Be grateful for food allergies?
“Everyone’s got their issues. Be thankful food allergies are all you have. If that’s the worst thing in your life, we’re really lucky.”
This is what I often tell my kids. I don’t want them feeling sorry for themselves and on some level I don’t think they really have the “right” to. They understand. They accept that having food allergies is a challenge, but it is what it is… and it could be a lot worse.
Some of you may not agree. My 3 kids’ food allergies – peanuts, tree nuts (2), dairy (2), egg, and sesame – seem much more manageable than what I know many of you deal with. For some, the list of allergens is much longer, the dining much more restrictive (corn, soy, other less well-known allergens, etc.), and/or the allergy sensitivity much more severe (inhalation, etc.). So in no way do I want to minimize how difficult the daily food allergy challenges are for many families, nor do I want to diminish the feelings of ANYONE dealing with food allergies – we all cope differently. However, every now and then I see something that makes me believe even more strongly that my kids are in fact lucky.
It seems that almost every child I know or come across these days has some issue (actually, that’s not just reserved for children). There are those with significant maladies better known to the general public like juvenile diabetes, leukemia and other cancers, autism, and more. There are those with very challenging “hidden” diseases like various forms of mental illness and I’d even include distressing or dangerous family dynamics, etc. And there seem to be more and more children growing up with less well-known and rare issues – some that are quite severe, lifelong, affect very few people and very little research dollars. I have come across a disturbing number of children suffering in this last category.
So in light of all that, yes, I feel my children are lucky.
I was given another reminder the other day from a member of our very own food allergy community. Last Tuesday – March 5 – I shared on the AllergyEats Facebook page a Wall Street Journal article entitled “Food Allergy Advice for Parents: Start Peanuts, Eggs and More Sooner.” Now, I won’t go into my thoughts on the content of that article here (go to the Facebook page to see more), but one of the reader comments really struck me and filled me with compassion, sadness, and optimism – all in 5 simple sentences. Let me share the comment from Susan Callahan here:
As a 70-yr-old with a life-long peanut allergy, I feel I have come from prehistoric times into a new world of allergy awareness and knowledge. In my childhood I was ridiculed in school and my parents took me to my family doctor who did not know how to help. Somehow I survived without epipens and coping skills almost with just sheer instinct and luck. I wished I had lived more fully, traveled without fear and taken more opportunities in life. I say to today’s parents give your food-allergic child coping skills and the information to fly like a bird (with an epi under his/her wing).
My children are tremendously lucky by comparison. The world is obviously more knowledgeable about food allergies. We also have the benefit of a life saving medication at our fingertips that can be self-administered or administered by millions of trained non-food allergic individuals.
“I wished I had lived more fully, traveled without fear and taken more opportunities in life.”
Words my children will never have to say because of their food allergies.
I wish I could thank Susan Callahan for this touching reminder of how thankful my family should be. I hope many of you agree. And my deepest compassion goes out to those whose daily food allergy challenges are just too overwhelming to feel the same. Please try to be encouraged by the tremendous research taking place to help desensitize, if not cure, our kids and our community.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please share them in the Reply box below.
Please also remember to share every one of your dining experiences on the core AllergyEats site or (free) smartphone app. This is a great way to help our entire food allergy and intolerance community. Just 1 minute and 3 multiple-choice answers is all it takes to review a restaurant and make AllergyEats a more valuable tool for all of us.