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Young, Sick and Invisible

My illness has shaped me,
But it does not define me.

Allergic Amy … aka Spring is Here

Yellow Daffodils

“Spring- When you realize you’re allergic to all of the things you love.”

-Woman’s World

It finally feels like spring is here Colorado, which is wonderful, but every year I also tend to forget that spring also means “Allergic Amy” is going to be on the attack. Yesterday my allergies hit me horribly and reminded me that with health and medical conditions, issues, and illnesses you can never get too comfortable or lax. I don’t know if it was my horses shedding like crazy or everything that’s blooming and in the air, but I was an sneezing, watery eyed, itchy, broken out, stuffy mess.

Technically my struggle with allergies began before I was born when my Dad had two cats, Boo Boo and Snooper. I’ve seen pictures of them and heard stories. But when my parents found out I was coming they decided to re home the cats with one of my Dad’s friends. With them being in the medical field (Dad a surgeon and Mom an RN) and also probably because they’re both worriers, they didn’t want there to be any risk while my Mom was pregnant or if I was allergic. I don’t know that was irony or fate or what, but I didn’t know much about allergies until I was four and out with my uncle at a boat shop while we were visiting my Mom’s family in Seattle. They had a cat there and I’ve been an animal lover ever since I can remember, so I was having the BEST time petting the cat at the boat shop. I think the cat enjoyed it a lot too, from what I can remember, because he was rubbing up all over me. When we got back to my Uncle and Aunt’s house though my right eye was almost swollen shut and itching like crazy. I was terrified and didn’t really understand what was going on but when my Mom asked about what I’d been doing while we were out and I explained about the cat it was obvious. I was allergic. In high school I had a friend with cats that I loved to pet but would always break out, get itchy, watery eyes, and feel wheezy afterwards. We did find an amazing dog breed- no shedding and hair not fur- and we got one, a Bichon Frisé, when I was nine. Our Bichon Sugar never bothered me. But I had seasonal itchy, sneezy, wheezy issues almost every year. They bothered me, but not enough to really do much more than take an OTC allergy pill or something once in while.

I never knew just HOW allergic I really was until after college. I’m not terribly “outdoorsy” and despite Colorado being a big “outdoor sport” state ever since the awful camping trips they forced us to go on when I was in middle school my time outdoors was pretty limited. When I got back from undergrad in San Diego though, my dream ever since I can remember- my own horse, was waiting for me at the breeding farm my Dad’s friend just started. Since I still needed to take the GRE and apply to graduate school and wanted to learn everything about horses that I could I ended up working at the breeding farm. That’s when the allergies became…a little more than apparent to say the least.

I’m really fair skinned and had a suspicious mole removed from my arm right when I got back from undergrad so I always wore long sleeves to protect my skin from the sun, jeans, and boots when I went out to the horses. But I noticed if the horses rubbed on me or if I touched my face or neck after handling the horses or the hay I would break out in an awful, itchy, allergic rash. So bad that I needed cortisone crème and Benadryl to stop the allergic reaction. One day when we were lunging a horse in the barn the dust and hay started getting to me. I felt my chest get tight, started wheezing, and quickly realized I couldn’t breathe. Apparently I went totally pale and kind of collapsed. I knew I had to do something at that point so I went to an allergist.

They did the “scratch test” on my back and I left me for a while to see what I reacted to. Almost immediately I felt my back start itching horribly. When the doctor came back in and looked he seemed surprised and exclaimed “your back lit up like a Christmas Tree!! You’re a VERY allergic girl.” GREAT…just when I’m finally getting to live my dream and work with horses I find out I’m allergic to pretty much everything out a the breeding farm- grass, trees, pollen, weeds, hay, horses, dogs, and cats. I also tested positive for asthma. The allergist started me on a regimen of prescription allergy and asthma meds and allergy shots. One in each arm once a week- horses, dogs, cats in one arm and grass, pollen, weeds in the other. The allergy shots were a huge pain and I was concerned about side effects from the meds (dry mouth, dizziness and lightheadedness, nausea…for some reason I’m either really sensitive to meds or I don’t notice them working at all). I stopped getting the allergy shots and as I kept working with the horses just wore my long sleeves and gloves (my hands were often cold out there and the winter got harder. I didn’t know I had Raynaud’s at the time but know now that I definitely did). I try to avoid touching my skin until I’ve washed my hands and try to keep the horses from rubbing up on my face and neck (which can sometimes be harder to do than you’d think!) I feel like I’ve built up a better tolerance allergy wise. I don’t think I could ever live with a cat or dog that sheds though. And every year when the Spring hits I’m so happy for the warm weather, flowers, new life. But I forget about how bad my allergies can get. Yesterday was one of those days. The allergist told me that allergies are funny that way- sometimes people out grow them or develop new ones. Sometimes asthma will go into kind of a remission or flare up too. Having allergies, Raynaud’s- conditions that can’t be “cured” but are things we have to live with and deal with the best we can does make me more aware though and gives a me a whole different perspective.

I might have to take more steps, modify how I do things, be more careful, sometimes know when it’s ok to take a break or it’s too much. But I’m still going to live and experience what I love and enjoy the best I can! I guess it all goes to show how much I really love horses too. I’ll battle my Raynaud’s and my allergies for them. They worth it to me and what you love, your dreams, are worth experiencing. Even if you have to change your strategy or modify how you experience them!

Until next Friday,

Amy L.

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