June 14, 2011 my life changed. In order to understand how drastically things shifted requires a little history.
The story goes, I was two years old and my mom found me with my face bright red, tears streaming down my face. She asked what was wrong and I smiled and said “Nothing. I’m fine!” Clearly, I was not fine, but either my natural tendency to not rock the boat and cause trouble, or my finite vocabulary at the time didn’t allow me to fully articulate what was happening to me. I was having an allergic reaction. To what, we didn’t know. I vaguely remember allergy testing as a series of jabs in the skin and spoonfuls of orange juice.
Ultimately it came down to chocolate, strawberries and citrus. My whole life became chocolate-, strawberry- and citrus-free.
Over the years I’ve had reactions to other things as well. I couldn’t be outside when they were cutting the grass (to this day, I am completely exempt from yard work!); I can’t use a lot of scented lotions or soaps or some medications without breaking out into hives or getting a sinus infection. Ok, just it to my mental list of things to avoid. No big deal. Until I had a reaction after a medical procedure. The doctor said “You should get tested”. Yeah, yeah, yeah, but testing is expensive and my insurance won’t cover it—I just won’t have this procedure done again and if I do, I’ll mention it to the doctor before hand.
“No, you don’t understand,” the doctor said, suddenly very serious. “You had an allergic reaction from a medical procedure—you have to get tested. You could be allergic to latex, iodine—anything we used and you cannot get anything else done at a doctor’s office, even the dentist’s office, until you know.”
Oh. Well, when you put it that way. I was excited to see an allergist again. The appointment was three weeks away and that gave me plenty of time to brainstorm all the things I’ve slowly learned to avoid over the last 30 years. Like public gym equipment (I don’t know if it’s other people’s sweat or the cleaning solution, but touching it makes my hands burn), body piercings (it just never seemed to take), sulfa drugs, Cipro (my first semester at college I thought I was getting chicken pox again, but no, it was another allergic reaction!)-- All sorts of fun stuff. I looked in my baby book for records, I even tried to get people to take bets on what I would be allergic to, but I had no takers. I already knew what I was allergic to for the most part. I just assumed further testing was only going to add to that list.
But it didn’t. I was tested for over 60 different things, including all food allergies just to be sure. As I lay on the table, my back covered in jab marks and pen notations, itchy, but not allowed to scratch, it occurred to me for the first time, “what if I’m not allergic to chocolate anymore? How weird would that be?” I had never allowed myself to consider the possibility. As far as I was concerned, it was pointless to even fantasize about it. But lying there, by myself in that room, I suddenly became very scared. What if? The nurse came back after a very short time (had it really been 30 minutes already?) and began making notes and measuring the welts on my back.
“And you can eat anything you want, my dear.” After this moment, I will admit, I went into a state of mental shock. I didn’t believe it, I argued with the doctor, I cried, I got all twitchy and basically started freaking out. I hadn’t had chocolate in 30 years. Every Halloween had sucked for me and my sad little boxes of Dots (I only like the red and pink ones). Every Christmas Santa brought three piles of chocolate for my brothers and sister and a couple boxes of Dots and candy canes for me. WTF had just happened?
So now I am 30 years old and experiencing chocolate, strawberries and citrus for the first time. It’s intense, it’s scary and I’m gonna document the whole life changing experience.
One of my first questions after I found out was “what should I eat first?” I’m excepting suggestions of what to try.