Days 88-89: Navigating Health Issues on the Road

 

After cooking a delicious breakfast, I headed to Bellingham, Washington. I needed to get my blood drawn to monitor some of my medications and just for some general health check-ups. I had to get this done now so the labs were ready when I got to Los Angeles a few weeks later.

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One of the borders in the US is in Abbotsford. Occasionally I’d drive about one mile from it when I was just driving around the city. Even though the border is so close, crossing it is another story.

I also made an appointment with a chiropractor because the day before it felt like I had pulled a muscle in my neck and the pain was now moving into my back. I arrived to the US border and told them I was just going to Bellingham for a chiropractor appointment and I was staying in Abbotsford. Thankfully, my car was mostly empty so it didn’t look suspicious.

I got through the border and it would be about 40 minutes to Bellingham. The road winds its way through farms and fields. The speed limit is only about 35 MPH.

I arrived at Labcorp to get my blood drawn and the guy at the front was dramatic and entertaining. Once that was complete, I drove to the chiropractor office. There was a 2-½ year old golden retriever lying behind the counter. The woman behind the desk told me the dog might be pregnant and they were anxiously waiting for the results.

Once I got into the adjustment room, I noticed a black lab lying on the ground. The office reminded me of the office I visited in Fairbanks, Alaska. (LINK) The chiropractor made an adjustment, but he also used a hard vibrating tool on my spine to try and loosen the muscles. It was painful and felt like it made things worse.

I drove back to Abbotsford and started packing up since I was leaving in the morning. My next stop was Whistler, a ski town an hour and a half north of Vancouver. I felt sad to leave the house. I had my own place again for a week and it felt good to have space and privacy. In Whistler, I would be back to renting just one room inside a condo. Then I thought about how lonely I had been in Abbotsford. Maybe being in shared spaces is good for me. It forces me to socialize. I’ve been told on a personality test before that I have a tendency to go into “unhealthy bouts of isolation.”

That night, the pain in my neck and upper back was so severe I had a hard time getting into bed. I couldn’t move my head around and the pain was increasing. I took ibuprofen, but it wasn’t helping. As the night went on, I could not find a position that relived the intense pain. Turning over took about 30 minutes and made me scream.

I lied there all night, unable to sleep, in the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. I knew there was no way I could load my car in the morning and drive north, but I had to check out of the house and the owners were flying in that day to stay there.

At 6:00 am, I wondered how I’d get out of bed. Should I call 911? Does 911 work in Canada? I couldn’t move. I thought through my options and realized the frozen muscles were very similar to what I experienced a couple of years ago in my lower back. The muscles froze so much, I couldn’t stand straight or roll over in bed. The only thing that helped me was getting muscle relaxers from an Urgent Care.

I realized Bellingham wasn’t too far away and I could go to Urgent Care there, where I knew my insurance would work. I painfully forced myself out of bed and got dressed. I packed up all of my stuff and left it in the kitchen. I didn’t want to cross the border with a full car or they wouldn’t believe I was just going for a quick visit.

I made it to urgent care and was told the wait would be at least an hour wait. I sat in the chair and the pain wouldn’t stop. I couldn’t turn my head and couldn’t stand or sit up straight. After about 30 minutes in the chair, I hobbled up to the counter and told the woman I was in an immense amount of pain and begged to be seen.

The woman said she couldn’t get me in sooner, but she offered me some water and a room so I could lie down. It was a little better than the chair. Finally after being there for an hour and a half, the doctor came in. He said he didn’t think I needed x-rays and it was likely muscular. He gave me a prescription for some muscle relaxers and pain medicine.

I went to Rite-aid to fill the prescriptions and it was a 30 minute wait. I messaged the Airbnb host and let her know what was going on and that my stuff was still in the kitchen. She was very understanding and said they’d just set their stuff down and go to lunch.

I took a pain pill, but couldn’t take the muscle relaxer because it causes drowsiness. I drove through the country roads again back to Canada and got through the border. Just past the border was the Costco where I had ordered contacts weeks earlier. I have very bad eyes and they said it would take a couple of weeks to get them in.

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I went inside, did a quick eye exam, and paid for my contacts. The guy helping me was very nice and pointed out that I was smart to buy contacts in Canada, where I get a 30% discount.

I drove back to the house and painfully loaded my car with my bags in the sprinkling rain. I started my two and a half hour drive to Whistler, leaning my head against the headrest, trying not to move it.

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Despite my discomfort, the foggy and rainy drive to Whistler was beautiful! The road climbed through the lush mountains, at times overlooking the ocean.

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When I arrived at my Airbnb, I parked in front of the condo and followed the instructions to get inside. It was evening and Ash, the owner, left me a message saying he was out, but would leave the door unlocked for me. I’ve gotten very used to walking into stranger’s homes.

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The condo was cozy and had a mountain cabin feel. I ate some of the food I brought with me and put the rest  in his refrigerator. Ash told me I was free to use and eat anything I’d like. He lives there and rents out two of the rooms, but the other room wasn’t occupied.

