Tag Archives: mast cells

Mast Cells in M.E.

This month a two day summit was held in America for clinicians working in the field of CFS/M.E. and long-time advocates and ME Doctors David Kaufman, Charles Lapp and Susan Levine all discussed the fact that they are now suspecting mast cell activation as either a cause, effect or perpetrator of the disease – their views are outlined in this piece from Medscape.  Having thought this for five years now I hate to say “I told you so” but……..well…………I told you so 😉

All joking aside, I am as convinced as I can be that mast cells play a role in M.E.  Having followed research on the illness now for a quarter of a century it’s the only theory I have come across that even remotely fits every aspect of the disease as outlined in my Canary post.  And in my world, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, chances are it’s probably a duck.  I may be proved completely wrong, but at the moment with the knowledge we have my feet are firmly in the mast cell camp.

The link to the Medscape article was posted on the ME Association’s Facebook page and seemed to ring a bell with quite a few patients.  They all then, naturally, wanted to get tested for mast cell disease in the hopes they would be cured.  I wish it were that simple.

Although I believe mast cells are implicated in M.E. that does not mean I think M.E. is just another name for Mast Cell Activation Disorder.  MCAD is a distinct disease entity.  You can have MCAD on its own, you can have MCAD alongside other diseases like Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome or M.E., of if you’re unlucky you can have both or in my case all three.  Treating the symptoms of MCAD (there is no cure) will do nothing to help your M.E., at least not in my experience.

If mast cells are implicated in M.E. why doesn’t treating the underlying mast cell disease help?  Good question.  I’m not a Doctor or a Research Scientist and even if I were I probably still wouldn’t know the answer.  MCAD was only discovered as a disease a decade ago and we currently know very little about it.  Treatments are available but they’re crude and even leading Doctors in the MCAD field admit they are limited in the ways they can help.

The focus is often on Histamine in respect of MCAD, but it’s only one of 30 chemical mediators expressed by mast cells so is only a tiny part of the MCAD puzzle.  We currently only have the capability to test for half a dozen of the 30 mediators (and in the UK only have the means to test for a couple), so we have a very long way to go in being able to accurately test for mast cell activation.  Even if excess histamine is found to be present it binds to four receptors in the body (at least, we only currently know about four) and we only have drugs to target two of those receptors (H1 and H2), so if H3 or H4 receptors are implicated in M.E. we can’t currently do anything about that.

Being treated for MCAD probably saved my life, but it had little effect on my M.E. with two notable exceptions.  The horrendous insomnia which has plagued me for the 24 years I’ve been ill was helped dramatically when I no longer had stimulating histamine in my brain, and the back pain from which I’d suffered for 30 odd years improved by about 60%.  But I still have M.E. in all its fluey, achey, brain fogged, POTSy, sore throated, weak muscled, post exertional malaise glory.  It’s a bugger.

It’s hugely difficult to get an official MCAD diagnosis here in Britain and most people end up having to go down the very expensive private route as MCAD still isn’t officially recognized here in the UK so isn’t funded on the NHS.  There are a couple of NHS Consultants who might see you but in practice only if you have severe disease and have classic MCAD symptoms like flushing, hives and a history of anaphylaxis which has been confirmed isn’t due to allergies.  Having received your diagnosis, treatments are limited and in my case the very fact I have MCAD and my mast cells reject drugs on a grand scale means I have anaphylaxis to the tablets needed to treat my anaphylaxis, which would be hilarious if it weren’t so scary.

To anyone reading this who wants to rush out to see an MCAD specialist trust me when I say you’re heading down a difficult and potentially expensive road with no real destination, so think carefully about whether or not you want to spend your energy doing that before you start.  I’m not saying don’t, just that it’s probably not going to help your M.E. so unless you have clear symptoms of MCAD and are debilitated by those it will all be a bit pointless.

Having said all that I’m still hugely excited by the fact that Doctors are picking up on the fact that M.E. and MCAD might be related.  It’s no coincidence that Doctors seeing Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos patients were finding that a large sub-section of those also had MCAD, and it’s no coincidence that many of those also had a diagnosis of M.E.  The hEDS/POTS/ME triangle is well known about in the patient population and the underlying common denominator appears to be mast cell activation.

