Vicki Lawrence, known for her roles on The Carol Burnett Show
and Mama's Family
, stopped in Cleveland this week as part of a publicity tour for her latest endeavor: raising awareness of chronic idiopathic urticaria. To the initiated, which is most of us, CIU boils down to "chronic hives." It's not pleasant, and there's no known cause.
"I woke up about four and a half years ago now with the palms of my hands itching," Lawrence says. She ran her hands under ice-cold water, relieving the pain for a time. But the next day, the same itching sensation returned.
What began then was an unsettling experience of nearly losing her mind — Lawrence clawed welts across her skin as she tried to dull the need to scratch. Everywhere she turned for answers seemed to result in a dead end.
"It makes me itch just talking about it," she says.
According to CIU & You
, the organization Lawrence works with, 1.5 million Americans suffer from CIU — most never learn what exactly the hell it even is. Often enough, doctors fall back on the "idiopathic" qualifier — there's no explanation for what's causing it.
"I know it's only 1.5 million Americans, and that doesn't seem like a lot, but it seems like in this day and age there ought to be a place for everyone to go," she says. Put simply, people who run into CIU just need to talk about it. Ideally, Lawrence says, they'll also get in touch with a dermatologist or an allergist to begin treatment.
Lawrence has been clear of symptoms for about three years now. "But it's chronic, so it's not like you're cured," she says.