A Change of Perspective

Recently I learned that I have allergies.  Quite severe allergies, to grass pollen, tree molds and ragweed (this is the severe allergy).

It actually makes so much sense.  As a child I lived overseas and one of the things I dreaded the most was the yearly Iowa Basics Testing that we had to take.  After which we had to take the Presidential Fitness Testing.  The Iowa Basics were fine.  I’m a nerd and I like school and reading happens like breathing here so I always scored well on the multiple choice tests.  I also love debating and so the short answer essay and oral exams were also fine.

But we had to run a mile.  Outside, in the sun, the hot tropical sun.  With the trees, and the huge field of grass.  I’d start running.  I’d start strong.  I have a runner’s body, underneath the fat.  I’ve been blessed with the genetics of a really good runner.  Want proof?  She is one of my cousins.

And yet as I ran I could see the sky get darker.  I would be clenching my sides trying to breathe.  Sometimes I fainted.

Or how my family has always cycled.  And yet no matter what on hot summer days I’d be panting and gasping.

The thing was that my parents always just said, “well it’s because you’re more sedentary than your brothers.  You don’t get outside enough.  You’re clearly not fit.”

If you’d just exercise more.  And the mantra sunk in.  Like a lead balloon.

In university I was determined to ‘get fit.’

I worked out a lot.  I’d spend 45 minutes three times a week doing circuits in the gym.

I played squash for 1 hour 3 times a week on the other days.

I used my bicycle as my transportation, or I walked.  I worked off campus in a hilly area and I got around.

Still I huffed and puffed.  One day I cycled to the doctor’s for an appointment.  My red face and struggling for breath 20 minutes after getting there concerned her.  I said, “Oh I cycled here and I’m just not fit.”

She laughed,  “I know how much you work out, you are fit.  There’s another reason here.  We’ll deal with this after your pregnancy.”

But I never did because I knew I was not fit!

Then there was the fact, as my mother-in-law had put it, that I was sickly.  Every year I got these colds.  These horrid colds that started in the summer and then lasted well into the winter.  I can cough like no one else I know.

Many people I know have used the phrase, “Oh, I see you’ve got another one of your summer colds.  Sick again, eh?”

And words, they sink into the psyche.  Not one of those people were trying to hurt.  They seemed aptly descriptive.

Not one of us said hey, wait a minute there might be another explanation.

This summer one of my friends that I meant over the internet and via Twitter said to me, you know I really think you have allergies.  Sure I thought I  know I have ragweed allergies.  I knew that.

But her words sank in and one day as I was getting another cold I thought that I should just go and get tested.  If I did have allergies than I might be able to look forward to a season of not getting sick!

Now I go outside and I have to admit I look around and think, wow, this has been so hostile to my health.  I could have done something about this.  Seriously why?!  And myself image has changed.

Last night I got an e-mail from my mother.  Several people in the extended family have severe asthma.  She wants me to get tested for that.  Oh, and several people have severe allergies too.  Apparently a relative died from an allergic reaction to grass.  Her lungs collapsed and they couldn’t get her a transplant.




Filed under Musings

2 responses to “A Change of Perspective

  1. My family is like that, too. Three grandparents each developed a different type of inheritable deafness the week my son’s hearing was tested.

    Your kids will benefit!

    The family doctor said I had to be 8 to be tested, but at least he identified allergies. (Dad’s family history helped.) I lived on old-style antihistamines, in doses that probably weren’t good for me. Today’s non-drowsy long-acting fast-acting antihistamines were 10 years away. Even the early aerosol nasal sprays were 8 years away.

    Dad insisted, and we visited the big city when I was 7. Nasty set of tests for a kid, but worth it. The allergist said he treated babies as young as two weeks (probably with a different protocol). I reacted so badly to the shots that it took 3x as long as usual to build me up to maintenance dose.

    The 4-year-old next door had asthma so bad he could barely function in the summer, and their doctor had said the same thing about age. They went to the same specialist and he became a normal kid.

    Testing, treatment and understanding has improved a lot since then. We have so many options!

    Now comes the fun bit. It’s easy to be prey to fancy devices that claim to clean the air — until you open a window. If in doubt, concentrate on the bedroom — you spend 1/3 of your life there — and de-moulding the bathroom.

    Check with your doctor every few years or if you notice a change. Allergies have a habit of being stable for several years then changing, and meds are constantly improving.

  2. Re-reading. (Things look different out of the edit box.) I’m not saying your kids have allergies, just that you’ll recognize the signs and they won’t suffer in ignorance the way you did. Specific allergies aren’t inherited, but the wonky immune system that causes them is.

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