The Cancer in My Own Backyard

That’s right, my backyard has cancer.  It grows while we sleep and it grows when we are awake.  It overtakes trees and plants and mulch beds and fences.  It once lay hidden amidst some pretty ivy, but it no longer hides.  It has slowly reached out and touched me.  I know what it is and how it grows.  I know it must be stopped.  I am ready to fight.

It all started a little over two weeks ago.  A very itchy line, almost like a scrape began on my shin.  I’d never seen anything like it before, but man did it itch.  I said something casually to my babysitter, who let me know immediately that it looked like poison ivy.  Really?, I thought.  Poison ivy seemed like one of those annoying childhood plagues that I had luckily avoided.  I don’t live in the woods and I don’t play there either, so the possibility of contracting the rash wasn’t even on my radar.  If it was poison ivy, which I seriously doubted, then I must have picked it up from  some boxes at our farmers market.

I shouldn’t have doubted my babysitter.  By day two it was clear–I had poison ivy.  Itchy as anything, there were large fluid filled bubbles, and it was spreading all over my legs.  We were leaving for vacation the following day.  The rash grew worse with time.  I must have unknowingly spread the oil all over my abdomen and other areas.  It was ugly and oozing and itchy.  Soon my entire body broke out in hives and I found myself seated in a urgent care clinic at our vacation site.  I could only laugh.  A 33 year old mother of 5 children sitting in an urgent care clinic at the beach because she was covered in poison ivy–it was comical.

And I was still blaming some poor farmer for making me miserable.  Some farmer must have put his boxes in poison ivy, then carried them to the market and passed that crazy oil onto my legs.  I told myself that I would not go back to that farmers market for the rest of the season.  I’d show them.  Give this mama poison ivy and I won’t give you my business.  Forget that apple season is just around the corner, I’m willing to hold out until those farmers are more careful.  I’ll buy my apples at Wegmans!

But then I saw the doctor at the clinic.  She immediately asked me where I had come into contact with the poison ivy.  I told her my theory.  She listened nicely and then asked if perhaps it was growing in my own backyard.  “I don’t think so,” I responded.  “I mean, I would know if it was there, right?”  She nicely asked if I knew what it looked like.  “I think I do.  It has 3 leaves, right?”  She didn’t really respond but went to work writing me prescriptions.  Steroids, anti-histamines, antibiotics–I needed the goods.

A day later we returned home and I did what I should have done the previous week.  I went online and did some research into poison ivy.  I printed out pictures and I studied descriptions.  And then I went hunting in my own backyard.  Sure enough, I found the stuff growing, in not one, but two places in our yard.

After my research, and my rash, I am terrified.  I won’t go near it and I won’t allow Mr. Red to either.  Precautions be damned–that oil is toxic and indestructible.  I want big hired guns in EPA type suits.  Spray it with every chemical needed.  Kill everything it touches and drag everything containing the terrible poisonous oil away.  I think about it before I go to bed and I think about it before I wake.  I want and need that poison ivy to be gone.  And gone it will be when I write a big check tomorrow.

Last night, as I lay in bed feeling itchy, I suddenly remembered those poor farmers.  I had been so quick to incorrectly blame them for my problems.  And this is so like me.  When something goes wrong, I need a scapegoat.  I need to blame and make drastic promises of punishment for those who have crossed me.  I do this without thinking.  As soon as a new suffering hits my life, I assume I know all about it, blame someone else, dish out a penance to them, and move on.  How sad, because with most things in life, we need look no further than our own backyard.

I’m praying that the next time suffering hits, I remember the poison ivy, and I look hard at home for the places it is most likely to grow.

  • shannon

    I feel your itch! I am highly allergic. Reading your post brought back painfully itchy memories of swollen hands,fingers and face. Giant blisters, pills and sleepless nights.Kill that evil ivy!

  • Nancy Beha

    My husband (Alice’s father) who
    Is very susptible to poison ivy( as is his daughter) was actually cultivating poison ivy and training it to grow on a trellis. I tried to tell
    Him it was a weed, but his response was, but it’s green and flourishing.

    • Kellie “Red”

      Oh my gosh Nancy!!! Cultivating Poison Ivy!!! Perhaps if I visit your house it would be appropriate for me to blame him for my rash, haha!

  • Bethany “B-mama”

    You poor, poor girl… I am so sorry it finally got you, especially while you were on vacation! ugh!! That’s spiritual warfare, for sure. Love the analogy!

  • JMB

    It must be rampant this year because I got it twice – the first time before July 4th and then a month later. Luckily my doctor gave me a refill for the steroid and I had some Tecnu left over from the last bout. Once you get poison ivy each subsequent exposure will be worse so you really have to be on top of it from now on.

    • Kellie “Red”

      Yes, I have heard that each exposure gets worse. Apparently, it is growing everywhere in our town. Many of our neighbors with ivy in their yard are having the same problem in their yard. The landscaping expert told me that there is something about the weather this past year that is causing it to grow everywhere. Terrible!!!!!!


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