Monday, February 6, 2012

Dreaming of the End of Food Allergies

We all dream about life without food allergies. What makes it especially hard for me is that I've heard now for 17 years that "a cure is just five years away." (Now I didn't do well in high school math, but even I know the numbers don't add up there.)

When I get really bummed out, I think about what it would actually be like if the wish came true and my son outgrew all his food allergies:
  • He could travel anywhere. No thoughts about whether there's a good enough hospital, close enough, with the right equipment. No concerns about finding appropriate foods. Cruises...rural camping... exotic semester abroad...backpacking through Europe: all on the completely-manageable list of possibilities.
  • He could eat in any restaurant. No more only four restaurants in his future! There would be no calls to the manager before he went, asking about the kitchen in general and their comfort level with cross-contamination. There would be no conversations that border on confrontation in order to ensure that everyone who touches his food really knows what's going on. We would no longer discard whole worlds of food (Chinese! Indian! Italian!) because of the risk. He wouldn't have to carry in his own bread and salad dressing. We wouldn't have to watch him like a hawk after eating. We wouldn't have to argue with food establishments about the legality of carrying our own food in. He could eat dessert
  • He could kiss a girl if he wanted. No worries about whether she had eaten peanut or put on lip gloss containing soy protein.  No wondering if the hands of the girl he's holding at the dance were just dipped in the buttered popcorn a few minutes before. No awkward questions and avoiding the whole situation because it's just too embarrassing. 
  • He could carelessly socialize with his friends. No going back for the medication bag (which looks like a purse no matter what we do). No negotiating which restaurant so he can eat something. No avoiding the school pancake breakfasts and language food days and United Nations weekend trips because they're so food-centric. 
  • He could get a part-time job without concern. So what if he had to handle peanut-butter cookies, or make coffee drinks with cream? Without food allergies, he doesn't have to worry any more if he touches his contaminated finger to his eye. Look ma, no reaction! 
  • He could have a reasonable amount of stress about leaving home. No thinking about how to find foods, store foods, cook foods. No missing out on communal dining and cookies sent by other kids' parents. No psychological weight of a possible reaction: anywhere he eats, everywhere he goes. No balance between telling people for safety's sake and boring/ annoying/ alienating people by talking about it. No convincing, cajoling, educating, avoiding. No need to question whether they believe, whether they would help, whether they might even harm. 
I know I'm whining. I remember my pediatrician tell me when he was little "just be grateful it isn't something really bad, like cystic fibrosis or diabetes." I understand that, I really do. My child is healthy. He's happy. He's reasonably well adjusted.

But I'm a MOM. I want what every mom wants: no limits for his future. No risks. 

Clearly I can't have that. But I can dream, can't I?


  1. I keep thinking that things will just get easier as my daughter gets older. Reading this made me stop and think that maybe I should just slow down and appreciate her being in my arms and safe! Right now my biggest sadness is having to leave her home from a restaurant, or telling her she cant have that cookie. Now, I am scared for her to grow up! lol

    Great post!

  2. Michelle, it's definitely a matter of perspective! I started this blog because I'm moving into another high-stress transition: college. What you don't necessarily see is how much easier the stuff I worried about in grade school has gotten for us. A couple years from now, the stuff I mentioned in this post will all be old hat.

    Hang in there (and thanks for reading!).


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