Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Upside of Food Allergies

It's Allergy Awareness Month and Food Allergy Awareness Week! Yay.

It's always food allergy awareness week in my little part of the universe, since you are reading this blog it is most likely part of yours too. I've been meeting a lot of new people lately, so I’ve been explaining my restrictions and adaptations ad nauseum — they are a bit strange for most people, but not that big of a deal for me anymore. Actually, there are a lot of upsides to having a severe corn allergy (depending on what you are allergic to, your mileage may vary). I’m living the healthy lifestyle I always wanted to but never had the discipline or drive for, have your throat try to swell shut a few times and those reserves of will power fill right on up!

These are the good things that having a severe corn allergy has done for me:

I eat GOOD food — organic, pesticide free, gmo free, mainly locally grown by farmers I know (Hi Roy & Hope, Patrick & Angela, Dave, Adam, Donna, Anna, Sue and Chuck!)

I have few vices — caffeine is really it. A good latte makes my day and I drink a great organic black/green Earl Grey tea. Bliss.

I live simply — no makeup, no hair products, no perfumes, no artificial anything, what you see is what you get.

I clean naturally — no chemical household cleaners which have been linked to a host of respiratory issues.

I am an informed consumer — I know way too much about our food system, I know most of the chemical names of what is derived from corn and I vote with my food dollar to support food systems that are good for our country and our planet.

I am prepared — if anyone needs allergy meds, my Activeaide bag always has 2 Epi-Pens and Benadryl.

I speak up — I advocate for myself with my doctors because I can't expect them to be experts on this allergy. I do the research on the medications that are safe for me and present them with the information on inactive ingredients at my appointment (thanks again for the Palm Pilot Jess!). In the rare encounter with a doctor that is unable to listen to medical information from a patient, I try to end the appointment nicely, but firmly. If it is an emergency situation, I make sure I get the help I need and I let them know nicely,that they are threatening my health with their behavior. If they still can't listen, then I resort to being a jerk (which I really hate -- but reactions make me super cranky so it is a little easier then) till they will. I usually love my doctors so I really hate having to act like that to get good emergency care. (It's a hard job, try help out your doc , PAs and nurses by having good info on hand for them.)

I appreciate breathing — (allergy and asthma people, you know what I mean) You never truly appreciate breathing till that moment of terror during a bad reaction. After that taking a good breath on the worst day is pure bliss.

I have a built in litmus test for people — it doesn’t take ages to get a sense of a person’s character when they run into a food allergy issue. A friend who can jab you with an Epi-pen in a crisis is elevated to ROCK STAR status forever. The other extreme is not worth discussing other than to say safety requires getting no closer than a phone call till they can understand that a medically diagnosed life threatening food allergy is NOT going to go away with an attitude change. :P Co-workers and work contacts who deal with this little issue with ease get the gold star and I am extra willing to go extra miles for them.

I come with a warning label and disclosure — everyone has a thing, mine is what I have to do to keep breathing. I already wear a medical alert tag, on top of that I force myself to be upfront with people about this thing so I can stay safe. I don't really want to talk about it, but I do, again and again. If you want to get to know me, you get disclosure and you can make the choice. No hard feelings if you decide you can't cope, food is a big deal for a lot of people. My own sainted mother, when she figured out her lasagna was out of my diet, said "If your grandmother were still alive, she would kill you."

I enjoy the alternatives — so going out for dinner is not my first choice for fun anymore. How about a museum? A gallery? A park? A lake? The ocean? (Oh pretty please!) The theater? Live music? Tea or coffee? Let’s go dancing? Watch the sunset? As a philosopher friend says about this blog, "Its the end of the world as I knew it and I feel fine." There’s plenty of fun out there and I find it. In this economy, my choices are starting to look better to a lot of people.

I am grateful for my friends — if you don’t have to adapt to a corn allergy or have a perfume or fragrance allergy, going fragrance free to get in the car with me for a weekend is an effort, but my wonderful friends cheerfully do it without a complaint. They wipe down their kids, secure the corn products, invite me to bring my safe ingredients to cook with them so I can try a special dish -- so much kindness, I get choked up thinking about it. My amazing co-workers keep my gas tank full to keep me away from the ethanol. People are generally GREAT and my friends amaze and surprise me with their kindness and generosity. I’m fine with the way my life works, but they keep making it better and better. I try to let them know how much I appreciate them.

I understand this is life and death at times, but it can still be funny — I get some good reactions: fish eyes, Muppet lips, Elvis lip, evil red bumpies who knows what comic treat we are in for next. My advice: don't panic, deal with the emergency, take the drugs, stop the reaction, then look in a mirror and have a good laugh.

So, for Food Allergy Awareness week, I am going to make myself aware of all the positive changes I’ve made and all the great things I’ve learned from having a corn allergy. Happy Food Allergy Awareness Week — Be Safe and keep talking about your allergy!


Unknown said...

Great post!

Cowboy said...

Your ability to find a positive side to everything is an inspiration to us all, Christine.
You go, girl!

Christine said...

Thanks Jen and Cowboy! You both made my day.

Cowboy, glad to see you made it here from the frozen north. Like you say, it may be the end of the old way of doing things--but that is nothing to mourn, when there is so much to celebrate in this new corn-free world.

Anonymous said...

I just found out that I have the corn allergy eventhough I knew something was wrong all my life (i.e. literally scratching the skin off my head after using shampoo/grease products, rashes, itchies, et al). It took my fiancee dragging me to an allergist to figure it out. Changing our lifestyle to accomodate me has been very challenging for both of us. I have bookmarked your posts because you make all this seem so trivial. Your positivity is awesome, humorous, and informative.

Juliet said...

I agree to this post. Being optimistic is the key to make things work out having allergy. Though it is not easy to deal when allergy symptoms strikes but at least face it. Find a solution to your problem and do not just shut yourself from the world.