Share Your Story Feature: Sarah Lamb
We at My Kid’s Food Allergies want to share YOUR stories about living with food allergies! To submit your story for a potential feature, check out our Share Your Story page! Our first Share Your Story Feature is from Sarah Lamb. Her son is allergic to peanut and is avoiding all tree nuts and legumes too. Sarah writes:
It was “Meet the Teacher” night for kindergarten, and I was only half listening to the teacher, instead looking at the other parents and children. I was the only parent there who had an older child and was getting restless listening to the same questions being asked again and again. When the teacher brought out the snack calendar, explaining that parents would take turns providing snacks for the class, I asked about food allergies. My own children didn't have allergies, but there had many friends with food allergies along the way. I sure didn't want to accidentally make someone sick … or worse.
“None!” the teacher exclaimed.
“None at all?” I was surprised. A little feeling nudged at me and I pushed it down. The evening continued, but the thought that had crept into my head a few times before remained.
My son can't have an allergy, I thought—he's eaten peanut butter cookies in the past. “And stopped wanting them,” the internal voice whispered. That doesn't mean anything, I decided. But I still felt uneasy.
The following day, I pulled out a peanut butter cracker and asked my 5-year-old to eat it. “Just a bite,” I told him. He didn't want to. “Stop being picky,” I scolded. “There's so much you won't eat. Take a bite and I'll leave you alone. I have to make sure you aren't allergic.”
Crying, he took a bite and almost instantly began to clear his throat. “I feel like the night that I ate that cookie,” he said, instantly recalling my memory of a church dinner where he'd thrown up multiple times after eating a small peanut butter cookie, then laid there lethargically. I thought he'd just been running around too much after eating. But as he now leaned over the kitchen trash can, I realized I had been very, very wrong.
With shaking hands, I dialed the pediatrician and sped to the doctor. I tried to hold myself together as the doctor kept saying, “You've got to be kidding! How could you not know he's allergic to peanuts?”
The first few months were terrible. I hardly slept. I couldn't eat for the constant lump of fear in my stomach. I lost weight and tried not to cry every time my son came home with a story, like at Thanksgiving Feast where so-n-so's mom wouldn't read the label on the juice but he drank it anyway because he was so thirsty.
Through it all, I learned a lot. It was overwhelming at first, when I joined a Facebook group for parents of children with allergies. It was too much honestly, but I refused to not read the posts and comments, talking about places allergens lurk (like peanut flour in Keebler cheese and cheese sandwich crackers) or the tragic stories from other parents. Though I was new to the food allergy world, I quickly embraced it, determined to do my part to help and encourage others who were even newer than I to this new world.
One day, the stomach lump was gone. I had become a lot more aware of the food my child ate. I have explained to him that, although a Chips Ahoy cookie is safe for him, a store brand that looks the same and tastes the same, like we used to get, might not be safe. It might contain his allergens—that's why every label must be read, every time.
There are some harder days for my son, usually when there is a treat that's not safe for him brought into the classroom or when we have to pass by cupcakes and donuts in glass bakery cases we used to be able to eat, but overall he is doing well with his new normal.
Right now we avoid all legumes and tree nuts as well as peanuts, and I don't push him about trying many new foods, because I'd rather he eat than be afraid of eating. And while there's been more than our fair share of lost allergy bracelets and food in the classroom that I didn't know about until afterward, my son has had only one small reaction at school from cross-contamination from an unwashed table causing his eye to swell, and we have thankfully made it through kindergarten safely.
After helping at an event last year and seeing that there was no accommodation for kids with food allergies, I joined the PTO board and have been an advocate for making sure all kids can participate in every activity this upcoming year.
It's a long road still to travel. No kid wants to carry an EpiPen, let alone be jabbed with one. It's hard to be different and eat differently and to be forced to be responsible at such a young age, but it's what our kids have to do to stay safe and alive.
Thank you so much, Sarah, for sharing your story with us! We’re excited to hear more of your stories and share them. Everyone has a unique food allergy story and deserves to be heard.
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