Sharing stories, knowledge, and rants about living with metal allergies.

I Hate Nickel


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Entries in pain journal (2)


Nickel Sick

It’s taken me a few days to get back to writing.  Remembering the details from when I was suffering from the nickel allergy is more painful than I could have imagined.  I share these stories all the time with friends and interested strangers; I thought it would be easy to write about it.   However, when I tell the story to friends, I share the glossed-over, get to the happy-ending version.  The one that starts out, “I got really sick”, followed by “it was really bad”, and then “nickel allergy - took my braces out and I got better!”  Yay!  Miracle!  No one wants to hear the gory details, and honestly, I don’t usually want to remember them.   Digging out the pain journal on the last post put me in a funk, and I didn’t want to continue. 

Here I am, though, writing again.  Why?  Well, one, because I’ve already paid for the website, leaving it with three posts would be a waste; two, because I really do believe it is important to share information, in the hopes that it might help someone else; and three, because I’m still suffering from and learning about this allergy.  I can’t ignore it.

So, back to the story at hand…

I started keeping a pain journal after the second mysterious ER visit.  The doctors couldn’t give me any answers, and that scared me.  I went back to work two days later, but I never got “better” after the second ER visit, like I did after the first.  My daily symptoms stayed, fluctuated, teetered on the edge, not quite sending me to the ER, but severely limiting my day-to-day activities.  On the good days, the symptoms were pressure and uncomfortable twinges of pain.  On the bad days, I had constant pain surrounded by abdominal cramps so bad they would double me over, up to twelve times an hour, for hours; (I occasionally timed it just to see if there was a pattern – there wasn’t).

I remember going to Target one day, and as I got out of my car, the pain was so bad that it hurt to walk.  I was granny-walking across the parking lot (you know, hunched over, shuffling my feet very slowly).  I stopped half way, turned around, and went back to my car and drove home.   Eventually my husband had to do all the shopping.  Sometimes I could make it through one store, if I could hold on to the shopping cart for support.  Once around was all I could do though, and I was usually exhausted by the end. If more than one store was necessary, I either had to stay home or stay in the car.

Under my doctor’s care, I tried a wide range of pain medicines, but there were only a couple of prescription medicines that provided relief.  These didn’t actually take the pain away, but they did make it bearable for me to move around.  I could still make dinner for my family, go to a movie, or hang out with the kids, as long as I could take the meds.   Without the meds, I was mostly bed-ridden by late afternoon, too exhausted and in too much pain to do much else.  Medicines are a blessing and a curse though.  As with everything, there are side-effects.  These were the “do not operate heavy machinery” type of meds, so I couldn’t take anything if I had to drive, or go to work, or even help the kids with their homework.  My pain was almost always lighter in the morning, increasing in strength throughout the day.  My life became a balancing act, a race to get everything important done early in the day, so that I could be home to take pain medication by the afternoon.

I’ll state the obvious: this was not a fun way to exist.  I say “exist” not “live”, because the pain took over my life.  It was all I could think about; it had my full attention; it ruled my every decision.  I couldn’t make any plans – because I didn’t know how I would be feeling tomorrow or next month.  I couldn’t take on any new projects at work – because I never knew how many days I might miss when the pain was too bad for me to go in.  I couldn’t DO anything – because I was exhausted and clear thinking was becoming increasingly difficult as each month passed.

Nickel wasn’t even close to being on the radar yet for a cause.  We were smart enough to trace back the time line and realize that I had had my braces put in not long before the first ER visit.  I remember asking at least one doctor, and my husband brought it up two or three times with other doctors, whether my braces could have anything to do with my sickness, and each time we were told no, absolutely not.   We believed them; the braces stayed in, and I continued to get worse.