 

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Christmas roundup

Christmas Eve.  I can’t get my head round that.  It seems like days ago that I had my 50th birthday, not 3 months.  Seriously, a time thief lives in my house 😉

I’ve had a lovely, calm, peaceful week.  Looking back I have no clue what I’ve been doing but it seems to’ve involved eating lots of Pringles and Wine Gums which I’m going to regret when I finally get out of my elastic waist trackie bottoms and into my jeans in the New Year!

I went with my Dad to get the results of the MRI scan he had done on his back.  The good news is there is no stenosis.  The bad news is there are multiple bulging discs which are compressing the nerves, hence the pain and weakness in his legs.  Treatment begins with “conservative management” ie physio to strengthen the muscles.  I can’t see it working because until four months ago when his leg started to give way he walked 6 miles up the fells every week and has done for the past twenty years, so he has the strongest legs of any 80 year old I know.  A few stationary bike exercises are going to be child’s play to my Dad.  But you have to play the game and do what the doctor suggests before he’ll consider referring you on to a specialist.

Both my dog walkers are now on holiday until the new year, which means I have to take Bertie out twice a day.  It’s a killer, even going on my scooter.  I have to get bundled up like I’m going on an expedition to the North Pole, uncover and unchain my scooter, get Bert’s harness and lead on, actually go on the walk, recover and rechain my scooter, get all my kit back off again and wipe Bert’s paws (the mud in my village atm is ridiculous), which takes a good hour for a half hour walk.  And repeat five hours later.  It’s exhausting  and I come back with my brain so foggy I can’t form a thought, not that the mutt cares 😉

Today I am making some mushroom soup and a lemon meringue pie for our Christmas lunch tomorrow.  I gave up doing a huge roast dinner several years ago because neither my Mum nor I are up to it, so we have soup, sanis and a pudding on Xmas day and then go out for our roast dinner on Boxing Day to a lovely restaurant.  It works for us.

I shall leave you with my annual carol, sung to the tune of Once In Royal David’s City.  Whatever your Christmas holds I hope it’s filled with love and laughter 🙂

Once in snowy North West England,
Lived a lonely, country girl
Mast cells that were sorely rampant
histamine that made her hurl
Jak she was that poorly child
M-CAD was that illness vile.

Subluxations sent to try her
Joints all wandering out of place
Splints and braces plus her scooter
helped her join the human race
Jak she was that poorly childmistletoe
E.D.S that illness vile

Monthly torture from her cycle
makes her feel that she is cursed
Menopause that drives her crazy
She’s not sure yet which is worse
Jak she was that poorly child
Endo is an illness vile

Nervous system going bonkers
Pins & needles all the time
She would kill to just get tipsy
she’s allergic to the wine
Jak she was that poorly child
POTS doth make an illness vile

She is tired beyond all reason
Half her life is spent in bed
That Hugh Jackman is her Carer
fantasies just in her head
Jak she is that poorly child
M.E. is an illness vile.

Doctors told her she was crazy
symptoms were all in her head
She just hoped they’d catch her illness
or that they would drop down dead
Jak she was that poorly child
Chronic illness truly vile.

Blood tests showed she’s truly sickly
She had known this all along
Blew a raspberry at the doctors
who all said there’s nothing wrong
Jak she is that poorly child
She has proof now she can smile!

 

Anaemia update

Last Christmas I realized I was feeling ropey and had been feeling extra rubbish for quite some time.  I was dizzy, constantly.  I could be sitting watching TV and all of a sudden the room would lurch to the left and back again, and there were days when every time I moved my head the world tilted on its axis.  I could sleep for 8 hours straight which is unheard of for me and two hours later need to go back to sleep (I’ve never slept during the day no matter how ill I’ve ever been not least because ME has given me horrific insomnia).  My brain was so fuzzy I literally couldn’t form cohesive thoughts and I had exhaustion so profound some days I couldn’t get off the couch.

Of course, all of these are symptoms of my pre-existing conditions but this felt totally different to my normal rubbish-ness and I knew I wasn’t having an M.E. relapse or a mast cell or EDS flare.  No, something else was going on and I instinctively knew it was related to my iron levels particularly as when I had my period I was absolutely poleaxed.

