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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Shoulda Coulda Woulda

I should have started this blog five months ago. That's what I've been saying for the past two weeks. Enough with shoulda coulda woulda.

I've suffered from chronic sinusitis, plus allergies and some asthma for 15 years. Jealous? I had my third, revision, sinus surgery to remove polyps and other attractive stuff in November of 2010. While in the hospital over night, I was feed intravenous steroids and antibiotics. And then oral steroids and antibiotics for another 8 weeks. The first two weeks after surgery I had regained a slight sense of smell. "Oh that's what shallots smell like?", "Oh, this is how great champagne tastes?" Who knew? Well, not me. The pluses of not being able to smell include being unbothered by dirty subways, bad breath, body odor and farts. For years I've focused on these positives. Not sure why but several times a week someone invariably asks, "Smell this." I say, "Can't help you." Needless to say, my sense of smell eludes me once again for it was a short-lived three week scent celebration. I feel like the nose version of the main character from Flowers For Algernon.

It was late March of this year, when I visited my Otolaryngologist with a bad sinus infection, cough, asthma and incredibly low energy levels. He put me on a three-week course of Levaquin that set me back about $270 with my insurance. I took the first pill with lunch. That evening I was seated, watching TV when I noticed an unusual pain in my achilles. I hit the gym about three days a week these days. But my gym regimen was nothing out of the ordinary. I visited the Levaquin website where I found this gentle warning:


Tendon rupture can happen while you are taking LEVAQUIN® or up to several months after you have finished taking it.

That's when I crapped my pants. The next day I stopped taking the medication and called Levaquin. I was impressed with their service. I asked for a refund. They obliged. That was the last time I took an oral antibiotic. I promised myself I would go a year without antibiotics. At this point, it's been close to 5.5 months. 

I had asked my otolaryngologist to recommend a doctor who utilizes alternative and more natural treatments for ailments. In late April of this year, I visited Dr. Firshein where I was subjected to skin tests for food and environmental allergies as well as blood work. I explained to the doctor that lately whenever I ate, it was like an immediate and intense sinus infection set in. Call me mucus queen. 

The test results indicated that I have sensitivities to numerous foods. The list includes: chicken, beef, egg whites, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, corn, buckwheat, almonds, peanuts, sesame, cinnamon, gluten, soy, lettuce (really?). I had already given up dairy and with that my daily fever and chills had subsided. I explained to Dr. Firshein that for years I had eaten these foods without any issue. He said, "The genie has gotten out of the bottle. We have to get him back in." Obviously something had made my body go out of whack, short circuit, get off course. I asked if it could be all the steroids and antibiotics I had ingested over the course of 15 year. The doctor said it could be. 

How cruel. I love marzipan wrapped in dark chocolate. I love soft-centered almond cookies. I love almond butter and jelly sandwiches. I haven't eaten any of these for five months. In the beginning it was hard. Lately, it's been easier. I have cheated by eating a small handful of raw almonds. Within minutes my face is itching all over. It's like my body is trying to scratch the contaminant out of me. What did I do to deserve the almond banishment? Was it for making fun of that girl in fifth grade for stuffing her bra? 

The odd thing is that I had been going to a different doctor for allergies for the past 12 years. She had tested me for food allergies in January of 2011 and found no food allergies. I have to admit Dr. Firshein was much more thorough and patient. He checked my skin test progress not once, but a few times over the course of an hour. It goes to show you have to find the doctor that works best for you. My previous allergist has surely helped many patients achieve improved quality of life. But, her therapies just weren't working for me any more. So I had to move on. 

When I was tested for environmental allergies, my arm blew up. Not off. The doctor said that my reaction was one of the worst he'd ever seen. Breaking records at the doctor's office isn't something I had set out to do. Seems I'm incredibly allergic to all four types off grass as well as trees and mold. But not my cat. 

I left Dr. Firshein's office in April with an assortment of natural supplements to take daily. These include: quercetin, nettles, magnesium, coenzyme Q10, and antioxidants. I also give myself weekly allergy shots. 

In June of this year, I had a two-week hiatus between my old job and new job. My friend, Regina, from high school suggested I read Chris Karr's Crazy Sexy Diet. I immediately made changes. I had tried to give up coffee while at my old job. The intense headache was too much. My father had told me when he had given up cigarettes back in the 1970s, he was told to change his schedule....his habits for a week. He had taken a week off from work and was able to pretty much quit with not looking back. Often crutches are a part of our lifestyle. So, I took advantage of my new stay at home lifestyle. I found it more easy to give up coffee that way. I did replace it with two other beverages: green tea and green smoothies. 

After reading Crazy Sexy Diet I also gave up all animal food products. I had still been eating some goat cheese, turkey, even chicken even though it was a proven allergen, and pork. I said goodbye to all. 

Two weeks ago I suffered a set back complete with sinus headache, chills and low grade fever. I visited my otolaryngologist. He was ready to put me on an antibiotic again. I was quite dramatic, "No way!" He took my exclamation in stride. And noted on my chart that I had adopted a vegan diet and cut out sugar. I don't hate my doctor for suggesting this. He's a talented surgeon. This is the way he problem solves. Again, you have to find the doctors that support your beliefs. 

I'm still not where I want to be or need to be. My best sinus day is probably a healthy person's worst. I know I can get there. I invite you to follow my progress as I share with you the wellness books I read, my doctor visits, various therapies I use (colonics this weekend!), supplements I take and set backs along the way. 

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