Good News

Ever since Penny switched allergists our whole experience has been different. Obviously, different doctor, different experience. Yes, but it has changed our perspective from what seemed like a situation into a journey. A journey which has been beneficial not only for Penny but for the whole family. We have all grown with more understanding, empathy, precaution, and a completely different point of view about food allergies.

Reading through the blog, the experiences we’ve been through as a family and how I have reacted to Penny’s diagnosis and allergic reactions, I’ve felt a shift in perspective. My initial reaction to Penny’s diagnosis was negative, one of complete fear and isolation. As I state in Our Story: “Penny’s diagnosis changed our world. At first, it was overwhelming because we had no idea what having food allergies really meant and we didn’t know how to handle them. What can she eat now? Dairy, peanuts and tree nuts seemed to be ingredients found in almost every food that we eat. Reading labels became everything […]” Not to say that I do not experience fear every time we go to the doctor’s office for a food challenge, or get anxious every time we have a test coming up, but now we see Food Allergies in a new, refreshing way. I know that we can be resilient, but I also have to acknowledge that Penny’s doctor has been a key component of this new attitude towards Food Allergies. He’s been very good with educating us more on the subject and giving us reassurance about safety.

A few weeks ago, it was time for allergy testing. Oooh! What an exciting and scary time! You know, it is either good news- she’s outgrowing her allergies or not so good news- her allergies are the same or worse. We got to the doctor’s office, and after having been examined for her asthma and everything else (height, weight, changes in health, etc), it was “test time”. She was tested for the current allergies and a few more that we were worried about because of family allergy history. This time it was great news. It seems like she has outgrown most of the nut allergies and she is no longer allergic to dog or cat dander. Also, the dairy allergy has improved. Hooray for Oral Immunotherapy! Unbelievable: Her multiple allergies have been reduced to only 2 foods: peanuts and dairy!

I have to say that it is a pretty neat feeling. Knowing that your child is safe around foods that were previously like poison to her. It has also been very exciting for Penny. She has been letting everyone know that she possibly might not be allergic to nuts! So, what’s next you might ask? A cashew challenge. The doctor wants to introduce tree nuts in the office, just to be safe.  Like I said, I always get nervous when it comes to food challenges, but I trust my daughter’s allergist. Penny? She’s very excited about the challenge- she’s even counting the days.

Sometimes these curveballs that life throws at you end up being such a gem. You learn, you grow, and you find peace within yourself. There’s nothing harder than swimming against the current. After accepting the reality of being a Food-Allergic Family, I can acknowledge that whole experience has been an incredible, enriching and learning one.  

Advertisements

Hollows Eve

Halloween… one of the words I dread the most. Why? Think about it; Halloween means one thing: CANDY. What are the most common ingredients found in these treats? Top 8 allergens. When we go out on this day, all I see around is just a potential allergic reaction.

Before Penny was diagnosed with food allergies we used to go trick or treating, but after she got the diagnosis, we felt it was too much of a risk, and decided to avoid it the years that followed. Not wanting to exclude the kids from having fun we started a new Halloween tradition, painting our pumpkins teal, getting our costumes on, and offering non-food treats to people. This year things changed: Penny is older and now understands what Halloween is, she talks about it with her friends and we felt like she wanted to be more involved, so we thought we should give it another chance.

The day started pretty excitingly. Fairy Princess costume on, breakfast, and off to school for a small Halloween bash. Like most of you know, Penny’s school is pretty accommodating when it comes to her food allergies. For the event held at her school, people brought treats and party foods to share with everyone. Even though there weren’t any peanuts or tree nuts, there was plenty of dairy around. The day was going O.K., but at a certain point a rash started to appear in Penny’s hands and face, and before her reaction got worse, my husband picked her up from school. He cleaned her hands and face really well, and the rash eventually disappeared. In the evening, I took the children trick or treating to some neighbors houses whom I had already given non-food items to offer to them, and it was a happy end to our day.

