Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A spring in my step

Jennifer LaRue Huget

According to the calendar, it’s supposed to be springtime here in Connecticut. But the weather begs to differ; an icky mix of sleet and rain is dripping from the sky, glazing the six-inch coating of snow that accumulated overnight.

It’s been a long, cold winter in these parts. That hasn’t slowed me down – much. I’ve walked the dog in all kinds of weather, braving wind, sleet, frigid temperatures and slippery paths. I’ve kept my spirits up despite the early dark in the evenings and the late light in the mornings.

I made up my mind long ago that if I were going to live in New England, I would have to learn to love it in all seasons. Otherwise, I might find myself less than happy for months at a time. That seems like a waste to me. So I forced myself to embrace winter.

But I’ll admit I’m more than ready for spring and ultimately summer. The sight of a robin on the lawn the other day made my heart glad. Because, as much as I say I’m okay with winter, I really don’t like being cold. In fact, unlike many people with MS, for whom heat exacerbates symptoms, I much prefer to be warm, even hot. Give me a tank top, shorts and a nice, long, sweaty day, and I’m golden.

It wasn’t always that way. Growing up in the Washington, D.C., area, I hated the blazing sun and the humidity that started in July and lasted through the end of September. But back then I lived in air-conditioned luxury, and the contrast between the cold I experienced inside buildings and cars, and the heat outdoors was miserable.

Today I live in a house with no air conditioning. I don’t even run the air when I’m in the car. Over time, my body seems to have adjusted. At first I was just okay with the heat. Then I kind of started to like it. Now I crave it.

But that’s not the whole story. About the same time I learned I had MS, I started experiencing funky symptoms whereby my fingers would turn yellow and waxy, and also kind of numb whenever I got cold. I finally learned I could reverse that by running my wrists under warm water in the kitchen sink. But before returning to normal, my fingers turn all kinds of strange colors, purple and blue and red spots mottling the wax-yellow background. It’s quite the horror show – just ask my kids!

I have since learned that I suffer from Raynaud’s phenomenon, a generally harmless, though ugly and uncomfortable, condition in which the capillaries in my hands (and now sometimes my feet, too) constrict and draw blood away from the surface of my skin. Another thing I have learned about Raynaud’s is that it can, like so many other things, including some symptoms of MS, be triggered by stress.

So I look forward to the coming warm months, which promise relief from the cold and from Raynaud’s, in a big way. How about you? Are you more comfortable and happy when it’s cold outside or when it’s nice and hot?

Jennifer LaRue Huget was diagnosed with MS in 2001. A freelance writer and children's book author, she lives in Connecticut with her husband, two teenage kids, and two brown dogs. Her Web site is www.jenniferlaruehuget.com.


  1. HI JENNIFER - Gail here from Clinton, CT. Lived in Guilford from 1984, recently moved to Clinton. All on one floor now! If u go over to my blog and look back at a few posts u can see where we live. Great pictures and post of Winter's ending surge of power.
    I was diagnosed in June 2004. A life changing moment. sigh....
    Well, I hope u find your way to my place and we can come to know and support one another.
    Love Gail

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  3. Jennifer,

    I'm with you! I HATE cold and being cold. I grew up in NYC, Queens to be exact. I loved having snow days and weeks when I was a kid, but that sufficed for 5 lifetimes. Now I thrive in very warm to hot weather. Where we live on the Negev Plateau (Israel) we get one of the coldest winters in the country. Now we're getting desert heatwaves which take a few days to peak and then crash to cold, dusty, windy, sometimes drippy days and nights until the next hot spell. I love the hot ones ;-)

    Feel great in cold and heat,

  4. Thanks for the interesting post, Jennifer. I received a diagnosis of MS in Oct 2012, and one of the things that made me question my diagnosis was my strong preference for warm weather over cold weather. I find myself shivering when everyone around me is quite comfortable, behavior that seemed very odd for an MS patient (based on all that I had read about heat intolerance). At night, my feet never get warm (despite wearing socks to bed). I'll have to run my wrists under warm water and see if I get treated to a color show like the one you describe!

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