Last June my aunt had to come and get me from work after I ate a
bite of brownie that contained something I was allergic to. I'm
seriously allergic to walnuts and even though they weren't one of the
listed ingredients chocolate and nuts often go together so I assumed
that was the problem that day. About a week later I had another
reaction only this time it was a chocolate chip cookie that did me in.
The reaction wasn't too serious however this time I hadn't known that
the cookie was resting against another cookie that had walnuts in it.
Both of those episodes were in June, apart from two allergic reactions back in 2006 I hadn't had any problems
with food. I chalked both of those experiences up to freak chance and
dismissed them until July. One particularly humid morning I ate
a bowl of cold cereal after I got back from a walk. About an hour or
so later my stomach started hurting. I thought the pain would go away
and it did eventually however it was an unpleasant experience to have
Fast forward a couple of weeks into August. I'm
over at my sister's house. I had to work that night because someone
else had called in sick. Since I didn't have a lot of time I spread
peanut butter on bread, grabbed a banana, a container of yogurt and a
handful of baby carrots. My throat felt scratchy about ten minutes
after the sandwich. By the time I arrived at work my mouth was puffy
and swollen. I made it through the night by popping a couple of
Benadryl and my boss would have sent me home early except she wasn't
sure it was a good idea for me to be driving.
The rest of August passed without incident. September went well but
in the middle of October I had a bad reaction to
something when I went out to eat with a bunch of other noders. At the
table I wasn't sure if I was going to get sick immediately but I didn't
feel well. On the ride back to Wiccanpiper's I started crying and I
spent a cold and raw afternoon huddled under a blanket on his porch.
The next morning I did feel better but I didn't get much sleep that
weekend and unfortunately it wasn't because I was drunk.
My oldest niece was born in November, I still remember that day and
hopefully always will. To celebrate her sixth birthday my mom invited
my family out to eat. We were having a nice family meal before my food
arrived. After my second bite of pancake I thought to myself, this is
odd - it feels like I can't breathe. I spent the rest of the meal not
feeling well and this is one of the problems with having food allergies - you
think you're fine and you're not.
By now I'm wondering what I'm allergic to and why I keep having all
these bad reactions. For a long time I thought was peanuts. I came home from work one evening to find my
daughters mixing up peanut butter cupcakes. I stayed away from any
peanut covered utensils. All I really did was help them stir the batter
but that night I had such a bad reaction that I ended up giving myself
an Epi-Pen injection.
About a week after the cupcake incident my sister Susan called as I
was making supper. Pasta was cooking on the stove, I added broccoli as
I talked to my sister about what was going on in her life before she
asked me how things were with me and my family. Her theory was that I
was allergic to wheat since the past couple of reactions I had had
involved pancakes and cupcakes.
While I am aware that people can and do develop new
allergies as they age I had been eating wheat products my entire
life so I wasn't convinced that my sister knew what she was talking about.
The conversation was short since I had to get supper ready but after
the first bite of pasta and broccoli went into my mouth I stood in my
own kitchen realizing that I could hardly breathe.
After that passed I started thinking about what I had eaten the last
time I had a reaction. The cupcakes had peanut butter in them and I'm
so allergic to shellfish that I can react to it even if someone else is
eating it or a utensil contaminated with it touches my food but I
hadn't had a single bite of the cupcakes and I hadn't really stirred
the batter either.
Furthermore we had made the cupcakes in the
afternoon, I had eaten chicken and noodles for supper and it wasn't
until after that meal was over that I got sick. During December I came
down with a bad case of shingles. I didn't care that the urgent care
visit was going to cost me and the medication that might help decrease
the severity of the symptoms was expensive but that was worth it to me.
Before my birthday I decided to try cutting wheat out of my diet to
see if that made any difference. My sister Beth wanted me to eat a bite
of peanut butter to see if that made me sick but I was afraid of trying
that even at home where I had a semi-controlled environment. After the
shingles outbreak my skin became
ultra-sensitive to the point where wearing clothing hurt.
The tops of
my arms and the front of my legs burned with an incomprehensible
permanent itch that I could not get rid of. The funny thing about the
itch was that if you just looked at my skin it seemed fine. You could
feel tiny bumps if you ran your hand over the affected areas and no
lotion, topical ointments or hydrocortisone cream did anything to
alleviate the pain.
The second week in January I went to a going away party for a
co-worker of mine. We went to Applebee's after work, since I was
hungry I ordered a steak, a salad and I don't really care for potatoes
so I asked if I could have broccoli instead of a potato choice. I felt
kind of stupid asking the waitress if there was anything I might be
allergic to in anything I ordered.
Our server assured me that the steak
wouldn't be marinated in anything and I thought I had been clear about
what I was potentially allergic to until my salad came back topped with
croutons. I didn't want to send the salad back to the kitchen but by
now I was almost terrified to eat anything that might make me sick. The
waitress brought the salad back, she apologized for the mix-up and I
assumed everything was fine until the restaurant became overly warm and
people started asking if I was okay.
That night was another night that I probably shouldn't have driven
anywhere. I remember standing outside with the smokers in the bitter
Wisconsin weather wondering if I was going to pass out, vomit or both.
In the end both fears were unrealized but I felt like garbage the next
day. Cutting wheat out of my diet wasn't all that tough since now I was
sure that grains were not going to be good for my body. As a nice side
effect I lost a lot of weight although some of that was from not
feeling well and treating food as if it was going to kill me.
About the only thing that really seemed to help was sitting in the
sauna. I've always had problems breathing in the winter. I would go
to the Y first thing in the morning, sit in the sauna and maybe walk
around the track for a while afterwards. If that sounds pathetic it
probably was but I still had the inhumane rash over half my body.
