The A word… on anaphylaxis, allergies

After the flurry of blogs that filled Allergy Awareness Week last week, I am reflecting on why I write. There are many reasons, including to share stuff I’ve learnt, help others and as a therapy; the latter being very high on the list. Writing about having allergies and ranting occasionally about things that get me irate does really help me process this condition and develop coping mechanisms. I write a journal too which is invaluable when struggling with difficult decisions.

The A Word - Living with allergies and anaphylaxis  #LivingInFear

The A Word – Living with allergies and anaphylaxis #LivingInFear

(apologies for that awful photo, I look slightly odd… it was the best of a bad bunch of awful selfies.)

The main reason I have been thinking about this is because of “The C word”, a film we watched recently based on the blog and book written by an inspiring lady called Lisa Lynch who died from cancer in 2013. Sheridan Smith as Lisa Lynch is absolutely fantastic. Let’s just say I am now feeling very humbled. It is a brilliant film; heart breaking, hard hitting, incredibly moving but mostly very uplifting about one woman’s fight with cancer. It explored how she came to terms with finding a way to cope and accept her diagnosis and terminal prognosis. She was also a brilliant writer and reached out to others with cancer through her blog and helped so many through her outlook and honest portrayal of her journey in her book The C Word.

Blogging about allergies… we’re doing fine

It makes blogging about allergies seem a little pathetic really. Because most of the time I’m absolutely tip top, A OK and completely fine. It is a fact that 99% of people who are at risk of anaphylaxis will never have a fatal reaction. That’s pretty good odds – so even if I make a mistake I’ll probably be OK. I carry adrenaline auto-injectors with me everywhere to use in case I do have an allergic reaction and I don’t let my allergies stop me doing very much.

Many people who I work with don’t even know about this other life I lead. The allergy queen persona. This is partly because I play down my allergies if I can. I would rather not mention them because people’s reactions when you do tell them can be anything but sympathetic and often dismissive so you feel you should have just kept quiet anyway.

But I write about this stuff because it helps me to do so. I also write in the hope that it will help others with the same condition find hope, find support and not feel so alone. Because being one of the 1% of the population with a life threatening allergy can be a lonely and frightening place.

Your comments people are invaluable. Getting a response from someone is just the best. Even if you don’t agree with me I still love hearing what you think. Blogs are all about sharing, exploring and challenging. Sometimes life with allergies and eczema sucks and this blog gives me an outlet to vent, share and reach out to all of you.

I’m not for a moment comparing anaphylaxis to cancer

I am not for one moment comparing anaphylaxis and allergies to cancer; they are two very different diseases. The ‘c’ word, rightly strikes fear into everyone’s heart. Allergies are a bit crap but cancer is a truly horrible disease. Having watched my father-in-law fight bowel cancer and go through chemo and radio therapy, which very nearly finished him off, I know what cancer is like. It sucks the life out of you and the treatment is nothing short of barbaric, but eventually it gave him at least four more fulfilling and happy years with us, for which we were all very grateful.

The Allergy UK Allergy Awareness Week campaign #LivingInFear got you all thinking about what it’s like having life threatening allergies but this is nothing like facing the fear of what a cancer diagnosis means. There is always hope but cancer takes people regardless of what they do, eat, where they go and what risks they take. Cancer often has little to do with lifestyle choices although sometimes negative or poor choices can increase the likelihood.

Of course there are many who believe that clean eating and healthy living can significantly help prevent and even cure cancer but for every positive affirmation of this there are others who have done everything right and still lost that fight.

Staying safe with one or more life threatening allergies however relies heavily on staying safe, making sensible choices, planning ahead and being prepared. We can do quite a lot to maintain our safety and avoid a reaction.

Being born with or developing allergies is also pretty much the luck of the draw and although studies into epigenetics, microbiota, birth, weaning etc. may play a very important part we don’t fully understand how, why or when allergies will strike. Many types of cancer often seem to be random too.

Is there a link between allergies and protection from cancer?

When I started writing this blog I wondered whether there might be a link between having allergies and being at less risk from cancer. I have read before that having allergies could protect someone from certain cancers due to the allergic body expelling or flushing out pathogens, toxins etc. before they can cause a problem. I have also read that having allergies can increase the likelihood of other cancers. As I’m writing this I am wondering whether I am tempting fate even putting these words onto paper – am I being a little smug to assume that I may be protected in some way because I have allergies? Oh the irony if I’ve got this horribly wrong…

Read Allergies: their role in cancer prevention for a review of 463 studies into potentials inverse and positive links. It’s not conclusive but suggest that indeed, having an overactive immune system could indeed be protective against developing certain cancers.

Did anyone else watch the C word film? Any thoughts on whether having allergies may in any way be protective against cancer? or is it all hogwash… Whatever you think we all have our ‘thing’ that we live with, be it depression, alcoholism, drug addiction, struggling with our weight, eczema, allergies, cancer… It’s all about how we choose to live with it that counts.

Something that really stayed with me recently from my father-in-law’s funeral, John Holroyd July 1935 April 2015, it’s that tiny little dash in the middle that counts. The hyphen between the dates of birth and death. We don’t stop and think about that little dash but it’s not insignificant. That hyphen represents everything that happened in a life. Not the length of time or the money you earned or the number of friends you had, it’s how you got there.

Love, live and embrace life people. You only get one chance at this game.

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About Ruth

Ruth works freelance as a copywriter and writes the What Allergy blog to share information with people who have allergies, eczema, asthma and food intolerances. http://www.whatallergy.com was voted in the top 5 allergy blogs and Ruth also judges regularly for the FreeFrom Food Awards and FreeFrom Skincare Awards. She also won the Foods You Can People's choice Best FreeFrom blogger award 2014.

