Tuesday, April 9, 2013

It's Dead Jim: The Loss of an Allergy (and All It Entails)

 As people on Facebook were first to find out (sorry) last Wednesday was our yearly follow up with the allergist.   I'd been looking forward to the appointment for weeks, sick I know, because I was excited to find out how my son was doing.  You see, for the last six months Alvah's skin had been clear; beautifully, wonderfully so.  And so I was hoping that maybe, JUST MAYBE, Alvah would have lost at least one of his mega bady food allergies (as in the life threatening ones);  peanuts or garlic.

Well, the allergist was willing to do the prick test for the peanuts and garlic after seeing his clear skin.  The peanut allergy was scary as all get out to watch welt up on his back and watching the allergist standing by with an epi-pen ready just in case, especially after him being peanut free for a year.  Sort of made my husband and I sick to see it.  But the dot for the garlic didn't welt.  At all.  It was actually darned near impossible to tell where the garlic dot had BEEN once the 20 minute wait was up.

The allergist studied the negative reaction on the test and the fact that we'd, in desperation to my son's continued quest to purposefully lose weight (or so it seemed to us), introduced some processed garlic back into Alvah's diet without any type of bad reaction and came to a decision. Alvah is now approved to eat garlic again.  Raw, processed, the whole kit n kaboodle.

I kept expecting to feel this thrilled feeling at the thought that we'd gained the garlic back, and I tried to feel excited...I really did.  And don't get me wrong.  I am through the roof elated that I can once again buy garlic cloves and have them in my kitchen without worry and that I can actually EAT garlic again without worrying about hurting my son through second hand exposure.  That I can buy some cheaper options at the store when it comes to tomato products and such.  That, instead of having to buy two different types of ketchup for the kids that now I can just worry about getting Heinz organic ketchup for my daughter's corn allergy.

Yet, the idea of feeding my son actual raw garlic, cooked or otherwise out and out terrifies me.  I have battled the eczema battle for so long that a part of me is actually mourning the loss of the garlic allergy.  Why?  Because that means Alvah CAN eat garlic again.  And that means that the garlic allergy might come back.

I mean look at that skin.  Would you want to mess with skin this clear?  Yeah, I didn't think so.   This time last year my son's hand would be a mass of cracked and bleeding skin with little clear skin to be had (his hands always got the eczema the worst).  His nails didn't grow right because his hands were always so cracked from the eczema and he held his hands in a semi-curled position, which his OT at the time had compared to someone who had suffered a stroke and was in constant pain from it.  I had to slather skin cream on him constantly just to keep his joints from bleeding whenever he'd have to use his hands for anything and he had to wear gloves at school because of the blood exposure to other students.  Yes, it was that bad.

But, Alvah can have garlic again.  The prick test proves it.  Shouldn't I be happy instead of feeling paranoid?

I'm still baffled that I feel this way.  I mean I have worked really hard the last year and a half to keep garlic and other allergens out of this house.  To make sure my child was safe from the allergies that could make his skin crack.  And kept hoping that if I did a good enough job that maybe he'd be able to regain some of the foods he'd lost and be able to enjoy them again.  And yet now that the garlic allergy is gone I'm scared of reintroducing Alvah to foods he used to love with garlic in them.  Roasted garlic mashed potatoes.  Chili, the way he liked it.  Tunafish and crackers with seasoned mayonnaise.  The list goes on.

When you realize you have food allergies to battle it changes your life dramatically.  People often ask me what it's like to suddenly have your child diagnosed with a type A categorized food allergy or other life threatening food allergy (which peanut was type A for us and garlic was in the potentially life threatening category too, although not epi-pen severe).  I liken having your child diagnosed with any food allergy to getting hit in the face hard with a board.  It's shocking.  It hurts and it really throws you through a loop.  But, you recover, pick yourself up off the ground and start to work on healing and getting on with life.

And then, it seems, when you lose a food allergy, it's like getting hit in the face with a different type of board.  It's shocking.  It's exciting.  It's worrisome.  And it's just as big of a change as getting the allergy in the first place.  Ever tried to think, in reverse, of what foods have garlic in them?  Yeah, I'm still trying to figure it all out.  I had the breakthrough this morning that I could actually buy nitrate free sausage and it would be safe for all of us to eat now.  Yet, the idea of making prepared sausage is so alien to me at the moment that it's almost like learning to cook all over again.  It's somewhat overwhelming.

I have read a lot of articles throughout the years that it is possible to mourn the loss of a food, such as Celiacs when they find out they have to give up gluten for good.  I know that it's true as I have mourned the loss of more than one food on the allergy roller coaster.  Yet, is it possible to actually mourn the loss of an allergy once it's gone?  I'm starting to wonder.

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