Footbawl

I’ve never watched a (American) football game in my life. I went to a few when I was in college at the University of Wisconsin Madison because they do this thing called the “5th quarter“, which was just an excuse to drink and sing and act foolish, but I never actually watched the game and wouldn’t have had a clue what was going on if I did. One of my first memories of childhood, however, was loving the green and gold Green Bay Packers flag on the wall in one of our bedrooms — undoubtedly, one of my brother’s. I thought it was pretty. I also thought Gene Simmons in my brother’s Kiss posters was pretty. I was five.

1970s flag.

1970s flag.

1970s Kiss.

1970s Kiss.

My father’s family, which is huge — he has 8 siblings and most of them had big families — is from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, about an hour from Green Bay. We were indoctrinated. Packers’ fans treat it like a religion. It kind of blows my mind. Fans bequeath tickets in their wills and put their newborn kids on the 86,000-person wait list (although, it’s futile since the wait is estimated to be more than 955 years).

Fans of the Seattle Seahawks (the football team here) are insane rabid scary enthusiastic. They call themselves “The 12th Man” and have caused a few magnitude 2 earthquakes with their stomping and screaming. They’ve even been enlisted by seismologists to help test an earthquake early warning system. If I could disconnect my ever-present headache (and leave the house), I actually think it would be fun to be in the crowd at a Seahawks game and feel that vibration. The same way I think a crazy windstorm is fun or a roller coaster. Or a Halloween house of horrors. Being surrounded by the energy generated to make that happen would be an experience. Packers’ fans aren’t as loud as Seahawks’ fans. It’s more a reverence… but, just as passionate.

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Today, thanks to my Dad, I know that both teams are in a playoff game (to determine who goes to the Superbowl) in Seattle. And, if my Dad hadn’t told me and I had managed to avoid the hoopla because I’m housebound (which I did because I am), I would have realised something big was happening this morning when I looked at Facebook and saw nothing but my Seattle friends’ posts about the Seahawks and my family’s posts about the Packers. Endless scrolling of green and gold and navy and green. Photos of kids in wee team outfits, face paint, nail polish…

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Even my European friends seem to have gone quiet. No port in the Facebook football storm. I feel like the only person in Seattle who doesn’t have the TV on. I feel like the only person in my (Dad’s) family not paying attention to the score. I’m alone here, with my tea, typing in silence and the only reason I know the Seahawks are probably losing is because there have been no booming fireworks exploding nearby and terrifying my dog.

I don’t want to be around the screaming and stomping. Even before I had chronic, unending, tortuous daily headaches, I hated when I worked in the restaurants while games were playing on the televisions. Even without the volume, people were glued to the sets and I would be obliviously, peacefully working away when, suddenly, all hell would break lose and, startled, I’d hit the ceiling. It never failed to rattle the shit out of me. I’d glower at the cheering fans and silently will them back to the privacy of their own homes (but smile sweetly at the tables, of course).

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Oddly, though, today, I’m a bit more melancholy about the whole thing. Today’s Facebook feed has magnified my loneliness the same way it did over the holidays. So many people together, happy, bonded, having fun. I was groggy and stiff and sore, still in bed at 11am, looking at photos of my friends downtown in their woolly hats, going to the game. Something about it being in real time spiked my jealousy. I’m in this dark room, feeling awful, like I do every morning, and there are my friends downtown, RIGHT NOW, out in the world, in the crisp air, holding lattes, grinning with their arms around each other. And here I am. Even my husband went to meet his sister at the PUB to have BREAKFAST and watch the game and be a part of a COMMUNITY. You know I’m missing society something awful if I’m coveting a stinky bar full of sports fans (I always want greasy pub food, so that’s not a good barometer of my loneliness).

Oh, joy. Seattle must have scored. It sounded like a bomb went off in my front garden. It had to be the neighbours across the street. Even my smaller dog is scared and he’s bulletproof. Bowie, the big highly-strung pup, just squeezed in terror behind my chair, taking all the electrical cords with him. My computer hit the ground, as did my sun light box. The Little Guy is under my legs, under the table, shaking and whining. I just closed the front door, pulled the curtains and turned on Classical Masterpieces at full volume. Whatever’s playing isn’t very soothing, though, it sounds like I should be in an intergalactic cartoon space fight.

