Currently I resemble, what I imagine to be, a newborn alien. Or as my younger brother would say: Sam Cassell.
If you are fortunate to have never had an allergic reaction in your life then kudos to you. Like many, I walk around in fear that a meal I was about to devour could end up being my last. Add to the fact that some of my allergens are a mystery … well … I just hope the meal would have been worth it.
Three days ago I set out to explore a couple of the “old cities” I had heard much about —Fano and Senigallia. Right off the bat, the journey did not go according to plan. Crazy bus schedules, town hopping and then …
That “last meal” almost came in the form of a crostata.
I did not start having [full on] allergic reactions until my early 20s. It started unexpectedly and would sometimes be triggered by food or drinks that I had previously enjoyed. This, combined with other health complications, encouraged me to change my eating habits and to commit to a healthier lifestyle.
Allergies/allergic reactions affect everyone differently. Mine usually causes me to break out in hives all over my body, have panic attacks and be swollen for a few days. The more severe ones that land me in the hospital are usually due to my tongue and throat swelling — preventing me from breathing properly.
The reaction process may begin right away, or 30 minutes to an hour after.
As mentioned, the morning of the incident was wonky from the jump. I was supposed to catch the 08:50 am bus to the nearest train station and within two hours I would’ve been in either Fano or Senigallia. Well, the bus never showed and so I had to take the 09:20 am going in the opposite direction (because the next bus to where I needed to go was not going to be there until 10:45 am) to the nearest bus terminal in Macerata, 45 minutes away. Upon arriving in Macerata, it turned out that the train station in that area was not nearby and therefore I had to take another bus to the only other town and train station I was very familiar with, Civitanova. By the time I arrived out there, it was 11:15 am and at that point I was famished.
In Civitanova, I stopped at a pasticceria (pastry and cake shop) that I ate at before. A crostata was the obvious choice for me that morning. Whilst on the platform I decided to eat it as I waited. I recall being upset because the jam of the pastry was stuck to the napkins that were in the bag. It delayed the speed in which I ate and caused me to become so frustrated that I only ate half.
That was my first warning sign.
Upon boarding the train to Ancona (I needed to transfer to another train at this stop) I started to feel funny but attributed it to being tired. I suddenly found my self sniffling and sneezing and yet did not make the connection. It wasn’t until I made my final transfer at Ancona that I realized that something was wrong.
My tongue began to itch and I found it hard to swallow my saliva. Once the inside of my palms began to scratch, it truly dawned on me. This was an allergic reaction! I felt a heatwave wash over my neck and face. The soles of my feet were itching, and various parts of my body. I literally felt every single change my body was going through from the inside out.
Fortunately, experience has taught me to always have my EpiPen and Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) on my person.
I did not think it was necessary to use the EpiPen — also I am terrified of stabbing myself. Instead I drank two of the Diphenhydramine. By the time I got to Fano I imagined I was getting better and decided the show must go on.
The part of the city that I did manage to explore was lovely. I found a Nigerian shop that sold plantains and coconut milk! My excitement was short-lived because the metamorphosis commenced once more. A quick selfie revealed the puffing of my eyes. As if I was not embarrassed enough, it happened whilst I was in the shop. They literally witnessed me going through a metamorphosis, á la Jeff Goldblum, whilst purchasing my items.
By some miracle I made that two hours trip back home without collapsing. It could be because I was praying to every known Deity — real and fictional. Also, I did stop to pray inside of a church at one point.
At home, after convincing myself that I did not have to burn my clothes, I prepared for the road to recovery: shower, disinfect everything I had touched since the allergic reaction began, rub down with my Coconut Oil (from Guyana) and call my Mother to complain.
I am not a vain person. Nor am I the prettiest flower in the bunch. Nevertheless, when I look in the mirror, and staring back at me is a face the size of a balloon from Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, that tends to bring my self-esteem down a notch or two.
This is also around the time that the panic attacks and anxiety set in.
What if this is the time that recovery is not an option?
What if I never see the face that I am used to again?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but even Stevie Wonder would pass up this face.
Those were a few of the tamer thoughts.
I am recovering properly and will be back to my usual sarcastically perky self soon.
In the mean time: how is a picky, vegetarian foodie supposed to roam freely with the Allergy Cloud looming above her head?