Friday, June 3, 2011

Life with Food Allergies

About 6 years ago, when I was a lifeguard at camp, I started having a lot of trouble with my skin. I was always itchy and at this point it was just an annoyance. But in the next year, as I started my first year of teaching, it got so bad, I couldn't sleep. It felt like my skin was on fire and started to develop many sores. I finally went to the Dr and asked to see a dermatologist. He told me it wasn't a dermatologist I needed...but an allergist. This started my journey with food allergies.

I was given prick tests and patch tests to find a list of things I was allergic to. Milk and chocolate topped the list in regards to food and I also learned I was allergic to soap and many other things that my skin was exposed to (sunscreen, bug spray, etc.). I then learned to read labels of everything I put in my mouth and put on my skin. Milk is hidden in many things and is even called many things on labels (ghee, lactose (or most things that start with lacta...), casen, whey, carmel color, and "natural flavors" (who know what that is but 90% of natural flavors comes form milk). I read labels but sometimes, I had to learn the hard way that milk was in things like green olives (which were one of my favorite things) and ham...can you believe they put milk in HAM?

As time went by, my allergy became worse and worse. I am now so allergic that if you touch milk and then touch my food or if my food touches the same counter that had milk on it, I'll have an allergic reaction.

Many everyday things became more difficult. Eating out with my family became hard. I started having to call ahead or check the internet to see if they served food for people with food allergies. I always alerted the server of my food allergy and ordered off special menues. We started narrowing down the places I could eat by the breakouts I would get after I ate there. Eating out is one of my least favorite things to do.

Going to friends houses for dinner also became difficult. Many tried their best to accomodate me. My friends, Dawna and Reesa accepted the challenge and were always trying new things we could eat together. Good thing too, cause, little did we know Reesa would come to be my roommate one day and be forced to eat along the same lines as I do! :-)

Church potlucks...out of the question.

Communion? Only when I had a chance to read the label. Wait, you say. Communion? That's only one bite! That's all it takes!

Decorating cakes has been a hobby for Reesa and I ever since we took a class with Bonnie Smith in Omaha. Here's a picture of our last creation for the daughter of one of the families that works at the school:

Although, lately, even being around the cake will give me a reaction that could last days.

Living overseas was hard at first, I had to learn all the German words for all the things I'm allergic to but through trial and error, I'm pretty good at knowing what brands I can and can not eat.

Traveling is the worst. I order the "vegan meal" when I fly, but eating food on the plane is a very large risk. For some reason, airlines are not required to post the ingredients of their meals. So, I have to just trust, that what they bring me is truly milk free.

Going on trips is also hard. For example, this year the staff went on a retreat up in the mountains. The place we stayed fed us. I brought oatmeal and some granola in case there was nothing I could eat. Well, it turned out there was really nothing that I could eat that they were serving but the cook did bring me clear broth for each meal. There were no grocery stores around. I was so hungry by the end of the trip!

When I go on trips with friends, I always plan the meals for the trips. We usually bring our own food. We eat a simple breakfast, pack our lunches, and I cook for dinner. That part I love!

Lately, even with all I do to avoid the things I'm allergic to, I've been quite miserable with allergic reactions. I've been very itchy and my eye lids are swollen when I wake up.

So, why am I writing this post? Because I'm asking you to join me in prayer for healing. June 9-15 I'll be undergoing some allergy treatments in Des Moines, IA. Please pray that, if it's God's will, that He would heal me!

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