“I CAN’T SEE!”
In 2013 I lived in the mountains of Idaho, and I ran a small resort there. In late summer of 2012, and again in August 2013, we had massive forest fires, with so much smoke that folks had to wear masks to breathe. I’m an avid fisherman & enthusiastic though somewhat unsuccessful hunter. I’m also a photographer, wildlife mostly, though I’ll do weddings for friends. Around late Sept. & early Oct. of 2013, I began breaking out in hives-generally after being outdoors. In spring 2014, I finally went to the doctor in an attempt to find out what was causing this allergic reaction.
I was tested for allergies to everything out there…sage, buckbrush, pine, fir, etc. with zero results. Doc figured it might be the sun, and I took precautions, so I wouldn’t hurt. I was given a steroid treatment in order to slow it down. I began to swell, what I now understand as dactylitis, though it was not restricted to my extremities. I began to swell when clothing caused pressure on my skin, if I drank alcohol, arch supports in shoes…sex.
We began to consider that it might be related to the last fire-structures were burned in that one, causing the smoke to be a bit more toxic…but we had no proof, and it was SO random. I’d be bad for weeks, then okay for a stretch.
My job was super stressful in summer, I would work for 3-4 months with only a day off a month to go get food and return to the mountain. A 100 mile round trip. Basically a 24-7 job. Aside from the “hives” I was in great shape, could hike 10 miles a day easy, clean 15 rooms, juggle weddings, events, and lots of campers & motel guests. I worked out regularly in winter, snowshoed and spent spring & fall hiking & fishing. I would go visit my grandkids in May & August for about 3 days each. At 55, I considered myself healthy & energetic…
In Spring of 2016, I was visiting my son, his wife & my grandkids~that visit, my other kids showed up too! A whole family gathering. Pretty awesome, since I was headed into the dreaded 3-4 months of nonstop work…
I spent it on the couch.
My eyes were itching & burning. My daughter-in-law worked for an eye doc, so she called & asked what to do. She said cool cloth & some eye drops for dry-eye. So I did. I drove the 300 miles home with my eyes dry as a bone. Ouch.
That summer, I began having extreme liquid coming from my eyes. I began to see halos of rainbows around lights, and my eyes were SO itchy and achy. The light caused EXTREME pain…I couldn’t wear my contacts, and without them, I could see shapes, and color.
That is all.
But…I still had a job to do. 3 pairs of reading glasses in order to clean rooms, (I had a reputation for “the cleanest rooms in Idaho”, and I wasn’t gonna let it suffer!). I couldn’t take a picture of anything…OH CRAP, I had a wedding to shoot in October…I was committed.
I COULDN’T SEE…
My first day off in August, (the 28th lol) I went to my GP, & she did a rheumatoid panel, she didn’t see a lot, but she set me up with a rheumatologist in Boise. (100 miles-one way) I couldn’t see to go there, so I made an appt. at my eye doc, (in our local town) who promptly went into a tizzy, shoved some medication in me & had me get a ride to a glaucoma specialist in Boise. Doc said I had uveitis. 58 lbs of pressure in my left eye, and 54 in my right. He gave me eye drops, which relieved my symptoms greatly.
I visited the rheumy, (the next week) who took lots of blood & came up with zero diagnosis. (probably all in my head) And the eye doc later the same day. He asked me if I had been having certain symptoms, and I said yeah.
My next visit to the rheumy (2 weeks later) I was told by the PA that I had Psoriatic Arthritis. She said that “we didn’t have any diagnosis until after talking to my eye doctor.” At which point, she had ultrasounds done on my hands and feet, proclaimed that I had pain there, (which I did not) and said they wanted me to go on Humira.
She actually became quite annoyed, and we somewhat email-argued about it. I went back to my GP, got a referral to another Rheumy, and started to work on a plan there. (which was basically to keep going to my GP & eye doc until I felt that my quality of life warranted a biologic.)
I see my GP regularly, and there’s more to my story, but I’ll save that for another post…
BTW, I photographed that wedding, thanks to my awesome eye doc. 🙂