Love Lessons: Allergy Warning

Heidi's daily allergy drug regimen

Heidi’s daily allergy drug regimen

A few months before I began writing Love Lessons, I was diagnosed with a pile of allergies. As regular readers of this blog know, I’ve fought usually baffling chronic pain issues for a decade, but in the past few years things have become particularly acute. I was always tired, I always felt sick, and if I didn’t take a Zyrtec every day, I would scratch my skin off. When my upper lip began to swell, sometimes alarmingly, my doctor sent me to an allergist.

A scratch test later, I was told I was allergic to the following: dust mites (severely), dogs, cats, mold (several kinds), down, cow’s milk, egg white, and possibly almonds. The cat allergy he said wasn’t awful and was probably held in check by the fact that I have four. If I ever stopped having cats, I’d never be able to have them again, and some days their existence bothers me more than I’d like.

This diagnosis meant a huge change for me and my entire family. In addition to radically altering my diet once again (I’d gone vegetarian briefly, as well as cut out refined sugar), we had to deep clean our house. Dan, Anna, me, his parents, and my mother put in a solid two weeks of scouring, and then we hired a local cleaning service who spent eight hours giving it another scrub. Now we clean–as in, to the baseboards, washing curtains, wiping off ledges–every two to three weeks, and we run the air conditioning even if it’s relatively nice out. I wash my sheets, comforter, mattress pad, and everything else on the bed once a week on high heat. I take daily all the drugs in the picture on the left. When I take my daughter to the horse barn (my allergist says, “Why don’t you add chickens so all your allergies are present?”) I have to stay in the lounge with the door closed, then shower immediately once I get home, or I’ll have an asthma attack.

Because the annoying thing is, it turns out once you remove the allergen from your system, when you reintroduce it your body goes seriously haywire. A tablespoon of milk will make me ill for days. Three bites of a baked good with egg makes me feel nauseous. One night in a poorly cleaned hotel room will have me swelling to twice my size and render me nearly unable to breathe. Travel is a nightmare, both for sleeping and for eating. I’m a thousand times healthier and have made more progress on my chronic pain and fatigue than ever, but there isn’t a day where I don’t face walls brought on because of my allergies.

Naturally, I put all this in a book.

I gave Kelly all my allergies, plus I made his reaction to almonds anaphylactic. Me, they’re still not sure if I am or not, but I do notice if I eat too many or drink too much milk my lip starts going wonky, or if I’m all keyed up from other exposure even a little makes me sick, so I generally stay away. Kelly is so allergic the oil or extract will send him to the hospital. Usually I don’t include something so raw and fresh from my own life, but writing how Kelly’s allergies isolated him, creating walls at a time he didn’t need any extra awkward, helped me make some peace with my own newly discovered limitations. It’s hard to have people offer you cookies or cakes and have to decline or pretend you’ll eat them when you know you can’t. It’s really, really awful to go to a party where everyone else is happily eating and making wry statements about diets and you’re just grateful for baby carrots. I don’t even have a moral conviction like veganism to ease myself with: I just can’t eat things because they’ll make me sick, not because of a choice I made.

What was most fun—and healing—for me when writing Kelly was watching how strong he was despite all the limitations. Walter loves to protect Kelly, even when they’re just friends, but by the end Kelly is the much stronger character, allergies and all. It was a way to say to myself, and to the world, that maybe a lot has changed about what I can and can’t do, but I can still make that work for me, can still be strong.

Also, I know a lot of us have allergies, and now those of you who do have another character who is like you. What are some allergies you suffer from, or what are those of people you love? Any war stories? Perhaps more importantly: do you have any vegan or dairy/egg free recipes you want to share? Because I’m always hunting…



Love Lessons: Love doesn’t come with a syllabus.

Kelly Davidson has waited what seems like forever to graduate high school and get out of his small-minded, small town. But when he arrives at Hope University, he quickly realizes finding his Prince Charming isn’t so easy. Everyone here is already out. In fact, Kelly could be the only virgin on campus. Worst of all, he’s landed the charming, handsome, gay campus Casanova as a roommate, whose bed might as well be equipped with a revolving door.

Walter Lucas doesn’t believe in storybook love. Everyone is better off having as much fun as possible with as many people as possible…except his shy, sad little sack of a roommate is seriously screwing up his world view. As Walter sets out to lure Kelly out of his shell, staying just friends is harder than he anticipated. He discovers love is a crash course in determination. To make the grade, he’ll have to finally show up for class…and overcome his own private fear that love was never meant to last.

Warning: This story contains lingering glances, milder than usual sexual content for this author, and a steamy dance-floor kiss. Story has no dairy or egg content, but may contain almonds.


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15 Comments on “Love Lessons: Allergy Warning

  1. I’m allergic to fruit, most vegetables, most drugs, most herbs and latex…I also have coeliac disease …toss in hayfever and I know your pain…it is exhausting. My issues were caused by pregnancy…it made my immune system go berserk…7 pregnancies later and I want to live in a bubble!

      • Australian 60 minutes had a segment on a new treatment for multiple allergies…it seems to be a cure…scientists are in California so I’ll be keeping an eye on that

  2. *gentle hopefully non-allergic hug*

    Besides the celiac and lactose intolerance, I’ve become onion intolerant, which is more pesky than either gluten or lactose. I know I’m allergic to mold, cats, cedar (walking past someplace with cedar mulch has me wheezing), perfumes/scents, and possibly dairy.

    One reason I was particularly excited about the new condo I bought is that it has no carpet or drapes – just wood floors, tile, and wood blinds. So much better!!!

    • Yeah…onions are a no-no too….sometimes I think eating the packaging is easier than eating the food it contains!

    • That you’re saying onion is worse than gluten is a major statement. Holy hell.

      We have wood floors too–curtains still, but I’m working on eradicating those.

  3. I feel for you, Heidi. I’ve got cats, dogs, dust, pollen of all sorts, mold of all sorts, cigarette smoke, watermelon, most makeup, lots of lotions, perfumes kill me. I’ve severely sensitive to most vitamins and supplements and several medications. Bandaids break me out in blisters. It sucks but what are ya gonna do? 🙂 Thank goodness for Zyrtec, Benadryl, Singulair!

  4. I have celiac – I’ve been gluten free for 12 years. I’m amazed at the progress in accommodating food allergies and intolerances. I’m glad I wasn’t GF in college – I think that would have been hard.

    I have a close friend with idiopathic anaphylaxis – which I think is the scariest. He’s had a couple serious anaphylactic reactions (one put him in the hospital) and they’ve never figured out what caused it. Thank goodness for Benadryl and epinephrine.

    • I have several GF friends (one of them posting above!)–it’s fun when we try to eat together. We do pretty well until we get to bread. Then we have to have separate loaves, because gluten free vegan bread is…not bread.

      • You should try eating the GF cereal!!! I couldn’t eat this banana-flavoured flakes cereal so I fed it to the kids pet rats … the rats poked it all back through the cage so that it was all over the floor in the morning … it is saying something when even rats won’t eat the food 😐

  5. So far (knock on wood) I just have the mold allergy and lactose intolerance, but I have a high sensitivity to black pepper (makes my mouth swell up) which is really irritating, because so many foods have black pepper in them. If it’s cooked in or is really really finely ground, I’m okay. So no room to whine (except about the FMS which I can’t do much about). But Heidi, I’m so GLAD for you — that you’ve finally identified the things that have been causing your chronic pain and are able to do something about them! Yeah, it’s going to be rough, but seriously–it’s so going to be worth it!!
    Maybe I should revisit the allergist…it’s been a while…

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