It is always in the midst, in the epicenter, of your troubles that you find serenity.
~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Not a groundbreaking event for some, but rare for me as I am seldom sick. And, being in possession of what I call faux-insurance, I make it a point to limit luxurious first-world activities like seeking medical care.
Typically, I ride things out. I know what to do when the specter of illness hovers over me like a used car salesman—I know which herbs to take, the foods to eat to nourish my weary bod, and I know how to embrace sleep like a long-absent lover. Yes, I am pretty good at being my own health advocate—damn the $5,000 deductible, I say.
But after a particularly harrowing weekend, to the doctor I went. This appointment was nearly one month after a visit for the same, and first ever, episode. My doctor, nice, perfunctory, and a bit tightly wound, gave me a diagnosis. A diagnosis that adds “life-threatening condition” to my skills set.
Let me frame the scenario for you: it was the Saturday after Thanksgiving; I had a fun day running errands on my Vespa, and was enjoying my night at home. Later that evening, after a simple dinner and herb tea (wow, I sound positively elderly), my body decided to rebel against me. A feeling came over me, a tingling sensation, as if my lips and mouth had been sprinkled with cayenne pepper. Or little ant bites. The sensation continued as I tried to convince myself it was the mint or tea tree oil in my lip balm.
The tingling sensation was followed by facial swelling: lips, eyes, tongue, uvula—yeah, that little thing that hangs down in the back of the throat—so much that I thought I was going to stop breathing. It’s a feeling of drowning on land and one I can’t recommend as an exciting way to spend a Saturday night. Full-blown symptoms were in effect within an hour and took nearly two days to fully subside.
Hello, anaphylaxis, my new bff! If you are not familiar with anaphylaxis, it’s an extreme allergic reaction that can be so severe as to cause death within minutes—and a host of other really fun symptoms on the way to the final breath. The first time I experienced this was in October. I have always had allergies: Hay fever, cats when I was younger, and other garden-variety annoyances. Oh, and the bees, yes, there’s that, too. But never have I experienced anything like this.
Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) is frightening and confusing, especially since, for me, I am not sure what caused it. Both attacks have little to no common threads. Clearly it was something I ate, but what? I eat simply and healthfully, maintaining a vegan and gluten-free diet. It’s not like I was wolfing down shellfish laced with peanut sauce (do they even do that?); hell, I don’t even eat peanuts!
Now lest you are concerned, I am not leaving the planet, yet, if I can help it, and as soon as I find out which food causes my throat to seal shut after ingesting it, trust me, I will steer clear of it, but until then, I foray into culinary terrain with my eyes wide open to the gift, yes the gift this uncertainty has given me.
You see, I was already on the path of cultivating awareness, being fully present, and this little, umm, complication, keeps me right here now. No mistaking it, my characteristic mindfulness has been enhanced by the vivid clarity that uncertainty brings. For now, as I work toward healing, understanding, and peace with this gift, I am fully, oh so fully, aware that my food choices could kill me. And with this in mind, as I gaze at the stars tonight, I am awed by their brilliance. I look forward to many more nights like this one.
[Note: I did have a food allergy blood test (the doc that I saw, not my regular, doesn’t like it, says it’s inconclusive) and my results? I have no food sensitivities. Yeah, right! And yes, I do carry the Epi-pen and an arsenal of Benadryl with me.]