Chapter 3: Out with the old, in with the new

Out with the old, in with the new…but “new” just wasn’t right.

2014 was clearly a crazy year for me. Christmas and New Year’s were blips on the radar in comparison to the really exciting thing that came next! I was ready to be renewed and reinvented in 2015. Nothing could go badly for me! I’d seen it all! (You know it’s not going to go well with that kind of opening).

We took a heavenly trip to the south side of Jamaica for a week to the Parish of St. Elizabeth. We stayed at an amazing resort. It was beautiful and something out of a magazine. Actually-it was featured in Sky magazine that very month. We had the most amazing fresh, organic, locally sourced food, so I felt good and safe about adding gluten back in. The food was clearly not processed and was so amazing. I didn’t get sick once. We had fresh cocktails made by hand at the pool bar and began drinking them at lunch time. I did Pilates twice a day and just felt so relaxed upon returning home. It was the first time I felt refreshed and like I didn’t need a vacation from my vacation, since normally our vacations are more adventure-like and busy (always on the go).

Unfortunately, before going to Jamaica, I had battled what felt like was the flu for a few days. I conquered it and got better. It seems I passed it to Daniel, who reaped the consequences of it IN Jamaica. Poor guy: being on a tropical island with a fever is no fun. He conquered it too. Then I got sick again. On the plane ride home, my ear got so clogged I couldn’t hear anything and I felt like my cheek was going to burst. Ouch.

I dealt with it with over the counter meds for a few days with no improvement and started to feel worse. I went to the doctor and he treated me for an ear infection with some pretty strong antibiotics. I then saw an ear, nose, and throat doctor because I was concerned about the ear infection. I have had an ear tube in my R ear for 11 years (yeah you know, one more weird thing right?) and because of that, I should not be getting ear infections, let alone infections that clog me up so bad I’m miserable. She said the infection was healed and promptly removed my ear tube, saying perhaps it had overstayed its welcome. She thought 11 years was too long for me to have a tube and could not believe it when I told her my previous ENT physician said that it could stay in forever, no problem, and I wouldn’t need to worry about it (Interjection-what is it with physicians telling teenage and early 20’s Julie to ignore strange health phenomena? Did they realize how compliant of a patient I am?) She wanted to see if my ear drum could heal without the tube. Note to self: when requesting anesthesia for ear tube placement 11 years ago, I had made a wise decision. Ear tube removal HURTS like hurt you’ve just never felt before.

I was also very worried because I had to fly to the Combined Sections Meeting of the American Physical Therapy Association the next week and didn’t want another episode. I was giving 2 big presentations at the conference and needed to be in tip top shape. No pressure or anything! Pun intended again! Ha! Ear pressure! Get it? Oh man…

The conference followed and was a conglomeration of really high energy and nerdy excitement for 5 straight days with very little sleep and a lot of socializing and eating bad food. I had a hard time staying true to my gluten free diet but I held out until the last night of the conference when Blair and I celebrated the presentation we had given over a fancy steak dinner at Capital Grille. I indulged in their freshly baked bread and we both decompressed from a crazy, pressure-filled week for both of us.

The next morning, I felt astronomically miserably sick. I was so nauseated, had fever and chills, and was sweating profusely as we arrived at the airport. Uh oh. I made a beeline for the bathroom followed by an endless search for ginger ale and bland gluten free breakfast food. Newsflash: this type of food does not exist in airports! By the time I got home, I felt a little better and made a huge pot of grits (one of my favorites).

Over the next few weeks (early-late February), I continued to feel nauseated, some fever and chills, and just overall “spacy” feeling. Recognizing similar feelings from the anxiety/panic episodes of the previous August and from the few encounters I’d had with gluten since going gluten free, I knew just how to manage and really prioritized a lot of things, focused on stress free me time, etc. This was great. But the symptoms did not leave me, and did not seem to be related to anxiety or diet.

In late February, I remember going on a walk with Daniel and telling him about the odd sternal and rib pain and burning and itching I’d been having. I thought it was costochondritis and thoracic/postural strain from all the computer work I’d been doing for the conference a few weeks back. My colleagues helped me treat it with physical therapy, and I would note some improvement. So I thought.

The symptoms began to mimic asthma and/or reflux, so I upped my inhaler doses and began some antacids. They didn’t really improve. I tried a stronger acid blocker and kept up with the inhaler. Still no better. I cut down on coffee and noticed it would really burn in my esophagus every time I drank a sip of red wine, so I cut down on that, too. I recall being on our anniversary trip in early-mid March and thinking I felt weakness with swallowing and a lot of burning and itching in my chest. I thought maybe it was myofascial pain and anxiety, so I just dealt with these things and would note some slight improvement.

By the end of March, it was not improving. For the preceding several weeks, I’d also begun coughing all the time, especially with deep breaths and with talking. Given that I talk and teach deep breathing all day, this was really inconvenient. I began to get a lot of back pain because of the coughing, and would notice urinary leakage with the coughing as well. The wise PT in me knew this was a bad downward spiral I was getting in, so I began to focus on calming the cough and trying to get things under control from a physical standpoint.

One morning in early April, I was feeling nauseated and coughed so much in the morning that it triggered a gag reflex. Oh gosh—do I have a sensitive gag reflex. I was able to suppress it and go about getting ready for work. I was on the way to work, eating some gluten free muffins I had made, when all of a sudden I got very sick. While driving. Fortunately, I was able to avoid making too big of a mess, but this was alarming.

Read on to Chapter 4: Oh hello there, Candida for more on this story!