Scratch The Itch

3 weeks ago. . .

I missed a full week of training. I’ve never missed a full week of training. Things started with a migraine-style headache that led to nausea followed by several days of fever, chills, and lots of sleep. Day after day I promised my husband, and sometimes my Dad that I would visit the doctor. By Friday I was feeling better though, and I volunteered to take the early shift of meeting workers at our new house – giving me the opportunity to finally uncover the beautiful swan on the patio wall.

48 hours later. . .

The poison oak was evident along both arms, although my left arm took the brunt of the blow and was swollen twice its size replete with welts and blisters. I remembered from EMT training that poison is basically a chemical burn – I had a 2nd degree chemical burn on my left arm. It was the first day I was to get back to my training schedule, so I dutifully strapped my watch onto my right, less affected arm, and went for a run.

For all the miraculous benefits of modern medicine, I still consider it a last resort. I managed to control the urge to scratch the poison using topical creams, although that poison has taken its dear, sweet time to heal.

Meanwhile, the contractor finished installing the fence around our property, which includes a generous parcel of land up the hill behind the house that is all forest (and a good bit of our neighbor’s yard debris). We loaded the dogs into the Jeep that Saturday after my long run, and let them explore what will become their new territory. The boys were a little timid, so Dakota and I walked to the edge of the forest to show them there was nothing to fear.

24 hours later. . .

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Dakota was miserable, and irritable.

. . . the itching began. It was everywhere – on her stomach, ears, head, feet. I couldn’t see a thing, but she was obviously miserable. I held a cool cloth on her stomach, rubbed her with ointment, and tried my best to have her swallow a small piece of Benadryl. She was in such misery I couldn’t bear it.

I held her in my arms while she nestled her head under my chin and we’d walk around the house until she fell asleep in total exhaustion. Sleep lasted about an hour and we’d start the process all over again. I didn’t know whether to cry or scream.

It was chiggers, and every one of those nasty, little devils must have jumped off her and onto me. She was all better the next morning while I had red itchy bites everywhere – down my back, on my stomach, both arms and legs, chiggers on top of poison, but mostly on my neck and face. Whatever control I had over itching the poison oak was lost on these damn chiggers. They are surely the worst demons on earth.

I have learned everything there is to learn about chiggers, tried every remedy (including turmeric, which turned my fingers orange), spent inordinate amounts of time at the pharmacy counter, and I’ve taken enough Benadryl to kill a horse. I jumped out of bed at midnight the first night, stripped all the linens off the bed, stuffed them in the washer to contain the miserable critters, sprayed the whole house with bug spray (which I’m told will kill those still lurking in the shadows), and took a shower believing I was being attacked all over again. I won’t admit how many times this process has been repeated in the days since.

By this time my face and throat feel more like sandpaper than skin from the remedies that best relieved the itch. My face is red, sensitive to the sun, swollen, splotchy, and hurts so bad that I haven’t been able to run for three more days. I can honestly say I would have never believed there would be a time I couldn’t run because my face hurts.

My husband has spent the past few days in Chicago babysitting our dog that became an only child (who is doing absolutely fabulous by the way), and I’ve been relieved he hasn’t been subjected to the sight I have become.

Today is the last day I could withdraw from the upcoming marathon, but I have decided to refuse to give in. Who could have known just how far it would go when I decided to cut back on my training this season?

My husband and I have decided that if I survive this marathon, it will be an incredibly eye-opening experiment as it relates to how much training is enough, but if nothing else, this experience has given me an entirely new appreciation for “an ounce of prevention.”

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