As outlined in my first post on Anaemia back in February I have several risk factors for iron deficiency and, coupled with my peri-menopause and worsening endometriosis, I knew I needed to get my ferritin levels checked.  They unsurprisingly came back at 17 which according to the lab results was right on the bottom rung of ‘normal’ (17-291), though realistically in order to feel well you should have a ferritin level of at least 50 and preferably above 90.  My vitamin D was also considered sub-clinically low, ie outside the normal range.  My GP dismissed anaemia though because my red blood count was fine and basically just fobbed me off, however she wasn’t the one feeling so crap she couldn’t function so I started on some over-the-counter supplements.

My mast cells seem to hate tablets of all descriptions, so my options are limited to liquids and syrups which are few and far between.  In addition, many of the liquid iron preparations such as Floradix contained all sorts of ingredients I didn’t want or need such as apples (to which I’m mildly truly allergic), spinach, nettles and CoQ10.  So I opted for the ‘Get More Vitamin D mango & passionfruit‘ drink and ‘Spatone‘ natural iron water both of which I could have delivered with my groceries from Tesco.

I have about 200ml of the Vitamin D drink each day, which tastes OK but not brilliant, and gives me 80% of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin D.  According to my GP, the lab won’t re-test Vitamin D for 12 months so I’ve no idea whether or not my levels have improved after nearly 10 months of supplementation.

Spatone is a sachet of naturally iron rich water which I take mixed in pear juice (the vitamin C aids absorption of the iron and disguises the awful metallic taste).  Iron supplements are, however, notorious for causing nausea, reflux, constipation or diarrhoea and I must admit after 4 days on Spatone I felt sick 24/7 and had awful colic-like stomach pain.  So I had a break for a week, then re-started the sachets but just taking a teaspoon per day and gradually working up to a full sachet.  This worked fine and I had no side-effects whatsoever 🙂

Within a week of starting Spatone my dizziness almost disappeared and I did feel a bit less tired which was great, but unfortunately for me the effects haven’t lasted.  By September I was starting to feel battered by exhaustion again, wanted to sleep for England, was as white as a sheet and feeling constantly dizzy.  In addition I seem to have developed tinnitus, which is a constant low level high pitched ringing hiss in my ears, and I’ve noticed a change in my toe nails (but not my finger nails!).  One of my toe nails has split and despite the nail continuing to grow it just keeps splitting in the same place, while the other nails have started to flatten at the ends.  Spoon shaped nails are a sign of anaemia, but when you Google images you only see horrendous photos at the severe end of the spectrum which bear no resemblance to my mildly flattened nails.  So here’s a couple of pictures of what’s happening for me:


I doubled my dose of Spatone but it didn’t help.  In fact, my symptoms continued to get worse so I rang my GP again, who tried to fob me off by saying that as I already have ME the peri-menopause is going to knock me about, but I tried calmly to explain that I know what ME feels like and this is completely different.  I insisted I wanted my bloods done again, in particular my ferritin and thyroid, although I’m sure my thyroid is fine as I’m not cold and have had no weight loss or gain issues other than that expected of going through The Change.  The first appointment for a blood draw I could get isn’t until 7th December (!), then of course it has to be sent to the lab, analysed and the results sent back to my GP by which time it will be sodding Christmas and everything will grind to a halt until January when it will be so busy getting another appointment with my GP to discuss the results will be impossible.  So I’m now trying to find a different liquid iron supplement to take but am so far struggling.  The thought of feeling this awful for at least the next several weeks, and in particular over Christmas, is pretty depressing.

When you have a chronic disease doctors do tend to put every single symptom you have down to that and it’s often a fight to get them to investigate new symptoms.  But investigate them you must, because it’s been my experience that all the new symptoms I’ve developed over the years have been down to hitherto unknown diseases and were nothing to do with my pre-existing M.E.  In particular, trying to get my chronic pain recognized was a mare because all the doctors I saw simply put it down to part of parcel of M.E. or tried to diagnose me with Fibromyalgia when I knew it was something else, which of course turned out to be Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.  Then my stomach issues were put down to my EDS, when they turned out to be Mast Cell Disease.  And now my rubbish-ness is being put down to the peri-menopause or my M.E. when it’s going to turn out to be anaemia or at the least iron deficiency.

