Friday, February 1, 2008 at 8:17PM
Growing up, I never had allergies or asthma. In fact, I remember wishing that I did have them when those lucky few were gently ushered to the bleachers during PhysEd as the rest of us ran mile after torturous mile in the hot and humid Florida spring. It's true that you should be careful what you wish for (fast forward an undisclosed number of years into adulthood...).
I've had bronchitis about three times in the past twelve months, and I was beginning to wonder if maybe my robot of a primary care physician wasn't missing something. I didn't really think much of it until the last bout of bronchitis was accompanied by an excruciating pain right behind my ear. As you can imagine, this was both bothersome and a little scary.
I'm lucky enough to have insurance that allows me to bypass my PCP and see a specialist without a referral, so I went to an ENT. She ordered a CT of my ear just to rule out the big "C," then casually mentioned that I should get tested for allergies. I agreed and made an appointment for the following week.
I walked into the "allergy testing" section of the office and a very pleasant and kind allergy nurse asked me to sit down. She drew my blood to test for food allergies and I thought, "Hey, that wasn't so bad." Then her head spun around, she vomited pea green soup and asked me to sit down for the rest of my testing. Over the course of the next twenty minutes, this demonic plague of a person stuck me with eighty, yes, eighty needles. These needles were not, of course, standard injection needles, but they were about as long as the needle on a thumbtack. This test is idiotically called a "scratch test." Scratch? They should call it a "Poke you with thumbtacks until you feel homicidal test."
But, I guess it was a good thing I went because it turns out that I have a lot of allergies. A couple of allergens didn't surprise me, like dust, mold and roaches. (There goes my dream of becoming a homeless person living in downtown.) I did find out, however, that I am also allergic to corn and milk. In case you didn't know, every edible item not made from fresh ingredients has a milk or corn product in it. It turns out that these are the real culprits behind my health problems.
My physician explained that I had a couple of options. I could take medication to control the symptoms. I didn't like this one because, well, I always find that taking one pill inevitably leads to taking another and on and on. Next option was allergy shots. I would get one allergy shot a week for about three months, then one shot every month, then every other month until a year had gone by. Given that the allergy testing itself had put me in a homicidal frame of mind, I declined that option so that the allergy nurse could continue to live a long and happy life. Last option, stop eating milk and corn, and start a "rotation diet."
To me, the change in diet was the only viable option, yet it was and is still extremely overwhelming to even think about the magnitude of this lifestyle overhaul. I'm either going to have to prepare everything I eat myself with fresh ingredients or take out a second mortgage and shop only at Whole Foods. Then, as always, I got to thinking.
Here I was feeling sorry for myself when I had been handed an incredible gift. My body told me that it was sick, and I listened to it. Every relationship should be this simple and rewarding. I went to a doctor and after some Inquisition style testing I found out exactly what was wrong and exactly how I could fix it. It turns out I finally understand and appreciate the gift of physical discomfort. It is not an indicator of the way things will always be, but the first step towards helping us live life energetically and passionately.
In the end, besides learning that I might have actually been eligible for bleacher time in high school PhysEd, I have also learned that when we feel well we rarely think about our body and our health. Because, when we feel good, we are too busy living life to its fullest. And that is the way it should be.
It just so happens that, for me, a full and energetic life will only be had sans cornbread. Sigh.