And another bomb outside. Seattle must be making a comeback. And another. Jesus! The bulletproof-no-longer dog just bolted downstairs to the basement, eyes rolling uncontrollably (he has literally never reacted to fireworks) and the big one just crashed through the gate that’s supposed to stop him from going upstairs into my bedroom. He’s panting like he’s in shock. Whoohoo! Sports are fun! I take it back, I don’t want to be a part of the camaraderie. Things just got ugly. I better go comfort the children.

Mast Cell Madness.

I’m officially terrified by my mast cells because Christmas heralded another sick, sick few days. Almost as sick as Thanksgiving, so I’d have to say the 2nd sickest night of my life. However, this time, it all started with my tongue swelling up, which gave me more insight into the mechanism behind it.

I sometimes wonder if all my health issues stem from mast cell activation syndrome. I can tell the difference between ME symptoms and mast cell reactions, but, still, there’s this little seed in my brain that says, what if they’re at the root of EVERYTHING and I should be spending my time finding a doctor with MCAD expertise on this side of the country (it doesn’t seem to exist in Seattle)? I don’t do this because I am generally stable. On a day-to-day basis, I’m not having reactions — unless, of course, many of my chronic symptoms have mast cell degranulation at their core and I just don’t realise it.

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My health issues started with full-blown anaphylaxis, out of the blue, 9 days after my 28th birthday. Doctors were hopeless and gave no advice back then, not even daily preventative antihistamines. The common denominator was alcohol (but not every time I drank, so it was confusing), so, after the last trip to the emergency room in Dublin, where I almost died, I finally quit drinking and haven’t touched a drop in 13 years.

Before that, I had swelling in my eyes and hands and a severe edema episode once or twice that I didn’t really think much about. I linked it to Asian food, so stopped eating that and MSG and didn’t look any further into it. This was eventually diagnosed as autoimmune urticaria and angioedema and I was told to take Zyrtec, but didn’t want to medicate daily for an intermittent condition.

I’ve always had trouble with my periods — crippling dysmenorrhea — but they got progressively worse until I collapsed with syncope and shock 13 days after my 32nd birthday and was taken off in the ambulance. For 6 years, no doctor gave me any advice until, finally, an OBGYN told me to dump salt on my tongue. This doesn’t stop the collapses, but it certainly helps. These episodes continue to happen randomly to this day, always on the first day of my period and are, without a doubt, mast cell mediated, presumably low-grade anaphylaxis (very low blood pressure and pulse, bowel problems, syncope, shortness of breath).

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I have a spot in my throat that has itched for years. It was actually the thing that lead to diagnosis of my toxic thyroid goiters and Grave’s Disease because I mentioned the itch to some random doctor who palpated my throat. I’ve now realised it signals reactivity in my body at a very low level. It’s almost always there, but, when it’s not or when it’s very bad, I pay attention.

I was flushing badly for years, thinking I had developed bizarre self-consciousness, but the self-consciousness was actually a result from flushing and having people point it out! When I was diagnosed with Grave’s, I thought it was a symptom of that, but it never went away after ablation.

Of course, in retrospect, there have always been issues I have dealt with, which may or may not originate with mast cells: thyroid problems and Raynaud’s can be a result of mast cell disorders. Also, constipation, headaches, low blood pressure, and temperature sensitivity (all of which got much worse in recent years). Finally, many of my ME symptoms could also be from MCAS: fatigue, joint and tissue pain, eye pain, vision problems, vertigo, episodes of low body temperature, scent/odour/chemical sensitivity, sinus problems, cognitive impairment, hair loss, decreased bone density (I have osteopenia, on the cusp of osteoporosis), shortness of breath, medication reactions, malabsorption, and tinnitus. See a list of signs and symptoms here.

