Monday, May 11, 2009


I wrote a while ago about how real friends don’t try to feed me anymore, even my family is starting to come around to the idea. I went to lunch this weekend with my father and my cousin and there was nothing I could eat or drink on the menu. (The restaurant was out of both San Pellegrino and Perrier) I ordered water and joked with the waiter about severe food allergies and trying to avoid drama. All in all, I had a great lunchtime chatting with them and no one felt compelled to make a fuss about my not eating. I had planned only to have something to drink, so food wasn’t really an issue for me. In hindsight, I could have ordered a side salad just to have something to play with but it just didn’t seem necessary.

Real friends are also willing to adapt their daily routine for a few days to keep me healthy when they visit. A wonderful friend from my undergrad days is coming in from the west coast and I’m on his list of people to see. I need to send him a reminder email about the adaptations necessary so that we can be in a car together and hang out for long periods of time without my reacting to corn carried on his clothes (scented laundry detergent or any dryer sheets) or on his skin or hair. Pretty tough order. I have no idea where we are going, but at least a few hours in the car is a good bet and being stuck with someone corn-taminated is a bad drive and I’ll be sick and cranky when we reach our destination.

Fortunately, we’ve been friends for ages, been through crazy adventures on several continents and he’s done more than his share to keep me sane through all of this allergy upheaval so he understands the changes I’ve made in my life to be safe and healthy. Because of this, my list of requirements is not so onerous to him, Or it could just be an Army flashback that lets him accept my seemingly absurd orders. Without the adaptation on his part, I’d just be full of Benadryl and groggy the whole time he is here. This is "Uncle Ted", he's a true blue friend and would have stuck with me if this allergy had given me a second head or turned me green, rather than just requiring these annoying adaptation.

Last time I saw him was when came to visit in Colorado. I think he was my first fully adapted visitor, since my house is my safe zone having someone else stay requires precautions. If I remember correctly after he got in from the airport he took a shower to get rid of the smell from the regular products he uses and just used my stuff for the rest of the visit, with the “welcome gifts” of his own personal fragrance free deodorant and shaving cream. I’m starting to sound like a hothouse flower, but it’s really not that hard. I’d prefer not to be allergic to people.

How to prep for a visit to a severely corn allergic friend:
~Wash your clothes in a fragrance free detergent (All Free and Clear is easy to find)
~DO NOT use dryer sheets – they all have cornstarch in them.
~Switch to fragrance free products for the time you are spending together, go corn free if you are feeling really kind) shampoos, soap, deodorant, moisturizers and shaving creams. (If you are visiting me, please feel free to use my stuff. It will save you shopping time and make me happy.)
~If you are serious about doing your coiffure, find fragrance free hair goop, preferably in a gel. Do not spray anything around your corn allergic friend! Wash your hands thoroughly after applying it and make sure to wash up any spills. This stuff is poison. Just the idea of having it in my house creeps me out. Make sure to take some time to off gas before getting around your friend.

Here's the basics on the corn free stuff:
  • Corn free shampoo & conditioner: ShiKai Natural Everyday Shampoo & Conditioner (no other type of Shikai is corn free)
  • Corn free soap – Kiss My Face Olive Oil – check to make sure it is fragrance free! There is only the pure olive oil soap is fragrance free.
  • Almay Clear Gel, Fragrance Free seems to be corn free, it is used by several people on the corn allergy board with no reaction
  • Fragrance free shaving cream – Kiss My Face makes a sensitive skin version that is fragrance free, I don’t know about corn content. If you can shave with soap, use the Kiss My Face Olive Oil soap. If you can shave with oil, use organic olive oil
  • Moisturizer – anything fragrance free is okay, since they all contain some corn. I use organic olive oil (no, it doesn’t smell like a salad)

When I last visited Ted and his fiancée, in California, they both adapted without a second thought – stopped using their perfumes and colognes and other little things to keep me safe. They made a safe bedroom for me to sleep in too. Since it was sunny California, we were able to hit the Pacific Coast Highway in CA style; top down and sea breezes make any car a safe zone. It was never a problem for them to make it safe for me, probably the most relaxing vacation I’ve had in years.

I don’t have an issue asking this visitor to follow my regimen. I know he is as practical as I am -- do this and we can go have fun, don’t do it and watch me sleep off the Benadryl. Not a hard choice to make. Still, it is much more difficult to ask this of someone that hasn’t been with me through the allergy discovery process. I worry that I sound crazy because corn really is in everything.

I’ve recently reconnected with a group of friends in the city that I haven’t seen since the onset of my food allergy. I’ve been invited to visit a few times, but I yet to work out how to make this safe. It’s not that they would not try to adapt, but there is SO much out there that is normal that is no longer on my radar that I seriously have to think through my request on how to make a safe space. Go fragrance free, no air fresheners, please don’t clean (no chemicals), let me bring my own food and sheets without being offended. It's really not that bad, I'm an easy guest -- need to prepare anything for me or even clean with anything other than water!

I’m adapting. Things that once were important or irresistible have fallen away. Food has gone from being a delight to being an enemy and finally is just something to be approached with caution. I’d like to think that one day I’ll wake up and be all better. Who knows, maybe I’ll also wake up and be a princess (Grace would like that). I’m not holding my breath for either. I’m learning, adapting, taking notes when I misstep and making sure I’m smarter for the future. What has made the process bearable are the friends who are adapting with me: my Lakota brother who will happily tell me that I’m a freak of nature but it’s okay because I’m family and his amazing wife who makes me corn-free fry bread; the August bride who wants detailed information to give the caterers so I will be safe at the reception; a long lost friend, who after hearing a little about my food restrictions, immediately started brainstorming how to solve my protein supply issues; 4-year-old Grace who guards me by announcing my allergy to the world; the fabulous Ms. M. who stops in the store to text me whenever she finds something safe; and Drew who saves the organic chives just for me.

Adaptation, the test of true friendship.


Cowboy said...

Thanks, Christine, for reminding us all that, as serious as this condition is, it is workable. Mature and mindful friends make life worth living for all of us. Keep the faith, Babe.

Christine said...

Hey Cowboy,

Ted's visit went beautifully, not a single Benadryl or Epi-pen.

With friends like the 2 of you I'm safe, if I could just get the rest of the world to be so wonderful...

Wish me luck,