When you consider the way comedians make us laugh and deliver some of the most memorable moments in our lives, you can say they’re natural-born healers. It makes perfect sense then to have television icon Vicki Lawrence of The Carol Burnett Show and Mama’s Family serve as the face of chronic hives. Partnering with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, she’s sharing her personal story about chronic spontaneous urticaria (CSU), a form of chronic hives, to help others who are dealing with the same uncomfortable concern. CSU affects approximately 1.6 million people in the United States and women are twice as likely as men to experience it.
Lawrence says she and many sufferers share the common frustration of not being able to figure out what is triggering these outbreaks. “After seeing my doctor, I went home and tried to figure out what in the world I had done wrong. Did I change a cosmetic, am I eating something weird that I don’t know about, did I use a new shampoo or detergent? I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong.”
While promoting her role as the face of CSU, Lawrence took a moment to share her story with us and of course, we also had to ask what the 72-year-old was doing for her skin. The star still knows how to make us laugh and she looks phenomenal doing it.
When did you first learn you had CIU?
I was diagnosed about 10 years ago, and when I woke up with the palms of my hands itching I went downstairs and said to my husband, “Honey, you need to buy a lottery ticket tonight because we’re obviously coming into a lot of money!” That’s what everyone always says when your hands are itching. But then it didn’t go away and my whole body started itching. My abdomen, my back, my thighs, my arms—I was miserable. I had huge welts everywhere and I couldn’t stop scratching. I went to our allergist, and he said, “Almost everybody breaks out in hives at some point in their lives. It’s probably nothing, no big deal.” He proceeded to do everything that you can think of for an allergic reaction.
Meanwhile, at home I’m trying to figure out what in the world I’ve done wrong. Six weeks go by and the doctor says to me, I think you have CIU, also known as chronic spontaneous urticaria or CSU. Chronic means that it’s lasted for six weeks or more, spontaneous means that it comes on spontaneously and there’s no known trigger. The urticaria is just the fancy doctor word for hives. There are 1.6 million of us in this country that have it and it’s very hard to diagnose because there’s no trigger for us, and that makes it unpredictable. It’s not curable, but with the right allergist and the right treatment plan, you can get to a point where the hives are manageable for you.
How do you manage your symptoms? I’m guessing you can’t scratch it away.
It presents differently for everybody; you want to get with an allergist that understands CSU. I was fortunate that my allergist was familiar with it. He was doing what you would normally do for hives, but waited the six weeks to see what would happen. I’m happy to say that I haven’t seen a hive in a lot of years. You can read more about it at CSU&You.com, which is supported by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and it’s made possible by Genentech and Novartis. Our message is that you’re not alone out there.
You look amazing. You know we have to ask you about your beauty routine, too.
The one wonderful thing that I got from my mother is good skin. Because I was blessed with very good skin, I use really simple products. I can’t do any of the harsh stuff. My skin is very sensitive, but I trend to use whatever my dermatologist tells me to. Very gentle stuff.
Do you have any in-office facial treatments that you love?
Yes. She does a skin resurfacing treatment called LaseMD. I love that one and get it done periodically.
When quarantine hit lots of shows were shut down, like your Vicki Lawrence and Mama: a Two Woman Show tour. How did you stay balanced during that time?
I did not stay centered or balanced [laughs], but I really embraced the cooking. We couldn’t go anywhere and I felt like the kitchen is right there and it’s calling your name all day long. The news was so disturbing every day, and I’m like what are we supposed to watch this for? We’re eating! So I decided I’m just going to start cooking beautiful things. I also used the Calm app.
Do you meditate?
I learned to transcendental meditate a number of years ago because everybody always said to try it. All I knew about it was from the Tina Turner movie and her Nam Myoho Renge Kyo chant. We had a Transcendental Meditation teacher from India who lived down the street for a while and I learned to meditate from him. He gave me my own mantra and I was always afraid I would forget it. He said never had anybody forgotten their own mantra! Sometimes I lose it and I get away from it, but then I always go back. So, I downloaded the Calm app and to do my daily meditation.
We miss you on our TVs. Besides unpausing your Vicki Lawrence and Mama tour, what other projects do you have in the works?
I did start trying to write a book. I would like to write a book of funny anecdotes about getting older and just for women. There are so many funny stories about getting older and I miss having someone like Nora Ephron so much. I would pee my pants reading her books, like the last one, I Feel Bad About My Neck. I’m not as good a writer as she is, but I think I’m pretty funny. I’ve just started writing down my stories about all the amusing stuff that happens. So, I’ve been working on that.
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