It’s so hard to fight the medical profession for treatment when you are this exhausted and there are days I feel like putting up and shutting up, but unfortunately that’s not an option when I am so floored I can barely get through the day.  So I shall keep on plugging away until I find out what’s actually going on and come up with a solution.

 

 

 

 

The Disease Trilogy

Well, it’s actually a disease quadriology but that didn’t sound quite as good 😉  What on earth am I rabbiting on about now you ask yourself?  Good question, and one I ask often lol!  I’m talking about:

MCAD, hEDS, POTS & M.E. 

which we now know, in some patients, have a bad habit of occurring together.

Mast Cell Activation Disorder/Syndrome (MCAD/MCAS) is a fairly rare disease, although not as rare as previously thought.  There are no statistics available, but mast cell disease is estimated to affect roughly 1 in 2000 people.  When the patient has hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, however, this shoots up to an estimated 1 in 10.  There is obviously something about having hEDS which affects our mast cells in a way that isn’t seen in the rest of the population, which is why I can get arsy about non-EDS patients talking about ‘curing’ or treating MCAD like it applies to everyone – their disease pathway is not the same as my disease pathway.  This is important.

We don’t yet know why people with hEDS are massively more at risk of also having MCAD, but Professor Anne Maitland (Immunologist specializing in hEDS +MCAD) has the following theory: mast cells live in connective tissue.  In hEDS the connective tissue is faulty and in some patients this leads to incorrect messages being sent to the mast cells, making them behave inappropriately.  Dr Maitland is brilliant and in 2016 did a free webinar on hEDS and mast cell disease which is well worth a listen.

On the flip side, MCAD can affect our collagen and make it more stretchy.  I’ve had people comment on my blog that treating their MCAD has ‘cured’ their hEDS and, while I’m happy for them, they are mistaken.  hEDS is much more than having flexible joints so if that’s the only symptom you have you didn’t have hEDS in the first place.  You had lax ligaments as a symptom of MCAD, so treating your mast cells will have had a beneficial impact on your over-bendy joints.

To clarify: in patients with MCAD minus hEDS, misbehaving mast cells make otherwise normal collagen faulty.  In patients with MCAD plus hEDS, faulty collagen makes otherwise normal mast cells misbehave.  So in the first instance, the mast cells are driving the disease, whereas in the second instance the collagen is driving the disease.   In those patients without hEDS, if you can get the mast cells under control the collagen should improve.  But in patients with hEDS there is no effective treatment for the underlying collagen disorder, and without that the mast cells are going to remain overactive.  Yes, hEDS patients can still take mast cell stabilizing drugs but although that may help to control the overactive mast cells it won’t ‘cure’ MCAD, because the mast cells are being driven by faulty collagen for which there is as yet no effective treatment.   I hope that makes sense because I’m ridiculously brain fogged today!

There is increasing recognition amongst doctors in the know that POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome) can go hand in hand with MCAD and hEDS and in 2015 a small research study was carried out by Dr Vadas on this very subject.  An estimated 80% of hEDS patients will have POTS and an estimated 1 in 10 of those will also have MCAD, so it’s not an insignificant issue.  Quite why some people have all three diseases no-one knows, but it is a subject a small handful of Doctors are thankfully looking into.  I personally don’t have POTS (ie an increased heart rate when I stand) but I do have Orthostatic Intolerance whereby standing and even sitting for any length of time makes me feel ill, faint, weak and very mentally confused.  There is a good article on both POTS and OI here.

What’s being left out of the current research is the link between hEDS, POTS, MCAD and M.E.  “Chronic fatigue” is talked about but chronic fatigue is not M.E. (although I appreciate M.E. is called CFS in the States).  Most people with M.E. have orthostatic intolerance or POTS – it’s a characteristic of the disease.  And, as my readers know, I think M.E. is a type of mast cell disease.  My reasons for thinking this are:

  • M.E. follows a viral infection.  Mast cells can be chronically activated by viruses.
  • M.E. has many hallmark symptoms of MCAD, in particular fatigue (mast cells affect the mitochondria), brain fog, problems with cognition, sense hyper-reactivity (ie light, sound, touch) and we now know that the sensory part of our brain called the Diancephalon contains mast cells, ‘allergies’ (the more severe the M.E. the more allergic-type symptoms such as reactions to smells, pollens, chemicals, drugs, foods), muscle twitching/dystonia (mast cells affect smooth muscle contraction), IBS-like symptoms (our GI tract is packed with mast cells), pain (mast cells live next to sensory nerves), sleep disturbance (mast cells affect the sleep/wake cycle).
  • Worsening symptoms at menstruation and menopause (mast cells react to hormones),
  • Improvement during pregnancy.
  • Improvement in symptoms have been seen in some M.E. patients when taking high dose Vitamin C or Tricyclic antidepressants (both are used to treat MCAD).
  • Recent research has shown the drug Rituximab can help in M.E.  A similar cancer drug has been found to be helpful in treating MCAD.  Both drugs work on b cells.
  • Stress worsens M.E. (mast cells live close to nerves, in particular the nerves which release corticotropin-releasing hormone (or CRH). CRH is a hormone which is released in the ‘flight or fight’ reaction when the body is under stress).
  • See more about M.E. and mast cells in my Canary post.

There is a recognized subset of M.E. patients who also have hEDS, and nearly all have either OI or POTS.  In addition, there is not a single one of my many moderate/severe M.E. friends who don’t have some kind of allergy, whether it be asthma, gut issues, food intolerance, drug or chemical intolerance and none of us can tolerate alcohol.  This, alongside the symptoms listed above, scream Mast Cell Disease to me and I wish it were something researchers would look into.  Even if they just tested for mast cell mediators in severe M.E. patients it would be a start and I’d be very interested in the results.

The good news is that things have come on a long way in just the 7 years I’ve been diagnosed with hEDS and there is increasing recognition that collagen disorders, dysautonomia, mast cell disease and M.E. are in some way linked, at least in a subset of people.  This hasn’t filtered down to your average Consultant or GP, so please don’t expect your local hospital or doctor’s surgery to know anything it, but for those health professionals specializing in either MCAD or hEDS they are definitely aware of the link (even my local Rheumatologist knew that hEDS patients often present with MCAD, so if the knowledge has made it to the wilds of the lake district there is hope for everyone 😉 ).

 

 

 

Confused.com

I’ve never claimed to have any answers to my, or anyone else’s, health problems and freely admit I just muddle along with the rest of you in the land of The Confused.  And there is no more confusing a world than that of histamine, as I’m sure many of my readers have discovered.

Having said all that, I’ve been diagnosed with both Histamine Intolerance (HIT) and Mast Cell Activation Disorder (MCAD) for 4 years now and have learned and made discoveries along the way so thought I’d share this knowledge, for what it’s worth, with you.

When I was first diagnosed I knew I had to start an elimination diet because I was having anaphylaxis every time I ate.  Naively I just thought there’d be a foolproof diet online that I could follow and all would be well.  Oh, if only it were that simple!  I did, indeed, find diets online that claimed to be ‘low histamine’ and I followed Dr Joneja’s because she seemed like an expert and the diet was comprehensive………but it was a nightmare.  As a pesco-vegetarian it cut out all the foods I’d lived on all my life and didn’t tell me what to substitute the excluded foods with.  Having been sick with M.E., which decimates your digestion, for years before my mast cells exploded I knew that lack of good nutrition causes as many issues as exclusion diets solve, so I instinctively realized that simply cutting out so-called “high histamine” foods without substituting foods with equal nutritional value would be disastrous.  Bearing that in mind, I set about trying to find alternatives, eg I cut out tinned, chopped, tomatoes in recipes but substituted them with a home-made red pepper sauce.  I cut out Cheddar Cheese, but substituted with Mozzarella cheese.  I cut out fresh fish, but substituted with frozen fish which I discovered was gutted and frozen on-board the ship thereby reducing its histamine load.  I cut out spinach, but substituted lamb’s lettuce.  And so on.  It took about a year but I finally came up with a diet which was still balanced and nutritious but low in histamine (or so I thought!).

This is what I learned: if you exclude a food, try to substitute it with a food of equal nutritional value. 