It would be wonderful to be able to manage and control any of these issues, but none of them scares me like the nights I’ve had recently, not even full-blown anaphylaxis. I’ve tried so hard to figure out my triggers, but they are moving targets. Tongue swelling and angioedema are obvious, as is the very specific breathing difficulty you get with anaphylaxis (it is nothing like asthma or wheezing from an infection). I don’t get daily hives and itching like many people. My reactions now are all about the histamine bucket and completely dependent on where I am in my cycle and what is happening in my life. I may be able to eat anything one week and then suspect that those same foods are giving me sinus trouble, insomnia and a jaw ache a different week. My chronic daily headaches, tinnitus, brain fog and exhaustion could be from food choices, but I’ve never been able to pin down any causation. My diet is very low-histamine compared to normal people and how it used to be, but I still allow myself chocolate, coconut, store-bought chips, beef, almost all fruit, including dried and many things that others avoid. Could these things be contributing to my problems? Yes, but, without a definite correlation, I don’t want to eliminate foods. Once you’ve experienced anaphylaxis, “reactions” like a runny nose, constipation or aching hands are quite ignorable. The only thing that consistently caused a reaction was alcohol and my periods. And, now I can say with certainty, holidays and events, no matter how careful I am.

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I prepared for Christmas over the course of a month and a half, slowly bought presents and wrapped them, slowly wrote some Christmas cards, slowly got the spare room ready for my sister, slowly did laundry — over the course of weeks! Didn’t overexert myself at all. There was no excitement, no activities. My sister and her small dog came over, we watched tv and opened presents. I had rested multiple times throughout the day and the only not normal thing I ate was half a tiny piece of fresh King salmon, which had been brought in off the docks that same morning and, I was told, caught the day before.

My tongue started to swell up after dinner. By the late evening, I had gotten upset for really no good reason (which has historically happened with my mast cell reactions) and was flushing. I had a bad reaction to about 15mg of Benadryl a week or two prior, so I was scared to take a decent dose on this night. I bit a dye-free capsule and put a drop on my swollen tongue and went to bed. At 2am, I awoke with the same evil that I experienced on Thanksgiving and the night after starting Cromolyn (before going to the AirBnb rentals back in September — it was a few days before my period that time, too). I was shaking so badly, I couldn’t lift the water glass, I was drenched in sweat and had weird runaway chills coursing through my body. I crawled on my hands and knees to the bathroom, which scared the shit out of me because, through all the worst of ME, that’s only happened once before. I fell into harrowing nightmares and woke up gasping for breath over and over, feeling poisoned and infected. I dreamt that I was sick and dying and my husband wasn’t paying attention or taking it seriously. I dreamt that I was sick and dying and my mother laughed at me (this isn’t remotely based in truth, this is my terrified mind not knowing how or where to get help). I dreamt that my dog’s neck was broken and I was carrying him to get help, but I was sick and dying and couldn’t do it. And, finally, I dreamt that I was lying on the floor begging my husband over and over: “Please kill me. Please kill me. Please kill me.” I woke up sobbing and so wrung out.

That morning, my period came 5 days early. You better believe, if I had known my period was going to arrive Christmas Day, I might have cancelled Christmas. Or at least postponed present opening for a day. And definitely not eaten even the freshest salmon.

In the past, my anaphylaxis episodes went like this:
My friend A’s birthday party.
My friend C’s birthday party.
Oktoberfest.
Easter party.
C used to joke that I was allergic to fun. I can’t believe he was right. I collapsed and had the paramedics called twice while my mother was staying with us and, also, when my best friend was here from Ireland — both were “events”. I started to get paranoid that, psychologically, I was somehow causing my system to crash when there were visitors. But, every single one of these times, I had my period. There were only a few anaphylactic episodes that I can remember when it wasn’t the first day of my menstrual cycle. EVENT + MENSTRUATION = MAST CELL MELTDOWN. But I think I only really and truly started to believe this 100% on Christmas.

So, Christmas day is a total haze. I crawled downstairs a few times to eat and try to put on a good face, but I don’t remember much and dozed most of the day. Like Thanksgiving and September, however, I bounced back quicker than I could have ever anticipated. That night I kept marveling, “How am I speaking? How am I sitting up? How am I alive?” When it’s bad, you honestly want to die. When it ebbs, the human spirit kicks back in shockingly quickly and you just get on with it, until the next time when you are surprised anew at just how bad the bad is. I didn’t even really modify my diet. I continued to eat my almond butter, coconut ice cream and drink bone broth and tea (all high-ish histamine). If anything, I felt more, Oh fuck it, how much worse could it be? At this stage, I’m much more scared of menstruation and engaging in any sort of event — even one in my house, in my pajamas, with only a single guest.

