Living with this condition has been a challenging journey for me, and I have faced numerous frightening moments due to my reactions, leading to a significant sense of discomfort and fear throughout my life.
My life has been a constant battle with my own body. At the age of 5, I started experiencing skin reactions to everyday things like lotion and soap. It seemed harmless at first, but as I got older, my condition worsened. Makeup, bubble bath, sweat, and even tears would result in painful hives all over my body. By the time I was 15, the pain had spread to my muscles, joints, and bones. My face and joints would become inflamed, and I started experiencing severe gastrointestinal issues. I was constantly in pain, and every day was a struggle just to get through. At 17, I started experiencing anaphylaxis from unknown triggers. It was terrifying not knowing what would set it off, and I lived in constant fear of having a reaction. It wasn't long before I was being hospitalized several times a month. At 19, I started experiencing anaphylaxis from perfume. Something that most people use every day without a second thought could send me into a life threatening state. It was a wake-up call, and I knew I needed to get to the bottom of what was going on with my body.
It took 7 years of seeing various specialists, including a gastroenterologist, allergist, rheumatologist, neurologist, respiratory specialist, and three cardiologists, to finally receive a diagnosis of MCAS from the allergist after undergoing blood and urine tests to rule out other potential conditions. This diagnosis brought a lot of meaning to my life as it finally provided answers to all the struggles I had faced in the past. It also served as proof that my condition was genuine and not a product of my anxiety, as I had previously been told by other doctors. In late 2022, after receiving my diagnosis, I was finally able to begin taking medications and undergo treatments to control my symptoms.
In addition to MCAS, I had previously been diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), asthma, anxiety and panic attacks, depression, and an autoimmune disorder. When I was younger and seeking a diagnosis, many doctors dismissed my concerns and spoke only to my parents instead of me. Advocating for myself and pushing for proper testing took a great deal of courage. It's frustrating that some people don't realize that even on my best days, I'm not operating at full capacity, but I always strive to do my best.
I am currently prescribed Monteleukast, Cetirizine, and Blexen to alleviate the severity of my MCAS symptoms. In addition, I am collaborating with a dermatologist to receive monthly Xolair injections that will also mitigate my reactions. Despite the fact that these medications and precautions have made my symptoms manageable, it is still a challenge to live a normal life when a severe reaction could be life-threatening. I recall a time when I could leave my house with just my phone without any worries about reactions, but now, I have to carry two epi-pens and antihistamines with me every time I step out.
Even though I am relieved to finally have a diagnosis, living with MCAS is still a daily struggle. I have to be incredibly careful with what I eat and what I come into contact with, constantly researching and monitoring everything around me. I carry multiple EpiPens with me at all times, and have had to give myself epinephrine injections more times than I'd like to admit. The unpredictability of my symptoms makes it difficult to plan anything, and I often have to cancel plans last minute due to a flare-up.
It's hard not to feel like a burden on others, or like I'm missing out on experiences because of my limitations. But I have learned to be kind to myself and to prioritise my health and well-being.
Living with MCAS has also affected my mental health. I have gone through periods of depression and anxiety, feeling overwhelmed and isolated by my condition. I am grateful for the support of my family and friends, who have been there for me every step of the way. Their understanding and patience has helped me through some of my darkest moments. And although living with MCAS is an everyday challenge, I am determined to not let it define me or hold me back from living a fulfilling life.
Living with MCAS has significantly impacted both my professional and personal life, which has had a detrimental effect on my mental health. The fear of having a reaction has made leaving the house an anxiety-inducing experience. Socializing with friends and attending events can be incredibly risky due to the potential triggers. I am always apprehensive about putting myself in situations where my life could be at risk without anyone nearby who can help me reach a hospital. In the past, I have even had to call paramedics myself while experiencing a reaction.
Discovering the online community of Mast Cell Action was a pivotal moment for me. It helped me understand that I am not alone in my struggles, and that there are others who can relate to what I am going through. My current objective is to connect with other individuals who are facing similar challenges, and to spread awareness about this condition by sharing my own experiences. I hope to help others discover the incredible support networks that I have found. Living with a chronic illness is difficult, but I want to let people know that there is a community out there ready to offer support.
I am thankful to have discovered Mast Cell Action, as this organization has aided me in accepting my condition and has provided me with continuous learning opportunities to expand my knowledge about it
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