Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hot Stuff

A few months ago I noticed a change in my body temperature. That is, my temperature, when measured, was still the same—about 97 degrees—but my perception of how cold or warm I was had changed. When I was a kid, I didn't have much of a cold sense. The first sunny day at age 9, I'd be outside in a hand-me-down bikini, even though it was March and probably not quite 50 degrees. I wore shorts over long underwear to school during sleety Novembers, and was comfortable in jeans and a cotton sweatshirt in the snow. I was one of the people in shorts, bare legs sticking out from the tops of my ski boots, during the last couple weeks of ski school.

Then I went to Kenya for five months in 1993, and that all changed completely. When we first arrived in mile-high Nairobi in January of 1993, most of us pale white kids from Portland, Oregon, wore shorts and tank tops in the mid-70s temperatures. A week later, when we were on the coast in Mombasa where the mercury stood around 110, and the humidity was close to there, we almost expired from the heat. Three-fourths of the way through our trip we were doing heavy labor—hauling coral blocks and mixing cement with shovels from sand and lime, pulling water from wells, and constructing a school room in that same heat—and we found it relatively untaxing. By the time we were back in Nairobi for our final few days in country, we were all in jeans and jackets in the still 75 degree weather, and not any too warm.

For some reason, I never readjusted. Since 1993, I have been wearing sweaters starting at 70 degrees, scarves starting at 65, knit caps sometimes starting as warm as 75. A 68-degree room temperature makes me cold. It feels unfriendly, and I can't relax, even bundled up. The tip of my nose ices up and stays that way.

Until this year. Sometime this last winter, my sense of cold readjusted back to something more helpful for living in the northwest. I could be outside for more than 10 seconds without developing the shivers. My internal organs felt warm. Having our thermostat set at 72 degrees felt oppressive all of a sudden, instead of comforting. It may have had something to do with chemo, but I kind of doubt it. After all, I've been on chemo several times in the last 10 years with no obvious effect on how warm I feel (with the noted exception of hot flashes when my ovaries were being shut down).

I have to say, though, that our recent uncommonly hot weather has not made me all that uncomfortable, and has perhaps, in fact, set back my adjustment to our usual climate yet again. Today is cold—about 70 degrees outside right now as I type, at 1pm—and I am having trouble with it. I'm sitting in my 76-degree living room with my warm laptop on my lap, wearing long pants, wool clogs, and a fleece jacket. I am perfectly comfortable, if still slightly cold about the toes. My nose is fine.

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