Tuesday, 18 October 2016

An Essay on the principles of allergies and ailments.

One of the key parts of having allergies is getting them diagnosed, monitored, and medicined. This can be tricky if unlike me you don't have a) a mother who won't quit, b) a lifelong ability to talk until someone gets bored and c) a Dr who understands. When I was a baby, I was very quickly diagnosed with a diary allergy. Then egg. Then nuts. Then animals. Then an assortment of other allergic bits and bobs. But throughout I was given excellent care. I think this is mostly because my mother (don't tell her but she really was amazing at the medical stuff- I don't want her to get a big head one anything), refused to let things lie, and researched and researched to make my life as good as possible. Not only did she mail order toffees and chocolates that were safe, but she edited the family menu so that I didn't go without, and she ensured I had got the care and attention I needed. She put her own health and well being to the back of her mind and looked after me constantly. How can you tell someone you are grateful for that and them understand?  My Dad was awesome too because I didn't have to explain because he had it too. Other people, even in my family, were more challenging though- they didn't, couldn't or wouldn't understand that I couldn't eat things if you put mayonnaise on them!

The most bothersome thing to me as a child was actually my acute eczema. It hurt, itched, burnt and irritated. It bled, and I was bandaged. But our GP got me referred at a young age, and I went to a variety of specialists about my eczema, asthma and allergies. I think I might have even gone to Great Ormond Street at one point. My eczema didn't ease much at first, and to be honest, it only got better with age and a regimen of Diprobase, Vaseline DermaCare and basically being greasy until I was about 15. Again, if you didn't know I had ever had it you wouldn't know I ever looked as bad I as I did, and thanks to digital photos not being invented until my skin was healed, many don't even see it in photos. The tell tale signs are that I am really shiny in most pictures and wore a lot of alice bands. One subsequent hang over of eczema is that my skin still hurts- it looks fine but people touching me can send me do-lally! I feel every bit of clothing on my body, and I hate being hugged because people do it wrong and it irritates my skin. My husband hugs me kind of bear hug style which I like because it doesn't itch- softly softly hugs are the worst! If someone were to stroke my hand it would be horrendous because I would just itch.

My asthma was also a constant- very quickly, I was on a nebuliser at home, which my mum bought because the NHS didn't provide them. They did provide the nebules though, and this made my asthma significantly easier. Being sat on it 8 times a day- less so. Obviously my case is extreme- I have much worse asthma than most people (possibly except my Dad), but because of this my asthma is pretty well controlled. I had an assortment of medication- inhalers, the nebuliser, a capsule tablet where little balls fell out, little blue pills, little red pills, antihistamine- all sorts. I think I could swallow handfuls of tablets before I was 6. It used to annoy me that they used to offer me liquid medicine. I know what I'm about, son, and I can swallow the tablets damn it! (Side note- I am a huge Ron Swanson fan- its becoming a problem). As I got older, I didn't need the nebuliser anymore and just used inhalers, I controlled it better, and used a combination of medicines well. But I do get asthma attacks still. Maybe 2-4 a year. These are extremely tiresome because I think they actually come from being knackered, getting a throat infection, then getting a chest infection. The same thing happens to my Dad except he moans much less than I do. And if you are reading this Dad, you  know that I speak the truth!

My allergies were a different story though. Every passing year bought new allergies. I went for testing from a young age at Addenbrokes in Cambridge. There, my Dr's put a drop of some sort of clear liquid purporting to be a specific allergen, stabbed me with a razor edge, and made me wait while my arms doubled in size. I then was party to but not involved in the argument between my mum and the Dr about how much hydrocortisone he could use without risking the thickness of my skin. Each time the test would say I had more, and each time I went into the world outside of my house, I saw evidence that this was true. I would get hives everywhere. Once, I had to go to hospital, because I spontaneously broke out into hives (or Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria) all over my body. The hospital saw me quickly and sensibly. From this I learnt that I basically have urticaria all of the time, and possibly inside as well as outside which is why everything hurts. A side effect from growing up with eczema I guess. Today I went to hospital about something unrelated and saw the size of the file that follows me everywhere I go in the NHS. The person I spoke to knew all of my history, having read it and studied it at length. She was kind and respectful, and I was a nervous wreck, because it turns out that when you spend a lifetime ill, you become fairly anxious about it. Not being ill- I am top at being ill, I just live in constant fear about what disease, aliment or illness is round the corner, and how much I put my husband through by being useless. He has watched while I have asthma attacks, and allergy attacks, looked after me when I am ill, seen me, of course, had numerous labour based complications, and allowed me to be ridiculous around him at all times. He is great though, and I definitely don't appreciate him enough.

So, to wind up this madness, to survive with allergies you need people. You need someone like my mum and some of my friends (many of whom won't even realise I hold them in such high regard) for looking after me in restaurants, on planes, and out in the world where people with allergies have a scary time and hate anything to do with eating. You need someone who will fight for you at the GP's, or stand by you for support while you fight to get what you need, you need people who will put moisturiser on you when your a kid, and distract you while you cry because it stings so much, you need a spouse/life partner/mate who lets you be your very worse self, and finally you need yourself to just chill out a bit, because having all of these little things wrong with you, while not life threatening can eat away at you, and you just need to allow yourself to sometimes not be your best self, to allow your best self to appear majestically like a unicorn dancing over a rainbow.