Having a rash like that made the seeminly simple act of getting dressed and walking around in regular clothes torturous. Fortunately February went by fairly quickly, in March I was transferred
to the mall I work at now. I celebrated by getting some new clothes and
it was a treat when my aunt told me that I looked good in what I was
wearing. That day she took me out to eat at the food court.
The meal itself was fine but towards the end of it I started not
feeling well. Back at work I waved to my aunt and gave her a hug. About
half an hour later I was standing in the bathroom doubled over
wondering how I was going to make it through the rest of my shift.
Eventually my boss came to find me. He bought me some tea, I took small
sips of that and everything stayed down but it was touch and go for a
Before that reaction I hadn't had problems with basic foods like chicken and broccoli. A coworker of mine was convinced that I
was lactose intolerant after I got sick on a Starbucks smoothie.
Someone else told me I had irritable bowel syndrome. One of my
sisters suggested that it was stress induced. All or none of those may
be true although I'm pretty sure I don't have irritable bowel since I
don't fit that profile.
Growing up my parents didn't have a lot of money so going out to eat
was always a treat to me. Working at the mall means you're surrounded
by temptation, my coworkers would bring in cookies and muffins. Shoe
reps would buy us bagels that I couldn't eat and I could have hugged
the rep who brought in fresh fruit and granola.
He also offered to buy us
whatever we wanted to drink from Starbucks and you feel stupid turning down free food when everyone else around you is eating treats but I didn't want to chance getting sick at work. Before last June I
wouldn't have said that stomach problems were a real issue for me.
Since then foods I had been eating my entire life suddenly started
bothering me. I ate a handful of gourmet potato chips that made me so
sick I had to lie down on the bed for the rest of the evening.
The good news was that during April I noticed that my rash was gone.
The tops of my arms were still rough but I no longer wanted to peel a
couple layers of skin off when I showered or put clothing on so that
was a big improvement over the previous months. Wheat is in common household products like shampoo so I had to go through the bathroom and get rid of everything I couldn't use in there.
The other day I threw out homemade some soup after that made me sick. That night my stomach was killing me but I couldn't figure out
what could be in that soup that would make my lower abdomen hurt like
that because it was basically corn, beans, potatoes, onions and chicken broth thickened with arrowroot powder. I hate tossing good food down the drain but it was better that than me getting sick eating it.
While I've never been a big pasta or bread fan I do like cereal and
trying to find good gluten free cereal isn't as easy
as you might think. Today I bought a box of this cereal that I used to
get frequently when I was still a member of a local food club. The
ingredients were corn flour, oat flour, unsulfered molasses, baking
soda and some Vitamin C & E.
Since I was hungry I poured myself a good sized bowl as soon
as we got back from the store but before I added milk I picked up a
couple pieces of cereal to taste them. I think I ate three or four of
them before the back of my throat started feeling funny. A couple
minutes later my nose started dripping, my arms burned as I ran to the
bathroom for some Benadryl and my stomach didn't start hurting until
later but once it did I was down for the rest of the night.
Now that I have better insurance coverage I know I should see an
allergist about this. I've been putting it off because I don't want to
spend the money and I didn't really like the second to last allergist I
went to even though I was a patient of his for years. The allergist I
saw after him told me that she wouldn't have continued giving me
That statement came as a surprise to me and made me like her more after she explained that each reaction gets faster and more severe. For years I took antihistamines just to make it
through the day. I'd sit at work with my water and a box of tissues. My
nose would spontaneously bleed profusely, I had tremendous sinus
headaches and nothing anyone prescribed seemed to clear up the
infection or dent the pain.
The last time I went to our regular family doctor no one from the
clinic called me back with the results of my strep test. I've never
been wild about him and I like my OB but I really need to find a family
practioner that all of us can see and who knows my family and our
history. Both of my children have seasonal allergies. I know my oldest
daughter is allergic to cats and I think she might have something else
going on because the tops of her arms are usually mildly bumpy.
hate to sound like someone who self diagnoses themselves based on
things they read on the internet I'm still up at ten-thirty with pain
that hasn't gone away since four o'clock this afternoon. This is all
from eating fewer than five pieces of cereal and if you have food
allergies you know that you can put something in your mouth, start
chewing it and realize it is going to give you grief before it hits
Right now I have essentially two options when it comes to
healthcare. I can go to Pro-Health which I don't like overall but has a
good allergist or I can go to Aurora who has typically been great to
our family but has an allergist that I don't care for. Maybe this
doesn't sound like a complicated decision but I am really tired of
wasting my money at the doctor.
Physician visists are not cheap and I'm fine with them making a lot of money if I get the time and attention I feel that I'm entitled to. When I
was in college I went to Children's Hospital for my allergy shots and I
am almost tempted to call my previous allergist up and ask him if he'd
be willing to take me back as a patient even though he's a pediatric
allergist and I'm currently pushing forty.
The problem with seeing him is I doubt that my insurance plan would
cover my visits to see him, he's in Milwaukee and I would like to say
that my overall well being is more important than money but I have to
be practical and realistic about the bills I have to pay. It would be
nice to see someone local, I'm sure I'm going to have to go through the
skin tests again but at this point I have to know what exactly I'm
allergic to so I can move on with my life.
I hate being sick, I don't
like going places where I'm afraid to put anything in my mouth and I
don't have a super active social life but it would be nice to be able
to walk into a restaurant and not wonder if each bite is going to be my
last. Anyways, if you're still reading this I feel like you must care
what happens and if you're sick of reading stuff like this I'm sick of