The Big Smoke

I just looked out my back window. It’s a beautiful veiw. We look out across a valley. There are three ‘layers’ of mountains, with a foreground of trees- framed by the trunks of tall cedars. When I try and paint it, it looks fake because the ‘layers’ of mountains are remarkably even. I live just outside Vancouver, up a valley, relatively high up from the shore. I’ve been feeling worse and worse all day, but I’m dealing with a GI issue (more on that later), so I thought it was that. I had a bit of a rest, and then poked my head out of my window to chat with my daughter and her friend. I REALLY should have looked at the view I before I did that. Hubby came in, saying “What the hell, hon? Why do you have your window open?” I looked out. There was something wrong with the picture. Where did layer three go? And why is the smog blue, but the sky yellow… I was in mid reaction- thinking was a bit slow. “Oh crap! Smoke!”. The window was closed and the air filter cranked up. Rescue meds taken. At least I know why I feel so hideous.

This was August 2015. There are supposed to be mountains there.
Certain times of year, it’s much easier to see all the ‘layers’ of mountains.

I have the joy of having MCAS and ‘typical’ allergies. Pollen, smoke, horses, cats dogs, mammals, grass, mold…- you get the idea. The signaling for sensitivity reactions is very complicated, and there are all sorts of chemical ‘cascades’, positive and negative feedback loops, etc. In me, it means that environmental allergies can trigger MCAS reactions and vice versa. There’s a strong cumulative effect, too. I can often handle individual triggers, but if they start to overlap it can send my body in a nasty downward spiral. Smoke is one of my worst immediate allergy triggers. 

It’s been a rough spring for me. The spring was late, which means that mold and mildew had a longer season. (I live in a rain forest, damp comes with the territory.). There was some glorious weather in june, and the pollen all came out at once. Condensing a pollen season from two months to two days (and yes, I’m exaggerating) has meant that the daily pollen counts were very high. That has since reduced, because we have had one half hour rain in the last month. The trees are all thirsty, and they will wait to bloom until they have more water. It wasn’t too hot, though, and if I was in my bedroom I really was okay. 

May Two Four weekend

May 24 weekend this year was a doozie! (The weekend is a Canadian institution- people go up to open their cottages, or they clear out their garden, build a deck, set up their boat for the summer, etc. It’s supposedly to celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday, but, well, that isnt much fun. The reward  for helping out is to join in cracking open a case of 24 beers. It’s a lame pun, but we cant all be Mike Myers.). I went outside for a bit, the air seemed okay. I can usually tell with one sniff if I can risk not having my mask on. The air ‘tasted’ okay though. It was a bit too hot for me, but not enough to make me feel that bad. Within a few minutes I was spinning, and very woozy. (Note to self- dont go up the outside stairs, go up the ones inside…). It’s rare for me to have a sudden, dramatic anaphylaxis to an environmental trigger, and I couldnt figure out what was up. My triggers are numerous enough to make anything tricky to sort out, but even so, something didn’t make sense. Then Hubby read the news that there had been a fire on the other side of the city. If the wind blows in a very specific direction, that air gets funneled right up the valley where I live. I usually notice smoke, though. It has a strong and distinctive smell. Hubby figured out that the fire was at a recycling depot. The fire was far enough away that the layers of air could have separated by the time they got here. I’m guessing that I got more ‘chemical’ than ‘smoke’. 

The weather report had said it would rain that night, I was looking forward to clearer air. We awoke to the sound of thunder. Im prone to weather headaches, not as bad as some, but my head does not like sudden pressure changes. The clearer air would be worth the headache, I figured. As we lay in bed, slowly waking up, there was VERY loud thunder and lightning. In unison, we said “Huh? That’s sheet lightning thunder, we don’t get that here… weird!” “Jinx!”. (Hubby and I have been together 20 years- new are turning into one of those couples that finish each other’s sentences…). 

Shortly after i woke up and looked out, and i could see smoke curling up. That wasn’t smoke from a fire across the city. It was right THERE. Turns out that lightning had stuck the propane tank of a metal working studio across the valley. Of course, the wind had shifted 180n degrees, and brought that smoke right around here. Thanks, wind. The fire was out within a few hours, but by then a storm was coming ashore. It was wild- and my head was very, very unhappy. 

No rain again.

 Labour Day weekend in 2015 my care went off the rails. (Definitely a story for another day..).  The weather conditions were similar on May 24, less severe, but eerily familiar.  That night in 2015 was traumatic, to say the least, and it was just too close for comfort. It actually triggered a panic attack- the first one I have had in over 10 years. (I’ve had many physicians say I was having a panic attack when it was actually anaphylaxis, but I always know which is which.) Fortunately, that weekend the fire was put out quickly, and a lovely rain came and cleared the air. 

It’s rained twice since then. We are almost at 8 weeks- um, this is supposed to be a rainforest…  Mercifully the pollen counts have gone down, and it hasn’t been unpleasantly hot. I actually sat outside on the deck yesterday for a bit… a very rare event. There are a lot of forest fires in the province, but the prevailing winds usually drift the smoke eastwards towards Alberta. ( i feel for fellow masties who live in Edmonton.) The winds were outflow winds this afternoon though- bringing the smoke from the interior out to the coast- right down our valley. I felt awful this afternoon, I’d caught a whiff, but I thought it was someone cooking. Clearly not… Ive looked at the smoke forecast, and it looks like it will not hang around. Then again, in 2015, the worst smoke was from very local, intentional fires. 

Last week I had to go out twice- once for my port access change, and once to get my potassium and vitamin C infusion. I had pretty bad reactions at both. It’s unusual, though, those two spaces are both well filtered and scent free. Getting there, however, was more than my body could cope with. The last few days were much better, until this afternoon when Hubby came in. My head feels like it is shaped like Stuey on Family Guy… 

Health Update

When you have MCAS, it seems like as soon as one thing is resolved, the next thing crops up. Right now I have a GI Issue, as I mentioned above. It looks like I have a partially obstructed bowel. It’s been slowly getting worse since the winter, and this weekend it boiled over. At the same time, straining made my rectal prolapse return, full force. (It had actually improved significantly with physio and bowel habit changes. Bring on the hypopressives!). On the weekend I couldn’t pass anything, and my belly was so swollen that my shoulders hurt. I’ve had some releif since then, but it’s right on the line of urgent and emergent- I am trying to avoid going out if at all possible. The less I go out, the better I will feel. Going to an ER is the LAST thing I want to do, but I may not have a lot of choice in the matter. We are tying to find a creative solution. 
Both kids have an appointment with their allergist on Wednesday, and I have another iron infusion on Thursday.  My ferritin (a protein attached to iron that is much more accurate than a simple blood test for iron. It’ measures how much iron is available, rather than total numbers) went up to 85 (which is low, but not awful) after my last infusion, in May. It’s back down to 3. That’s really fast- so it may be that whatever is going on in there is actually bleeding, or it could be that I’m just blowing up too many mast cells and malnourished. 

In the meantime, I am getting less and less efficient. Time to post this puppy and go to bed!