Food Allergies Are More Than An Awkward Moment or Two
Food allergies are more than an awkward moment, yet when you are a parent to a child with a food allergy, or you are the person who has the food allergy…most of the time you feel like you’re asking for special treatment rather than a safety requirement. We’ve all seen the eye rolls, the teasing, the telling glances and even some “friends and family” that are embarrassed of our constant questions. I have always said, “Who would ever choose to live this way?”
John Espinosa messaged me over LinkedIn and shared with me his recent food allergy experience that opened his eyes and caused him to find his voice! I’d like to share his post with you because as I advocate for my son and for other children that have food allergies I realized John’s message needs to be heard LOUD AND CLEAR. He exemplifies everything that we want our kiddos to be…to be confident enough to know who they are and what they need! We want our children to believe and communicate his same messages: “My life should be worth more to you than an awkward moment or two.” and “I’m empowering those who are peer pressured towards death to fight for their lives.”
Join me in READING his story and be sure to SHARE HIS BRAVENESS with others:
“Friday Feburary 26th was a wake up call. A white chocolate chip macadamia nut (… really cashew) cookie landed me square in the hospital. That Friday, I learned to be adamant when it comes to food allergies. Show me an ingredient list. Call out friends that snicker or roll their eyes when I ask the waiter to clarify whether kitchen equipment is scrubbed well between meals. Shut down people who bother me about how my epipens make my pants look clunky.
I AM DONE feeling like an “inconvenience.
Do you know what inconvenience is?
Inconvenience is getting in an Über from work to ‘wait it out’ at Walgreens because you’re worried about all the drama of an ambulance.
Inconvenience is needing to build up the courage to stab yourself with epinephrine for the first time.
Inconvenience is bawling in the middle of Walgreens in the arms of a pharmacist waiting for the paramedics, thinking you’re going to die.
Inconvenience is listening to your mom break down half way across the country because of how helpless she feels about not being there to see you.
If you’re going to joke, if you’re going to make me feel uncomfortable for being an ‘inconvenience’… then you and I have vastly different definitions of inconvenience. I’m done pandering to anyone about this. My life should be worth more to you than an awkward moment or two.
The above story was a status I wrote on Facebook the morning after my fit of anaphylaxis. I was so tired of the side eye I was receiving from friends. Tired of the judgement they placed on me because of my life threatening illness. So exhausted from the constant stream on individuals calling me out for ‘inconveniencing’ their lives. I noticed, in the blur of drama that unfurled at the Walgreens in Bellevue, all the looks of compassion and worry I was receiving from strangers. Strangers who would most likely have given me the same food allergy grief my friends did, had they not seen how bad it gets.
This dichotomy of compassion is what inspired me to start the Facebook page Food
Allergy Empowerment. I’ve heard from so many fellow food allergy sufferers about the times they take a Benadryl and ‘wait it out’ like I tried to. They don’t want to make a big deal about something that is a ginormous problem. I wanted to create a space that gave allergy sufferers the courage to act in their best interests despite the judgement of those around them. I wanted to create a space that gave people who didn’t suffer from food allergies an uncensored glimpse into the struggles they’ve written off for so long. Food Allergy Empowerment is a place for food allergy sufferers and their allies to share stories about the problems they’ve had to overcome with anaphylaxis. The community is just getting started. I hope you’ll join in; empowering those who are peer pressured towards death to fight for their lives.”
Now that we’ve taken in John’s aha moment, let’s learn a bit more about him. John is allergic to cashew, pistachio and lychee (edible fruits of the soapberry family). He was diagnosed at 14 when his grandpa convinced him to try a cashew on New Year’s Eve. “Needless to say I’ve never tried anything new since,” John said.
I asked John what kind of advice he might give a 10-year-old, or tween, heading into those high peer pressure years. He replied with these GREAT words of wisdom:
“Oh gosh advice for a 10-year-old? It’s so hard because I was never in those shoes. I probably had this allergy my whole life but I just always avoided nuts in general.
If you really twisted my arm I’d probably just reiterate the mission of Food Allergy Empowerment: Dude you are awesome! So awesome and sooooo important. Sometimes, you’re going to find yourself in a situation where you feel awkward. You’re going to feel like a bother because of your allergy. I want you to know that YOU are more important than an awkward moment. You should do whatever is necessary to feel comfortable and safe. Always question food your friends offer. You’re not being rude, you’re looking after yourself. You are being so grown up when you do that. Know when you ask about your allergy, you’re being a hero for someone that can’t voice for themselves like you can.”
My next question for John was about what he likes to do, BAKE! I asked him about something OUTSIDE of his food allergies because as I always say, “You are more than the challenge you manage.” Food allergies, while challenging to navigate, are such a small part of who someone is as an individual. He shared these delicious thoughts on his favorites.
“I am a huge fan a salty sweet and midwest staple desserts. Momofuku Milkbar and Hoosier Mama Pie are two companies that inspire me a lot.
Christina Tosi’s chocolate chip marshmallow cornflake cookies stop people in their tracks when I make them. She’s like the Andy Warhol of the baking world. Tapping into current trends and unearthing something worth thinking about through her interpretation of them.
Paula Haney, of Hoosier Mama Pie, really started a pie renaissance in Chicago. After automation of the 50’s forced a lot of local bake shops to close, the current resurgence of artisans food seemed to leave the humble midwest pie in the dust. Paula grew tired of the mediocre pies she found around her and set out to create awesome pies that sources locally and celebrated recipes long since forgotten. I hope to make pies half as charming as hers. My favorites are coconut cream and lemon meringue.”
Thank you John for finding your voice and becoming a role model in the food allergy community. We welcome you with open arms and look forward to your impact, which will undoubtedly be ENORMOUS!
Many blessings to you in your health and work!