Beating the Heat - With a Hammer (Part 2)
For me, it was clear that there were a few simple steps to take. Foremost among them, at least if I was going to be outside during the day, was to seek out shade. If there was no natural or structural shade, I had to bring my own. At the very least, a light hat; if I could, an umbrella of some sort. Any time that I could be somewhere breezy, it was better, but much harder to predict outside of a day at the beach. Of course, the beach also brought with it the opportunity of cooling down in the water, so that excursion was usually worthwhile. And, as should be obvious, doubling down on the water intake.
I had gotten in the habit of drinking extra water and this paid off during the hotter months. I always have water with me and I am always drinking it -- and hoping that I am not far from a restroom, because especially during my infusion weeks, I have to use one almost hourly. For this, I have become used to planning accordingly.
In a city like Los Angeles, it also is helpful to check the local air quality reports. Not only is there up-to-the-minute data on smog levels, but also on things like pollen. Paying attention to small things like these can have a big impact on outdoor experience.
But then there are the nights...
In the part of LA where I now live, there are few days that have an obvious and consistent breeze. In the summer, it is not only hot, but very still. Indoors, I am prone to use a fan, especially when I am sitting at my desk, but I have also sucked it up and embraced the essence of air conditioning.
There are two key benefits to air conditioning. First, it cools the room down. This primary function of the system has been a huge boon for me, personally. It makes the difference between me being able to productively get things done or leaning in a corner like a zombie. And this is without exaggeration, without a wit of irony.
When it is 100 degrees outdoors, even 90, my body stops functioning properly and my brain rapidly follows suit. I labor ten times harder to do the simplest task, then exhaust myself before moving to anything else. And it is supremely uncomfortable to lie down, to feel the heat trapped beneath me on the bed or couch. So I stand, lurch into a corner, try to shut my mind down and let the time pass. It's a miserable way to spend the day.
Air conditioning alters this reality for me and I become functinoal again. It truly is an amazing gift, but one I try not to overuse. I am fortunate enough to have central air, though I would be fine with a small window unit in just my office, because that is where I spend the most time. In a dry environment like mine, a swamp cooler would also be a reasonable choice. But traditional air conditioning can have an important second benefit that may even be more important for some patients.
Air conditioning may clean the air we breathe
Depending on the system and the types of filters used, a central air conditioning system is capable of clearing a wide range of contaminants from the air inside a home. My family has cats, and in the summertime the level of hair and dander in the house dramatically increases. I invested in allergy-specific filters for the main intake vent and noticed an immediate difference. While mileage will definitely vary on this, a well-maintained filter is capable of enhancing indoor air quality. Lungs that are not forced to work harder will reward you with more energy, both mentally and physically.
Chief among my personal wins from using air conditioning is my increased ability to actually sleep at night. I do not sleep with the air conditioning on outside of maybe two or three exceptionally hot nights. Mostly, we cool the house down and simply leave it closed up unless the outside manages to cool down more or there is that rare decent breeze coming through. I'm up for leaving a fan running if it feels stuffy, but I have worked on a tolerance for sleeping in the mid or upper 70s. This isn't ideal for a guy who prefers his room in the low 60s or even 50s at night, but I did survive a childhood where air conditioning was never an option and part of me wishes I didn't have to use it at all. Still, as a lung cancer patient, I look at A/C as a tool in my coping arsenal, and probably the only one that really helped me pound summertime back into its place.1
Do you find that staying zen through your lung cancer diagnosis has helped you in your journey?