Happy New Year!
As I was saying farewell to 2019 (belatedly), I started thinking about last year’s allergy-related accomplishments. And I realized I had a lot more ‘wins’ than I realized.
So why write about them? As an allergy parent, I think it’s important for us to stop and think about our successes despite — or because of — food allergies. I’ll never forget how I was sure my life was over when my son was initially diagnosed. But when I think about the good that has accompanied what once seemed only bad, it feels like a weight has been lifted. The truth is, that weight lifted long ago…
But sometimes you don’t realize it until you say it out loud. So here I am, saying it out loud. Hoping that it will inspire at least one of you to do the same.
Okay, so here goes. My top 6 allergy accomplishments of 2019:
1. The Top 10 Challenge had a really good first year. In 2018, I teamed up with a group of wonderful allergy folk to launch a fundraiser and community awareness initiative in collaboration with the Canadian Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Foundation. Last April, we held our very first Challenge, and DOUBLED our annual fundraising goal of $10,000 — which means CAAIF has announced their brand new Top 10 Challenge Food Allergy Research Grant for $25,000… much earlier than anticipated! I can’t even begin to express how proud I am to have been part of something that will affect the food allergy community in such a positive way. (Want to take the Challenge in 2020? Sign up here.)
2. My family moved overseas. As if flying on airplanes and travelling with allergies isn’t frightening enough, my husband and I decided to leave everything behind (in a very squishy storage unit) and spend a year living in Ireland. It was something we had seriously considered while I was pregnant (so that our child could bond with hubby’s side of the family), but stopped talking about after our son was diagnosed with 6+ allergies. After crossing 2 of those allergies off the list and knowing we had a limited amount of time before our son started school, we decided to take the leap. So now we’re living abroad with food allergies — and loving it! (I may have moved to Japan on a whim in my early 20s or almost spent my 9 lives while travelling in Thailand, but to be honest, this particular journey took a lot more courage.)
3. ‘Date night’ became a thing again. For the first several years of our son’s life, the idea of going out on a date seemed like a distant fantasy. Terrible sleeper + multiple allergies = NOT feeling comfortable leaving our son in someone else’s hands — no matter how capable they happened to be. After moving to Ireland, we got ourselves an au pair for the summer, and soon were perfectly okay with heading out for an (almost) weekly night out to do one of our favourite things: Eat! At a restaurant! This whole dating thing did wonders for our relationship, and made me feel more like, well, me again. 😉
4. I can bake! I never, ever thought I’d be the type of mom who baked homemade birthday cakes, experimented with different cupcake, muffin, or scone recipes, or decorated Christmas cookies (albeit badly — see photo below!). Even after my son’s allergy diagnosis, I spent more time researching allergy-friendly bakeries than allergy-friendly recipes. But 3 years into our allergy journey, I finally caught the baking bug. I guess it was a combination of actually wanting to be in my kitchen (thanks, natural light & gorgeous green views!) and the need to bring safe treats to events (see #6). But the thing is… I love it! My hubby thinks I’m crazy — but certainly doesn’t stop me — when I decide to throw a batch of muffins in the oven at 10 o’clock at night. I may have gained a few extra pounds, though…
5. Our son started preschool. This may not seem like an accomplishment, but when your kid has multiple allergies that include one that isn’t even in the top 10 (i.e., it doesn’t have to be labelled), the idea of sending your precious child off to preschool is seriously terrifying. Back in Toronto, our son was lucky to go to an in-home daycare, where his caregiver had allergies herself and truly got it. I never had to worry that his allergens would be present, or that there’d be so many kids running around that a symptom of anaphylaxis would go unnoticed. So yeah, finding a preschool we actually trusted was HUGE for us. And having him attend — without experiencing daily panic attacks — feels like a real accomplishment. That said, I still don’t think I’m ready to send him off to real school. (Eek!)
6. I’ve started stepping outside of my comfort zone. You may think that moving to another country is stepping outside of my comfort zone. But the truth is, it really isn’t. It’s very easy to create a safe bubble (i.e., never leave the house!) no matter where you are in the world. But now that my son has a pretty good understanding of his allergies and is past the phase of putting everything in his mouth, we’ve been able to participate in things that previously would have caused panic: from indoor playgrounds and movie theatres, to playdates and birthday parties, to family gatherings where allergens are present, to trips to non-English speaking countries — we’ve done it all. These previously ‘scary’ events or activities are still not 100% anxiety free, but the more often I face a fear, the easier it is to keep at it. And I need to face these fears in order to give my son as normal and fulfilling a life as possible.
On that note, here’s my New Year’s Resolution for 2020:
Spend less time with technology, and more time with the people I love. This means painting rainbows, building LEGO masterpieces, and having dance parties in the kitchen. This also means this may be the last blog post I write for a while. And I also plan to be less active on social media this year. Now let’s just see if I actually keep my resolution… 😉
I’d love to hear about your allergy accomplishments and resolutions! Feel free to share in the comments below.
This post was written by AllergyBites founder, Kathleen O’Hagan. Kathleen is a writer, a foodie, and the mom of a child with multiple food allergies. Want to help make a difference? Contact Kathleen about volunteering for the Top 10 Challenge fundraiser.
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