After 4 months on a ‘low-histamine’ diet I stopped having anaphylaxis every time I put food in my mouth and the relief was enormous.  But many of my symptoms were still present, eg. hives, insomnia, itchy skin, nausea etc.  It took a while to work out what was going on, but I discovered that mast cells react to all sorts of things, not just what we eat, and that realistically I was going to have issues for the rest of my life.  In particular I was in my mid-forties and had begun peri-menopause and I learned that hormones have a massive impact on mast cells.  There was nothing I could do about the situation and 4 years down the line I’m still suffering the effects of wildly fluctuating menopausal hormones on my histamine load.  In addition, I react badly to stress (which with 2 sick aging parents to look after can be unavoidable), extremes of temperatures, my dog, some pollens and simply doing too much and getting too tired.

What I learned: I could not manage my MCAD using food alone.

My next big revelation was that all of the advice on low-histamine foods online seemed to contradict each other.  It took a lonnnng time to figure out why, but eventually I discovered that no-one was testing food for its histamine content and that all the lists online were based on nothing but guesswork.  I was devastated by this revelation and everything I thought I’d learned about food and histamine came crashing down round my ears.  It was then I really started to look at where the information online was coming from and wrote my ‘Histamine in Food: the Evidence’ page.  Even popular histamine writer The Low Histamine Chef can’t find a lab that will test for histamine in foods and with all her connections if she can’t find proper info on the histamine content in foods it doesn’t exist.  That doesn’t stop people occasionally coming on my blog and telling me I’m talking crap and that this food or that food is high or low in histamine, not realizing that far from me being wrong, they are wrong and when I ask them to back their claims up with hard data they never can.  Bearing this in mind, and finding sticking to a rigid low histamine diet really difficult, I started to experiment with re-introducing certain foods.  I still exclude foods which I know have been properly tested and found to be high in histamine, eg. hard cheese, aubergienes, tinned fish, soya but now eat normal yeasted bread, beans and pulses (including red kidney beans as there is not a scrap of evidence they are high in histamine), and my symptoms are no worse than before.  Having said all that, my re-introduction of chocolate was a disaster and definitely increased my histamine load, so it is still forbidden *sob*.

What I learned: only a handful of foods have been tested for their histamine content.  We have no clue whether most fruits or veg are high histamine.  So-called low histamine diets are far too rigid and unnecessarily cut out highly nutritious foods.

My next big revelation came from my lovely readers, who would write and say that although I might be tolerating lentils, or wheat, they reacted to them.  This totally threw me, so again I researched what might be going on and discovered that we are all simply individual and will react differently to our friends.  In addition, just because we’re reacting to a food doesn’t mean it’s because it’s high in histamine.  You might also have a problem with nightshades, fructose, gluten, lactose, salicylates or any number of other components in foods, whereas I might not.  This is why I don’t give advice on my blog.  For a start I’m not qualified to, secondly I don’t know you and thirdly we are all so different that it would be totally pointless in any event because what works for me might not work for you.

What I learned: we are all individual and our mast cells react differently other people’s.

When I was first diagnosed I read everything I could about MCAD………..and found that much of it was totally contradictory to my own experience.  For example, on Yasmina’s Healing Histamine website is this post about Melatonin and how research has shown that it counter-balances histamine.  I’ve had horrendous insomnia because of my illnesses and years ago tried a Melatonin supplement, which gave me one of the worst mast cell reactions I’ve ever experienced.  Wondering why, I had my melatonin level checked by a lab and discovered it was  actually far higher at 3am than a healthy person’s, despite the fact I was wide awake!  So melatonin doesn’t appear to be reducing my histamine levels, which flies in the face of this research.  The research does say, though, that mast cells produce melatonin which makes more sense – my mast cells were rampant and this would obviously mean a high melatonin output, but in my case this wasn’t a good thing!  Some of the histamine writers online are treated a bit like God and their every word taken as Gospel, but trust me when I say if Dr Afrin doesn’t have the answers yet no-one else does either.

What I learned: don’t believe everything you read.

