Today is the kick off to the 13th annual Food Allergy Awareness Week. I think it is great that there is an entire week dedicated to something that is so huge in my life. I was not too sure what to do, it seems kind of silly, an entire week 'celebrating' food allergies. But I have decided that the best way to 'raise awareness' is to tell your story. And boy do I have some stories. I have never written anything besides a quick status update, since high school. So please forgive grammatical errors. But then again, I am not writing all of this for anyone to judge, critic or voice their opinion, unless this person can relate. So this is how I am going to embrace this week. For the next 7 days, I will write about an experience I have encountered from developing this allergy. These stories are very personal to me and for those of you who know me, know how private I am, and know how hard this is going to be. But from advice from one of the most amazing, intelligent and caring souls I know, I agreed that maybe this would be a good step for me. Talking about it! If you want to continue to read fantastic. If you don't....no biggie. I chat, joke, poke fun of myself everyday to make it less real. But for this short period of time that I am sitting here writing, I will truly embrace that fact that I have a food allergy that is life threatening.
Maybe for Day 1of this week I will just give a brief description of my allergies. And then some facts and statistics about food allergies. I do plan on one day talking about my first reaction. I have only told the story in detail once and that was to a trauma therapist who 3 months into still doesn't know the full story. I joke about it ALL of the time. But it was certainly no joke. So, as part of this "celebration' week and this week of Jan blogs, I will tell you all. Or at least the ones who have continued on reading! I must warn you, these aren't the most fun stories and I don't know how this will benefit any of us, but apparently talking helps, so I will give it a try.
Food allergy occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks a food protein. Ingestion of the offending food may trigger the sudden release of chemicals, including histamine, resulting in symptoms of an allergic reaction. The symptoms may be mild (rashes, hives, itching, swelling, etc.) or severe (trouble breathing, wheezing, loss of consciousness, etc.). A food allergy can be potentially fatal. Scientists estimate that approximately 12 million Americans suffer from food allergies. Eight foods account for 90 percent of all food-allergic reactions in the U.S.: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts(e.g., walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans), wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish. None of which are on my list. Food allergies are life-altering for everyone involved and require constant vigilance. One last fact....there is no cure for food allergies.
When you have a food allergy everything changes. I think you are lucky if you are born with this allergy. Most of the time you develop them early on in life. Then there are those of us who are fortunate enough to develop them later on in life. Which is a huge adjustment is every way. Not just life changing.....life altering. You must give up so many things, things that you love and have grown accustom too. I still remember how things taste. Some days I wake up wanting a pineapple or lemon lime gatorade so bad, it makes me tear up. How can something so natural and something so yummy, put me in the hospital. My mom can attest, I was addicted to that damn gatorade for years..now I get scared to look at it! Not just food given up. Make -up, hair products, department stores and of course the hardest for me....my career as a hairstylist.
Going out to dinner just is no fun anymore. What used to be a fun, simple, enjoyable activity turns into an anxiety ridden, disappointing and scary couple hours. What if they don't really check to see what is in that sauce, or what are the vegetables really steamed in. What is I say no something and they don't do it and I don't check. How am I suppose to trust this waitress/waiter with my life?!
I know, I know, most of you still reading are probably thinking I am being over dramatic right now. If you are thinking that, you either know no one with a food allergy or have never been around someone when they went into an allergic reaction. It is not fun. It is terrible and scary. The itching, the cramping, the shortness of breath. The feeling of your lungs slowly closing and you are just hoping someone around you knows where your epi-pen is because black out is right around the corner. There are so many worse things out there. Trust me I know. The sadness of accidents and diseases I here about everyday are tragic. I wouldn't want anything like that at all. I feel blessed that this is my medical issue. I also feel blessed that it is my issue and no one whom I love. I would never want anyone in my life to have to have gone though and given up all I have had to in the last two years since my first reaction. It has been far too hard and I am glad I was the lucky one and no one else. I couldn't handle seeing my mom, my best friend, hell even my neighbor deal. Too scary. Everyday I wake up along with 12 million other Americans and think, is today the day I make a mistake. I am lucky to say that, yes I have made lots of mistakes, but thankfully my support team always gets me my meds or to the hospital in time.
So here is my first blog for the week. If you are still reading thank you. I promise to make sure that I don't get too sappy or dramatic with these. Something I just need to do. With all of that being......
My name is Jan and I am severely allergic to citrus.