Thursday, April 30, 2009

Being the Horrible Warning

Part of the excitement and dread of starting a new job as someone with a life threatening food allergy is having to train a set of new people not to endanger your life with their normal behavior. No one in my home office has a problem with not making popcorn and it has become a habit them to take my car for gas whenever anyone gets a craving for a midday junk food. My food is still interesting to everyone, but in a good way.

Fortunately for me, in that one member of my “away team,” (we get together a couple times a month) has several food allergies and another member had an anaphylactic reaction to a bee sting – so generally the team is up on the concept of what can happen if you have a serious reaction.

That said, I am still the poster gal for FOOD ALLERGY for the regional offices. The CEO always wants to know what in the world I am eating when we have working lunches. I try to be as normal as possible while still being safe, which is not always easy. But, it was recently pointed out to me, I am the HORRIBLE WARNING in this blog’s tag line.

This is a bit of a surprise, since I actually though I was a good example. I don’t try to cheat with a little bit of this or that (not because I don’t like it, but because the Epi-Pen/ ER visit combo really takes a bite out of a workday) and I don’t complain when the rest of the office does special treats. A lot of teambuilding revolves around food events; ice cream socials potluck lunches, pizza and more. As long as it does not involve cooking corn in the office, it doesn’t bother me. I like the smell of the foods I used to eat. Even if I can’t eat them, it usually doesn’t hurt to enjoy their fragrance. I get something to drink and join the fun.

These days, if I don’t make it, I don’t eat it. A few of my ingredients come from a can or a box (a few Amy’s and Pacific Organic soups, some unsalted rice crackers) but most things come from the farm. I’m careful; I’m vigilant about cross contamination with my cooking and eating utensils, I’m know where my food comes from, I know all my farmers by their first names, I carry 2 Epi-Pens and back up meds at all times and hope to see them expire without having to use them, I know many of the names corn hides under in processed food and how to avoid it. I’d like to think that I am a good example of preparedness, awareness and common sense.

But, I’m not.

I am the horrible warning. . I don’t think it is a bad life – sure ice cream and junk food are out of my diet, but I don’t really think I needed them in the first place. I’m losing weight and feeling better than I have in ages. I don’t mind my lifestyle, it works for me.

Still, as it was nicely pointed out the other day, I am the horrible warning.

As we were digging into our lunches after the first 2 hours of a marathon meeting, the away team member with food allergy remarked “I am so much more careful now about my allergy since I met you.”

Great, I thought, I’m spreading food paranoia. “What kind of reactions do you have, have you every had an anaphylactic reaction?” I had to pry, since I was wondering if she had a food intolerance or a true allergy and if I really was making her parinoid.

“Well, when I was tested I had not had an anaphylactic reaction, but was having other skin and other problems. My allergist told me to avoid X and Y, which I do, to keep it from progressing to anaphylaxis. I’ve been avoiding them for years, but I don’t always read labels that diligently or talk to wait staff. Since I’ve started working with you and seeing how carefully you have to live, I’ve gotten worried about it. So now, I’m much more careful.”

Score 1 for the Horrible Warning.

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