Sniffle Snort ACHOO – Alyssa’s Unfortunate Allergies

  1. Olive Tree
  2. Walnut Tree
  3. American Elmn
  4. White Oak
  5. American Sycamore
  6. Eastern Cottonwood
  7. Red Mulberry
  8. White Birch
  9. Mesquite
  10. Black Willow
  11. Lamb’s Quarters
  12. Plaintain
  13. Yellow Dock
  14. Russian Thistle
  15. Pigweed
  16. Ragweed
  17. Sagebrush
  18. Wingscale
  19. Grass
  20. Bermuda Grass
  21. Pepper Tree
  22. Cats
  23. Peanuts
  24. Dust Mites
  25. Feathers

You guys see that? See the numbers? 25 things. I am allergic to 25 things. And this isn’t just mildly allergic. These are big fat reactions – welts the size of sand dollars on my back, itching to high heaven, throbbing red. These are my latest allergy test results, in which they took a grid covered with over 40 antigens, or allergens, and poked them into the first two layers of my skin. Y’all know I’m allergic to life. About four years ago, I started my first course of allergy shot treatment. I went once a week after work to sit in a crowded waiting room, get jabbed with four things, sneeze my brains out, get the welt sizes checked after thirty minutes, and drove home honking into a tissue and hoping my brief-split-second-eye-closure-when-i-sneezed wouldn’t kill me, or another unfortunate driver next to me. I did this for three years, eventually getting to maintenance, getting shots once a month, relieved that I could walk through a park without lighting up in hives like a freakish histamine Christmas tree.

I changed jobs, got different insurance, and six months passed without allergy shots. I woke up with a bloody nose one night, and I just knew – the allergies were back. I started popping Zyrtec like candy, praying that the pills would cover me, that I wouldn’t have to start shots again. Long story short, after one particularly tearful night where I nearly scratched my skin off, I started shots again. They’re helping, kind of. But it takes about six months to reach a dose that helps a lot. I’m on month four. I am miserable.

Why allergic people like Winter.

I went hiking today. I had been excited about it all weekend; we were meeting some friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, one of them, the sweet Julie who faithfully reads this blog. (Hi Jules!). As Matt and I drove to the hiking spot, I noticed with a twinge of fear that I was feeling crappy. I had gotten my shots the day before, and came home feeling so out of it that I slept for four hours, waking only to chug a bottle of water and eat a quick dinner. My nose was jam-packed, but no big deal, right? A hike would help, I hoped.

As we started on the path in the 85 degree sun, I felt my arms starting to itch. This was no good. As we ascended the hill before we even made it to the hiking path, it started – the tingly “I’m not getting enough air” feeling. I tried to fight it – no big deal, I’m huffing and puffing, it’s a high hill, I can do this. We continued climbing. I had to stop. Julie stayed with me as I took a break, drinking water. I decided to call the guys ahead of us and tell them to keep going. I didn’t want to hold anyone up. I kept going. We made it up a hill, where I honked my nose like a goose on many tissues, and took breathing breaks. We made it almost to the top of the trailhead when  I decided to quit. I physically felt like I couldn’t breathe – a feeling compounded by hills, heat, and the millions of grass and tree pollens swirling around my body. I wanted to curl up under a tree and sleep – I felt so out of it. I knew this wasn’t right. This wasn’t good. Allergies shouldn’t make you feel higher than a kite – and if they do, that’s a bad sign that you’re waaaaaay overexposed. My body was fighting. I apologized to my friends, said goodbye to them, and we walked down the hill, where I started to cry – out of frustration, out of embarrassment. I felt so overwhelmed that I’d been working for a long time to get to a point where hard hikes weren’t that hard – and this hike would have been great, if I had been able to breathe. My husband rocks and comforted me, helping me laugh about the fact that this hike would have been no challenge had I been in a glass hamster ball protecting me from pollen. He’s awesome.

I have to accept that there are some things I cannot change. Even if I lose all my weight and turn into an Iron Woman, a tri-athlete, I will always have allergies. I cannot change the fact that my body goes into war-mode when it encounters grass or plantains. This all goes back to Monday’s post – forgiveness. I must accept certain things, my allergies being one. Once a year, I have an allergy related breakdown – and today was it. I just have to accept that from March through April, hiking outdoors is not a good idea when the pollen levels are high. (I have an app that tells me when to avoid the outdoors. Lately it’s like EVERY DAY.)

Do you have any health challenges or complications you try and try to move past but find it keeps holding you back? How do you deal with it?