I was exhausted and desperately wanted to sleep. The cloudy, rainy weather was perfectly suited for napping. I took a muscle relaxer and while I was still in pain, I was able to find a decent position and fall asleep.

At 10:15 pm, I woke up and could hear that Ash was home. I was embarrassed that he must think I’m a lazy weirdo who was asleep so early. I walked out of my room to the living room and Ash was watching TV with headphones on. I said hello and he waved. I walked back to my room, still exhausted after navigating so many obstacles to find pain relief, and decided I would talk to him in the morning.

Post Edited By: Mandy Strider
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Day 45: Spider Bites

I woke up in my dark hotel room snuggled deep within the fluffy comforter. My back started itching like crazy, just under where my bra would wrap. I realized it had been itching for one-two days because I remembered scratching it while driving. Then I remembered the tick in my bed the previous night!

Panicked, I jumped out of bed, pulled up my shirt, and tried to look at my back in the mirror near the restroom. I saw two huge circular type bumps that felt hard to the touch. I also saw a lot of scratch marks from my finger nails.

I worried it was a tick, but it didn’t look like anything was attached. One of the bumps looked like it had three bites that swelled up into one large bump. Then I remembered the spider that I had seen in my safari tent that I chose not to kill, thinking he’d stay in the corner. Even though that seemed like ages ago, only a few nights had passed since then.

I tried to piece together what this was and where I got it. After two nights in the safari tent, I stayed in Vancouver and had a very difficult time sleeping because I was burning up. Was I bitten there (there weren’t any window screens)? Was I having an allergic reaction to the bites from the night before while in the tent? Or was there a spider in the creepy motel with a tick? I think I had been scratching my back since leaving Vancouver, so whatever bit me was probably in the tent.

I googled insect bite patterns to figure out what it was. The itch was pretty severe so I found a medical clinic nearby. But since I was in Canada, I had no idea how the medical system worked. I walked in and went to one of the counters. The woman told me they only take same-day appointments at 8:00 am and I’d need to get there by 7:30 am and get in line. Great, I was leaving the next day. She recommended I go to the pharmacy and see if they could help.

The pharmacy was just down the street and had a small-town feel. I walked to the register in the small building and told the guy that I had bumps on my back that I thought were spider bites, but I wanted to make sure they weren’t ticks. Most importantly, I wanted the itching to stop!

The man called to a nurse who was at another counter and told her about my issues, and said maybe she could help me. The nurse took me into a small exam room and lifted up my shirt. She took pictures for me (I’ll spare you from seeing it) so I could see. She didn’t think it was from a tick because there wasn’t a bull’s eye around it. She said, “I think those are spider bites and you’re having an allergic reaction.” “Great”, I replied. “I’m allergic to bees and many other things, so this is no surprise.”

Back out in the lobby area, the nurse helped me find some Benadryl cream and Benadryl pills to take. The man at the counter asked what the nurse discovered and he agreed I should get the cream and take the pills. He also warned me that they were having a major yellow jacket season, worse than they’ve ever seen. He said they had already seen more than 300 patients this summer with stings. An older woman sitting in one of the waiting chairs holding her hand chimed in, “That’s why I’m here. I got stung on my hand by a yellow jacket.”

Oh man, I had noticed some bees here and there, but to hear that so many people had been stung terrified me. I carry an epi-pen, so I should make sure it was accessible. I took the cream and pills and was thankful for their help.

I got some writing done and then went for a run around the neighborhood. It was a beautiful sunny day and it felt good to get some exercise after so much driving.

I went to the hot tub again that night to take advantage of having it available.

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A man came in shortly after me. He looked to be in his 50s, had neatly trimmed salt and pepper facial hair, and glasses. We introduced ourselves and started chatting.

Robert drives a large truck for a living and was currently in route to Fairbanks from Texas. During the last 22 years, he’s gone back and forth between living in Fairbanks and living in Anchorage.

Robert gave me lots of tips of things I should see and do while I was in Alaska. He mentioned Valdez and said people used to be able to do tours of the facility, but since 9/11 civilians are not allowed to visit. He described the site as something amazing to see with all the oil tankers from the Alaska pipeline. In Fairbanks, you can still see the pipeline out of the ground, which he recommended I check out.

I was getting the feeling that Robert was trying to hit on me, but then he received a text message and said it was from his wife. She was in their hotel room and wanted to let him know that Stephen Colbert was on.

Feeling slightly uncomfortable, I said I needed to get to bed so I got out, grabbed my towel, and left the hot tub area. People frequently ask me if I get nervous traveling alone as a female. Most of the time, I feel fine. But every once in a while, I get the creeps from a guy. When I do, I try to get myself away from said creep as fast as possible. I’ve also learned to be aware of my surroundings. If walking alone in the dark, I usually have my keys ready in my hand to use as a weapon if I need to. I also trust my instincts about men and situations that I feel uncomfortable. It’s not as scary as it sounds to travel alone. You just need to be aware and trust your gut. I don’t let fear control my life, and I feel as long as I’m prepared, I’ll be ok.

Post Edited By: Mandy Strider