Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Class Three

Two years ago, at age ten, Bear was diagnosed with a peanut allergy. At the time, she'd been growing so fast and furiously (up, as opposed to my preferred method of "out"), that her pediatrician became concerned about her weight. Despite throwing double protein powder in her breakfast shakes, grilling steak tips (her favorite meat) for dinner twice a week, and offering her Hershey bars for an evening snack once her sister was in bed, nothing seemed to result in Bear putting on a speck of weight. Looking back, when your kid grows six inches in six months, there's not going to be much energy left for putting meat on her bones. At the time, all I could see was that her arms were getting Ethiopia-thin, that we were getting concerned questions from teachers, and that no clothing manufacturer in existence made pants to fit that long and skinny of a kid.

She ate plenty. Oh, she loved to eat. It just didn't help that this was a kid who, from the time she was a toddler, preferred Jell-O over pudding, popsicles over ice-cream, and fruit over any form of protein ever invented. I frequently wheedled her into eating a dish of full-fat ice cream when what she really wanted was an apple. (Sidenote: how is this my kid? How?)

At my most desperate, I started making her peanut butter sandwiches. She'd only ever tried peanut butter a couple of times, around the age of five, and declared she didn't like it. But now - I had to bring out the big guns. She brought the sandwiches home in her lunch box with a bite, maybe two, taken out of them.

"Bear, this is ridiculous. You won't eat lunch meat. You don't like the school lunches. You have got to eat these peanut butter sandwiches to give your body enough protein to build muscle."

"Mom, they make my mouth itch," she whined.

"BEAR, YOU ARE TOTALLY MAKING THAT UP," I told her firmly. (In retrospect, not my proudest mothering moment...)

Luckily, the next week we had an appointment with an allergist to address to seasonal allergies. When he asked if she'd ever reacted to a food, I initially said no. Then I remembered The Battle of The Peanut Butter and said offhandedly, "Well, she says that her mouth itches when she eats peanut butter..." (Probably my second proudest mothering moment).

He scrawled something quickly in her chart and added peanut butter to the list of things they would test her for that day. In addition to a host of trees, grasses, dust mites, carrots, celery, etc., peanut butter tested positive. To be certain, they ran bloodwork as well. Positive. Class 2 (out of 0-6, with 6 being the most severe).

Our lives shifted hugely. We read up on peanut allergies. I apologized to Bear for not believing her. We carried an Epipen and learned to read labels and ask detailed questions at restaurants. Did you know that peanut butter is a common thickener used in restaurant chili? Or that many Asian restaurants cook in peanut oil? We began ordering snack foods like granola bars and cookies from Canada, which has some completely peanut-free manufacturing facilities.

Our big consolation was that since she tested at Class 2, her allergist felt that she had an excellent chance of outgrowing the allergy. We would be excruciatingly careful to keep her away from peanuts and re-test in two years.

We are now at two years. Yesterday, the allergist's nurse called with the results. Positive. Class THREE. She's getting worse, not better. Bear was devastated.

I sat last night on her bedroom floor, with Bear in my lap, like she used to when she was younger. She leaned her cheek against mine, as I rocked her back and forth and said every consoling word I could think of. If the worst thing that happens in your life is that you have to be careful of peanuts, that's not so bad. Her face was still, so sad. Tears slipped down both cheeks, but she nodded, I know. I just really hoped it would be gone.

I would give anything to be able to make this go away for her.


Dawn in Austin said...

Oh gosh, I'm sorry to hear that. I can't even begin to know how hard that must be. But I do know how it feels to want to take all of it for yourself.

She's still young and has time to grow and get bigger, will that help?

Thin people just don't have the meat to fight off stuff, do they? Yeah, she doesn't get that from me, either. Fat and healthy! That's me.

Sending plump, happy thoughts your way today.

smalltownmom said...

Poor dear girl.

quilting grandma said...

Tell Bear, that her grandma hated peanut butter until the age of 40, when we went on a ten mile hike at the Grand Canyon and the only thing I could pack that would not spoil, was peanut butter sandwiches. When we reached our destination to a lookout point, Daddy Shortbread and his Dad sat there eating their sandwiches while we all admired the beautiful grandure of the canyon and I was so hungery and a little light headed, that I said okay, give me one of those sandwiches. Walla, from that day forward I have loved the stuff, but up until that day, I never missed it one bit. Your mother's advice that if this is the only thing she has to worry about, she has it made is true. However, as a teenager, I do understand how senitive her feeling can be. Tell her grandma and grandpa still love her, with or without peanuts and peanut butter.
Also, on the weight issue, Daddy Shortbread was just as thin growing up. Girls,look at him now!

Anonymous said...

Oh, boy. That's really, really hard. My son is terribly allergic to both bees and fire ants. He's ended up in the hospital twice because of it and the first time, I didn't think he was going to make it. We have Epipens everywhere, so I know the battle. I've always said that I'm thankful our problems are bugs and not food. I know you have to be doubly as diligent as me and that can be stressful.

I do hope she will reach a turning point where she'll get better. Thankfully kids are strong and I know she'll do well despite her troubles.


Anonymous said...

Oh poor Bear! I will keep my fingers crossed that she eventually outgrows it. Or that at worst it remains mild. I have a friend who's allergic to tree nuts. Not super scary allergic, but just enough that she has to avoid nuts. Good luck, Bear!

Jen on the Edge said...

I am so sorry about this. Can she eat other nut products, like almond or soy?

If it makes you feel any better, I reacted similarly when Ellie started complaining that her mouth tingled whenever she ate apples, strawberries, or carrots. I didn't believe her and continued to make her eat them, up until the point that she started getting hives on her face.

Mary said...

Jen, that's too bad. I'm sorry for Bear. Caleb has an allergy to peanuts as well, actually, all nuts. It hasn't been too hard, we have had 3 ER trips in 8 years, but none in the last 3 years. Caleb is very good about asking what's in things and we know what he can't have. As for the stuff to avoid, peanut oil is actually not usually a problem if it's the processed oil, (like Chik-fil-A) our allergist told us that the oil is so highly processed and used at such high temperatures that is should not be a problem and we have eaten at chick -fil- a many times and never had a problem. What you have to watch for is the cold pressed oils - the proteins are still intact in those. Also, tell bear to try sun flower seed butter. We love it! Tastes fantastic, nobody in our house has noticed and when I've had family visit they liked it so much that they wanted some even though they had no allergies to deal with.
Good luck Bear!!!!

Susan said...

Poor thing. My older daughter did grow out of her dairy allergy. Perhaps she still will?

Cindy said...

My sweet 7 year old niece has a tree nut allergy. We all have EpiPens in case she accidently ingests something that will cause a reaction. The first days, weeks, months after this diagnosis are the worst. But, families (immediate & extended), figure out how to handle it. I promise! And, my niece now does a good job of asking everyone whether what she wants to eat has nuts in it. Your daughter will learn this skill also. And, maybe even better, she will grow out of this allergy!

jenn said...

I so appreciate all your comments and support! It's been a rough couple of days, but we're settling into it now.

It helps so much to hear from people who have gone through this.