Friday, May 29, 2009

I Cried at Target

I cried at Target today, and I wasn't even at the checkout counter shelling out another $50 for a bag full of crucial items such as Bakugans, fruit snacks and deoderant.

No, this was the good kind of cry. The kind that's stuffed with relief and the joy of endless possibility. And all of this was from a two-word text message sent by my husand.

A little background first: I weaned Sage at two months after I could not eliminate from my diet whatever offending food caused her green, bloody poops. She went on specialized, prescription-only formula until we put her on soy milk at a year. She did fine. But sometimes, after having dairy, she'd break out in a small patch of hives. I assumed some sort of allergy. It hasn't happened in over a year, and she has eaten yogurt, ice cream, cottage cheese and the occasional bottle of milk from Subway or McDonald's with no issues since.

Avoiding peanuts and tree nuts was not an issue. Because of Sawyer's severe allergy, we never have any in the house. I study all labels to make sure we don't even eat those products made on shared equipment with nuts (go ahead, look in your pantry. You'll be amazed by how much is made on shared equipment).

Sometimes they can't have a cake at a party if it comes from Costco, since it says on the label it contains nuts, or baked goods at a cookout if I can't interrogate the person who made it to see what's in the cookies or brownies.

I worry every day that something Sawyer will eat will kill him, and I always will worry until they come up with a vaccine. And I'm not being overdramatic. About 1 out of 25 kids have food allergies, according to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, and the most likely to die from their allergy are those between 15-35 years old.

I didn't know about Sage. I just had her avoid stuff just like Sawyer, which wasn't that hard since we don't have it in our house. We assumed the allergy at her preschool so there were no nut products served for snack.

But I really needed to know. So being the perpetual mother-of-the-year candidate that I am, I finally got off my behind and made an appointment to get her tested for allergies. I should have done it at this time last year, before she started preschool. Just one more thing in my long list of shouldas. Sigh.

Anyway. I recently was tested, so I decided to have Sage see the same doctor. I told David he had to take her. Considering I cried last time Sage has a throat culture (granted, I gave birth the next day, so I might have been a touch hormonal), I didn't think I'd do well with her having to get a prick test - they poke you repeatedly with tiny needles to get the allergens in your skin. And if you're allergic to one or more of the serums, the itch is almost unbearable.

I didn't have high hopes for her behavior. This is the girl who screams when I get within two feet of her head with a hairbrush.

Today was the day. They left, with Sage having no idea what was in store for her. She knew only that she was going to be tested to see if she was allergic to peanuts and she seemed somewhat excited about it.

Turned out, they didn't do the prick test like they did with me. It was some sort of stamp, which caused no pain for her whatsoever. Meanwhile, I passed the time wandering around Target with a sleeping baby.

Waiting for news.

Finally, it came.

Two words.

no peanut

That was it. Two words that will change my little girl's life forever.

So I cried. Right there in front of the bikinis.

A whole new world just opened up for her. She will never have to worry that something she eats could make her sick - or worse. She can go have ice cream after soccer practice with her friends, and not worry about cross-contamination from the peanut fudge ripple. She can go to a restaurant and order what she wants with no fear that an almond might have gotten into her salad.

There will be plenty of things for me to stress out about when she's out on her own. Dying from eating a granola bar won't be one of them.

She proudly informed Sawyer when he got home from school today that she could eat peanuts.

He wasn't happy.

It wasn't malicious, obviously. I told him nothing would change at home. She would not be eating nuts here or anywhere near him, or when she was going to be seeing him. Our lifestyle as a family will remain the same.

There are enough things he can't have. Home should be where nothing is off-limits for him.

"Mommy, I just wish I could eat peanuts," he said.

"So do I. Every day I wish that for you," I told him. I also said they're working on a vaccine, so maybe someday he could eat peanuts without getting really sick. But maybe not.

It's not fair. Not at all. And it really, really sucks. So how do you explain that to a five year-old?

Not that we wish the allergy on anyone, but I'd heard there might be another peanut-allergic child in his kindergarten class next year. That would be good for Sawyer, to help him not feel so alone in this.

Don't get me wrong: he's a happy kid, and he eats plenty of great stuff. I expect him to live a long and happy life. It'd be fantastic if he didn't have the shadow of this allergy following his every step. But we'll deal with it. And hope that we give him the confidence - and the information on how to protect himself - so that he can always feel full.


lauren gray | the haunted hollow tree said...

I am happy for you and for Sage, what a relief. I can't even imagine how difficult it is for you and Sawyer. I am praying for a vaccine to come around for your little guy and others suffering from serious allergies. Take care!

Gabrielle (Peanut Free Mama) said...

I would cry in Target too. You are NOT alone. That is fabulous news! :)

Cheryl said...

Thank you!!!!

Andrew Rosenberg said...

I'm sending Sage a peanut.

PS you have a blog?

the mangiafico family said...

cheryl - yay, what great news for sage!!! after reading your entry i almost cried...!!

hope you are doing well, kids are adorable!!!!

~allison (wendy's friend)

MarfMom said...

hi...i stumbled upon your blog via SITS, and have been reading a bunch of your posts.

it is so hard to explain this sort of thing to a child! i don't have experience with allergies, but i have a life-threatning heart condition and i work with youth who have the same disorder, so in a way it's similar i suppose, b/c of the need for lifestyle adjustments and that feeling of being the odd one out at school and with friends.

are there books about peanut allergies, like children's books? our foundation recently published a children's book on our disorder, using the ABCs as a guideline. i thought it was a lovely way to explain everything, and i bought it for my son. he didn't inherit my condition, but i hope when he's a bit older that it will help teach him why mommy is different.

Cheryl said...

Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting!

Yes, there are a ton of books and websites out there for kids with peanut or other life-threatening allergies.

Sorry to hear about your heart condition. How scary. I think it's great teaching your son about it - not only so he understands why you're different, but to teach him empathy for others.

Melissa said...

Poking around your blog after you showed me some comment love (thank you, so means a lot that you stopped by...and, for lack of a better phrase, it did make me laugh out loud). Love your honest at turns humorous, at turns touching staccato style. I'll be back! Best, Melissa

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