I’m Back. And I Brought a…Companion?
Hi. Alpha Gal Syndrome
It’s been a long time. I toyed with the idea of returning to the blog a number of times. I just didn’t know what to write about. Well, life threw a wrench my way and I decided it’s the universe whispering in my ear telling me that spreading awareness is a good thing.
For those new here (and because it’s been awhile), allow me to give you a brief review/intro:
- I am originally from Miami, FL. My mom is from Colombia, South America. My dad was military. We moved a lot and I loved it. As an adult, I landed in San Diego and LOVED IT
- In San Diego I met and grew into love with a hot Sailor who was stationed there
- He’s a dad from rural Northwest Arkansas
- We got married
- I became a stepmom
- He finished his military career and we moved to Arkansas to be near the kids. They are now 22, 19 and 13. (How did that happen?)
- Calling myself out, it was hard for me to adjust to the move
- We’ve been in Arkansas for four years. I’ve grown to love so much about it, but there are a few things with which I still struggle. We can get into that another day
- We’ll be here until my youngest stepdaughter goes off to college
- Just over two years ago, in April of 2017, after being bitten by a tick I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease. It was caught early and treated quickly
- For awhile after, I’d been unwell. I thought it could be the Lyme, but the symptoms didn’t add up. Often, eating made me really sick. I’d also hurt my back, gained weight and was not in the best place, physically or mentally. Thus started a search for information and a journey back to me…
So Here I Am
Quick note – So many people have asked me what my ‘niche’ is when it comes to Country Life, City Wife. I never had an answer because I didn’t intend to box myself into only one topic. It’s great for others; that’s just not me. It’ll continue to be that way around here, though a regular topic will be Alpha-gal Syndrome.
Allergies…Well, This is New
Last year, after eating Thai food I broke out into hives. I thought it was odd because I’d never had an adverse reaction to food. For months after, almost every single night, the hives continued. I literally wanted to crawl out of my skin. A dermatologist diagnosed me with eczema, gave me some medicated ointment and sent me on my way.
After some time, I decided to do a Whole30 and the hives calmed down tremendously. I also felt better, was down in weight a bit and decided I loved it so much, I’d adhere to a Paleo lifestyle. My sciatica completely disappeared (after the back injury), and I started working out again. I seemed to be doing pretty well for awhile with the occasional stomach issues. Then spring came around and I’d felt like I’d been hit by a truck. Allergies. I blamed allergies.
Trips BACK to the Doctor
Spring was horrible. I couldn’t breathe and I kept getting sicker. One night after we grilled burgers, I got a headache so badly I was in tears and vomiting. It didn’t occur to me that each time I had been eating beef, I’d get sick. Of course, it didn’t make sense that seasonal allergies were causing me to be that ill, either. I went back to my doctor and after some initial bloodwork, he advised I see an Immunologist/Allergist. That’s when I made an appointment with Dr. Tina Merritt, a top researcher in Alpha-gal, who has it herself. I told her my medical history (a complicated one), symptoms and she said, “I am willing to bet you have Alpha-gal Syndrome.” She skin tested me, then immediately sent me to the lab for bloodwork and two days later her suspicions were confirmed.
I had never heard of galactose-α-1, 3-galactose, aka Alpha-gal Syndrome. Suddenly, I had a crash course: My head spun. When a Lone Star Tick injects its saliva into a human, it transfers a sugar molecule into the body that makes immunoglobulinE (IgE) antibodies go nuts. My IgE levels were over twice the norm. Here’s a medical article that explains much better than I can. A tick bite caused me to contract a potentially deadly medical condition. Before moving to Arkansas, I’d never even seen a tick. Somehow, I also developed allergies to peanuts, wheat and raw tomatoes (my favorite). I’d already stopped peanuts and wheat in January, but giving up raw tomatoes when my husband grows them for me is just sad. The skin tests also confirmed I’m allergic to most trees and grass types in Arkansas. I had to accept the very ‘in my face’ reality that where I live is literally making me sick.
So What’s Next?
I can tell you that I wallowed in self-pity the day after I was diagnosed. That probably seems silly, but as a three-time cancer survivor, it brought back some hard memories. Also, food is a big part of our lives. My husband harvests venison for us, and I can no longer partake. I can’t go out and not worry about cross-contamination. I deal with eye rolls because I’m now “high-maintenance”. Wearing a medic-alert bracelet and carrying an EpiPen are now the new norm and I have to avoid anything and everything that contains mammal. You may be surprised that the most seemingly innocuous things contain processed mammal; wine, over-the-counter allergy medicines, just about all pain medicines, shampoo, toothpaste. The list goes on. And on.
I also avoid eating out and it feels like so much is off limits. Between the Alpha-gal, peanut and wheat allergies it’s just not an easy time, but I’m figuring things out. I’m finding products that are safe and delicious so food enjoyment is not a thing of the past, and I hope to spread the word so others with Alpha-gal Syndrome can enjoy them, too. Ultimately, I’m on a journey to a new normalcy.