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Posts Tagged ‘allergies’

Hi there. How are you?

I’m well. Actually, I’m better than well… I’m quite good!

It’s kind of a relief to feel that way, and to have nice things to report. I start a lot of blog posts in my head, but never seem to have the time to type them out… and it’s not because I’m too busy couch surfing or sleeping, it’s because I’m too busy DOING. That, and a large part of my need to organize and document my activity is served through posting status updates and photos to Facebook… which left me unsure as to what I really want the purpose of this blog to be — secondary documentation of my physical wanderings, or more of my thoughts, feelings, and hopes (mental wanderings)?

Work is busy. My boss now telecommutes and I’ve picked up the lion’s share of her team lead responsibilities in her physical absence. My co-worker is pregnant and we’re trying to accomplish as much as we can together on a large project before she goes out on maternity leave. I’m mentoring our summer student, keeping her busy and exercising my editing skills on a weekly basis. Most of us in the area are preparing for an 11-week furlough (a 20% reduction in pay), trying to figure out how to cut costs, to survive without dipping too deep into savings or relying on credit.

I’m more active than ever before. I trained for a 5K on May 4, which I completed faster than my only timed treadmill run of the same distance, and for a 29-mile bike ride on June 1, which left my friend Amanda and I thinking that if we kept riding consistently we could do the 47-miler next year. These two activities are new to me; I was never a runner, and even though I’ve had my bike for three years, this is the first year I’ve actively put  mileage on it. I love what running and cycling are doing to my body though — adding those two disciplines has definitely slimmed me down in a way that my regular gym workouts (cardio & weight lifting) and swimming did not. I’ve lost about 10 pounds in the past couple of months, and am feeling fit and capable!

After my rather severe allergic reaction to mold last year, and subsequent allergy testing, I discovered that I’m allergic to dairy. I was able to pinpoint the issue specifically to casein — a protein found in mammalian milk that happens to make up 80% of cow’s milk. This is good news, because through trial and error I discovered that my body can tolerate sheep and goat cheeses, and water buffalo mozzarella. I don’t have to give up pizza (I just have to make it myself)! Before the knowledge that there were some cheeses out there I could eat, I cut dairy out of my diet completely.

A side effect to not eating as much cheese and sweets, and spending a lot more time cooking for myself, is that I began to eat healthier, stopped craving unhealthy foods (including fried and fast food), and lost some weight. I have to travel over an hour to get to a grocery store with the specialty cheeses, so they’ve become a treat instead of a staple, and I find myself being grateful for my dairy allergy and the change it has made in my eating habits (rather than resenting it).

In June, Diane asked me if I’d like to ride her horse, Lincoln, once a week and I jumped at the chance! I’ve always loved horses and horseback riding, and it’s been about a year and a half since the last time I rode. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I swung up onto Linc’s back and my mind and body responded: Home. Lincoln is a talented draft-cross who can do hunters and eventing (dressage, show jumping, cross country), so I’m looking forward to the opportunity to learn and grow as a rider, and to have quite a bit of fun horsey time and meet new horsey people.

Lincoln 07.01.2013

The people who make up the Happies group have become an essential component of my personal happiness here in Southern Maryland. Over the past year, I’ve gone from showing up to chit-chat with the group once a week over a beer or two, to spending quality time engaging in all sorts of shenanigans outside of Thursday happy hours.

Liz, Amanda, Richell, and I try to schedule once/month hikes + a homemade lunch. Amanda and I have been cycling together at least once a week since April, and last month we took a “confident city cycling” class and then biked the Mt. Vernon trail together. Diane, Erin, and Julie have welcomed me into the sub-crowd of “horse girls”, and have introduced me to other horsey people. (I may have even found a second horse to ride this summer!) A large sub-group of Happies are kayakers, and on June 9 we participated in the Second Annual S. Wells Memorial Kayak Trip. It’s been raining — thunderstorms — almost every evening since May. If this summer weather would start cooperating, I’m sure we would take advantage of many more opportunities to get out on the water. At least this month a bunch of us are going on the Green Door canoe/kayak trip to paddle down the south fork of the Shenandoah River, a trip that I didn’t get to participate in last year due to being sick from allergies.

Over the past 16 months, I feel like I’ve invested in solid, reciprocal friendships over fun activities like dinners and happy hours, birthday celebrations, holiday parties, movies, River Concerts, pub crawls, live music, cooking dinners, baking cookies, camping, a trip to Portland (OR), races, lots of conversations and much laughter.