Even though our day was a successful one, it was stressful. Are we going trick or treating next year? I am not sure; maybe we’ll go back to passing non-food treats and raising Food Allergy awareness. Am I overreacting? Perhaps. It might be that I am overwhelmed because one of our family members went into anaphylactic shock less than a week ago and is fighting for his life. Maybe I seem like I am being overly cautious, but there’s one thing I would like you to understand: my children’s allergies, intolerances, or disorders are not their choice; it’s something they have to live with. Let’s create awareness; let’s cultivate empathy in our family members. Judging only clouds our thinking, if we try to walk a mile in other’s people shoes we contribute to a better society.

 

 

Four Years Ago

It’s almost the four-year anniversary of Penny’s food allergy diagnosis. We’ve come a long way ever since, and there’s so much more that we need to learn. At that time, when her doctor said the words, “Penny is allergic to dairy, peanuts and tree nuts”, I was filled with mixed emotions. Happy because we finally had a name for those unexplainable hives that would appear on and off during the past 5-6 months, but at the same time it felt like a “life sentence”. It felt like our lives were turned upside down.

Choosing things to eat without her allergens was hard, going to gatherings, birthday parties and play dates seemed impossible, and to be honest it is still hard sometimes. Even choosing a school for Penny to attend, where her allergies are taken seriously, was a struggle. Things got harder last year when my husband had to do an unaccompanied Army one-year, overseas tour. Penny was sick a lot that year. From the moment my husband left, she started getting ear infections. Of course, her allergies to antibiotics made things harder. Then after recurrent ear infections (one each month for 6 months), she was referred to an ENT, and the Dr. decided that she had to undergo surgery to place tubes in her ears and also remove her adenoids and tonsils.

I am so lucky to have friends that go above and beyond for my children and me. So, when the decision was made that Penny was to have the surgery, my best friend (Sonia) offered to fly into town and be here with us through Penny’s recovery. The day of the surgery, I was a nervous wreck. Since Penny has not only food allergies, but also allergy to medications, I was so scared how her body was going to react to anesthesia. Thankfully, surgery was a success, and Penny didn’t have to stay at the hospital that night. Although Penny recovered pretty fast from surgery, she did have some complications. A week after surgery, her lungs started accumulating liquid, but eventually (with treatment), she pulled through. Sonia stayed with us for 3 weeks, making it possible for me to go to work while helping to take care of Penny & Paulo. I am forever grateful for Sonia’s help.

These past four years have taught us to read labels, eat healthier, cook and bake at home, create awareness, educate people, deal with uncertainty and more, but overall we’ve learned to see life differently, to live with empathy, and to think about the everyday struggles of others. We’ve received so much love and consideration from family, friends, and even strangers. Food Allergies are hard, but the hidden gems it brings are far more valuable. We’ve met great people, and we’re part of a beautiful community that looks out for each other. Can’t wait to see what else this incredible journey has for us.

Challenge Accepted

A few months ago Penny had an appointment scheduled for a cheese challenge. After having experienced a mild contact-reaction to cheese in her school, I decided that the Cheese Challenge was off the table (for now!). However, Penny’s allergist wanted to see her to follow-up on that reaction. At that appointment, Penny had a penicillin challenge instead.

When she was only one year old, Penny had to take penicillin for a bacterial infection. Twelve hours after the first dose, her little fingers and toes started swelling. That swelling later spread to the arms and legs. She was immediately taken off the penicillin and treated for the allergic reaction. Since then, different kinds of antibiotics have had to take care of her recurrent ear infections.

That day, 3.5 years after, her doctor decided that it was time to see if she had already outgrown the penicillin allergy. First, the nurse administered a small amount of the penicillin in her skin with a needle. If her skin turned red, itchy or raised bump, that would mean that she was still allergic to penicillin. Penny passed! Then, the doctor gave her a dose of penicillin to confirm that in fact, the skin reaction was really negative. Again, Penny passed with flying colors!

This is an exciting new step in our lives. Fewer allergies, less worry, more happiness.

What’s next? An almond challenge! Stay tuned, I will keep you posted.