I’ve always been an optimist (or an idiot depending on your POV) regarding my allergies, assuming each bad spell would be my last. Retrospectively, had I actually tracked the cost of my collective allergy and asthma attacks – the figure would be devastating. My fellow Americans: if your kid has allergies, set up an “Allergy Fund.” They’re going to need it. I’m here to talk about it not being fair because those are the feelings I’ve kept to myself for 30+ years. These secret annoyances have eaten me for years – it’s been a particularly solitary hell. I’ve suffered and I haven’t shared it, especially with the type of people who think allergies are “all in your head.”
As a well qualified candidate for allergic president, I tell you America: we’ve spent decades trying to even the playing field among people who are born disadvantaged. But what about allergic people? Is it fair that I will have spent $100,000 more on my existence than someone who was born without them? It only stands to reason that I should have gone to college for free. Could I get an allergy scholarship over here? Forgive the stereotype, but allergic kids are typically smarter, simply because we couldn’t play outdoors with all you normal kids. Books were my best friends. Besides that, they were great for hiding my spectacles and the snot corks I fashioned out of Kleenex.
Then I moved to California (cue choir of angels). Everything was roses! Roses I could smell without sneezing! I was so excited I went out and got a dog, something my allergist growing up had forbade me to do. I went on camping trips! (cue Rocky theme) I was an environmentally sensitive girl gone wild! Then …(cue Jaws motif) the Santa Anna winds blew in and swept me into allergic hell. Initially, I thought I had a cold and cancelled my classes. No paid sick days for yoga teachers. Two weeks and three boxes of Kleenex later I realized: this might just be my new life. Or should I say, my old life, or my whole life – before I moved to California and beginning what my allergist called ” my allergic honeymoon.” Having never lived on the west coast, my immune system was simply confused, but in due time, it would get to work making antibodies over time. “Awww” I thought, trying to see the bright side, ” Even my immune system is an over-acheiver.”
Like all honeymooners, I felt it healthier to believe the Doc was just wrong, that my happiness would last and last… I’d lived other places like Sao Paulo, where allergic hell had immediate, inexorable onset. It’s eventually why I threw up my eczema encrusted hands and just left Brazil – after having exhausted every treatment option to be among the people and a culture I loved so dearly. I believed that maybe, just maybe, I’d done so much “work” on myself that I had overcome. I’m a runner, a swimmer, a yogi – things I never dreamed I’d become as the asthmatic who got bullied in PE. I had also been taking a little drug called Singulair, which my Brazilian homeopath said she never prescribed allopathic meds, but this one was a gem that would build my resistance. Ooops.
During the merciless Santa Ana winds, my eyes were so itchy and swollen I thought I had pink eye. When the antibiotic drops ($60) didn’t work, I went to an opthamologist ($150 visit) and he prescribed me Alrex drops ($145) and an ointment for the swelling ($25). Of course, he’ll need to follow up next week ($150) to see that they’e worked. I had to call and cancel the follow-up. My insurance ($190/mo.) does not cover any of these visits – it all goes toward my 5k deductible. Deductible = insurance-company-ease that softens the blow when they tell you “…aaaaand you have to pay for that shit too.”
With limited income and no company benefits, I have to be creative. I get my phamaceuticals from Canada ($140/mo) which is about a third of what I would pay here with my insurance (that doesn’t cover medicine for preexisting conditions) including Singular, preventative inhalers, emergency inhaler, and antihistamines. This is all in addition to the myriad alternative methods I’ve guinea pigged on myself trying to avoid the increasingly more painful and unjust trip to the doctor. My home remedies include (but aren’t limited to) Apple Cider Vinegar, Kombucha, diluted food grade hydrogen peroxide, neti pot, Saline washes, ginger tea, rooibos tea, Breathe Easy Tea, extremely high doses of vitamin C, Bromelain, Quercetin, and fish oil.
We haven’t even begun to talk about my “special needs” which have been in place since I was about 12, and asthma landed me in the hos-pitiful for 4 days. It was on that fateful occasion that my allergist formally introduced me my lifelong nemesis: dust mites. Dust mites are the suckiest nemeses. They may be tiny, but they’re fucking high-maintenance! And they shit in your bed!! Lots and lots of times!! Triplicate weaves have since encased every bed I’ve owned, mattress encasing ($100 a pop), Box springs ($50) pillows ($20/each), duvet cover between comforter and cover ($80), and the dust mite murdering additive I must add to every wash ($40). Let us not forget that the detergent must be unscented and unfragranced. Shampoo, soap, toothpaste, everything with a gentler version of itself – that’s the one I have to get and it’s always pricier. Why? Folks, the physical and emotional suffering is enough, must it also be financial? The bastards know we don’t have a choice.
We haven’t even gotten to allergy free foods! Many believe food allergies exacerbate the airborne ones. Eliminating wheat, diary, and gluten from my diet means I shop at Whole Foods, and well, my friends, I’m not the only one who calls it Whole Pay Check.
So I wonder, with all these special needs and their associated costs – is there some type of discount I’m qualified for? I’ve definitely been denied insurance for having asthma and had to lie so that I could get the insurance, but then it wouldn’t cover those meds. Would it be different in France? (though living in France without being able to eat cheese sounds like a hell of it’s own) Us allergic people have been an extremely, quiet, non-plaintive bunch. Probably because we’re too busy tending to our symptoms to take any affirmative action. “Allergic people” – we don’t even have a proper title. Am I an “Allergic American?” How about “Environmentally Challenged?” That sucks.
All this unfairness just makes me want to put on a warm, fuzzy sweater and slurp down a bowl of chicken noodle soup. Wait, scratch the noodles because they have gluten, and if the sweater is scratchy, well that has to go too. Better take off this sweater, oh shit, that irritated my eyes, now my mascara (hypoallergenic – for sensitive eyes!) is running. (I’ll spare the added costs of being an Allergic American Female.) No wonder people kicked me around in school, I’m annoying myself! Enough whining, I’d better get to engineering my own bubble before the A.M.A. contracts Bentley to make those.