I grew up a half mile away from a garbage incinerator (Welcome to Detroit!), so my allergies kinda suck. When commercials refer to “allergy sufferers” trust me, if someone is having an allergy attack, they are suffering. I grew up with asthma, allergy to animals, certain foods, certain medicines, certain chemicals, plants, to the sun, hell, even an allergy to myself. A doctor, trying to point out a “neat trick” to my mother, rubbed a swab inside my cheek and then wiped the swab on my wrist where I promptly broke out into hives.

But I wasn’t alone, all the kids in my neighborhood were going through the same thing until the EPA finally shut the incinerator down in 1993. In additon to the joy that are allergies, I also have other auto-immune issues such as thyroid disease,a  remitting-relapsing form of lupus, and something really crazy called idiopathic urticaria. Basically it means, I have an unidentified trigger for hives. By the way, none of these health issues previously occured in either side of my family.

Am I bitter? Eh, could be, but what would be the point? I wasn’t the only one and honestly, all things considered, I’m just thankful I don’t glow in the dark. However, does this make growing up a very interesting process, particularly if you were an outdoor tomboy like myself. I remember all the pills, the ban on being outdoors in the sun, the inhalers, the antibiotics (hey, it was 25 years ago, they didn’t really know any better), the hospital trips, creams, lotions, the ointments, the bath soaks, the shots, and the cheesecloth on all the grates in the house….ahhhh…good times…..Anything they recommend, my mother tried. She was desperate. Turning me into a voodoo doll in the process was the least of her worries.

So here I am, nearly at the legal age to run for President of the United States and I still have these damn allergies. But I’ve learned a few tricks such as never having carpeting my house, no cloth upholstered furniture either, no draperies, and dust covers on every thing else. I’m down to one allergy med daily. I have an inhaler for only extreme occassions, an epi-pen for even more extreme emergencies, and when nothing else works: my long-time bestest friend in the world: benedryl, sweet, sweet, benedryl-momma’s little coma pill.

I avoid the sun, I avoid homes with cats, I don’t eat any Asian foods in restaurants (can’t trust people not to re-use a pan they cooked shellfish in with cooking my food), I wear hats and long sleeves, I do the bob-and-weave around those who insist on wearing an obscene amount of perfume or cologne, and I don’t clean my house, clothes, or person with antibacterial anything (I learned you gotta have a little dirt and germ in your life for good measure). There’s a lot more by way of avoidances, but you get the idea…

Sounds complicated, I know, sometimes it’s a down right nuisance, particularly to my husband who doesn’t have allergies. But it is second nature at this point and I don’t think about it. It’s just the way I have to live. But I do think about how much easier my life would have been if my family had lived somewhere else. I think about how easier my life would be if I didn’t have these potentially life threatening issues. I think about all the sleepless nights my mother and father had staying up with me when I couldn’t breathe, when I would burn myself by taking scalding hot showers just to make the itching stop, when they had to duct tape mittens on my hands to prevent me from trying to tear my skin off in my sleep.  All those nights in the hospital and all those doctor visits with everyone trying to figure out what the hell they could do to help me.

A lifetime of this because city planners didn’t know the effects of having a garbage incinerator smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood of over five thousand families.

Well, you know what? Now they do.