Hope for the best; prepare for the worst.
How often have you heard “Oh, he’ll grow out of his allergy. About 95% of kids grow out of their allergy by the time they are 5 years old.” While I have a very good relationship with my son’s allergist and she is on top of recent research, the above statement can be a dangerous false hope that she, and many doctors, hand out as a comfort to parents as they are looking down the food allergy barrel. My son is now 7 ½ years old and still anaphylactic to certain foods.
Am I telling you not to hope for a “cure” for food allergies? No, I’m absolutely not telling you that! It’s as the saying goes, “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” That’s essentially how I face my son’s food allergies. I certainly hope that he will someday get to a point when ingestion of certain foods won’t have the potential to kill him. Sure, it would be awesome if he could start having pizza and real ice cream and grill cheese sandwiches, but that’s not my focus. Perhaps passing the 5 year “promised” mark has tempered my hope a little. The thing is we have managed to live without dairy, peanuts, and eggs for his whole life and managed it quite well. In the grand scheme of life, does it really matter if he never has those foods? Really, I have bigger things to focus on and to hope for.
Where does this leave us in our relationship with our doctors who constantly give us hope that may be false? I’m a realist, so I like for people to tell it to me straight. But for others, they like the rose-colored glasses. Both approaches are fine, just be prepared for any outcome and you will have a better chance of staying out of the pits of food allergy despair. If you want your doctor to tell it to you straight, you have to let them know that. If you prefer to cling to a hope that is potentially false (note that I said potentially), that is also your choice.
I think the most important thing in our relationship with our doctors is that they are open to food allergies in all the shapes and sizes in which it comes. Food allergies are not a “one size fits all” illness. If we do not agree with their diagnosis or failure to treat the illness with seriousness, you need to address this issue with them head-on or find a new doctor. We must be able to trust that our doctors are approaching our illnesses with a cure in mind – therefore, really, perhaps a false hope is good for fostering a growing and productive relationship…perhaps even a cure!
Let me end today’s post with how we have recently experienced the growing research base of food allergies. My son went to the doctor for a food challenge , of sorts. It wasn’t a challenge to see if his allergy tests were correct in that he tested negative for previously positive results. His numbers are still quite high, particularly for dairy. Rather, there is growing research supporting immunotherapy for food allergies. In a nutshell, a small amount of the offending food is given to the child in baked form (baking takes out some of the allergy protein), and then slowly increased until they are able to sustain a certain amount. Over a period of about 3 hours, my son ate an entire muffin containing 1 1/2 tsp butter…real butter! That may not sound like much to you, but it is a huge accomplishment in our home. For the next 6 months, until his next appointment, he must consume that same amount of baked goods containing milk. If he is handling it okay (and he is so far!!!), then I can slowly increase the amount of dairy in it. The hope is that his body will grow immune to the dairy that has previous caused it to essentially shut down.
I am so thankful to his allergist who stays abreast of current research and is willing to try new treatments for the sake of a cure. Perhaps this hope we’ve had isn’t so false afterall! Perhaps it’s just a little delayed gratification. Time, hope, and patience will tell. We will get those things from Above!
Where does your hope lie, whether true or false, with regard to food allergies?
I hope today’s post has not been a downer for you, but rather what I employ” the principle of reality”.
Next week’s topic for Life with Food Allergies deals with another emotion: loneliness. Do you feel alone or isolated when dealing with your or your child’s food allergies?