I have been MIA for most of 2013. In addition to coping with my exciting new world of allergies, which are still ongoing as new allergies seem to pop up occasionally, I’ve had family issues occupying my time. For starters, I lost my Mom on February 18, 2013. That has been very hard for me because it was very sudden and I didn’t make it home in time to say goodbye in person. I said it over the phone, but that just seems hollow. I miss her so much.
She had been in end-stage renal failure for the past couple of years, so I knew her time was short. The weekend before she died, she had checked into the hospital for some nausea and not eating much, but when I called her she told me she was fine and they were sending her home. They had controlled the nausea, and she was eating and feeling much better. She definitely sounded upbeat and told me not to rush home, as everything would be okay until I could get a reasonable flight. That was on a Friday. On Saturday, once home she was unable to keep her blood sugar up at all. She had taken her Actose (she was also diabetic), but coupled with not eating well, that was it. My uncle struggled all weekend to feed her and keep her from slipping into a coma, but it was truly a lost cause. By the time I got the call and booked the last available seat on a flight home, it was too late. She died while I was en route.
I’m still grieving. And I have mixed feelings. She was in the final stage of kidney failure with almost no kidney function and was starting to retain fluid. I knew what was next: a slow, prolonged deterioration ultimately ending in death by drowning. So, the fact that she went rather quickly in a hypoglycemic coma was a blessing in disguise and a better alternative. On the other hand, it was so fast I never got to really talk with her, tell her I loved her so much, and say my final goodbyes. I still feel empty, like a piece of me will never be resolved. Then I feel selfish for feeling that way, because I wouldn’t have wanted her to linger in pain just so I could feel like I had closure.
Finally, I am an only child, so I have been dealing with the loose ends we will all leave behind when we die: insurance, belongings, notifying friends. It seems to be a never-ending process. It’s 9 months later, and I’m still dealing with insurance crap and some remaining bills from her last stay at the hospital.
As if losing my Mom wasn’t enough, some close friends are involved in a bitter divorce with all the drama of a Lifetime Movie and some to spare: drug addiction, affairs, financial ruin, abuse. This also has been hard, as I and several other mutual friends realized our friend for over 20 years suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder clustered with a couple of other personality disorders. We attempted an intervention to get her to enter drug rehab and get psychiatric help, but she turned on all of us instead of accepting our genuine concern and offers of support. Thus, I lost a friend along with my Mom.
Is it any surprise I just want 2013 to end and hope 2014 is better?
I haven’t posted a new blog entry since the summer. I have been dealing with some life-altering medical conditions: namely, food allergies. This is all very new to me. The only food allergy I thought I had was to shellfish, which is fairly easy to avoid being a landlubber with other options like pork, beef, fish, and poultry. As an omnivore and adventurous eater, I didn’t feel deprived when I thought I was allergic to shellfish! I never missed it.
And then everything changed…
Since 2010, I’ve had some “mystery” digestive ailment. After visiting all kinds of specialists, I was diagnosed with IBS, handed some pills, and told “Good luck! We don’t have a good treatment or cure. We don’t even know what causes it!” So, I plodded along, never knowing if what I ate was going to bring the debilitating abdominal pain and other horrendous side effects, and I was never quite able to pin down exactly what “triggered” the IBS. Then, last September, I woke up in the throes of full-blown anaphylaxis at 1:00am after my husband’s birthday dinner at a fabulous Pan-Asian restaurant. We spent the rest of the evening in the ER.
I immediately booked an appointment with an allergist. Upon listening to my medical history and asking me what I had consumed, he asked if I had been bitten by a tick in the past 2 years. I live in the woods; of course I have been bitten by ticks – several times! He said, “I bet you have the alpha-gal allergy! We’ll run comprehensive tests for all kinds of food, but the fact that you had a 6-hour delayed anaphylactic reaction makes me almost certain that’s your problem.”
And just like that, my life was turned upside down. This thing forever changed the way I eat:
All it takes is one bite from a Lone Star Tick, and you can be suddenly allergic to all mammalian meat and associated byproducts like dairy, gelatin, etc. This little bastard can cause you to develop an allergic reaction to a carbohydrate called galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose, abbreviated to alpha-gal.
This is the first known allergy to a sugar (or carbohydrate), and it’s also the first known allergy to produce a delayed allergic reaction. In my case, the anaphylaxis appears anywhere from 4-6 hours after consuming a mammalian food product: 3-4 for dairy and 6+ hours for actual meat. This allergy was only discovered a few years ago by a scientist at the University of Virginia, so at least I’m on the cutting edge of allergies.
And, boy, does this change the way I live. I am a Southern girl; I grew up on a farm! I’m accustomed to eating bacon, pork, beef, lamb, and lots of milk and butter and cheese. I can’t have any of those things ever again! I have to carry an epipen with me at all times, and dining out is now a challenge. You cannot imagine the strange looks I get when I tell people I’m deathly allergic to those things. I usually get a raised eyebrow and, “You mean you just don’t eat them, right? You’re a vegetarian.” No, that is not what I mean. I mean I could possibly die if I eat them, so please find out if this chicken/duck/seafood/vegetable dish I’m eating is made with any mammalian product at all: butter, milk, cream, pork/beef broth or stock, rabbit, squirrel, gelatin etc! Basically, I can only consume things with feathers, scales, or shells.
Which brings me back to that shellfish allergy I thought I had. The tests for a shellfish allergy were negative, so HOORAY! On the other hand, my allergist said I am likely one of the people who are extremely sensitive to the toxins in shellfish, which is why I became violently ill when eating it as a child. If it came from a dirty environment, I’m likely to get sick. Also, I have a hard time eating shellfish now, anyway, because of the extremely negative food memories I have associated with it…
So, this is why I haven’t posted much. I’m still trying to get a grip on this. I have to learn a bazillion ways to cook chicken and turkey. I have to learn how to cook without butter and dairy. I have to retrain my palate to actually like fucking soy milk (gag) and other dairy alternatives. I also to have watch out for hidden things and, apparently, be aware that new allergies could crop up at any moment! In the past few months, I’ve had anaphylaxis to the following:
- a vitamin for skin, hair, and nails (gelatin)
- trail mix (it had milk powder in it)
- Advil (new tests now confirm I’m allergic to NSAIDs and can only take Tylenol)
- the adhesive on the sticky pads that put on you to monitor your heart rate in the ER
- cats (also new – never been allergic to any animal until now)
- Beano (I now eat a lot of beans, and, well – Beano is an alpha-galactosidase enzyme)
They are starting to get tired of seeing my swollen face in the ER, but probably not as tired as I am of the whole not-breathing thing. And I’m so tired of eating chicken and turkey, y’all. I just know that I’m going to find an egg in my chair one of these days. I’m going to start growing feathers, clucking, and laying eggs.