Middle-aged rash guard

I had a rash on my arms and legs that lasted for months. At first, I thought it was a reaction to the president; my body physically rejecting the idiocracy. But I started to notice a correlation to food. Just the base of the food pyramid: bread, pasta, rice, soy… then the kale salad incident happened.

I was at work, eating a kale salad at my desk like a good little middle-aged worker bee, when all of a sudden, I felt a flush in my ears which quickly spread to my face and neck. I ran downstairs to the pharmacy, grabbed a package of Benadryl and popped one in my mouth before my throat could close. Whew! Crisis managed.

I went back upstairs to my coworker’s office and shared the story of my new-found allergy to kale— finally, a legitimate reason to avoid the annoying health-bragging cousin of lettuce. She looked at me skeptically and asked, “are you sure it’s not a hot flash?”

“Oh shit.” I said. “I just took a Benadryl. Now I’m going to be tired all afternoon.”

I pay $400 a month for health insurance that I never use. But I pay it because all the clichés about getting older are true. And in this country, you never know when or how you’ll get sick from the food/stress/environment and need insurance in order to avoid selling your house to pay the medical bills. No one can pay the medical bills, and so the insurance companies continue their racket.

Anyway, I rarely-to-never go to the doctor (but I go to the dentist like I clean my house; twice a year, whether it needs it or not.) Then I got a rash on my legs and arms that nothing would cure. I tried everything: CBD salve, oregano oil, cortisone, this soothing honey and shea butter concoction that had to be kept in the freezer… So, I went to see my doctor, who prescribed a steroid cream and happily charged me for both; the cream and the visit. What’s insurance for? I thought as I left the doctor’s office, scratching my arm.

The rash intensified. Some nights I would contemplate putting my arm on the searing hot cast iron stove, because that pain would be easier to bear than the itching. It was driving me mad, and not in a cute mad-as-a-March-hare kind of way. Next, I was referred to a dermatologist in Aspen who charged me $1000 (“No, sorry, we don’t accept insurance”) and told me to use the steroid cream twice as often. Useless. I went back to my doctor and she took a blood sample to send to the lab— big surprise! Lab work is not covered by insurance and all my levels came back normal.

Now I was starting to panic, “I don’t want to live like this, but I don’t want to die” was the song that kept popping into my head (Vampire Weekend.) I was out thousands of dollars, I had tried every topical remedy I could find, and the rash thrived. I knew I had to find the root, i.e., whatever my body was reacting to, and then purge it from my life, or I would never make it through these dark and merciless kale-free woods of menopause.

Finally, after months of torturous itching and unsightly red patches on my skin, I found a solution thanks to an acupuncturist, a chiropractor, and my friend who works in the supplements department at Vitamin Cottage (none of them covered by my insurance.) I went completely grain-free for three weeks, and I still have to read the ingredients on both my food and skin care products, but in the end all I needed to buy was a tub of good ole petroleum jelly that sells for $7.00 on the bottom shelf at the grocery store (and will probably last a decade.)

Looking back, the whole ordeal seems like a transient carnival set up in a parking lot, complete with a rickety roller coaster ride called Middle-aged Metabolism and big insurance funhouse mirrors. On the plus side, I learned to be my own advocate, (watching a doctor google your symptoms in front of you will do that) and I know I’m not allergic to kale. Damnit.

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