Medical Mysteries – A peek into my “What If?” life

Hello Friends:

At this time tomorrow, I will not be enjoying air-popped popcorn as I am now…rather, I will be bitchy and wanting to smack someone savoring the feeling of hunger as I fast in preparation for an early morning blood test. You see, I have a host of small but benign medical issues – environmental allergies, occasional stupid anxiety, weird skin sensitivities that flare up at random times, toe nail issues. I was at the doctor this week for a physical, and when questioning my diet and exercise plans, he started to ask me some small, seemingly non-threatning questions.

“Do you smoke?”


“Do you ever get cold hands or feet?”

“Yep, why?”

“Do you get shaky if you don’t eat?”

“Yeah, why?”

“How about tension headaches?”

“Yes, why?”


“I don’t want to worry you, but we’re going to order a thryoid, diabetes and lipids test. You never know what’s going on, and sometimes all of these small symptoms can be the cause of something easily treatable,” said Doctor.

LYSSA BRAIN – GO!!!! *Image of me lying on a hospital gurney, gaunt, bags under my eyes, holding hands with my loved ones, saying something hopefully poetic and meaningful in my last moments of life.*

“Either condition wouldn’t be a big deal, and it could be totally treatable. We’re going to check just to be safe and rule out any underlying triggers,” said Doctor.

At this point in my mind I’ve already been diagnosed with diabetes, high cholesterol, hyperthyroidism , and, apparently, some form of cancer that just cropped up from hearing about possibly having an easily treatable, un-fatal ailment. Yup. That’s how my brain works. It aint ideal, but it’s kinda funny. I’m the Queen of “What If” – a position I hope to step down from soon, thanks to clever books with weird titles like “Things might go terribly, horribly wrong”.

So this is all strange, because of course I don’t want either thyroid issues or diabetes, but it brought up an interesting question. WHAT IF all of these (see? there I go) random little ailments were part of one larger issue? Would that be better than having all these medical ankle-biters?  It’d be cool to be liberated from random headaches and grass-induced hives and the occasional storms of anxiety that sweep through me like electricity – but it wouldn’t be cool to know I had a jacked-up thyroid or an inability to process insulin and sugar. (He’s less concerned about diabetes as I recently had a test for that and was fine – and yes, I spazzed out before that test, too.)

I’m trying not to get all worked up, because as talented as I am at spazzing, I need to learn to let that hobby go. I’ll head in Friday morning and probably have results on Monday, so in the meantime, I’ll cross my fingers that my blood is balanced and happy and red. As Dexter says, “Blood says so much”.

Have you ever been faced with a medical mystery? Are you the type of person who goes immediately to a doctor at the first sign of something wrong, or do you wait it out and see? If facing a potentially alarming diagnosis, do you suffer from “What If”-itis?

Taking a Stand

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Last week I did something I normally have trouble doing. I took a stand. I suffer from horrible, year-round allergies – so bad, that for a year I had to get four weekly shots. I now get shots about every three weeks and have been getting them for a total of 2.5 years. I am most allergic to Kentucky Blue Grass and Meadow Fescue, which are the most common grasses. I have a bi-annual check up with my allergist that I dread – not because he tells me I’ll still be getting stabbed with things that my make body wheeze and itch for another year, but because he ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS brings up my weight. Doesn’t matter that he brings up my weight. What matters is that he dwells on it.

Leo loves the grass... but if I did this I would break out in hives!

It’s a normal thing when you’re obese. Your health is in danger. It seems appropriate to mention it once or twice, but to bring it up and dwell on it? Not necessary. The last time I saw this particular doctor, he grilled me about my fitness routine and my eating plan. When I exclaimed that I was struggling with it he instructed me to “try harder”.  When I said I exercised at least three times a week, he said I needed to do it every day. He then went on to say that maybe after I lose the weight, my allergies will go away. The appointment, which was supposed to be about my allergies, turned into a critique of my lifestyle, and I left with a prescription for Flonase and a deflated self-esteem.

So how did I take a stand? I received an appointment card in the mail for this allergist, and I while I was getting this week’s shots, I asked for a new doctor. It felt good. The nurse asked why and I no problem saying that I felt like he was a bully about my weight. She remarked that he “meant well” and I said, “he may mean well but there’s a right way to bring it up.”

The new doctor might bring up my weight, but hopefully he’ll do it in a kind, “this is a reminder” type of way, and not as in “THE REASON YOUR SKIN ITCHES AND YOU HAVE HORRIBLE ALLERGIES IS BECAUSE YOU’RE FAT”. Because I’m sorry – I’m no MD, but fat does not equal allergies.

My penchant for popcorn isn’t the direct cause of grass-induced hives. If it was, I’d have quit that popcorn a long time ago – and kissed my fat, and my allergies, goodbye.

Don't worry - we didn't even make it through half of this bowl!