My 35th came and went, and for the first time in my life, I was truly sorry that I was able to drink. Prednisone and the other drugs I was taking weren't exactly compatible with conception, and we were forced to stop trying as soon as I was diagnosed.
In my weakest moments, I wondered if the only thing worse than being incessantly asked when you’re going to have kids is when people finally stop asking.
Hey, I told my husband. Instead of creating life, look what we got instead! Let’s call her Angie. Neither of us really laughed at that.
When I asked my doctors whether my miscarriage could be responsible for the angioedema and hives, (or my cats, or gluten, or a recent trip abroad) I got the same answer from all of them: It's a waste of time trying to figure it out. A needle in a haystack.
Their plan was not to heal my body through the determination and eradication of the root cause, but to suppress the symptoms using medications, indefinitely. Of course, this is nothing new. It is the way that Western allopathic medicine has, for years, dealt with rare or difficult-to-diagnose disease.
To be fair, no two people who have idiopathic angioedema will react to medications the same way, so it is a very difficult disease to treat. It is an entirely personalized experience, and because of that, doctors are forced to rely on a one-size-fits-all-until-it-doesn't protocol for treating the symptoms. Antihistamines, H1/H2 blockers, leukotriene modifiers, and if those don't work, immunosuppressants and other hard-core drugs. For the patient, it is a constant cost-benefit analysis. Some of the meds can cause severe liver or kidney problems, and one even carries a black box warning of possible anaphylaxis upon injection.
For four months, I was on a moderate dose of the steroid prednisone along with a slew of other drugs. Don’t get me wrong—sometimes these medications are necessary. When my lips, tongue, and throat were swelling, they were most definitely life-saving. And certainly for other conditions, they are an absolute must. But how much is too much? And in my case, since the symptoms came on so suddenly, wasn't there some value in searching for the root cause?
The drugs have also had unforgiving side effects—hair loss, depression, foggy thinking, weight gain, dizziness, and sudden drops in blood pressure that have caused me to faint more than once. Still, I'll admit that I'll take those over the throat swelling any day.
Despite my doctors' best intentions, I'd realized they had little time or interest in digressing from the drug-heavy treatment plans they were trained to provide. I could feel some of their suppressed eye-rolls when I asked about natural remedies. "I don't listen to anything that isn't backed by double-blind studies and scientific data," was a sentiment I heard more than once.