Monday, July 24, 2017

Relaxing Travels?

My friend Mike and I started planning our summer travel just after the first of the new year.  He moved to Morocco a couple of years ago to teach at an English speaking school so we decided we'd meet up somewhere in Europe shortly after we finished up our school years.  We've both had several European adventures between the two of us so finding a destination neither had been to was a bit challenging.  After throwing around some places that peaked each of our interests, we finally settled on Scotland with a few additional days in the Lake District of Northern England.
Neither of us were terribly comfortable taking on the task of driving in the UK, so we decided public transportation was the way we would go.  We made accommodation arrangements before we left as well as long distant train reservations for our long travel days.  After some research, we also decided we couldn't go all the way to Scotland without seeing the west of Scotland and the Isle of Skye, so we did arrange a 3-day tour that left from Edinburgh before we left.  I'm not a huge fan of "Tour Bus" travel, but we decided that was our best way for that particular destination.  Other than those plans we wanted to play the rest of the trip by ear, which is my favorite way to travel.
This trip was probably the MOST relaxing international vacation I have ever had.  I think that the stressful last few months of this past school year had a positive impact on this trip.  When I travel, I'm usually a serious researcher.  I like to know about the places I go and make sure I have at least some understanding of the history and culture and a list of things to do and see.  However, other than the basic information we looked at when deciding on where to go, I did NO additional research.  I had no preconceived notions and expectations about my destinations.  Actually, I had two basic ones.  First, I figured language wouldn't be an issue we'd have to worry about.  Second, having previously traveled to Ireland, there was an assumption that the two countries would be geographically similar.  I was correct about the first, and mostly incorrect about the second.  Anyhow, my point being, we traveled to the UK without a long list of must-sees or must-dos.  We went to bed each night without a plan for the next day, slept in each morning, and devised our day's activities over breakfast.  Being so far north, dusk didn't come until 10:30/11:00 so even though our days started later, we still had a lot of light left.  It was my dream schedule actually - stay out late and sleep in late.
I came home with over 900 pictures on my camera - the blessing AND curse of the digital camera age.  I have finally finished sorting through and editing them.  I'll share some in my next few posts.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Solution

So, with the results showing that I'm allergic to 61% of the things tested, what was the next step?  While I was glad that my cheese addiction or any other foods weren't the culprit, the reality is if they were, the solution would be quite easy wouldn't it.  On the other hand, environmental allergies are much harder to address because you can't just remove them from your life as they are everywhere.  That's where Allergen Immunotherapy comes in.  The point of this therapy is to build up an immunity to things you are allergic to over time, so eventually they are no longer an issue.  I know a handful of people who went for weekly allergy shots for several years, but I never realized that was the point of the shots.  I always thought they were just getting extra strong medication to keep them under control.  Instead, the shots are actually made up the very things one is allergic to.  The amount given increases over time, building that immunity.  So the thought of not struggling with allergies was very appealing.
The weekly allergy shot was an option for me and one that is covered under insurance.  Having to go to the doctor each and every week for what could be years was not appealing all.  But there is now a new alternative.  Allergy drops!  Rather than the allergens in a syringe the doctor sticks in your arm, allergen extracts are put in a jar that YOU drop under your tongue, in your own home!
Three vials and a recording sheet arrived in the mail about 2 weeks after the allergy testing.
 Each bottle is designed for a build up of the allergens and is a stronger version of the next.  I take one drop for a week, and then add a drop each week until week 4.  Then the bottle is changed and the process starts over.  I have finished the blue bottle and am on my second week of the yellow.
The first few days were a little strange because the drops have to remain under the tongue for 2 minutes.  Two minutes are A LONG time when you can't swallow.  But now, I'm used to it.  Because it's under the tongue, I rarely taste it, but if I do it just has a sugar water taste, so nothing too offensive.  I believe the red vial is the version I'll be on for the remainder of the time so once I finish that one, it will be a regular 4 drops each day until I'm "cured".  I will have an allergy test once a year to check the reactions.  Once each of the allergens shows no reaction, then I can stop the drops, and am supposed to be allergy free for about 20 years - assuming no new ones pop up.
On a side note, I had done some research ahead of time, wondering what to expect, how it worked, what it tasted like, etc.  At first, I was surprised to read that it was not FDA approved.  The process of Immunotherapy and each extract ARE approved, but what is actually in MY bottle is not.  That is because everyone's bottle is different, to meet their needs.  I found that fascinating.  I've found this whole process fascinating.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Test

As I've mentioned (a few hundred times) this spring wreaked havoc on my sinuses.  Our wet winter made for a gorgeous spring as far as plants and trees go and I spent about 3 months feeling like my head was going to explode.  I should have bought stock in the Kleenex company as I went through boxes of the stuff - about one every 3-4 days.  After three trips to the doctor, numerous decongestants, two rounds of antibiotics, two rounds of steroids, two types of inhalers, chest X-rays, and blood tests, the doctor asked, "Have you ever had an allergy test?"  For as long as I've suffered from allergies (and asthma) I actually have never been allergy tested.  They've kind of been a regular part of my life, an on-and-off irritant, but nothing that ever made me SICK and exhausted like they did this year. At the end of May, I had my first allergy testing done.
It was quite an interesting test/experience.  The tech had a box of 80 oils; each one containing one form of allergen.   She dipped panels of "needles" (10 needles per panel, 8 panels) into the oils and placed them on my back.  This isn't the same panel she used, but you get the gist.
It took her about 10 minutes to place the 8 panels on my back, and then I had to wait about 20 minutes for them to do their thing.  The first one started to do its thing almost immediately as she saw a reaction starting right after placing the first set of needles.  There was nothing painful about the test however it was a long time to lie there without moving (and tipping the needle panels over), especially after the reactions started and things got slightly itchy. She came back in twice to check on me and then again to read the results.  
The little dots that are just dots show where the allergen was placed, but do not show a reaction.  For example, the very last panel (bottom left in this picture) shows little to no reaction.  Anywhere that has a blotch or red that goes beyond that little dot shows a reaction.  The tech noted each one and the level of reaction. 
The reactions are rated from 7-13, with 7 being a reaction but the lowest and 13 being the highest. The results showed that I am allergic to 49 out of the 80 allergens tested.  No foods, some animals (including some reaction to dogs), but the reactions I had most were to trees and grasses.  So while I'm thrilled I don't have to stop eating cheese (I was worried about dairy being a culprit) or give my dog away, the bad news is I have no control over environmental allergens as they are everywhere.  

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

I'm Back!

After 3 months of being sick, a two-week trip to Scotland and England, and a week to recover (I'm almost nervous to say it), I'm feeling the best physically and mentally than I have in a long time.

I've got post ideas in my head and writing time planned in my planner, so new posts to come.  And I will be by to see you all soon.