Once I was old enough to start exploring the kitchen cabinets my parents found out that I was very allergic to peanuts, peanut butter, tree nuts, and even egg as a young child. I outgrew my egg allergy, thankfully. I did not outgrow my allergy to nuts, but it has been quite a journey so far. I went through a spell in middle and high school where I wanted to out grow my allergies, of course, and thought that I had for awhile. That was until one day at school when I popped a delicious chocolate treat into my mouth only to find out it was loaded with peanut butter. I don't think I taste peanut butter like most people do, but as soon as I eat the tiniest, and really I do mean the tiniest bite, I know what I've eaten. It's a feeling unlike any other. It's a mixture of feeling terrible, sheer surprise that it's happening, fear, and that feeling like they describe in the symptoms of impending doom because you just don't know what will happen.
I am a VERY careful eater! I RESPECT EVERY BITE. I eat out rarely and very cautiously. Mostly because I'm afraid of the severity of my peanut allergy, but also because I developed other food allergies as I got older. When I was 20 I visited an allergist again to have some new testing done. At this visit I found out that in addition to the peanut and tree nut allergies, I am also allergic to soy, green peas, and salmon. This leads to part of my cautiousness eating out as well because soy is everywhere. I am very thankful that I do not have a severe soy allergy. I eat soy lecithin, soybean oil, but stay away from soy protein. I read EVERY label. Even for foods that I buy every time I go to the grocery store because ingredients can change. I ASK when I eat out. I INTERROGATE at friends' houses. I let people know when we are having a dinner party that I am severely allergic. This may sound extreme - it used to to me, but it is how I live with my food allergies. I haven't always been this way though.
The turning point was my cousin’s wedding several years ago. I was a bridesmaid in her wedding and enjoying the reception as I moved towards dessert. Rather than having 2 cakes they had a “chocolate bar” set up. While my now-husband went to go get us plates I got too excited and popped a sweet chocolate/vanilla looking item in my mouth (see the trend here? It’s always the desserts!). Well, it was definitely a chocolate coating with a pure peanut butter filling. Oh, I was instantly miserable and regretful! I made a dash to the bathroom as my lips, tongue, mouth all started to swell. My stomach immediately became upset as my body was trying to vomit up this terrible “poison”. I spent minutes washing my mouth out, just holding my open mouth under the sink hoping that would help. It really didn’t. Thankfully, the husband is so calm and experienced with this that he helped me to calm down. Simply focusing on breathing got me through. My mom, the pharmacist, gave me some Benadryl from her purse. I didn’t have an EpiPen but if I had one I can guarantee you I would have used it. It was a very scary experience. It was my turning point as my poofy, swollen face matched my already poofy dress.
Before that I did have some scary encounters. After that I had some minor ones as I walked the line trying to learn just how careful I needed to be. I used to be so embarrassed of my food allergies. I would never tell my teachers, never tell my friends, never ask, never think twice, but that wedding experience scared me enough to change my ways. I have learned that you can never be too cautious. Foods can become contaminated through cross-contact; people think they know how to make it safe but that’s not always fool proof; even a key lime pie (which should be nut free) has made me sick because crushed pecans were used in the crust, and this was even after alerting my server of my serious allergy.
People who have no experience with food allergies do not know the complexities, so it is up to us, the ones with the allergies, the ones with kids with allergies, the ones with loved ones with allergies, to protect ourselves and others and bring awareness.
That is why this topic is so important to me. That is why this topic is my passion.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for sharing!
ps - See what I mean about poofy dress?? This is me on the right with my lovely, beautiful sister on the left. This was pre-allergy incident.