Monday, June 28, 2010

Speaking of England....

Ah, life--never a dull moment with you.

Everyone says life can change in a flash. When it happens to you, you don’t really notice. Our car accident changed my life, but not in a way that directly makes sense. Or maybe it does—in a convoluted, everything-is-connected, things-happen-for-a-reason, philosophically-oriented sort of way.

It's hard to find that thread at first. We hit a tree in late 2008 and now we're moving to England. How are these two things connected? One could ask, and not immediately come up with an answer because it all started way back when I was twelve. Or thirteen. Something like that.

I have been sick forever. My symptoms have never changed, but those docs kept slapping diagnosises on me like they were the latest fashion jeans. I have been tested and diagnosed with a lot of things, and given treatments that never worked up until I got sick of doctors and stopped seeing them as they never did me any good anyway.

Then, we hit a tree. I had to see a doctor then. With very bad whiplash, it was the only sensible thing to do. Recovery from that included an initial round of muscle relaxers and heavy duty pain-killers, followed by the more “me-friendly” applications of yoga, chiropractic treatment, and exercise.

Come February, 2009, I was still feeling pretty bad. I caught a flu, nothing to worry about, just a cold and a cough that came on quite suddenly. I wasn't going to see a doctor for it, but my youngest son was sick, too. I thought, as I'm going in, why not let them have a listen to me while I was there? It couldn’t hurt and my lungs did sound gurgley. This turned out to be one of those accidentally brilliant decisions. I had 'silent lungs' which, as an asthma sufferer will tell you, is not a good thing to have. It means a portion of your lungs have become so inflamed, the air has been trapped inside them, preventing good things from happening, such as getting enough oxygen. Silent lungs will get a doctor hustling. I had some kind of breathing treatment immediately, a scrip written for oral steroids and was given an albuterol inhaler. My son, as it happens, was perfectly fine.

Thus began my love affair with asthma. Do not get asthma if you can avoid it; it is not fun.

Though no doctor has ever said it, I think my asthma finally appeared out of the blue at forty years old due to the car accident. The spinal column is your nerve center, with all communication to and from that master planner, the brain, running through it, out to our extremities and vital organs and then back to the brain. It seems to me that the hit my upper back took from that tree could certainly trigger a condition that might have lurked in me for years. Once I got my inhaler and used it a few times, I realized I had been having asthma symptoms all my life, I just hadn't realized that tight-chested, breathlessness was an asthma attack. It was a normal part of my world, and only with the inhaler did I realize it was correctable.

Asthma. One more diagnosis to add to my list. I wanted to know why I had asthma. I always want to know why. It doesn’t matter what it is, I want to know why it is. One type of asthma is allergy induced. At some point, I had been diagnosed with allergies to chemicals. I knew you could also be allergic to other things. In talking with my doctor, we opted to get me a thorough allergy panel and see if there was more going on than the chemical sensitivity.

If you could see me now, you would realize, I am laughing out loud. It’s funny, but in that very awful sort of way. I was tested for 70 allergens. I tested positive to 43. If you've read this blog before now, this won't be news to you. As it turns out, allergies is what I've been suffering from forever—those same set of symptoms with multiple diagnosises turned out to be allergies plain and simple. Well, plain, maybe--but not so simple.

It's hard to be that allergic. You feel as if everything is making you sick because, in fact, it is. Once I found out, I dutifully took two doses of antihistamines daily as prescribed. Everyone asked if they made me feel sleepy. Are you kidding? I have been fighting chronic fatigue since I was twelve years old; antihistamines finally gave me some of my energy back. I have often wondered if being so sick is why I simultaneously became focused on health. I eat a great diet. I work out. I practice stress-reduction techniques. I drink gallons of water, I limit my fat and sugar intake. My blood-work is beautiful. I realize now, I have to do all of that--just to feel reasonably well. I have fatigue so crippling at times, I feel as if I am dragging myself through quicksand and I can get sick in a minute, seemingly out of the blue. At any moment, on any given day, I can come across something that knocks me out. That is what being highly allergic is like. It’s like being repeatedly ambushed by the world. I would do anything to avoid being made sick. It’s just not easy to know what to do.

All of this leads us up to this Spring. I was taking antihistamines, I was feeling really good. Life was happy and I was happy in it. I planted a big garden. That same one I went on about in my last post. I enjoyed every moment of fresh air and planting until the pollen started to kick. Being out side in pollen is like having fine sand thrown in my eyes all day. I itched, I coughed and I relied on my antihistamines to protect me.

In my defense, I have only known I've had allergies for one year, so I'm not the smartest patient in understanding how to deal with them. Avoidance is, apparently, the best measure. I was not fully aware of this going into Spring. We had record pollen levels in VA and by April 15th, having overexposed myself to the blooming world, I was sick. I was Patagonia Dreamin' because it hurt to breathe. It hurt to think, to move my eyes. My joints ached, my muscles cramped. I dragged through every day at work and collapsed once I got home. I had lost my beautiful life, once again, to ill health.

In trying to recover, I locked myself indoors, cried over the loss of my beautiful garden which I couldn’t tend, cried over the loss of my horses which I could no longer care for, and cried over the loss of the outside world, which I loved. After all the crying, I took a good, hard look at my life. I realized I needed to do things differently. Of course, I talked with doctors first. What that boiled down to was a recommendation I go on low-level steroids. With my sensitive nervous system, they might as well book me a white-walled room now. I've been on oral steroids; they are not good for my mental health.

On occasion, I tend to show slightly obsessive tendencies, particularly when I have a problem to sort out. Understanding pollen was my problem, I became obsessed with learning about pollen and how to avoid it. It turns out, there is pollen everywhere. With the exception of Siberia are the top and bottom of the globe, pollen a part of the natural world I love so well. But, this is not the end of the story. There are places that have better pollen profiles. Cool, rainy climates, with shorter growing seasons mean that pollen exposure is minimized. Mountainous regions also have this same affect. Can anyone say...Patagonia? I can't really move to southern Argentina. It’s not practical, but there is a place I can move that looks much better from a pollen perspective. Can anyone say...England?

Lucky for me, I married a Brit.

We’re moving. Once the house sells, we’re going to a place less plagued by pollen levels and I will, hopefully, for the first time in my life, breath a little easier and itch a little less.

Cheerio, peeps! Onward, ho!, to Britain!


White Eagle said...


Godspeed and good health to you.

John Rouleau

lakshmi said...

Hi John!

Weren’t you just in Alaska? I'm so envious of the cool weather. I've always been a Northern girl at heart. Off to the North I shall go!

Thanks for the well-wishes. :)