Warmer weather is upon us. It is an exciting time of year with graduations, weddings, and children finishing school. Summer is the season that so many of us look forward to: a time to relax, unwind, head to the beach, and forget about worries. But managing a chronic condition in the summertime, especially as warm weather approaches, can be extremely challenging.
A lot goes on with someone who has a chronic condition like pulmonary hypertension. It’s often masked by a golden tan. For example, it’s always a challenge for me to put my needs and health first. It is especially difficult when I would rather be outside enjoying my time like everyone else.
I have a lot of internal conflict, particularly on beach days. I start to question the use of my oxygen: Do I want to carry this extra weight from my tank on my back just to walk to the beach? Do I really even need it today? What if people look at me funny? I’m just going to lie there anyway, so why would I bring it?
It’s hard for me to be the girl with the oxygen tank getting looks from people probably wondering if it is safe for me to be in the sun. While I always have this debate in my head about going to the beach, it goes away when I think rationally about what I should be doing. Since I was younger, I have always been advised to limit my exposure to heat. I was told that it makes the heart work harder, especially while doing any type of physical activity. Now that I have oxygen, it is even more important for me to ensure that I am doing the right thing for myself. This includes wearing oxygen, whether I like it or not, and whether I get stares or not.
Not only is the oxygen difficult to manage on warmer days, but the way that I look can be deceiving to those around me and to myself. When you see me in winter, there are definitely days when I (and others) can tell that I am having a rough day. It is easier to see my pale complexion and the blue tint under my eyes and around my lips. I look more worn down overall.
In the summer, it’s amazing what a tan can do for me. I get color in my face, the bluish tint is masked by my tan and freckles, I have a great glow and shine, my hair looks fuller and blonder, and my lips are usually sunburned. Reading this, I’m sure you can only imagine why I get the “You look so great!” comments more during this season. The truth is, I do look pretty darn great. But the reality is that I am still me with the same illness as on colder days.
These comments, and seeing how “great” I am starting to look, make it difficult for me to acknowledge my condition for what it is. When looking “better,” it is important to pay attention to what is actually going on inside of my body, not just what the exterior is revealing.
It is important for me to check in with my body often, especially in the warmer weather. Am I feeling more tired today? Am I more tired after lying in the sun? Is my body retaining more fluid than normal? Am I staying hydrated and nourished? How are my oxygen levels today? Did I remember to take all of my medications like I am supposed to? Do my legs feel weak today after being in the sun? Is my head foggier than usual? Should I take some time to rest before going outside in the sun? Is going out in the sun today the best choice for me and my health?
This summer, just because I look better with a tan, don’t assume that everything is OK. There is a lot that can be hidden by a golden glow.
Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.