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I am currently putting together an informational kit (in a bag that was donated to me by a member of one of my groups), so my husband has something to grab in the event of an emergency. My dilemma is that I’ve managed to avoid drugs all this time (never had to use my EpiPen), so I have no way to premedicate for things like plane flights, dental work or necessary procedures like a CT scan or colonoscopy (which my doctor has wanted me to get for years, but I refuse because I’m worried about reactions). I have no safe protocol. 13 years ago, I got IV diphenhydromine for anaphylaxis, now I react to 15mg of Benadryl! 5 years ago, I had IV morphine for dysmennorhea, now my breathing shuts down with a crumb of hydrocodone or codeine. What would happen in a real emergency? If I need surgery? Knock on wood, toba toba, ptooey, ptooey. Once I have everything compiled, I will post it here.

Having said all that, I’m really in quite a good place, feeling happy and hopeful about the new year. Maybe because I realise that these reactions are mast cell degranulations and not ME relapses and that takes some of the fear away. Somehow dying from anaphylaxis is less scary than becoming permanently bedbound with ME. Perhaps only people with both illnesses will understand that. So, here’s what I did New Year’s Eve:

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As well as resilience, forgiveness, positivity and optimism, I’d also like to request that 2015 doles out truckloads of health, wealth and happiness to all of us. That’s all. That’s not too much to ask, right? :)

A Sudden Illness by Laura Hillenbrand

With the publication of the excellent article in the New York Times Magazine last week, The Unbreakable Laura Hillenbrand, I just noticed that trending stats on my blog show many searches for her harrowing and moving account of the onset of her ME (CFS in the article), A Sudden Illness. I also noticed that the links I posted a few years ago for that article, which was originally in The New Yorker, were no longer working (and you have to pay to access the archives). So, here is a .pdf file of her article: A_Sudden_Illness.

I really want to feed the public’s curiosity about her journey and this illness while the NY Times article is still featured on their site (currently in the Health section and #4 on the Most Emailed list). Please feel free to share this post so we can educate while people are curious around the marketing of the film, Unbroken.

After reading the NY Times article, a few things stuck with me: she separated from her husband, which is heartbreaking, yet, sadly, understandable; she can walk down a street, go up and down stairs, do yoga; she has gotten much better and had horrific relapses; she still suffers constant vertigo and hasn’t gone insane; she is taking “new drugs” (what new drugs??)… and some of the workarounds we have to do to accommodate this illness can lead to a richer experience.

Another thing that stayed with me: her first editor said, after 25 years, “the first draft of ‘Seabiscuit’ is still the best he has ever received.” Damn, imagine being that writer. Would be a dream come true for me to publish a book, let alone have it touch millions.

There have been other interviews with her, but I’ve never seen one as thorough as this one by Wil Hylton. Hillenbrand said on Facebook, “I am so moved and grateful. Thank you, Wil, and to everyone who was interviewed for the piece. I can’t express how stirred I am by this.”

The New Yorker listed A Sudden Illness as one of the top ten most requested articles from 1999 to 2009, which speaks to the legions of sufferers looking for any information and first-hand accounts of onset. I know I was and that article changed the way I viewed my illness — it was at once comforting and totally terrifying, it both inspired me and left me hopeless. Mostly, it was validating.

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I listened to Seabiscuit while driving my brother’s Isuzu Trooper from Knoxville, Tennessee to Durham, North Carolina to New York City. It was the first book I’d ever listened to on tape. I rented it from a Cracker Barrel (a restaurant chain, dotted along highways, that rents books from one location and allows you to return them to another) and it will always be inexorably linked to that road trip during an exhilarating summer. I’d had my first scary health incident a few weeks earlier — a two month headache that called for a lumbar puncture, which landed me in the emergency room the next morning with the worst pain I’ve ever experienced in my life. I wasn’t told to stay lying down after the procedure and my cerebral spinal fluid was seeping through the puncture wound that never healed. But, when I drove to New York soon after, I was a woman unleashed and vibrant, soaring with that new gratitude you can only get from a scary hospital visit. I had no schedule, no job, some money saved and Seabiscuit was my travel companion. We parted ways just as I was driving into Manhattan on a hot August night, wearing a skimpy sun dress and chunky sandals. All the windows were down and I was enveloped in those pungent NY smells and frenetic lights and noise: They fed me like life force. I had never heard of ME and I had no idea that one day, like the author of the book I just listened to, I would be housebound and forced to listen to books rather than read them… That evening, driving on the open road and then jumping out of the jeep to hug my best friend from college in the middle of the shimmering heat of Manhattan, might have been the most alive I’ve ever felt.