Comments

  1. What a gorgeous post Ruth. Thanks you. Make that hyphen count! x

    • Thank you Rebecca… I didn’t know where this was going when I started writing it but I quite enjoyed making the A. I might actually get my nieces to help me colour it in and use in future blogs. And yes, let’s make the ‘dash’, that little insignificant hyphen count. And maybe not make it quite such a dash either but stop and smell the roses before their petals all fall off. Now I’m getting a bit deep. I need some herbal tea to calm me down.

  2. Thanks for your post Ruth about the possible inverse connection between allergies and cancer. My late father was a noted American immunologist with clients like NASA and Nestle and was published (his textbook for nurses was still available in the UK a few years ago anyway), so he knew his stuff. We talked medicine and the human body a lot. He was a scientist but all his life he also wanted to be a gp. Anyway, years ago it occurred to me that maybe I WAS protected from cancer (most types) due to my typical eye allergies. I think if he were alive he would agree also.

    All my life, til age 51 (see below) I was mostly plagued by itchy eyes come allergy season…..

    I’ve had some minor skin cancers removed (I am a redhead who’s played a lot of tennis so no surprise there) but at 62 remain cancer-free. Also each year I get a mammography and I never have so much as a tiny cyst (and I drink wine each night).

    I also seldom get sick.

    I think my allergies have been mild most of my life due to several factors:

    *We had pets always, particularly cats, though we travelled a great deal
    *I hung out in my Dad’s lab so picked up all kinds of bacteria I’m thinking (then developed a resistance)
    *I was a nailbiter for years due to school stress. I no longer nail bite though. Stopped at 40. So my intake of bacteria has been excessive probably.
    *My Dad, though a microbiologist, never leaned on me to constantly wash my hands, so I didn’t. To this day I rather dislike constantly washing my hands and just feel, except for eating, it’s mostly unnecessary. Years ago I taught myself not to touch my face or eyes though.

    Finally, when I turned 51 and entered menopause I went on bioidentical hormones here in the US. I was probably one of the early ones to decide to do this to “fool” my body into thinking it’s younger. I could go on and on about the benefits of natural, bioidentical hormone therapy, but I won’t except to say after getting on estrogen (patches), progesterone (troches) and testosterone gel I STOPPED HAVING EYE ALLERGIES COMPLETELY. Prior to getting on hormones I had to buy rather expensive eyedrops for fall allergies (I reacted when things died, not as they bloomed).

    Last, you write: “Love, live and embrace life people. You only get one chance at this game.” — After 32+ years of metaphysical research I can say with complete confidence we are reincarnated endlessly til we reach perfection. 8 million lives+, both animal and human, to be exact. lol

    • Hi Ellen, thanks for your lovely comment and what an insight. I do hope your Dad was right and your learnings too. Maybe we are protected from certain horrible cancers because our bodies are so sensitive and any toxins or things it doesn’t like are immediately expelled with sometimes debilitating side effects. I think I would rather suffer the allergy symptoms and whilst it is frustrating, by body rejects most processed foods, even freefrom foods and really doesn’t like main stream gluten free bread so my body is a temple. I too have biten my nails all my life, rarely get ill, never get colds (oh I am so gonna get one now aren’t I?) although can be plagued with ill timed cold sores and cystitus. I can live with and control those.

      I am exhausted thinking of the 8 million lives but I love that thought…

      • The eight million is only the average, for a soul who does his/her own thing. Those that approach masters (Perfect Masters usually or the Avatar) get a spiritual push and usually don’t have to slog thru so much time on this awful planet. See books by and about Meher Baba for more details, especially His “The Discourses”- a slim, four-volume “bible” about why we are here basically (imo).

        Love your blog! Hope I can beat this eczema thing in time. The itching is almost painful!!!!

        Ok, last post, promise!

  3. PS I think a good probiotic is bound to help keep a body cancer-free.

    The ones in the US are getting complicated- probiotics for females, seniors, general-use ones etc. As 70% of our immune system is apparently in our gut it pays to make sure the mix down there is good! I have a good probiotic shipped to me from Nevada on ice with 25 billion cells. There are even food prebiotics that the good bacteria like to eat. I’ve bought those too. What you get in yogurt (probiotics) is just not enough.

    The latest research is showing that serotonin is made in the gut- something that surprised scientists. So in time probiotics will be used to help a bit with weight control and mood imo.

    Candida – too much of it anyway- can exacerbate allergies I think. Can cause skin itching also. Candida is a world-wide problem now and very difficult to get rid of except by tinkering with your microflora in a big way and eating very, very clean/well (which few are willing to do).

    • Too True re the probiotics, I really must get myself some of those… I can feel a blog coming on about which one is best :o)

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this. I also have some allergies, I study in the university and nobody know that about me. I’m at my 2nd year and I just started to make a good circle of friends, so i’m afraid that if i speak about my allergies i will be considered like a “not cool” person.

    • Hi Clive, it’s not great feeling you can’t be truthful with friends for fear of what they might think. I hope, if they are good friends, that they will take in their stride and become people who help keep you safe. None of my good friends judge me or treat me differently because of my allergies, in fact they are all awesome and often stop me making silly mistakes or taking risks. I’d suggest just telling one who you trust and I’m pretty sure they will either know what you’re talking about or ask you more about what that means for you. It can be tough living with allergies so don’t keep it all to yourself. Especially if you carry adrenaline – tell them as they might be able to help you use your injector should have an emergency allergic reaction.

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