04/25/2012 12:29 pm ET Updated Jun 24, 2012

The Many Faces of Hot

Recently, I was in line at the bank when I was attacked by a ball of fire in my belly. The heat grew, emanating out until it had taken over my entire body. Last to go was my face ... dry, hot to the touch, beet red. It was only a matter of seconds before the sweating would start.

"Whoa, Nelly!" I shouted, as if to warn the others in line. "A Number Six Hot Flash. It's a biggun'!"

Everyone was careful to ignore me. My teenage son rolled his eyes and scolded me, his face turning red, as well. "Be quiet. Why do you have to announce it?" he demanded between clenched teeth.

Why, indeed? I just do. I feel that everyone should know when I'm suffering, and besides, hot flashes are funny. Way weirder than farts.

Mother Nature has a swell sense of humor.

"Aren't you young for hot flashes?" the teller asked me (obviously my favorite teller). I am, but as part of my cancer adventure, I had my ovaries removed plus I take Tamoxifen, and between the two, I am a hot flash-making machine. Few do it as often or as well.

I am, in a word, HOT.

I can't take pills or creams or "natural" remedies because my type of cancer loves to eat those and grow. So, I go about my days and nights blowing hot and cold.

There is no rhyme or reason to my flashes. I can't figure out what triggers them. The only time I always have them is right when I go to bed, when I lie down completely relaxed and close my eyes. Then, BOOM! I get a Number Four.

Oh, yeah, I've numbered them:

Number One ("Who Turned Up the Heat?"): My whole body gets slightly warmer. It will usually take me a moment to realize what's happening, and before I do, I might ask, "Is it warm in here?" These are usually short.

Number Two ("My Face!"): The heat is confined to my face, and it burns hot. No, I'm not blushing, unless you want me to, and then yes, my red face is all about YOU.

Number Three ("Tropical Morning"): This starts out as a Number One and moves on to light sweating that can last a while. In these cases, a Kleenex will come in handy, but I don't have to change my clothes.

Number Four ("Tsunami"): Drenched. All of a sudden I'm soaked to the bone with no preamble. It's Normal to I-Should-Have-Worn-A-Bathing-Suit in less than three seconds. This usually happens at night and always surprises me.

Number Five ("The Fires of Hell"): Hot. Really hot. It can start in my belly, my face, or anywhere else, and I get too hot not to do something about it. If I'm driving my youngest son to school in the morning when it's forty degrees outside, and I have the windows wide open, and he is yelling: "It's cold! It's cold!" you know I'm having a Number Five. These can last a long time. Poor kid.

Number Six ("Whoa Nelly!"): This is the combo platter, the all-in-one doozy of a hot flash. I get the heat, the sweating, the everything. It's more of a work of art than a hot flash.

I get a lot of reactions from my hot flash announcements. Men are almost always horrified. Young women, too. But women my age and older usually nod their heads in understanding and appreciation and love to share their coping mechanisms for their many faces of hot.

One woman puts ice packs under her arms. Another walks on cold tile. One sticks her head in the freezer. A friend of mine runs into her wine cellar, which offers comfort in more ways than one. So, stealing a page from her, cheers to hot flashes, to the burning hot hormonal wet wackiness that arrives at inopportune moments and reminds us that we are women.

It is warm in here?