Friday, February 01, 2013

Up for air

Not much to report on the "Jill Outside" front this week. But sometimes when about a week goes by without an update, I feel I should post something on my blog lest my family begin to believe I've disappeared into another adventure, or disappeared altogether.

Nope. I've been here all this time, and for the past 36 hours my activity mostly involved sitting quite still. This week has been a bemusing slump through a trifecta of infections that seem to be unrelated to each other. The sinus pressure and cough I accepted as penance. After all, it was my idea to get a flu shot last week, which is what I decided to blame when I felt slightly off but not quite sick for days afterward, and then I went for a hard bike ride and a 31-mile run. Then I really did get sick. Okay, I deserved that. But then I quickly slipped into a world of discomfort that culminated when a mysterious rash spread across my neck, arms, lower back, and hips. It flared up rapidly and then clamped down like a vice, making it painful for me to move my upper body.

Like the hypochondriac that I can sometimes be, I trolled the Web and convinced myself I had a systemic candida infection and I was either going to die or spend the rest of the week lying in bed slathered head to toe in diaper rash paste. But like the stubborn person I am, I resolved to self-treat my rash through the weekend and call my doctor if it wasn't better by Monday. I effectively didn't fall asleep until dawn broke Friday morning, and then resisted Beat's efforts to rouse me out of bed at 10 a.m. I was awake; I just didn't feel like moving. "Call the doctor," he urged. "This is what doctors are for."

The doctor told me I was likely experiencing a plain old allergic reaction, probably from either laundry detergent or food, or really any number of things that a person can suddenly become severely allergic to. He gave me a prescription that quickly downgraded my symptoms from "morphing into a statue" to "mildly itchy and uncomfortable." Yay prednisone. But it does leave me wondering ... if it is an allergic reaction and not a immune system hiccup as I previously suspected, what am I so allergic to?

I have friends who have banged their heads against the wall for years regarding allergies. One friend battled crippling skin outbreaks that kept her home from work, and eventually cut her diet down to about six different items of food. My own diet is simple and satisfying, and remains effectively the same foods I've eaten since my childhood, but it reads like a laundry list of typical food allergy suspects — raw vegetables and fruits, dairy, a whole lotta grain, some lean protein and legumes. And of course sugary energy foods. I tend to be defensive about my eating habits because they're so out of fashion right now (it's very much a 1990s low-fat, high-calorie marathon runner diet.) But I don't really enjoy eating meat or many foods with high fat content, because both upset my digestive system, and can't imagine how any low-carb diet wouldn't disrupt my endurance lifestyle. But if you'd asked me at 3 a.m. while I was lying awake and marinating in my own misery, I would have happily agreed to a diet of grass and twigs if I thought it would make the rash go away.

I remain optimistic that this was just a one-time occurrence or perhaps the fault of my compromised immune system that's been dragging me around all week. But experiences like this do make me wonder ... good health can be lost so easily and randomly. Just how much control do I have?

I'm happy Beat talked me into acquiring steroids before the weekend started. I feel so much better already, and hopefully I can get back outside and go for a run and maybe even the long bike ride I'd been planning on Sunday. The weather has been gorgeous, and it's true that even short dips into minor illnesses exponentially increase my appreciation of health.