Funny lady Vicki Lawrence always knows how to put a smile on our face — even when she’s discussing the chronic skin condition she was diagnosed with several years ago.
“I woke up one morning with the palms of my hands itching. Which is weird, right?” Lawrence tells Woman’s World. “So, I went downstairs where my husband was watching the news and said, ‘Sweetie, you need to buy a lottery ticket because clearly we’re coming into a lot of money tonight.”
Not everyone would immediately start joking when they discover their hands covered in annoying hives, but Lawrence says she and her husband just laughed it off at first.
She was also able to calm those initial itches down by plunging her hands into a big bowl of ice water, but the hives showed right back up again the next morning. Lawrence dunked her hands yet again, but developed even more itchy bumps while out on a walk with her dogs later that same day.
“I started itching all over my stomach, my back, my abdomen, my sides, my everything,” she explains. “And it was bugging the heck out of me. I said to the dogs, ‘Whatever you guys have to do, do it in a hurry because mom’s gotta get home!’”
The hives persisted for six long, frustrating weeks. Lawrence jokes that she “got really good at taking cold showers” and relied on her wire hairbrush as her “weapon of choice” when the itching got bad. And, of course, everyone around her thought they knew the answer to what was causing the problem. “I had a friend that said, ‘Stop drinking red wine, it’s the tannins in the red wine.’ And I said, ‘OK, well, wine is the only thing that’s getting me through this.’”
Instead of taking that friend’s advice, Lawrence worked with her allergist to eventually get a diagnosis: chronic idiopathic urticaria. (Try saying that three times fast.)
“I had never heard such a mouthful,” Lawrence admits before clarifying the condition’s name. “Chronic means that it lasted for six weeks or more, idiopathic means the doctor can’t tell you why it’s happening, and urticaria is, like, the fancy doctor word for hives. Because they gotta have a fancy doctor word for everything.”
Basically, unlike annoying itchy bumps that show up because of an allergic reaction due to a change in your diet, clothing, makeup, skincare, or some other discernible source, there’s nothing to point to or blame for these types of hives. Which, of course, makes the whole situation feel a lot more frustrating and more difficult to diagnose. Lawrence mentions how she learned about one woman who apparently had to go through 26 different doctors before finding one that knew how to soothe her issues with CIU.
But Lawrence herself was thankfully a lot luckier to already have a doctor that knows about the condition. “I’ve not seen [the hives] now for a lot of years. They did come back a couple of times, they tried to come back, but me and the doc got it under control pretty quickly,” she explains.
Treatment varies from one patient to another, which is why Lawrence has partnered with CIU & You to get the word out about the condition and help others find a healing process with their doctors, too. “It’s treatable, not curable,” Lawrence says. “The good thing for me is that I have an allergist and we know how to take care of it.”
It turns out CIU affects 1.6 million people across the country — and women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with it than men. Most patients are between the ages of 20 and 40 when they first discover symptoms, but Lawrence tells us with a laugh that she was an “overachiever” by getting the condition in her 60s.
Aside from discussing CIU, Lawrence tells us eager to get back on the road with her “two woman” show, Vicki Lawrence and Mama, when the pandemic is over. We couldn’t help but mention how fans might be interested in seeing Mama try to figure out video calls like the rest of us during all our social distancing.
“Oh, you think? I don’t know,” Lawrence laughs. ”Oh boy, there’s an idea. Mama trying to do Zoom. I have enough trouble myself!” We’ll just stick to our favorite re-runs of the series in the meantime.
If Lawrence’s CIU story sounds familiar to you or someone you know, you can check out the CIU & You website for more information and help with finding the best treatment plan.