And then there’s Unbroken. If you’re one of the few I haven’t told to read it, I’m telling you now: Read it. Don’t go see the movie instead. Interestingly, while my husband was shopping in a Torrance, California Whole Foods the day before I went to see Dr. Chia and the first time leaving Seattle in two years, there was a public memorial service being held to celebrate Louis Zamperini’s life a few blocks away. Funny how things come back around like that.

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By the time he returned to check on me, I was sweating profusely and chills were running over me in waves. He took my hand and was horrified: it was gray and cold, and the veins had vanished. He spread blankets over me and tried to help me drink a glass of milk. I couldn’t sit up, so he cupped my head in his hand and tipped the milk into my mouth sideways. It ran down my cheek and pooled on the pillow. My teeth chattered so much that I couldn’t speak. Borden called an emergency room. The nurse thought that I was in shock and urged him to rush me in. But we were far from the hospital, and doctors had never been able to help. I was sure that being moved would kill me.

— From A Sudden Illness
I have been there so many times.

On the edge of nobody’s empire. 

As I came into consciousness this morning and rolled over, before I’d opened my eyes, I felt the room tip sideways and then slosh back again. I tried to look at my phone to see the time and my eyes wouldn’t track properly. Like marbles rolling uncontrolled, I couldn’t make my vision focus on one point. And, in an instant, the fear collapses in on me, crushing my lungs, sucking all the air and hope out of the room. I wonder if the vertigo is caused by the way I slept – something physical tweaked in my neck – or my new thyroid medication that I started yesterday, or did I do too much decorating the tree? Was it the drop of milk in my tea? I wonder how long it will last and does it signal another relapse. Having the borders of my world change from the downstairs sitting room to the four walls of my bedroom seems immeasurably cruel. Facebook is a lifeline normally, but torturous today. Christmas cheer, family fun, laughing faces, out and about doing things, going places, making new memories. One friend is going to a play in NYC, others are going ice skating in Glasgow, and a photo of a pumpkin spice latte sends me over the edge.

Every day, every hour, that my headache isn’t too bad or my brain isn’t too muddied and labouring, I focus on a future where I may be able to leave the house, interact with friends, have time elapse without a constant focus on my malfunctioning body and precarious health. But, as soon as there is a shift – my sleep disappears, my muscles are poisoned, this vertigo tilts the horizon away from me with the slightest movement and the room spins sickeningly even while still – despair eclipses everything. I feel like I’m buried alive, dragging my fingernails along the wooden coffin, screaming at the top of my lungs, while people deafly live and laugh six feet above.

This is where I was this morning when Jen Brea posted this song by Belle & Sebastian. I didn’t know the singer, Stuart Murdoch, had severe M.E. I needed this today.

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As I was about to publish this post, my two dogs just got past the gate to the upstairs and both bounded onto my carefully kept-clean bed with muddy boots from tearing around the garden, barking at the passers-by. It is the first time that they’ve been on my bed in three months and it felt like how it must be to have excited children, brimming with life-force, jump into your bed on Christmas morning, holding fistfuls of treats that crumble all over the sheets and wearing smiles of oblivious delight. Yes, their visit caused my world to teeter-totter even more violently, but it also lifted the heartache a little. This too shall pass.

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum.

A second addendum to my last post:

So, yes, we spent $20 on a voucher for a real Christmas tree and then $150 on an artificial tree that smelled up the whole room and then another $150 on another artificial tree that I accidentally ordered off Amazon, but, in the end, the $3.97 tomato cage is slender and beautiful, holds all our ornaments, and we’re so thrilled with it’s subtly, the lack of smell, watering, dropping needles, killing of trees and EASE of set up. Can’t believe we didn’t do this sooner and we’re never looking back.

