Monday, March 30, 2009

Scratchies

Per the allergists request (demand), I was off the anti-histamines for 3 days.

Three long, interminable days that I spent itching, scratching, nose running, eyes watering and sneezing. Even my lips were itchy. I was tired and crabby. If you ask Chris there was a fine line between itchy and bitchy – which this weekend was very blurred. In other words: this was not fun. I had a big weekend of workouts and knew that each would be about 100 times tougher than they should have been because I was operating at full-on allergy capacity. But what can you do. If I skipped a workout for every time any little thing was bothering me I would never get a workout done. So I kept reminding myself that tough stuff only makes you tougher. Running descending 10K intervals while it feels like you are breathing through a straw – oh yes, I am tough. Try me.

Monday at 10 am rolled around and I could barely contain myself. This was better than the morning I decided to go back on the coffee. I was going to the allergist.

Finally.

Today would be the day I could take an anti-histamine. Sweet Jesus save me from the itchies and give me a pill. As I signed in to the office I just wanted to blurt out: WHEN DO I GET THE DRUGS. Instead they ask me for my insurance card and a copay. Ok, I give you my money, you give me the drugs. This is a cut and dry transaction. Drugs, now. Please.

The nurse seats me in the office and has a good look at me. I look great, I wanted to say. Look at me. I haven’t spent the past 3 days losing my will to survive or convincing myself that we need to cover the entire house in plastic and laminate Boss so I can breathe again.

I notice on her sheet there is a place to circle how the patient looks:

Well or Ill

Let me just put my vote in for “ill”. I am sure I look ill. My nose is raw and I have giant black circles under my eyes. My stomach is covered in red scratches from Friday night when I had an itchy fit on the way to dinner. And I smell like dirty clothes because in an effort to rid the house of anything that I could be allergic to I threw away the dryer sheets and swore off laundry for a week.

Help me.

She takes my blood pressure then my pulse. I wait. And wait….about two minutes later she writes down 48 and then looks at me:

Are you an athlete?

I am trying to be. But I sort of need to BREATHE. With both lungs at full capacity.

Next up the doctor enters the room. Hello pill dispenser. Pills now. Again, please. Instead she asks me a round of questions about our home, my life and all possible sources of allergens. In short, we have carpet, a basement, a dog and I do not have covers on my pillows. The only way it could be worse is if I smoked.

She then prepares me for a few tests.

The first one is a lung capacity test. This should be good. I have been operating on what feels like one lung for about 4 months now. I am instructed how to take a cleansing breath, different than the next deep breath, then blow into a tube. And keep blowing…

KEEP GOING KEEP GOING KEEP GOING KEEP GOING

Is it just me or is having a grown adult standing next to you and shouting KEEP GOING something that makes you want to choke on the tube in a fit of giggles? Curb your enthusiasm, Liz. Each giggle costs you another percentage of lung capacity. FOCUS.

After two more rounds of that test, the nurse returns with a giant bucket with a biohazard sticker on it. If that wasn’t scary enough, next to it she rests a tray filled with needles. 40 of them. Yes, my friends, this was the scratch test. She draws a diagram on both of my arms and puts needle number one in to her hand.

Oh dear god.

Flashback to my last experience with needles. It was at the gynecologist’s office. I forgot to update all of you to say that I had to go back for some bloodwork just to be sure I really wasn’t a man. When I sat in the little chair with the school desk arm, the bloodletter looked at me and said “you’ve got great veins”. What do you say to this? I’ve also got a purty mouth but I prefer for people to not tell me these kinds of things before they are ready to stick me with a giant needle and extract 4 vials of blood – 3 to be sure and 1 probably just to drink. Sister you are freaking me out! Before I could say anything she came back at me with “this is a junkie’s heaven, I used to work with junkies and they would die for your veins.” What!? They would die without my veins. The hazards of sticking yourself with heroin 10 times a day. But thank you for the compliment. Clearly if my multisport business ever falls through I will fall into derelict street life very well.

