Monday, June 30, 2008

Me, a Mosquito, and Mary Tyler Moore

Does anyone remember that episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show where she had to get her tonsils out? When asking her boss for time off work to get the surgery done, she was horribly embarrassed. After all, tonsil-removals are for kids. She hemmed and hawed around the subject, not wanting to admit what was really going on.

Embarrassing medical problems are the worst. I'm not talking about hemorrhoids, so commonplace now that nobody bats an eyelash. I'm talking about the ones that are shameful because they seem so minor, or childish, or make you sound like a weakling. "I have bad allergies" just sounds like such a terrible excuse, yet I've had allergies that are at least as bad as the flu.

All my life, my immune system has been a personal cross to bear. For a good portion of my childhood, I spent every waking (and presumably sleeping) moment with a bad case of the sniffles. Doctors were baffled, until finally some well-meaning naturopath decided to run a blood test for food sensitivities. The results were utterly astounding. My immune system was trying to fight off pretty much everything imaginable, from wheat to dairy to eggs to bananas (not kidding). Mom pulled me off the offending foods immediately. Yes, my sniffles and lethargy disappeared, but so did my joie de vie. It was hard, being different. I couldn't eat the food at a party, and when I went for a sleepover I was constantly reading ingredients lists before my midnight snacks. Kids are cruel, but oddly, I was mocked less for my diet restrictions than for pretty much everything else imaginable.

Eventually, I weaned myself back on to regular food. The sniffles never came back. I suppose some of my current health problems might have their roots in food, but there is just not a fucking chance in fucking hell I'm going back to rice "bread."

It was through the food sensitivities that I learned of my overachieving immune system, which also seems to explain my ugly reaction to many insect bites. Summer is a terrible time for me. I wear bug spray outdoors, of course, but if even a single mosquito sneaks inside the house, I could be put out of commission for several days.

As I speak, my foot is soaking in a tub of cold water and is swollen to about 150% of its natural size. As you might guess, I have a particularly greedy mosquito to thank for that. Rather than itching and little red bumps, if I am bitten on particular "hot spots" of my body, I get itching, little red bumps, pain, swelling, throbbing, and lethargy. Cortisone cream barely helps. Benadryl doesn't help at all. Ibuprofen might bring down the swelling a bit, but won't stop me from clawing at my already damaged skin.

In some cases, immediate and aggressive icing can stop the reaction from happening. If I have an ice cube handy, I can usually freeze my immune system out of the area somehow - I'm no doctor, but it seems to work. Unfortunately, according to the red marks on my foot, I was stung approximately six times by said mosquito. That was enough to make all my efforts useless.

Now, I walk with a limp. I really wish I'd just broken my foot (for the third time) so that I could wear a cast and tell everybody a good story. Now, I'm stuck with "sorry, I can't walk because of a mosquito bite" or "sorry I sound drunk, I'm on Benadryl for a mosquito bite." It just sounds lame.

By the way, I killed the mosquito. And I have the blood spot on my wall to prove it.


HypotheticalGirl said...

steroids, dude! In pill form. Better living through chemistry.