Thursday, January 08, 2009

Allergies, "Medicine," and Bullshit

Reminds me of how my sister describes clearing a dog's anal sacks.

When I was seven or eight years old, I recall my aunt and uncle got a cat. Romeo. It was a cutie, orange, and relatively personable. It was at that time (was I really never exposed to cats before that?) when I realized I was pretty allergic to cats. Sure, the visit would start out great and I'd have good times playing with my cousins, but then, an hour and a half into it, an intense itching would begin between my chin and my Adam's apple, an itch I still get and equate with "Awww shit. Here it comes." By hour three or four, we were about ready to go, the sneezing was uncontrollable, and my eyes were itching and puffy. I took the red Sudafed, a pill I still occasionally take, and spent the 40 minute ride home zoned out, head back, sinuses draining down my throat.

Fast forward to high school where my parents finally fold and we get a dog. Bailey, an adorable beagle/collie mix. I recall the trip home from the animal shelter I spent with my head back, sinuses draining down my throat. Soon after, we got two cats, Nala and Kala. I guess it was a little rough at first, but as anyone with allergies to animals who has animals can tell you, your body gets relatively used to your own.

College afforded me my first two kitties, Dorian and Godot (English nerd!), that I still have. I guess I was allergic to them too, but I spent a lot of time in college drunk, and when you stifle your immune system, you stifle your body's response to allergens.

Dorian and Godot
Godot is the puffball.

With Mrs. Shambles, we have acquired Gracie, a brindle lab/boxer/pit that is part lap dog, part goat, and part gazelle.

A short time after I met Mrs. Shambles, she convinced me to set up an appointment with an allergist. Like the eye doctor saying "Okay, now read that line without squinting," Mrs. Shambles explained to me that I constantly sniffle. And it was true. So I set off to the allergist and came home with a test result that seemed to have a lot of answers: 39 out of 41 positive results, severely allergic to dogs, very allergic to cats.

So we started with the meds, which really just displaced an almost unconscious and chronic usage of Sudafed or Benadryl. At first it was Flonase and Allegra. Allegra didn't do shit for me, so we went to Zyrtec, then discovered Alavert. Floated on that for a couple years until I started waking up in the middle of the night unable to breathe. Nocturnal asthma or some crap like that is what they called it, so about a year and a half ago I had gotten to Flonase at lunch, Loratadine (gen. Alavert) at dinner, Singulair late evening, and a Proventil inhaler when necessary.

Yesterday, my allergist said she didn't like that my breathing was not optimal in winter. So you see all that shit I just listed? We're adding Symbacort twice daily on top of all that to see how it works if in 2 weeks we knock off Singulair.

In the last 24 hours I've taken 5 different medications related to breathing and allergies. And I think it's bullshit. Part of the bullshit is that NOT ONE of those medications - as is the case with the basis of the pharmaceutical industry - is fixing the problem. They are all there to manage different aspects of a lovely cocktail of symptoms. And I've been given two other options: Allergy shots which, after several thousand dollars, may do little more than douse my symptoms a bit, or living in a bubble-like environment and getting rid of my pets and vacuuming daily and pulling my fucking hair out when The Weather Channel puts the pollen count to yellow. I know those people. I'm not those people.

We can map the human genome, program goats to make spider silk, and reinvent Britney Spears' career, but we can't address the underlying mechanism of allergies? We're still in the "schools of thought" phase with this? The most ferocious part of my being is my immune system? WTF?!?

So until the science community decides to poop sock it and level up their understanding of how this basic mechanism works, I have decided to dig into the mind-body end of things. I am a big proponent of the power of the human mind and the control, if refined and practiced, that it has over the body. I can get rid of heartburn by placing a finger on my neck where my clavicles meet; I can clear a stuffy nose in 3 minutes of concentration. Why not allergies?

I'm also attacking the psychological end. Perhaps these issues are - at least partially - psychologically based. Mental blockages, lack of flow, eddies of stagnancy that need a good cleaning. I've found a great book to help me on my way. I'll let you know how it is and how I do on my journey. Because "medicine" is not curing me, 4-5 maintenance meds is no way to live, and while remaining inebriated may have its good points, it's not really productive for my business, marriage, or liver.

Maybe marijuana would work for allergies. There are some reports about its effectiveness on skin allergies. Time may come for an unofficial study...


Doug said...

Two suggestions: Nasalcrom, which is available without prescription and is not terribly expensive, and Astelin, which is a prescription med and pricey. Nasalcrom is fairly effective. Its only downside: you may have to use it four or five times a day. Otherwise, it's a very well tolerated drug, and it works. (Astelin works well, is used twice a day, has a nasty taste, and often has a high co-pay.)

Freida of the Bees said...

Ricky- I have come to hold a belief that supressed crying has something to do with asthma. It's a longish story, and has a little more to do with Louise Hay than I'd like to admit, but in a nutshell, crying loosens things up and sometimes, stagnant mucus is the root of asthma. I know it's not scientific, and I don't suggest you take my word for it, but consider it in yourself. My husband used to use an inhaler, and after we got married, we had all sorts of issues come up between us, which I think had the net result of being healing for us both, though he's reverted back to the pot-smoking, (supressive) way in the last couple years, and those same symptoms are back even though other elements of our environment are the same.

Just some thoughts.

I do think that what is healing for one individual may not be healing for another because of the mind/body connection, and belief has a tighter grip than most like to admit. It took me a long time to embrace what allopathic medicines could offer, and that was healthy for me to surrender to, to put my mind at ease.