Back to the scratch test: I couldn’t imagine if my job was to scratch people with needles 40 times about 10 times a day. Sometimes I answer really difficult emails but I never have to break skin. Before she even gets to the second arm, the first arm is burning. Exploding in red and starting to intensely itch. I want to scratch but she tells me I cannot move my arms. And I have to sit there for 20 minutes. To be sure she sets a timer and then leaves the room.

When you have nothing else to distract your mind, your focus is razor sharp. And right now it was focusing on the fact that I wanted to scratch my right arm right off my body. There is no relief and as the time ticks on slowly I watch my arms erupt in bumps.

A few minutes later, the nurse returns to tell me we need to do the lung capacity test again.

That bad, eh? I’m telling you I have not had an unwheezy breath for nearly 4 months. But I do the test again.

A few minutes later, the nurse returns to tell me we need to do the lung capacity test again.

Perhaps you should check to see I really do have two lungs?

Finally the 20 minutes is up and the doctor returns. She takes a look at my arms and says:

"THIS IS BAD."

Of course it is bad! You just injected me with 40 vials of venom. It’s like the equivalent of rolling in a field naked on a hot windy day with my dog licking my face. You have poisoned me what did you think would happen. And of all things you hope to hear when the doctor walks into the room, “this is bad” would not be one. But doctor I’ve got you on this one. I know it’s bad already. I don't need an MD to diagnose that. I’ve been staring at that arm for 20 minutes. It feels as bad as it looks. And if that wasn’t bad enough imagine that you can’t scratch it either. Look at this!


And that's just one arm. She starts to record what I am allergic to on her list. The first few are all trees. Of which I am highly allergic to. The next few are the grasses. She then reaches Bermuda. Who knew I was allergic to Bermuda? I guess it’s a type of grass. Add to that the weeds. Allergic. Molds? Allergic too. Household dust? Yes. Mites? Also. Cat dander? That’s one. But what about Boss? Would I have to sell him off to Mexican gypsies so he could return to his true chihuahuan homeland?


The good news is…no. I’m about as allergic to Boss as I am to feathers. Of the 23 things I reacted to, Boss and feathers were worth only one check mark (compared to four check marks for Bermuda).


Vacation getaway on small island apparently covered in highly itchy grass= zero. Boss = wins.


I breathe (at half capacity) a sigh of relief. I can keep the dog (unless I decide to cover him in feathers – at that point his allergen potential might add up and I’m back to laminating him).


The doctor teaches me how to properly use an inhaler next. This will help open up your lungs. Ok, I’ll give it a go. As I am sucking away at the inhaler, she is shouting:


HOLD IT HOLD IT HOLD IT HOLD IT


I almost bust out in giggles. Let me tell you this is the most fun I’ve had on a Monday in a long time. I’ve been in here for at least 90 minutes and nearly broke out into giggles twice. Can I come back again? Just to hear people shout things at me for encouragement. In fact, for my next workout may I borrow the nurse to shout KEEP GOING and you to tell me to HOLD IT?


The doctor then pulls out a pill package.


There it is. The coveted anti-histamine.


“May I give this to you?”


May you? It’s about damn time! It’s been 3 days since my last pill and I am getting ITCHY here. Give it to me now and forget the water, I will swallow it dry. I take the pill like candy. Meanwhile she tells me about the test results. In short, I am allergic to…just about everything. Except cockroaches (I’m not kidding, they scratched me with cockroach because they give off some type of allergen).


Phew.


And it will only get worse. I don’t know exactly why but as it builds up and you become more exposed to it your body fights more and more and more until you eventually give yourself lung disease. Which is code for asthma. I don’t have asthma which she confirmed by having me do yet another lung capacity test after taking in the inhaler. My results? Actually got worse. I guess asthmatics get better with inhalers. But my body was trying to fight off 40 allergens that had just been scratched into my arm along with the cockroach.

Anyways, the treatment on my end was simple: no open windows, no plants in the bedroom, no dog in bed, no cats, no humidity, no mold, vacuum daily, no sitting in the room after its vacuumed, no…..


