August 28, 2013

The Day Peanuts Stopped Being the Enemy

Twice Daily Peanut Dose

Two weeks ago, in a small office room three hours away, the Princess had eight grams of peanuts counted into her hand. She ate them bite by bite and waited an hour for any observable signs of reaction. When her hour was done, she and Big Daddy left the office and drove home ending a summer of peanut desensitization therapy.

When the Princess was 18 months old, she had her first reaction to peanuts. In thinking about, it has been almost exactly 12 years since her eyes swelled shut and not even benedryll administered over a day could ease the swelling. Three years later, in another allergists office, we’d get the results of her blood test. She had a catastrophic food allergy. 100 out of 100. Class 6 out of 6. The worst.

Big Daddy and I did our best to always be calm. We’ve been lucky to not have to fight too hard to get her the accommodations she needed to be safe at school. Seven years ago, the Princess sat in the allergists office with peanut butter smeared on her arm to find out what would happen if it touched her skin.

For many years, the Princess missed out on treats, store bough cakes and Halloween candy. She missed the simple joy of accepting an offered cookie from a well meaning person meant to reward her, when really, it set off a storm of questions and concerns that usually ended with the cookie being tossed or offered to someone who could eat it. The Princess learned, at a very early age, how to gracefully decline something she dearly wanted. What child doesn’t want a cookie?

Two weeks ago, in a little office in Toledo, the Princess took her last peanut updose. The one dose standing between her and program completion. She did it. Our daughter, still a class six when she had her blood test in May of this year prior to starting desensitization, consumed 8 peanuts, more or less. In three months, the Princess powdered through the entire dosing schedule. She starts school without an Epipen for the first time ever.

Ever.

No Epi-pen.

Do you know the fear that comes into your heart when you realize you left home without the Epipen and what if this is the day that your diligence fails? The frantic way your heart pounds when you call your pediatrician and hoping and praying (even though you don’t pray) that he can call in a prescription to a distant pharmacy just in case? The way your stomach falls to your knees the one time you’re not hyper-diligent and the Princess consumes peanut oil. The disappointment your kiddo has to face when you have to tell you’re sorry, but she can’t have that cake or can’t go on that school trip or that she has to throw away the candy she got at her school party because parents sent home unsafe candy despite letters home about your child being allergic.

I imagined her future. How would she have her first kiss? How could she spontaneously sink into someone she wanted to be her partner without questioning their dietary habits and hygiene. How could she share drinks with her girlfriends when she goes out during dollar beer night her junior year of college? How could she kiss some person in a fit of stupidity and spontaneity without fearing that she’d just signed her own death sentence? How would she navigate food at parties? Business meetings? Impromptu breakfasts? It seemed to me that living with her allergy would get to be more and more difficult. Since the Princess hadn’t had a real slip in in 12 years, we couldn’t guess what to expect.

Two weeks ago, she ate 8 grams of honey roasted peanuts. Twelve appointments, 70+ hours and thousands of miles later, on August 13th, the lowly peanut stopped being the Princess’s greatest enemy.

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