The Other Health Issue That’s Always On My Mind
The wonderful DOC isn’t my only online support group. I also frequent support groups for people with food allergies. I worry about my diabetes throughout the day as needed. But since my daughter was 8 months old and diagnosed with strong peanut and egg allergies via skin and blood testing, diabetes has often been in the back of my mind.
I never wanted to be the crazy mom that wipes her children’s hands all the time when out in public. I never intended to worry about another child holding my child’s hand. I didn’t imagine I’d have to meticulously inspect every morsel of food before it passed my daughter’s lips. I never imagined packing so much food every time we go out. I thought our family would avoid restaurants in order to save money, not to save our child from getting sick. And I thought we’d never go to fast food places because they are junk food rather than because they are unsafe.
Many trips out of our apartment result in some kind of itchy rash, despite the fact that she never eats what she is allergic to. See, it’s not like I have to just avoid feeding her peanuts and eggs. That part is easy. I have to avoid her touching these foods, or touching someone who touched these foods, or touching a surface that someone touched who touched these foods, or even getting a kiss on the cheek from someone who had these foods earlier that day. And do you know how many processed foods have peanut and eggs in them? Or are manufactured on the same line as peanut and eggs? Most processed foods. I know, I’ve read all the labels and sadly placed the item back on the shelf. Not because I wanted to purchase it, but because it’s one more item that is out in the world that adds to the threat.
The other day at the library a little boy pulls out a PB&J sandwich as he plays with the toys and books and I have to grab my kids, who are kicking and screaming (and about 35 pounds each) and leave. I know they don’t understand so I can’t really explain. I just have to keep them away.
Often, we’ll get home from a store and my daughter will be busy scratching frantically at her whole body. There are noticeably red, raised rash welps. She gets horrible diaper rashes every month that make her cry and scream in pain, When she calms down, I look at her lovingly, trying to disguise my pain, and she just smiles. And that smile makes me want to burst into tears. I worry that when she’s older and aware of all she is missing out on, the baseball game, the birthday party, the library egg painting Easter party, snacks with friends, and the restaurants…I worry she won’t be smiling all the time the way she does now. I worry she’ll go through something similar to what I went through. Being diagnosed with type 1 as a child in the 90’s and using the older insulin, I had to live a very strict routine of diabetes management, meals, and snacks between the ages of 11 and 17. And of course, I felt very different. And of course, it’s hard on a kid. It can be an empowering lesson and it was for me but I don’t want her to have to go through that.
Or her twin brother. He’s had to live like her because of their constant contact with each other and he doesn’t have any food allergies. We’re all in this together as a family. In fact, my mom is now a pro when it comes to cooking safely for us when we come over. My dad replaced his beloved peanut butter with peanut free almond butter. My family brushes their teeth and washes their hands and clean all the surfaces before we come over. It’s our new normal.
This is a diabetes blog and so I have to say I’m incredibly thankful I’m writing about her food allergies as opposed to her having diabetes. I am so thankful my kids don’t have diabetes. I really want you to know that. But, I am aware of how our lives have been impacted because of food allergies. We’ve been scared to go places or see people as a result. We’ve had to deal with people not understanding the severity of her situation in the least bit. And because she was diagnosed at such a young age, there was no available epi pen for her weight range so we had to completely avoid scenarios where she might be exposed because we wouldn’t have an epi pen with which to give us enough time to make it to the hospital if an emergency situation came up.
So if you come across a “paranoid” or “overprotective” parent of a child with severe or life-threatening food allergies, please be kind and sensitive. They don’t want to be that way but there is no other way to be when you love your child. People do die from food allergies. Those of you with diabetes or with children who have diabetes, I know you totally understand.
Thanks for listening.