TWO STEPS FORWARD, ONE STEP BACK

Helen at Wimbledon

Don’t you just love a bank holiday weekend? Especially when the weather is fabulously warm and sunny. There was no lie-in for me on Saturday morning.  I sprung out of bed like a jack-in-the-box, stupidly excited, not wanting to waste a minute of the glorious sunshine.

Aside from the excitement I felt at the prospect of taking my first weekend off in almost two months, I’d woken up brimming with energy for the first time in yonks. This could only mean one thing. Tennis. A sport, I so dearly loved and missed.

Before my health took a turn for the worse, most of my Saturdays were spent at the tennis club so it felt incredibly reassuring and ‘normal’ to pull on my Serena-style dress.

Butterflies filled my stomach as I bent down to lace up my tennis shoes, and by the time I walked out of the door, racquet-bag over my shoulder, I was grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat. I WAS OFF TO PLAY TENNIS.

Before I left the house I’d called my friend to let her know I was on my way. “The court’s booked for an hour,” she said excitedly. “See you soon.”

Arriving at the club, I spotted a league match in progress. It was a fixture I would, ordinarily, play but given the circumstances ‘Sick Note Gilbert’ was, of course, required to sit it out.

“Stepping out on court felt ridiculously good”

“Good to see you back,” the team captain said with a smile on her face. “Hopefully you’ll get on OK and can join us again soon.”  “I hope so,” I replied, glowing on the inside. “I’m feeling much better.”

Stepping out on court felt ridiculously good. My friend opened a new tin of balls to celebrate. Usually, we hit with used ones but this was a special occasion, after all.

We set about warming up the ground strokes before moving on to volleys and serves. My body felt fine. There were no aches and pains. And although my game was a little rusty , I was thrilled to be hitting once again. The endorphins were working their magic. I felt so HAPPY.

Moreover, the sun was still shining brightly so I was getting my Vitamin D hit at the same time.

Life. Was. Good.

And we were enjoying some hard hitting rallies.

“I became aware of an uncomfortable yet annoyingly familiar sensation”

Nonetheless, 25 minutes after the first ball had been struck, I became aware of an uncomfortable yet annoyingly familiar sensation at the back of my throat.

I’d barely had anything to drink and optimistically assumed I was dehydrated. So I quickly swigged some water before resuming my position at the back of the court.

A little thirst was not going to stop me playing after all this time. But my mouth was growing increasingly dry.

“I’m sorry,” I said to Karen three minutes later, “I need to drink again.” “Go for it,” she said. So I knocked back the water and returned to the baseline. Only it didn’t quench my thirst and swallowing was becoming troublesome.

Thoughts began spinning inside my head. “Surely, I’m not having a reaction?”  I hadn’t eaten any high-histamine food – which usually sets off a reaction – and the spontaneous tongue swelling (idiopathic angioedema) had been behaving itself for a good few weeks.

I ran to the net and stuck my tongue out. “Does it look normal?” I desperately asked my friend. “Um, I don’t know what it usually looks like but it’s rather wide and fat,” she said.

“I quickly took a selfie of my outstretched tongue”

I rummaged around for my mobile and quickly took a selfie of my outstretched tongue.

There were people on the court next to me. I didn’t care.

Over the past 18 months, the pictures on my phone have proven to be a handy a log for my immunologist, especially as each one carries the date and time. Yet again, there was another hugely unflattering image to add to the collection.

“Let’s stop,”  Karen said. “I feel bad about letting you down and cutting short the session,” I replied. “Your health is more important, come on,” she insisted. So we trundled off the clubhouse for some iced water and I dug out my medication.

“It’s bizarre,” I sighed. “I’ve not eaten anything I shouldn’t have.”

I tried to piece things together. The reaction took hold half an hour after I started playing.  I was extremely hot – sweating profusely in fact – which is most unusual for me.

“Could it be that the exercise had triggered the tongue swelling?”

I then remembered that the same thing had happened on a couple of scorching summer mornings last year. On both occasions, I hadn’t eaten. On both occasions, I was in a very hot car.

Could it be that the lack of food or exercise had triggered the tongue swelling? The heat? Or all three?

An hour later I left the club and as soon as I got home I made a note of what had happened.

I guess one way to test out the theory would be to hit the courts again in hot weather, although I obviously won’t be doing that until I’ve sought medical advice.

I’m due to see my immunologist in July so I’ll report back then.

The only concrete thing I know is that I’ll have to count myself out of a return to tennis matches for the time being.

Helen's Health, Tennis
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