Happies 07.04.2013

Fireworks 07.04.2013

I enjoyed last year’s 4th of July picnic at the marina so much that I volunteered to organize it again this year. Around 20 of us gathered in the shadow cast by a pop-up tent to hang out, eat good food, play games, and be merry until the sun set and the fireworks started lighting up the sky.

Yep, life is good.

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Hello SEPTEMBER. Where the eff did you come from?

Are you on Goodreads? If you like love to read, consider signing up for a free account. We can be friends (here I am!), and that’s where I’m posting all of my book reviews and ratings.

Recently I read What Alice Forgot, a book where one of the characters falls off of her spin bike, gets a nasty bump on the head, and when she wakes up everyone realizes that she can’t remember the past 10 years of her life. One of Alice’s observations is that everyone wants to know how you’re doing when you’re “not well,” but no one really wants to hear the long, drawn out saga of how you’re really feeling. They simply want to know that you’re doing better. But to the person who is unwell, that state of not feeling good (or memory loss, or failed IVF) sort of eclipses everything else.

I came up with a lot of snarky examples of my inner-thought responses to things that people have been excited about over the past two months, but decided not to go there. Basically, if you’re a chipper person I’ve sort-of dreaded observing the juxtaposition of your personality against mine these past 60 days. I’m annoyed with my body for reacting in a such a way as to derail my plans, knock my ability to enjoy off the edge of a steep cliff, leave me dizzy yet not breathless, and basically drive me bat-shit crazy with boredom and some steroid-driven anxiety.

On one hand, I know that people are curious as to what the hell is going on with me. On the other hand, what people really want to hear is that I’m doing better. Well, I am doing better. I think. Can I get back to you on that one?

In an attempt to be more succinct, I’m going to rock a list. Here goes:

  1. In August, my ENT determined that I needed to be on prednisone. A second 12-day regimen was supposed to get me to/from Portland, Oregon (a trip already planned with friends before the crazy mold incident). Let’s just say it got me through. But the two flights to get there caused my Eustachian tubes to swell, my ears weren’t back to normal before we flew home, and I didn’t have enough steriods left after we got back to fix what was going on.
  2. Another trip to the ENT revealed that the pressure inside my inner ear was better, but still not normal. I was told it could take 6-8 more weeks for my ear pressure to stabilize. GAH!
  3. Meanwhile, I’m hyper-sensitive to all of my allergies and for the first time I am noting additional physical reactions to match exposure to allergens (itchy arms, irritated eyes, sneezing). Things I will not do ever again include composting and walking through antique stores.
  4. I met with a local allergist, who tested me for everything I wasn’t allergic to in 2010 and discovered that I’m allergic to it all now, with the exception of dogs. Since I refuse to trade in Miss Kitty for a hypoallergenic something-poo/-oodle, I start allergy shots tomorrow.
  5. Dust mites are one of my environmental allergies, so I went out and bought a dust mite cover for my mattress and pillows. It’s basically a giant zippered bag that keeps the mites that are already inside your mattress and pillows IN, and once a week I’ll have to wash all of my bedding in hot water and vacuum off the dust mite cover to remove any new critters. Charming.
  6. I bought an air purifier for my bedroom, and two new HEPA filters for my vacuum cleaner. Boy does it sure suck now! (har har)
  7. Finally, I took advantage of a Labor Day 20% off sale and bought enough laminate flooring (314 sq. ft.) to cover the floor in the master bedroom and the office. I only did this after meeting with my financial planner and making sure that my Dad was on board with installation help and/or oversight. For just under $600 in material costs, this will hopefully be a smart, permanent upgrade to my townhouse that should have immediate health benefits.

All of these things, plus cutting my hair and pledging to get back into shape, are part of what I have coined Operation New Leaf!

Did I not mention? Oh yes, well, yesterday I asked a hairstylist to cut off over six inches of my hair. Whoop! There it went! I have to make light of this event, because it secretly kills me that I didn’t hold up to my end of a bargain with myself. Last year sometime, when I wasn’t sure if I wanted to cut my hair or grow it out, my rational self made a deal with my indecisive self: lose 10 lbs., and then you can lose the hair. I got *thisclose* right before our Bermuda cruise in April, but they serve dessert with lunch. And with dinner. And apparently I did not walk enough staircases or survive enough at-sea spin classes to combat those extra calories, glasses of wine, and general yumminess.

