Since I was diagnosed in October 2012, I have been living my life like I typically would, pushing myself to be “normal.” However, there are those times where I think I cheated cancer. I was diagnosed, opted for a bi-lateral mastectomy, and was fortunate enough to not have any other treatment besides a daily anti-estrogen pill. This has sometimes provided me a feeling of being able to do anything.
No matter how much I believe I am human with many super powers, deep down, I know I’m not. However, that didn’t stop me one day this last June. I have been writing about being active, getting out and enjoying the great outdoors. I needed to start taking my own advice more seriously and work on being active again. So I did!
We have this beautiful paved loop trail around our town. I decided on a whim to rent a bicycle and start riding it. I wanted to experience the loop side I’ve never seen before. The unknown thrilled me. I knew it would be less busy, and that’s just what I wanted. With a friend in tow, we tackled the 10-mile loop. The East side was hillier than I figured it would be. Not a lot of shade was provided, even though this day was in the mid-70’s, having the shade would have been nice. On top of it all, there was absolutely no place available for water. I pedaled this heavy cruiser bike for six miles before I decided I really needed a little break somewhere. At mile seven, I really didn’t care where I took that break.
We ended up stopping in just about the worst location possible. No shade. No grass. Just gravel next to the railroad tracks. As soon as I stepped off the bike, I started to feel worse. My husband was the first person I called. I needed water and I needed it quickly. My arms were starting to tingle, something that is common when I work out. Usually with pumping my hands, I’m able to move the lymphatic fluid and the tingling starts to diminish. I started pumping my hands in hopes I would be able to get back on the bike to finish the last three miles. The more I pumped, the more my hands tingled. Until they just froze. My arms curled into my chest. My hands were clutched together with my thumb on my right hand between my index and middle fingers. I was having difficulties moving my arms altogether – they were completely numb and in full muscle spasm.
Panic started to take over as I reached to call my husband again. This time, I only had the capability of barely picking up the phone. I was unable to work my hands for the life of me to swipe the unlock key. I was glad I wasn’t alone at this point. My friend was able to contact my husband again to inform him of my situation. Just as he was pulling in, an OR nurse rode up asking if I needed any help. An off-duty fireman quickly joined him. I had three amazing men at my beck-and-call.
I knew as soon as I couldn’t move my arms that a trip to the ER was in my future. I wasn’t too pleased it involved an ambulance ride. I know I would have been able to walk to my husband’s car and into the ER with success. We weren’t positive if it was just dehydration, some effects of lymphedema, or something more serious. As I was strapped to the gurney, loaded into the ambulance, and an IV started my mind was already in the process of lecturing myself. I was stupid to not take water with me on my jaunt – even if I drank two full glasses prior to leaving on our bike ride. It was a great day, but even in 70 + degree temperatures you need to be careful. I was stupid in thinking I could bike 10 miles without working up to it (and the last time I rode a bike was in college.) I was stupid in not recognizing my symptoms earlier.
Slowly the feeling in my arms came back once I was in the ER. The muscles started to relax and I began to move my hands, one finger at a time. I ended up being a little low on potassium, but that is typical when one has been exercising. Dehydration is something not to mess with, Super Human or not. It’s just a reminder that I still need to walk before I can run.
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