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Oh, Christmas Tree. Oh, Christmas Tree…

We’ve always had a real Christmas tree; decorating it and wrapping presents to place under it has been half the joy of Christmas for me. A few weeks ago, I bought an Amazon Local deal: $20 for $40 to spend at a nearby Christmas tree lot and then I realised… we probably shouldn’t get a real tree this year. I am reacting to everything lately and I’ve been bothered by the small tree in my meditation room and the soil it sits in. Last Christmas was the lowest point in my ME journey so far and I’ve gone downhill since the summer, so I really don’t want to aggravate things by having a smelly, potentially moldy tree in the house for a month (most asthma and allergy sites I looked at recommended against a real tree). I even asked in my MCAD group and the vast majority of those that answered get a fake tree.

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So, we bought a fat 7.5′-tall artificial tree from my friend for $150. He said it was used once and kept in a back bedroom all year. My husband opened it up and we let it sit and air out on the porch for 5 days and then he moved furniture and broke his back bringing it inside, setting it up, and tweaking every branch and twig for an hour to make it full and beautiful. When I came through my vapour barrier from upstairs, before I’d even looked into the room and seen it was up, I knew the tree was there. It was like walking into a wall of smell. I couldn’t identify the smell. It wasn’t a plastic smell and it didn’t smell like dust or manufacturing stench, but it was a very large smell. I’d go into the kitchen to get something to eat and, as I walked back into the sitting room, I would stop short as I hit that fetor again. Over and over, the heaviness of it took me by surprise. My throat was burning, I got headachy… Normal issues for me, yes, but I felt like it was the tree. Or, at least, having those symptoms while being enveloped in that smell, correlated them in my brain. To add insult to injury, it is a really high quality, pre-lighted tree and the lights are SO INCREDIBLY BRIGHT in our small room, that it hurts both of our eyes and leaves spots in front of our vision. I thought bright lights were a selling point, but not in my world, of course. Central immune system sensitization is like an evil super power.

My husband, stony-faced, took it back outside while I apologised profusely for my fucked up body and my inability to do any of the heavy lifting. The guilt can be all-consuming.

I spent the next three hours shopping online for hypoallergenic artificial trees or green/healthy trees to no avail. Then I went on Ebay to look for metal trees and found these two for $100:

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Scentless (hopefully), washable… I started to get hopeful again that there could be something pretty to hang our ornaments on and create a festive feeling. I emailed them to my husband, bothered him at work to take off his rain gear (he’s a landscaper in Seattle) and look at the links (he hated the scroll one, but thought we might be able to do something with the spiral one)…

But then I found these metal trees on a different site:

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Twice as much, but maybe a good investment? I texted my husband again. There are no gold spiral ones left and only 2 black ones! We have to hurry to make a decision! Then I realised that they didn’t even guarantee Christmas delivery. So, best case scenario, we’d get it a few days before Christmas, which just doesn’t seem worth it when the whole pretty and festive lead-up to the day is what I enjoy (plus, it takes me weeks to decorate a tree with my energy level — a few ornaments a day) and, worst case scenario, it’d arrive after Christmas and be useless to us this year… and then probably go on sale in January.

I told my husband forget it, we’re shit out of luck.

Theeenn… I checked my emails. Somehow, while shopping for trees on my phone in my bed at 1am last night, my finger had hit “one click ordering” on Amazon (a really evil option that doesn’t bring you to a different screen to look at your shopping cart or confirm your selection, it just orders it — in “one click”) and we have an artificial “pencil” tree coming in the mail. I emailed the sellers because it said it hadn’t been sent yet: “Accidental order! Please cancel!” They answered that it couldn’t be cancelled and we’d have to pay to return it. To add insult to injury again, it’s not even on Amazon Prime and won’t get here until December 20th. And, of course, it’ll probably smell. And it’s made in China. So, we’re out $320 and our porch will be crowded with fake trees and, even if I manage to sell them on Craig’s List, my husband will be the one who has to deal with moving the trees, meeting the buyers etc. I honestly feel like I could take this all in stride, have fun getting creative and see the lighter side of this, except I’m just so guilty that my husband has to do all the work!

