Last Thursday week (of JANUARY this year!), I went to see my treating Immunologist and Allergist, Dr Colin Little. It’s a 3 and a half hour arduously long drive from this new-ish property up near the Surf Coast of Victoria, Australia; I was lucky enough to have a friend drive the hour and half it takes just to get to my house so that he could then drive me to the appointment. I can no longer do this for myself. For, even though my car has a Foust, 160AN Auto/RV, Air Purifier running in it and we always pump up the air-conditioning (no matter the temperature outside), and I wear a mask, it’s a truly sickening journey:
First, we have the freeway going into and past the city of Melbourne, now, if I plan my appointments, leave early or travel only at certain times, I can navigate this without my health getting too adversely impacted on (if not, and I get stuck in peak hour traffic, bottle-neck like traffic jams, or behind too many trucks I can be sick for days); did I mention the trucks? Diesel is not my friend and likes to eat my health for breakfast, causing intense sickness (this was the reason for a trip to see Dr Little, to have sublingual testing and try and find a safe dose to help me with symptoms caused by inhalation of diesel fumes, that and another diet check-up.); then we have the Westgate Bridge and by then, a massive throbbing headache, swollen glands, which causes pain when turning my head, followed by breathing that becomes painful (this can last for days, also): this makes for one dangerous driver, but usualIy, in an anxious kind of way, I’m overly careful and still drive okay; but after this we have the part that just makes driving here impossible: the Burnley Tunnel:
this is an underground tunnel that goes under a part of Melbourne, and a few of her suburbs, then under a river: this tunnel is a diesel gas chamber for people like me and it’s not safe to navigate my way through because the symptoms are just too intense. I can only liken it to what I imagine it would be like to be slammed over the head with a hammer while drunk, then trying to drive with a mask over one’s face and a screaming need for oxygen); after that, we have the Eastern freeway, by now the car is full of diesel fumes and I’m just a shadow of my former self: besides being chronically ill, my ability to make decisions is gone, I can’t make sense of my thoughts, nor can I remember them, but worse, I can’t remember how to get to the doctors, I start to mumble, obviously a danger to myself and others, so I have to pull over. Hence, my request for a friend to drive me this time.
is how I handled the drive this time. (The mask, a Sundstrom, is made from silicone, it’s 9 years old, and has (finally) outgassed enough for me to use it. It’s something I keep around for emergencies like bushfires—or building a house, perhaps—or any other type of possibly catastrophic event. However, I’ve always been too fearful to wear this type of mask in public because of the reaction I might get from people. Although, wearing it in the car is hardly wearing it in public: I can’t hear any rude comments, teasing or other people’s non-filtred loud speculations as to why I’m wearing it. Plus, after my last post (which really was so long ago. February to be precise), I felt such an incredible wave of support from fellow mask wearers around the world that my perspective on wearing a mask has evolved to a whole new level of bravery and pro-activeness that leans in even further to helping me protect my health, by wearing this, err.. contraption just to travel through the Burnley Tunnel. Thank you, lovelies xx (Ergo, I don’t plan on wearing this type of mask into a shopping centre anytime soon! Rather send my friends to the shops for me, yeh?)) I sat in the passenger seat, almost symptom free: traffic fumes, unbelievably, still made their way in (the filter on this thing is as old as the mask itself). And I made it to the doctors, still able to cope with testing that needed to be done.
This doctor’s rooms are fragrance free, air-conditioned and contain private rooms for those who need to be away from others when being tested. (I mean, let’s face it, how does someone get tested for fragrance (or anything), or try to find a dose that can help with symptoms when you have a face full of washing powder fumes? Most of the people who go there do their best to be FF but, for some of us, it’s still a cornucopia of shampoos, hair gels and laundry products: all tests would render positive and all clearing drops would render negative results!) By the time I get there, I’m in need of fresh air and with all the air purifiers, air conditioners and non volatile building materials in the building this particular allegist’s rooms are a haven!
