared to death. In fact, I’ve been told that most men probably would not survive a hot flash because they would have a stroke or heart attack and fall dead on the spot if they ever had one.
But now I know or, at least I’ve been told by reliable witnesses, that I now know what a hot flash feels like. In fact I’ve actually had four over the last two and a half years and I’m not even going through menopause. They happened like this:
In the spring of 2016 I went to the doctor with a urological problem and wound up having a kidney x-ray. The x-ray showed a small lump in my left kidney and the doc decided he needed more information so he sent me back to the imaging folks to have a “contrast CAT scan”.
For the uninitiated, a contrast CAT scan differs from a normal one due to dye being injected intravenously into the blood stream a few seconds before your carcass is injected into a roaring, clanging tube wherein they shoot images of your innards that are supposed to be far more detailed than a regular old x-ray. I usually have to have a heavy dose of Valium to counter claustrophobia and tolerate the procedure, but the kidneys-only scan does not involve total immersion into the tunnel of terror for more than a scant few seconds at a time.
Anyway, they decided I had kidney cancer and sent me to a surgeon at UK to have it cut out. Because I am, for several other medical reasons, at far greater than normal risks when it comes to internal surgery, the clamp and scalpel guys decided that it might be wise to monitor my tumor and see what it looked like in six months.
To make a long story short enough to get into one column, that was over two years ago and I’ve been going through periodic contrast CAT scans ever since to make sure the tumor is not growing. Last week, I endured the fourth one before going back to consult with the urology surgeon later this week.
I’d been told by half a dozen women who have had dye contrast CAT scans that when they inject the dye into your vein the sensation you feel is exactly like a menopausal hot flash. The women who shared this information after I’d told them I’d just had one usually got red-faced and hand-fanned themselves, but they insisted that I now know what a hot flash feels like and asked that I please change the subject because this is not a subject that women discuss with men unless they are in very stable marriages to the man.
Of course the people administering the scan warned me several times that I would experience a very warm rush as soon as the dye hit me and they even say stuff like, “get ready, here it comes” at which point I felt like I was peeing all over myself and there wasn’t a thing I could do to stop it. It’s actually pretty scary until you get used to it. But I do still feel around to make sure my underwear isn’t soaked before I pull back the sheet they used to cover me while undergoing the scan.
So, last week I was sitting in the lab waiting to get the preliminary blood test done a few minutes before the scan, itself. The nurse, who looked like she was nearing retirement age, glanced at the order and said, “Oh you get to have a hot flash today.”
I said, “Yeah, lucky me”! But tell me something, how can you say ‘hot flash’ without getting red in the face and fanning yourself?”
She winked at me and said, “Oh, I’m a medical professional, honey. We can talk about these things.”
So wish me luck. If the tumor still hasn’t grown, I won’t have to have another hot flash until this time next year. We won’t talk right now about what may happen if it isn’t the same size it’s been for the last two years.