My experience with MCAD is that it is a highly fluctuating condition, which changes over time.  For example, when I was severely ill with M.E. (which as my readers know I think is some kind of mast cell disease) I was highly sensitive to chemicals, eg. I couldn’t bear to read a newspaper because the ink used in the printing gave me asthma-type symptoms.  I couldn’t tolerate normal paints, hairspray, perfume, bleach and any number of other substances.  However, as my M.E. started to improve my chemical reactions also improved and now I don’t have any problems with smells.  My drug reactions started off fairly minor, with me reacting to just the odd medication, but over the years this has gotten worse and worse to the point where I have anaphylaxis to just about all drugs.  To make matters worse, I can start off tolerating a drug really well but 12 months, or 6 years, or 20 years down the line suddenly have anaphylaxis to it and be unable to take it ever again.

What I learned: things can change, for the good or the bad.

When I was diagnosed with MCAD I thought there would be information out there in cyberspace that would have all the answers and it came as a huge shock to discover that that information simply doesn’t exist.  This is a new area of medicine and even leading Doctors in the field are still finding their way around the complexity of mast cells and the havoc the chemicals they release (like histamine & prostaglandins) play on our bodies.  If the experts don’t have the answers yet, no-one else does.  Not me and not other bloggers or writers, and if they pretend they do they’re fibbing.  Much of the research cited online is conducted on animals or in a lab, and this often doesn’t translate to human beings.  We are decades away from any real understanding of mast cell disease and when it does happen you can bet your life the answer won’t lie in whether or not you eat Pak Choi on a regular basis!  There are diets which may help, but absolutely won’t cure you.  There are drugs you can take which might help, but won’t cure you.  There are supplements you can take which might help, but won’t cure you.  There are ways you can live your life which might reduce symptoms, but again won’t cure you.  And that’s because MCAD is currently a chronic, incurable disease.  Sorry to be the bearer of bad news 😦

What I learned: MCAD may, or may not, be manageable but certainly isn’t currently curable.

My journey with mast cell disease is ongoing, but I’ve learned a fair bit over the past few years.  You’d think this would make me more knowledgeable, but in fact it’s been the opposite and there are days I feel more confused than ever!  My biggest revelation has been that we are all basically in the dark……Doctors, Researchers and Patients………because our knowledge of MCAD is in its infancy and, much as we’d all like it to be different, no-one really has the answers to our questions yet.  Which makes me feel kind’ve adrift and alone and scared.  But I’ve had M.E. for 2 decades too and no-one knows anything about that either and I’ve survived….just.

Weekly roundup

I have my period, so I feel like a limp dishcloth.  I am grateful, however, that so far it has not been excruciatingly painful and I have still been able to function.  Funny how, when you’re chronically ill, the things that make you grateful change!

Monday my Scooter was carted off to the shop.  It’s been cutting out on me and despite two engineer’s visits he hasn’t been able to fix it, so it was taken to his workshop for diagnostics.  The accelerator was on its way out, so it’s been given a new one and is now working fine.  I am £80 lighter, however, which I didn’t need considering it’s Christmas and I now only have £21 left in my bank account to last me til January.

Tuesday I had another counselling session.  It’s only my third one but to be honest I’m not sure how helpful it’s going to be.  Yes it’s nice to offload on to someone, but I really don’t think we’re coming up with any solutions.

I spent most of Thursday and Saturday cooking.  I want to make loads of meals, smoothies and treats and freeze them, so that I can have a break from cooking over Christmas.

My cleaner has now been diagnosed with a slipped disc, so will be off until at least the new year.  I know she can’t help it, but I really didn’t need my help to be AWOL at this very busy time of the year, when I’ve had a virus, a sprained wrist and am so exhausted I’m on my last legs.  There’s no way I’m going to get another cleaner 2 weeks before Christmas, so I’ll have to do it the best I can myself for another month then advertise for someone else.  By January she will have been off for 3 months which is no good to me, so she doesn’t know it yet but I am going to have to let her go.   If I get another cleaner that will be my fourth in 12 months.  Getting reliable help is a fucking nightmare and really stressful.  Not only that, but these people are in my home and I have to keep starting from scratch building up a relationship with them.