In the past, by the time I leave, I’ve usually recovered from getting there. On this day we were there for 5 hours. Not so long, considering we’ve had days where we’ve stayed all day. One lot of testing and finding clearing drops can last an hour, or so. If you get really sick, like I did for perfume the first time, you’re gonna be there for a while. My daughter underwent testing for chemicals and moulds; thankfully, thankfully, she was negative on all those. However, she’s also got the food intolerances to deal with so underwent her own diet review. For this lucky duck, everything is fine…
I underwent testing for chlorine and petrochemicals. The chlorine suprised me because it bought up symptoms i suffered in the old house. Symptoms I thought were mould related! They were part airway related and part something else–to do with how I feel…
What I love about this doctor is he’s proactive on every level. He’s a wealth of information. He’s covered by Medicare (if you’re in the US, think Obamacare), which makes him a real doctor. (I say that in jest, please, any doctor who helps someone is a real doctor, it’s just doctors who are on the Medicare system have more power to change the world because the government listens to them; this one also publishes peer reviewed studies and is in the process of developing a blood test that could really help people like us.) He has access to the latest information; does thorough testing; approaches issues logically rather than basing his advice on the latest ‘new’ treatment or ‘latest’ superfood or ‘trendy’ new pharmaceutical. He has had lots of practice with people who are allergic to many allergens and/or sensitive to chemicals, which makes him an expert. (I’m sure his wife actually says: “I knew I married Mr Right but I didn’t know I married Mr Always Right!”) Oh, and, you know? He’s mostly right about things. With me anyway:
Our battle with food has been going on near on 3 years. For the first 7.9 of this illness, I didn’t have any food allergies or intolerances. My gut was made of iron, I’m telling you. But when these food issues rolled in, they snowballed; and even after I moved to cleaner air, made more changes to my living environment, they persisted, burping their indigestion into my life after every meal. It sucked. Without this doctor’s help, I couldn’t tell the difference between physical symptoms caused by chemical exposures or food intolerances. They were all starting to blur into one big problem.
Last May, we started an elimination diet. It was torture. Then it bought freedom; but it was still total utter torturous, because I’m an emotional eater. I’m a spiritual eater. I’m a totally mental eater. I eat when I worry, when I over-think, when I write, when I’m sad, happy, everything. Milk chocolate and coffee have always, since I became a non-smoker (quite sometime now), bought me intense pleasure. Then there was the comfort I found in having the same foods everyday. Then. They. Were. Gone. (Who was not my favourite doctor then, hey?)
I’m not very good at taking instructions about what to eat and what not to eat; it makes me want to rebel and just eat whatever it is I bloody like. When that backfired, I towed the line and, once I had a good idea of what the right foods were, I ran with ‘this special diet’ thing. So this has taken a while (7 months and 40 milk chocolate bars longer than what it should have). But what I did find was that once I had a list of decent tasty foods, I was happy with that because my stomach was feeling so much better, my skin and scalp stopped itching (thanks to kissing sugar, pears, pineapple and mango goodbye). I can happily eat the same foods everyday with just a little variation, I’m like that. Deprivation is self-torture, emotional comfort is self-love!
This is what my comfortably safe food list looked like when I went in:
- Chicken (only a little, or I have indigestion)
- Porterhouse (only a little, or same thing)
- Spagetti Squash
- Sweet Potato
- Lady Finger Bananas
- Apples (practically a staple)
- *Spelt Toast (one piece only, two give me chronic indigestion)
- Nut Butters (Almond, Hazelnut, Cashew)
- Walnuts (from the Shell only)
- Almonds (however, I keep getting mould effected)
- *Miso Soup (Organic, fermented)
- Organic Tofu
- Bonsoy Milk
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Coconut Cream
- Coconut Water
- Coconut Oil
- Olive Oil
- Green Tea
- Raw Cacao
- Raw Honey
- Dark Chocolate (85% cocoa, no milk and only a little sugar)
- Pureu Water
Not a bad list of foods. I had adapted to this. Had. The Miso is fermented so I have to give that miss for a while. The Spelt bread is off the list because, for someone whose immune system is bucking up, and their digestive system is failing to function properly, it behaves the same as wheat. (If you want to frustrate an allergist, try telling them you are fine with only a little bit but if you eat a lot you feel unwell… But, you think you are fine with that food if you stick to eating just a little?!) The garlic has to be retested. And on it goes… I really thought that I’d be well by now; and it’s frustrating (and that’s just the least of it) that I haven’t recovered like I thought I would when I first moved out here, nearly two years ago.
I have some clearing drops that I can try using for diesel exposure. There is a build happening this year, and guess who’s project manager? I’m busy going through the motions leading up to having a contract drawn up so that people who work on the house understand what they can and can’t do. It’s a scary ride because I’ve not been well, and I can’t fathom how I am going to cope physically with this. Just day to day life has all these issues that need constant forward planning, attention to detail and energy. Energy is something I’ve been running out of. I’m hoping that those couple of *foods I’ve now eliminated are the answer to that problem.
PS: coffee is back on the menu! It’s real coffee… beans we crush ourselves and put into a percolator. Just like the good doc recommended. Whew! Life is still worth living; I kid you not.