Brynn Duncan, 21, is not sure which food allergy will put her in the hospital on any given day, but she can tell when she’s about to have a serious reaction.
“I just get this overwhelming sense of — they call it impending doom,” she said. “I’ll feel like I’m being stabbed in the stomach, and then it gets hard to breathe and my throat and tongue start swelling. And we have to treat it really fast.”
Duncan’s problems really started just before her 16th birthday, when she had her first serious allergic reaction. She grew sicker, but she was eventually diagnosed with Mast Cell Disease and POTS, also known as Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome.
Mast Cell Disease is a rare condition when the body makes too many mast cells, which are a critical part of the immune system.
“It’s like I’m living in a 24/7 allergic reaction,” she explained. Her type of Mast Cell Disease is severe and uncommon and she needs a feeding tube and a pump puts Benadryl into her body constantly.
POTS "causes my blood pressure to drop and heart rate to skyrocket upon change in position. To put it in simpler terms, POTS causes me to pass out if I stand for more than a few minutes at a time,” she said.
Duncan is allergic to seemingly everything and she’s had to skip out on a lot of milestones that her high school classmates are achieving, like going to college, moving out of her parent’s Easley, South Carolina, home and dating.
“A lot of people with this disease … do, in a sense, have to live in a bubble, because it’s really difficult to get the symptoms under control,” Duncan said. “You spend a lot of time alone. And it can be very isolating. But thanks to social media, I haven’t felt alone.”
Duncan is a prolific social media user - she writes on her blog Brynn’s Bubble and uses Instagram to document her life.
"One of the parts that I appreciate the most about living with a chronic illness and having so many close friends with chronic illnesses- I don't leave words left unsaid,” she wrote on her blog. “I tell my friends that I love them every chance I get because in the back of my mind I always ask myself if I would be happy with my words if they were to be the last words to a dear friend.”