Brotherhood of Bravery: Living With Life-Threatening Food Allergies
Education & Research “Dealing with Jacob’s cancer was less stressful, and easier than dealing with his food allergies.”
Yes, it is a strong statement.
But this is how I honestly feel. I am NOT saying that cancer is stress free or easy, or even preferential. Trust me, it isn't.
What cancer and food allergies have in common is that both nail you with the reality that your child may die. It's just that with cancer, you are powerless to prevent it. With food allergies, you must be vigilant to a point of paranoia every single day.
It takes two
When a diagnosis of cancer happens, you are provided books and handouts to read, you meet with a medical team of doctors, nurses, and social workers to help guide you. When food allergies get diagnosed you are handed a list of foods and ingredients derived from that food to avoid, and a prescription for an epi-pen. You are sent out the door with a pat on the back and a "good luck" to face trying to find something safe to feed your child at the grocery store.
With a cancer diagnosis, there is stress, fear and anxiety. However, there are doctors and specialists, who already have a plan for curing, treating, and fighting this disease. They all help you navigate the journey. They are the ship's captains, steering and guiding you through the storm, while you are merely a passenger. There is new research, new medicines, support groups, financial assistance, as well as public acceptance and support. Yes, children die from cancer. Children also die from anaphylaxis caused from food allergy reactions.
Knowing the risks
"When cancer strikes, it is unexpected, leaving you reeling. Food allergies can strike just as unexpectedly, to any food, at any time."
When you are dealing with food allergies, every single day poses a risk. Every meal, every social interaction and every holiday can be risky. A visit to a friend's home, a trip to the mall or the park or a simple barbecue can end in an accidental exposure to an allergen that could cause anaphylaxis or death. We face our fears every day. Is there peanut butter on the grocery cart? The door handle? The playground equipment? Will a bully decide to shove a peanut butter sandwich in my child's face at school today? Did the dog that just licked his face eat a peanut butter milk bone? Will my child know to speak up if he starts feeling ill? Will someone recognize his reaction and know to use the auto-injector? Will they know how to use it? Will the ambulance get there in time?
When cancer strikes, it is unexpected, leaving you reeling. Food allergies can strike just as unexpectedly, to any food, at any time. Food allergies follow no rhyme or reason. They may cause a mild reaction, just as likely as a severe one. They change, with no set pattern; a person can out-grow some foods, while adding new ones. Life threatening food allergies are a constant stress, because they can kill my child – just as certain as cancer can.