It was June 2005. I got up and went to work like any other day. During the day, I noticed these little red welts appearing on my body. I never really thought anything of them and continued on with my day. The next day, the same thing. And the next, and the next and so on. I made an appointment to see my family doctor, who told me they were hives and just told me to keep taking Benadryl. Well, the Benadryl only worked for so long. Then my lips and eyes would start puffing up for no reason at all.
I tried keeping a journal, as I was sure I was having an allergic reaction to something. I went over things in my head like "did I change laundry soap, shampoo, deodorant?". I hadn't done anything of the sort so then I turned to what I was eating. After months of doing this and still not finding the reason for the hives, I started doing research on hives and liver function.
What drew me to look in this direction is I had visited Dr. Kumar Biswas, a Naturopathic Doctor a couple years prior to this event. While doing his evaluation, he told me I had liver issues. Thinking it was hogwash, I paid my $300+ bill, took a few of his pills with me, and went on my merry way.
Now it was November of 2005 and the hives were getting worse. My body was completely covered with them. I had been off work since July as I was going crazy not being able to control the symptoms. If you have ever had hives, I am sure you will be able to relate.
It was getting so bad, that I was going to bed at night with cold, wet towels on me to try and get relief. I felt like I was going crazy. The itching was beyond anything you could ever imagine. What the frustrating part is my doctor wasn't listening to what I was telling her, and she said "Just keep taking Benadryl". Well that was doing frig all. I was eating them like Smarties, and they were doing jack shit.
One night, I couldn't take it anymore. I went up to outpatients where I was seen by Dr. Menard. She prescribed Prednisone for me and off I went to get it filled. I woke up the next morning, and I swear to God, not one hive. I could not believe it. I had suffered for 6 months like this NEEDLESSLY........and all it took was a simple pill to fix the problem. Of course, I know that Prednisone isn't a drug anyone wants to be on for any amount of time as it has some pretty nasty repercussions of long-term use, but I was so happy that I was hive-free, I didn't care.
A couple days later, I called Dr. Menard's office and explained the situation to the receptionist and BEGGED her to have Dr. Menard take me on as a patient. She said she wasn't taking any new patients, but after much bawling and pleading, conceded and I was on the list! I continued to take the Prednisone for about 60 days and eventually was weaned off of it.
Not long after New Years, I started feeling ill. Again, my resource back to the internet, as I had lost all faith in Doctor's, even my new one, to give me a proper diagnosis. I started getting these small red dots on my legs. And it kind of burned. I would try to put lotion on them, but everything just burned like crazy. After a trip to the Doctor yet again, I was diagnosed with folliculitis - inflammation of the follicles, given a topical cream and sent on my way. I had also noticed that my hair was falling out, more than usual having hypothyroidism which I had been diagnosed with in 1998. I would wake up in the morning, and my pillow would be covered with hair. Again to the internet for more research. I was getting good at this.
A couple of months later, this continued on and one day, my sister Annette was here with me. I was so weak that I was passing out. We went into the Dr.'s office where I was examined and then taken up the hospital. The "follicultis" at this point had spread into a body-wide rash. I looked like a reptile that had been shellaqued. Trust me, this picture does no justice.
It was several weeks of this, and I was moved around to different floors of the hospital, but not really being treated as they had no idea what they were treating. In hindsight, I don't know why the hell I wasn't taken to Halifax at that point. But I will get there. Eventually.
The symptoms seemed to go away after time, and I became well enough to come home. About 2 months later, I started feeling ill again. Only this time, I couldn't eat. Everything that went down came back up. I had lost 30 lbs in a month and just was feeling very ill.
On this one particular day, I was shopping at Reitmans and one of the clerks asked me if I had been down south. I said, "No, why?" She said, "You look tanned." I never thought anything more of it until I went down to pick up a refill at Shoppers. The Pharmacist looked at me and said, "Wanda, you are jaundiced. You're eyes are yellow." I immediately went home and started Googling everything to do with jaundice, hives, weight loss, vomiting....and it all came back to my liver.
My family was very concerned and made a phone call to our cousin who is a Dr. in the Military in Halifax. I told her all of what I had been through in the last 8 months. She told me I need to get to the QEII immediately. It was the next night, a Friday, that Dad drove me up to Halifax where we waited 8 hours in outpatients to see the Doctor. I was so weak and ill, I didn't know if I was going to make it. When I was finally seen around 3 am, the Dr. took one look at me and knew it was my liver. They took vials and vials of blood. The next morning, when the blood work was processed, the Dr. came in and told me if I hadn't come in when I did, I could have died of liver failure. My liver enzymes were in the 900's. A normal person's were supposed to be 40-50. I was yellow, sick, and not sure how much else I was going to be able to take.
I was admitted immediately and stayed in the QEII for several weeks, where I had more tests, ultrasounds, and a liver biopsy. Dr. Gina Lacuesta had diagnosed me with what she thought was Autoimmune Hepatitis. They couldn't give it a definite yes, as the liver is so big, and the biopsy was a hit or miss type of test, so I was told. So again, I was left feeling let down that I had no concrete answer. Again, the symptoms eventually subsided and life as I knew it had resumed for the present time. The Doctors all claimed I was a "medical mystery". Not a reassuring statement you want to hear from a panel of specialists. But the events that would unfold in the next few years would give me the answers that I waited so long to hear.