My new plan is this. I’m sure my landscaper hubby has a tall ladder:

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Addendum: Just as I was about to hit publish on this blog post, my husband called me and said, “I’m in Home Depot. The artificial trees are all $300+ and most have fake scented pine cones. I’m standing in front of the tomato cages. They’re 5′ tall and cost $3.97.” Hahaha! Hell yes! I had sent him this photo as a joke:

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We both laughed at the fact that we are going to have a wire tree that cost $3.97 and now I think this will actually be really ridiculous and fun. Happy Christmas! :)

Doctors, Tests and Direction.

So, the MD that my husband and I have seen since 2007 has left her practice abruptly and I’m quite sad because we had a great relationship and mutual respect. She trusted me and would run tests that I requested if I had good reasons. She also knew me before I was sick and that was very important to me. She knew me when I was bouncing off the walls with energy and happy. She saw me a week before ME hit for a check up and I told her my only problem was sore muscles which I attributed to sitting at a desk after so many years walking the floors of restaurants. She witnessed the abrupt change in my abilities when all the other doctors I’ve seen have nothing to compare my current level of health to.

Now my two doctors are naturopaths: Dr. Erin and Dr. Kim. I had follow-ups with both of them in the last 10 days. Dr. Erin has put me on 25 mg of DHEA and progesterone. They’re topical, compounded only with coconut oil, nothing else. She’s hoping these will feed down both pathways to raise all the other hormones that are low.

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And by “pathways”, I mean, instead of giving me just Pregnenolone (at the top of the “map”) and letting my body do with it what it wants, the DHEA and progesterone insure that (in theory) I’m feeding all branches of hormone production:

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My thyroid hormones continue to be low, even though I almost doubled my dose a few months ago, so I’m changing to compounded T3 and T4. Dr. Erin doesn’t want me to try NDT (natural desiccated thyroid from pigs) because I’m so reactive right now, but she’s hoping compounded meds without the crappy gluten- and dairy-derived fillers will help me absorb the hormones better. I’m really nervous about the change because I’ve taken the same generic pills every morning for 6 years — well before I got sick.

My salivary cortisol test showed high levels throughout the whole day, especially at night. However, Dr. Erin said she thought functionally I was still low, her theory being that my body is compensating for something and that cortisol is either being converted to a less active form or receptors are down-regulated, which results in my body needing to produce more to get the same results. She also wants me to start humic acid (for chronic infections) and a homeopathic lotion to rub into my sternum which can supposedly desensitise my body and help reactivity. Not sure how much faith I have in homeopathy, but there’s no harm in it, other than the cost. I’ve also been told to start daily “hydrotherapy” (basically, hot and cold towels to boost immune function) and oiling my body to absorb additional fat (some serious old wives’ shit going on here).

Dr. Kim ran a bunch of blood tests. The good news is my CBC, metabolic panel, folate, iron and vitamin D are all within normal range (the latter two I would like to be higher). The bad news is, total immunoglobulin and all 4 subclasses are even lower than they were when Dr. Chia tested them. I also had high levels of Mycoplasma Pneumoniae IgG, HHV6 IgG (which I already knew) and she said I was “dripping in EBV.” Gross.

The final blow was candida is high. Those who know me, know I have dreaded the day I was tested for candida and purposely didn’t bring it up with the last 30 doctors because I don’t want to face my sugar addiction. Dr. Kim isn’t insisting I go on a strict no-sugar diet, god love her, because I think she recognises my need for the joy it provides and, really, I try to be responsible — a bit of dark chocolate, ice cream, some honey, jam, fruit, dates… It’s not like the good ol’ days where I could eat a Dairy Queen Blizzard or a whole purple Yorkie without thinking twice. She is putting me on a prescription anti-fungal, Nystatin, a pulsed dose — 4 days on, 3 days off.

I am waiting to hear from insurance about sub-cutaneous IgG (because I’m too scared to start with IVIG) and, in the meantime, I am starting to supplement copper, low dose B-complex, additional B6 and B1, increasing Thorne Trace Minerals to twice a day and magnesium glycinate to 4 times a day, as well as homemade electrolyte water all day long.

I’m hoping and praying that I will feel like a different person once my hormones and thyroid are balanced. Then my blood pressure will come up and my brain will work better, headaches will dissipate, my immune system will be able to suppress the infections, sleep will get better, reactions will fade, fatigue will lift and we’ll all live happily ever after!!