I debated whether or not to post this entry, because it isn't directly about breast cancer. It is, however, about something that indirectly happened as a result of the radiation treatments, and so I think it deserves mention.
Remember the shortness of breath I mentioned in a previous entry? The Thursday before my last radiation treatment (which was on a Monday), the shortness of breath and heart palpitations worsened. My anxiety about what could possibly be wrong only made the symptoms worse. I thought I was having chest pains, and, afraid I might be having a heart attack, I called 911.
It's an odd thing to call 911. Three little numbers set so much in motion. An ambulance arrived in a few minutes. I was given baby aspirin and nitroglycerin as a precautionary measure, and 10 minutes later I was in a hospital.
My heart rate and blood pressure were high, my heart was beating irregularly, but a blood test quickly showed that I had not had a heart attack. I was mighty relieved by that news.
The doctors kept me overnight for observation. I underwent a number of tests that showed that my heart and lungs are fine. I do have an arrhythmia, which was showing when I was admitted, but the doctors said that it is very normal and not anything to be worried about in the absence of anything structurally wrong with my heart. That's a huge relief.
The only thing they did find was that my electrolyte levels were low, especially sodium. I generally eat a low-sodium diet and drink plenty of water. The radiation made me thirsty, so I was drinking more water than normal. I guess my body became depleted in sodium over the course of the radiation treatments until I was really out of whack. The odd thing is, I never had any of the classic symptoms of low sodium (or hyponatremia): nausea and headache. If I had, perhaps a doctor or friend might have suggested that I drink some electrolytes.
I have follow-up appointments with a cardiologist and an endocrinologist, but I kind of suspect they won't be able to tell me anything different. This may be something I simply need to be aware of and manage: make sure that I get enough sodium, especially when my body is under stress, I'm drinking more water than normal, or I feel heart palpitations. The heart palpitations and shortness of breath were scary, but I'm grateful to have gotten some good information out of it.
In other news, it has been one week since my last radiation treatment, and I'm starting to feel more normal. The fatigue last week was tough; I was possibly more tired than I was the final week of radiation. So far the past two days have been better, though. I'm hoping the trend continues.