Valley Fever: The background story.


When I moved to the Phoenix area in 2005, I knew nothing about Valley Fever.  I got a quick education in 2007 when our chocolate lab, Brownie, suddenly began to lose weight and experience malaise.  He was diagnosed with Valley Fever and did not respond to the anti-fungal medication we tried.  He died within two weeks after spending several days in a doggie ICU having quarts of fluid drained from his chest cavity, among other terrible things.  I was visiting him one night, about to authorize a blood transfusion, when he began exhibiting symptoms of a massive stroke.  We knew his fight was hopeless and asked the vet to euthanize him as quickly as possible because we could tell he was very frightened.

In the spring of 2011, our other dog, Liberty, developed a cough.  She tested negative for cocci and our vet determined she had allergies.  I wish I’d known about the high rate of false negatives on the cocci test, because I would have gladly retested her.  A year later, she developed lameness in her right front leg and upon investigation we finally found out it was disseminated Valley Fever.  She also did not respond positively to medication and was in a considerable amount of pain due to the disemmination to her joints.  We put her to sleep in July of 2012.

Between 2007 and 2013, I was tested for cocci several times.  As an asthmatic prone to bronchitis and pneumonia, I had no trouble getting physicians to order the cocci test because almost yearly I would find myself on nebulizer treatments due to asthma related to bronchitis or pneumonia.  My cocci tests were always negative to my relief, but again, I didn’t realize until recently that there is a very high rate of negatives.  I never had a test repeated…there always was about 18 months between tests.

I would eventually recover from my bronchitis/pnemonia/asthma symptoms, but hadn’t felt I’ve had good control with my asthma since around 2007.  Doctors have said my lungs look great (on xray) and sound fine, so I was basically told this was in my head.  I atrributed my frequent symptoms of shortness of breath and dizziness upon exertion to being out of shape and overweight and also to GAD (generalized anxiety disorder).  I eventually accepted that I needed antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds to give myself the ability to ignore the frequent feelings of not being able to breathe properly.

It was easy to overlook my issues because I could breath fine most of the time…the main problem I had was that every time I had even a minor cold I’d have an asthma flare.  And I couldn’t ever really exercise without becoming short of breath and needing my inhaler.  Even while on inhaled steroids and allergy medications.  I enjoy performing in choir and musical theater and began to find that I was becoming winded just singing.  Even at my 30 minute voice lessons.  I just kept thinking that I was going to have to make time to see an allergist/asthma specialist but being busy and not particularly liking dealing with medical issues, I kept putting it off.

I think it’s posible that I’ve had Valley Fever multiple times or that I’ve been dealing with it since my issues got worse in 2007.  It was easy to pass my symptoms off as worsening allergies and anxiety, but now I’m really wondering.

 


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