I got back on track when we got home, only to be derailed by something (which I now can’t recall). Then I decided to jump back on the horse only to promptly sneeze myself right off of it with this latest allergy saga. *le sigh* I’m fairly certain that all of the steps I’ve taken to control my allergies (see list, and add a daily Zyrtec) have finally put me in a position where I can survive getting back into a workout regimen. Basically, as long as I can keep my Eustachian tubes open I can avoid the dizzy spells and the worry that I might fall off of the treadmill or spin bike, bump my head and lose the last 10 years of my life. Because there’s no way in hell I’d let a 23-year-old Jen attempt to run my 33-year-old life!

(Hmmm, or would I?!)

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Wow, it’s August. Dude.

July pretty much did not exist for me, because a headache on Friday the 6th (which I attributed to overexertion in extreme heat) gave way to a migraine on Sunday the 8th (which I attributed to incoming thunder storms), which gave way to piercing pain in both ears by Tuesday the 10th.

This, the piercing pain, I attributed to not going to the doctor the previous Friday. (Also, “I should have listened to my Mom.“)

So, to summarize: I’ve been sick for a month, and we’re only just starting to put together the WHY. Initially they (being those in the medical profession) thought it was a sinus infection, but I didn’t really respond to 21 days of Augmentin 875 mg. The Urgent Care doctor sent me home with 10 days of antibiotics, my PCP added 5 days, an ENT added 7 more and told me my middle ears were “perfect,” then a second ENT (Dr. Pardo, my amazing thyroid doctor at Annapolis ENT) scoped my nose and declared me “infection free!”

“Infection free” is one of those phrases that should make you feel better. But my ears still felt underwater and I was still in pain, so, no… a victory dance I did not treat him with. He told me to schedule a CT scan of my sinuses and sent me home with a 5-day regimen of Prednisone.

By Day 2, I was starting to feel better. Hallelujah!

Finished up the steroids on Saturday (8/4). Then I took my compost pail to Mom & Dad’s and had a severe allergic reaction immediately after dumping & rinsing out the pail.

I was pretty miserable all day on Sunday, and likened how I felt to a slot machine of symptoms — every five min or so I’d be aware of a different (but equally worrying) symptom, such as itchy tongue, burning eyes, throat closing up, nausea, itchy eyes, hot spots in ears, etc. When my throat started closing up, I almost had Mom take me to the ER, but then it abated. I knew I had my CT scan scheduled for Monday morning so I just curled into a ball on my parents’ sofa until I felt I could drive home, and I waited.

Monday morning I drove to Annapolis, walked into my doctor’s office and said I would come back and wait after my CT scan and hope that they could work me in. Pardo’s physician’s assistant, Carrie Joneckis, fit me into her busy schedule and sympathized with how shaken I was by having that reaction. She reported that my CT scan came back “perfect,” immediately started me on a 12-day regimen of Prednisone, and gave me some tips for air travel with grumpy ears.

I’ve generally been in good health since moving to my townhouse and being in control of the cleanliness of my spaces, but I had started using a compost pail at home for kitchen scraps. Now that my CSA (community supported agriculture) is giving me lots of fruit, I’m finding that the decay in the pail is producing more mold and fermentation as opposed to what comes from just vegetable matter, coffee grinds and egg shells. In fact, because I empty my compost pail at my parents’ house in intervals of about 2-3 weeks, the past two times I’ve found that the mold and the smell is just overwhelming. Since I crack open the pail every morning to dump in items from breakfast preparation, that could explain the general rise in allergic symptoms over the past few months.

A mold allergy is probably too simple for a final answer: we had a mild winter + mild spring and crazy things are blooming/growing this year that usually gets killed off in the winter, so overall allergies are up everywhere (every doctor’s office confirmed this). The sum total of all of those reactions building up on top of one another was probably a source for all of the sinus pain/pressure I was feeling, and for my swollen Eustachian tubes.

I’ll be following up with Carrie after a bit of upcoming travel, and also with an allergist to inquire about allergy shots. Figuring out what’s really going on with your body when there are so many factors to consider is time-consuming and draining, especially when you feel like crap while you’re doing it. But discovering a lead that starts to help unravel the mystery of why I am the way I am is incredibly satisfying.

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