Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Las Vegas Is Not For The Faint Of Heart Or Chronically Ill

I recently spent four days in Las Vegas.  I was there for an academic conference.  But since I had never been to Vegas before, I tried to have a bit of fun, as well.

There were two ways to treat this Vegas trip.  The first was like many of the blowhards who were attending the conference – to totally and completely hate Vegas without really experiencing it.  Or to go full tilt and experience Vegas, and love it or hate, but coming to that conclusion in an “educated” manner.

(I’ll admit that it was slightly ironic to be presenting about being chronically ill against the backdrop of a place that is so much the antithesis of that)

And then there’s the reality of my chronically ill life.

While I had fun, I paid a price.

There was a bit of drinking (not much by Vegas standards because my tolerance is low because I drink so rarely now; see picture at the end of this post) and gambling, a bit of hot pink feathered hair extension debauchery (good for the next three to six months; see picture at the beginning of this post (and I’ll admit, I’m totally digging it)), and overall, a bit of wearing scandalous clothes and impossibly high heels.  Throw in a Cirque show and some shopping, and you pretty much have a quintessential Vegas experience.  Tame by many standards.  Apparently, not tame enough for me, so my body now tells me.

But we’ve all got to let loose every once in a while, right? 

I learned an important lesson.  Vegas is not for me, and I suspect, not for many chronically ill people.

Vegas is just too much of everything. 

First off, everywhere you turn is another opportunity to be totally overstimulated.  It’s exhausting trying to keep up with the sights and the sounds and everything else. 

The heat was horrible.  The temperature averaged 105 degrees for each of the days I was there.  You would walk a block and be soaking with sweat, not to mention completely parched.  Although, for me, one unintended consequence is that the heat may have saved my joints from an even more untimely demise. 

Going outside to the heat and inside to the full blown air conditioning, and going to bed late made me feel completely run down and exhausted.  Not only was I eating at crazy times, but more healthful choices aren’t easy to come by in Sin City.  The portions were ginormous.  Honestly, I couldn’t wait to come home, and get back to real life.  I need consistency to stay as well as possible, and if Las Vegas is anything, it is definitely not consistent. 

I had overextended my hip a bit in kickboxing earlier last week, and as my time in Vegas progressed, it only got worse.  Las Vegas is a place where you can’t really avoid walking around.  And like everything else, the walking is just too much. 

I finally caved and took a Prednisone because the pain was wearing on me.  I was getting short with people, and I realized that it wasn’t something they could understand.  Unless you’ve experienced pain where you can literally feel bone grinding against bone, you can’t begin to imagine the wherewithal it takes to power through it. 

While the Prednisone greatly improved my hip pain, two days later, and I am already seeing the effects on my face.  The cystic acne is back.  And as much as it’s unsightly, it’s so painful.  This is just one reminder of why I hadn’t taken Prednisone in months before I took it the other day. 

I got some pretty severe blisters on the top of my feet from my shoes rubbing the wrong way walking through the airport.  I hoped maybe the Prednisone would aid in healing, but the blisters are open and raw.  It kind of looks like a dinosaur took a bite out of my foot.  And you know, maybe one did.  I’ll never tell.  What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.  Or so “they” say…

I guess it’s fitting that my return to Prednisone, even it was only a momentary lapse (I hope), happened in Vegas, because Vegas is life on steroids.

While “healthy” behavior is not espoused in Vegas, it’s clear to me that the smoke and heat and walking involved and the late nights are meant for a crowd who are “healthy” by “normal people” standards. 

The thing is, this whole experience brings up the fact that I’m 26 years.  Wanting to explore Vegas like other people my age isn’t so pie-in-the-sky.  But the reality is, by virtue of my illnesses, I have limitations.  And I definitely overdid things.  But it was hard not to.

For me, it was just too much.  I felt overwhelmed.  And now I feel pretty jetlagged and awful, and am trying to recover.  I also made the severe mistake of taking the red eye home.  It probably would have been fine if I wasn’t already exhausted, and then was put through the ringer by security.  I left Vegas at 11:15 p.m. Vegas time, 2:15 a.m. my time, and arrived in Detroit at 6:05 a.m.  The plane was cold, so I was pretty stiff and in pain by the end of the flight.    

I’m glad that my summer traveling is finally coming to an end.  I’m exhausted. 

So viva, LV NV!

Or maybe it’s more of ADIOS, LV NV.  I’ve had my fill, won’t be missing you, and probably won’t be coming back any time soon.  However, I will say that I could never really have fully understood what Las Vegas was actually like without experiencing it firsthand.  So I’m glad for that, and now it’s back to reality.


  1. Everything I do these days is impacted by what my body permits...

    I may do some minor cleaning, but I won't be on all-fours scrubbing the tub. I may watch my puppies playing, but I won't be going on an African safari. I may laugh and joke with friends and "hang out," but I won't be pulling an all-niter.

    It's weird to be in my mid-30s, watching people doing things I can't--like having a baby--and feel a little sad, heck even a little jealous. Or, reflecting on the little things I did early in life and didn't appreciate, because I didn't know it would be the first and only time I ever did them. I never realized how much joy I got from things like ice skating, running full-force, or trying to snowboard and failing, but have fun just trying!

    Because I was such a tough "I can do anything" sort of person before the pain, it's not been an easy adjustment. Listing all the "cants" and "wonts" is really upsetting, even a decade later.

    We all have to accept our new selves, after serious illness and pain. For each of us, it's a personal journey that can take a long time. Some of us--like me I suspect--may never fully accept it. I deal with it, day after day, but truly accept it? Not me. Not now. Probably never.

    If you love someone with pain, appreciate life more, revel in each new experience... show him/her that you realize all the wonderful gifts you have in life, merely by being "normal."

    Even if you don't have a loved one who has an illness such as chronic or Intractable pain, realize the precious gift you have, in the freedom of your daily life. You will not always be as able-bodied as you are today. Life may not change til you're in your 80s, or it could change tomorrow. The not knowing is why it is all so precious, special and short. Enjoy every minute!

  2. hi Leslie,
    I very much enjoyed your blog post! i had a very similar experience in Atlantic City...

    everytime i walked through the casino in our hotel i got dizzy and lightheaded. There is definitely an overloaded of the senses and over-stimulation. I even remember thinking that if i couldnt handle a little AC there is no way i'm ever going to vegas!

  3. My last trip to Vegas was when I was still healthy years ago, and it was overwhelming to me. I think I have a two day limit on Vegas - maybe 3, and then all good becomes bad. Glad you got to experience it. I had rotten blisters recently and found that tea tree oil helped a lot with the healing. If you want.

  4. My brother and his wife lived there for years. UGH...would kill me.

  5. I have to go to Las Vegas for a professional conference in a couple of months. Your sentiments about the city sound very familiar... I wouldn't mind if the conference were ANYWHERE else! Fellow lupus patient and blogger. I like what you are doing here - it is great!

  6. My first trip to Vegas was right after I graduated from college, a gift from my then boyfriend. It was over Memorial Day weekend, and while it was hot, it wasn't like going in August. My only regret is we didn't see any shows.

    I went to work a conference in August '99. OMG. I was essentially healthy back then, and just walking from one end of the convention floor to the other end (which I had to do repeatedly all day for five days!) was exhausting. And the heat -- I only had to essentially cross an alley between my hotel and the entry to the convention center, but I still melted as soon as I stepped out that door. Nasty. I've always been a heat wimp and can't imagine facing that heat these days!

    I'm sorry your body is making you pay so high of a penalty for the trip. :-(

    But you're totally rocking that pink feather! :)