WRITTEN BY LACY WADE
Today, I am excited to share Lacy's story with you. I hope you are inspired by her positive outlook on food allergies and are motivated by the ways she helps spread food allergy awareness.
As the parent of a child with a life-threatening food allergy, the subject is an enormous part of my life. I feel a near constant need to spread awareness, whether it is at my son’s school or sporting events, at my workplace, or while I’m reading labels in the grocery store. As another means to share all of the things that are on my heart, I started my blog, Making it Milk-free two years ago.
Three years prior to launching the blog, my sweet little blue-eyed, seven-month old baby boy was diagnosed with life-threatening allergies to milk and eggs. He showed signs of milk allergy as early as two weeks after his birth, but it took us awhile for his pediatrician to see what I saw and finally refer us to an allergist. Once we received the official diagnosis, I thought I was prepared and knew what we were dealing with. After all, my then four-year old nephew had also been diagnosed with severe allergies to milk, eggs and peanuts several years before.
I thought I knew the symptoms and was prepared to handle whatever came our way. However, it did not take long for me to realize that in the whole scheme of things, I really had no idea. I hear the story so often: parents leave the allergist’s office with a prescription for epinephrine and an Allergy Action Plan telling them to avoid [insert allergen here], and give Benadryl at the first sign of ingestion. That is exactly what happened with us.
I knew what foods to avoid, how to read ingredient labels, signs of a severe reaction, and what an epinephrine auto-injector looked like. But I didn’t really know about cross-contamination and cross-contact, labeling law requirements and optional “may contain” statements, 504 Plans, how and when to use epinephrine, and the list goes on and on. As fellow food allergy parents, I’m sure you know that until you live with a life-threatening food allergy, either your own or someone you care for, it is difficult to truly grasp the entirety of it.
We have been extremely lucky in that our family is very well versed in food allergies. In addition to my son and my nephew, I also have two nieces with food allergies.(My brother, sister, and I each have children with severe food allergies.) I also avoid gluten and dairy, so knowing that we have safe places to enjoy family get-togethers, birthday parties, and holidays where everyone is included relieves much of the stress those events typically entail.
My husband and oldest son (with no allergies) are such good sports about how we maintain a safe environment at home for our little one. We don’t exclude allergens from the house altogether, but they are very limited and we are extremely careful when they are present. My milk-allergic son has learned so well over his nearly six years of life to be aware of his allergen and is learning to take responsibility for his own safety. That is a lot to take on for a young child, but it is necessary in this world as we learn to navigate the school environment and he spends more and more time away from Mom’s watchful eye.
Making it Milk-free was born from my desire to share what I had learned through the early years after diagnosis. Once I had a platform to share my perspective, I ended up meeting an extremely welcoming community of like-minded people whom I had no idea existed! Where there seemed to be a lack of information provided to patients from health care providers after diagnosis, there was a wealth of experiential knowledge flowing from this community! It is more like a family, really. We gain strength through each other’s struggles. We support each other when faced with those in our own communities who don’t seem to understand. We share our positive experiences in those same communities to show that there are people who do care. We grieve with each other at the loss of a child from anaphylaxis that none of us really “knew,” but did. We share in the triumph when the educating and creating awareness works and a life is saved!
On the one hand, you can be discouraged by the constant worry and fear that this life with food allergies creates. Or…you can take that fear and turn it into something positive for our children and so many others like them. It may sound odd, but I am truly grateful for the experiences and the people that food allergies have brought into our life. We are healthier and more aware of the food we eat, but also more conscious and compassionate toward others, whether they are like us or different. Our children learn to include others, help to keep their friends safe, and advocate and stand up for themselves and others. We have friends and family (and friends who have become our family) who go out of their way to keep my son safe and included, and I couldn’t ask for anything more.
Join us on our food allergy journey (and find some delicious recipes) by following along!