Basically I need to live in a sealed room at 35% humidity with nothing green, living or furry.


I think to all of the places I have visited. And decide I shall move to the Badlands. Spend my life amongst the rocks. And sleep in a bed of Saran Wrap at night. With my dog and husband in an adjacent rock cave.


The only way to make this better? You got it – allergy shots. Why do I feel like I am part of an allergist Ponzi scheme? They dangle the contract in front of me at least three times. Asking if I will sign it. Like, you need these shots for the next 4 years to have any improved quality of life. I’m so uncomfortable though I’m about to consider throwing her whatever sum of money it would take to get started. Of course she just wants me to sign on a dotted line – but common sense hits me, I should see if it’s covered first and think about it…..


Sigh. Or exhale. Hey, look at that – I can exhale again without sounding like a harmonica. Yeah, about those shots – uh, I know I have great veins and all but I’m just not sure. That’s a lot of time and money for a big…what if. So I ask you the fearless reader – what do you think? Worth the shots?


Two hours later I finally leave the office with 4 days worth of pills. Why no prescription? I need to call her to tell her how it went. Concerned doctor or evil trick to get me back in the office for more shots and scratches? I am not sure. But at least I can think about it. And I am thinking that Dr. Nuts is just a phone call away.


I think he’s back in the country after a trip to India and soon will be relocating to San Diego. If you've been around this blog long enough you've heard me talk about Dr. Nuts. YES he is a real person! And it just might be time to call him again.


Good thing I’m not allergic to (dr.) nuts.

10 comments:

Greyt Times said...

Been there, done that, swole up like you did. I opted to not do the shot, but instead stayed on the allergy pills. At first with a built-in decongestant (loved it!) but my sinuses revolted after about 2 years steady. I eventually switched to a separate decon, only when really needed. My allergies have gotten better with time, not worse.

Good luck!

cat. said...

i, however, AM allergic to cockroaches. well, cockroach feces to be precise. when the allergist told me that, i said: "isn't everyone?" i mean honestly ... shouldn't everyone be allergic to cockroach poo!?!?!

i'm glad you're closing in on a solution. i've had chronic hives for a few years. it's a nightmare and makes me want to rip my skin off on a daily basis. so, i feel your itch.

hang tight!

Woods said...

I am also allergic to everything outside along with dust, smoke and mold. My co-worker takes allergy shots and while she swears by them - I am not a believer.

It just doesn't seem right to me that you have to get a shot once or twice a week. It just sounds a bit much. I use nose spray and pills when it gets bad. I manage to make it through just fine.

ADC said...

Wow, that is a long list. At lesat Boss can stay :)))

Jen Rife said...

Dude, that pic of your arm is pretty sweet. Hope the drugs help you feel better!

Laura said...

This sounds like voodoo magic, but I eat lots of local honey every winter and spring and it has helped me build immunity to the local pollen. Not sure if Chicago has local honey, but maybe worth a shot? I do that plus allergy medicine daily in the spring, but in the fall/winter I don't need to take the allergy meds at all. Good luck!

BriGaal said...

I'm allergic to everything you are plus cockroaches. I took shots for about 8 years, but then had to go off them when we traveled around the world. Didn't go back on them and don't feel any worse. I actually feel better, but I've heard your allergies change about every 7 years. HOWEVER, I will leave you with 2 words, and this is not a joke:
NETI POT.

I know it's bizarre, but it has really helped me. Just don't let anyone watch you do it.

E.L.F. said...

I have been doing the Neti Pot! Jen Cunnane suggested it awhile back. It freaks me out a little but it seems to help.

Kona Shelley said...

Yikes.hope everything gets worked out!

Kim said...

my dear lord, that's a lot of bumpies! im allergic to pretty much everything you are, with a slight allergy to nuts too! BOO!

my parents SWEAR by the neti pot, but every time i try it, snots go down my throat - not a good feeling.