This week has felt like a bit of a drudge.  I seem to have just done chores and had no fun.  My Christmas stay-cation can’t come soon enough.  I’m ready to relax, read some books, watch some telly and have a bit of me time (inbetween taking the dog out twice a day as my dog walker is off, feeding myself and keeping on top of the housework!).  Let’s face it, what I really need is a month on a tropical island with my own chef and butler, although knowing my luck I’d end up with Malaria 😉

 

Weekly roundup

As we’re now in December I turned my Christmas lights on this week.  I don’t usually have any outside lights, as I don’t have the energy to put them up or take them down, but I spotted a cheap pre-lit Cherry tree in B&M which just had to be plugged in and couldn’t resist buying it.  It looks similar to this and is really pretty in my miniscule front garden:


My cleaner is still off sick and has no idea when she’ll be back at work.  I have to ask myself how long I can leave the situation before letting her go and finding someone else (good luck with that in December Jak!).  The thing with backs is that once they’ve been damaged they tend to never be the same again, so how will she cope with a very physically demanding job?  In my last Weekly Roundup I mentioned that I find cleaning the car myself almost impossible and one of my lovely readers asked me why on earth I need to wash the car.  I don’t wash the outside, I go through a drive-in, but when you live in the countryside and own a dog this is the reason you need the inside regularly cleaned 😉

Bertie regularly has half a forest stuck in his fur then shakes himself and the mud splattered up the car door took 3 goes with a scrubbing brush to get off!  More than anything, the smell of wet muddy dog is enough to knock you sideways!

I was in tears on Tuesday and it takes a lot to make me cry.  You’ve all heard me complain about the sodding dog on the farm next door barking at all hours of the day and night, but it’s not the dog’s fault.  It’s treated appallingly, not given any attention or affection, and left on its own for hours on end.  In 2014 I reported the owner to the RSPCA for tying the dog’s muzzle with wire – it was nipping the heels of the cows it was herding so its muzzle was taped shut.  The problem is, dogs don’t sweat like we do and have to pant to cool down.  In addition, one of its front paws was being put through its collar and it was being made to hobble around on 3 legs.  The RSPCA inspector visited them and the farmer pleaded ignorance saying he had no idea this was abusing the dog (is he having a fucking laugh?!).  That was 2 years ago and the dog is still regularly having its leg put through its collar for reasons I can’t work out.  If it’s to stop it running off it’s not working, because this week I found it hobbling ¼ of a mile up the village.  I was furious and called the dog over to me, took a photo for evidence, then undid its collar and freed its leg.  I then, once again, reported the cruelty to the RSPCA.  The dog is abused on a daily basis – I’ve seen it kicked, hit and strangled.   A beautiful Border Collie, highly intelligent and extremely affectionate.  I came home and bawled my eyes out, imagining someone treating my beloved Bert that way.  I’ll let you know what the outcome is – at least this time the farmer can’t plead ignorance as he was told in 2014 that this treatment of the dog is cruel.

Another lovely reader wrote in and told me that the C5 programme I mentioned this week is now available on Catch up here for anyone in the UK who missed it.

I had a bit of a mishap on Thursday.  At 9pm I went downstairs to turn all the lights off, missed my footing and fell down my wooden staircase.  My wrist is proper sore and still bandaged up (don’t panic, it’s not broken just sprained).  Ouch!  Although I didn’t actually say “ouch” at the time.  No, the air was blue with goddamn-motherfucking-swear-words.  The worst of it all was that in trying to save myself I ripped the pretty Christmas garland wrapped round the bannister off and broke it.  Bugger!

In this situation, the first thing I did was slap on some Arnica cream to help with the bruising, then a compression bandage to help with the swelling.  You’re supposed to ice these kinds of injuries but it was late and I was ready for bed so I didn’t bother.  The weird part was that the next day other parts of my body were itching like mad.  I just thought I was producing histamine in response to the trauma of the accident, so went about my day as usual.  It was only when I got undressed to get in the bath that night that I realized the parts of my body that were itching were actually injured!  I’d bruised my hip and taken the skin off various other areas.  Bizarre that I didn’t feel pain.  The injury sites itched instead, which is a peculiar response to being hurt.  My wrist doesn’t itch though.  No, it hurts like a son-of-a-bloody-bitch 😉

As Christmas is heading for us like a runaway horse, look out for a post this week on how I survive the holidays.  I used to try and do Christmas like a healthy person, then relapse and be in bed til March.  Something had to give and several years ago I put my foot down and said enough is enough.  We still celebrate but it’s no longer stressful or exhausting and doesn’t culminate with me ending up in a coma.