My husband and I just got back from Calgary yesterday after a quick trip to help support our best friends. This trip has truly made me appreciate that our life is really pretty good; a feeling I hope to affect my perspective for some time.
It all started last Wednesday with a phone call from my friend Erica who was calling from the Children’s Hospital in Calgary after their daughter was flown to the hospital earlier in the week. As of that Wednesday, they’d received a diagnosis of Stage 4 cancer. I was blown away with the news, trying to listen to the details from Erica when all I wanted to do was cry.
We then arranged everything that night to fly to Calgary on the weekend to help support our friends while they dealt with their life changing completely in an instant. My parents took our girls, my sister in Calgary arranged to pick us up at the airport and make one of their cars available to us for the weekend. We cancelled all of our kids’ weekend activities and cancelled our previous plans to go away for the weekend with other friends. It’s amazing how everyone was fantastic and supported us to make sure we could head out quickly.
On the Thursday before we left, we received the good news that the cancer had been identified as Hodgekins. Hard to believe that good news is knowing what kind of cancer is present but Hodgekins has a very high recovery rate and it really was the best kind of cancer to hope for.
On the way to take our daughters to my parents and head out to the airport on Friday, we received a call from our alarm company that our house was being broken into and that the police were being dispatched to our house. At first my husband and I just looked at each other in disbelief but then we started to laugh while our children in the back seat thought that we were cracking up. But really… we were on our way to a situation that was so much bigger than the physical objects in our house. We decided to laugh rather than rant and it turns out that it was actually just a false alarm.
In the end, we were thankful for our time with our friends and their daughters because while there were times to cry, there was a lot of laughter too. It really drove home that despite dealing with food allergies in our house daily and the fear that can sometimes bring, we’re all very lucky to be blessed with good health. It’s all about perspective.
If you are a Celiac disease sufferer, you know that experts recognize 20 parts per million (ppm) as the standard in gluten tolerance. Eating a variety of foods below this limit is considered safe, even when eaten cumulatively. While there may be a tiny percentage of individuals with extreme sensitivity for who this standard may still be a problem, The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes this limit as not only safe for Celiacs but also manageable by the food industry. As a result, the European Union moved their gluten free labeling from 200 ppm to 20 ppm recently and food processors are stepping up to that challenge. While there are still many challenges there including testing and compliance which I won’t get into, at least there is a common understanding that most can adhere to.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have the same limit for food allergens too? So if you were allergic to peanuts and peanut free label regulations required the food processor to be below say, 1 ppm, we would all know exactly what peanut free means on the label. This could even open up more foods to the peanut allergic population because companies could test their products and in theory, we would see fewer “may contains”. That would certainly be a plus for my family.
But here’s the problem with that scenario: Documented cases of peanut allergy show a wide range of sensitivities and the ramifications of reaction in a very sensitive individual are more severe with anaphylaxis being the ultimate price to pay. And unlike true Celiac disease (as opposed to gluten sensitivity/intolerance), children have been known to grow out of their food allergies so it’s possible that their level of sensitivity may decrease over time, making it very difficult for researchers to create a scientifically controlled experiment to determine specific levels.
They’re trying though, and that’s the good news. Over time, if scientists are able to determine a threshold amount that can be tolerated for a variety of food allergies, we can have better food labeling. This might allow us Allergy Moms to spend less time in the grocery store, phoning food manufacturers, searching for information on food allergy forums and abandoning our food chemistry degree courses that we’ve all been plunged into. Trust in proper labeling and regulation compliance notwithstanding, I’d be thrilled to have that time back.
If you’d like to read more about the technical aspects of this scientific challenge, you can download this free report at: http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a914017328 . The report is authored by a group of scientists called the ILSI Threshold Working Group which includes renowned food allergy scientist Steven L. Taylor from the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program, Dept. of Food Science & Technology, University of Nebraska.
I’m afraid to say it really loudly without jinxing it… going back to school with our allergic child is going smoothly!
First, I got an email a couple of weeks ago from the school principal checking which classes my allergic child had been in last year to see which additional classrooms she’d be in that would need the addition of hand sanitizers and soap for wash stations. I think this was the first time I hadn’t had to initiate contact to make sure that all of the basic hygiene issues we have insisted on were in place for her return to school.
Second, I’ve always created a poster for my child each year that is posted in all of her classrooms, staff room, etc. which familiarize all staff with what her allergies are, what she looks like (simple but necessary) and what steps to take in the case of a suspected allergic reaction. Last year, the vice principal was so taken with the poster that I’d created for my child that she used it as a model to create a similar poster for all of the children with health issues in the school. Only the life-threatening health issues are posted, the rest of the childrens’ information goes into a binder for staff. This is the first year I haven’t had to create my own poster as the vice principal contacted me to see whether any of our health issues had changed (they have, we need to now add chickpeas to the list of foods to avoid). So that’s all done with me doing nothing in that regard.
When the phone discussion with the vice principal veered to my child’s new teachers and staff training on anaphylaxis and the use of the epi-pen, I was pleased to find out that a district-wide staff training day would take place next week and then the following staff meeting had anaphylaxis and training on the agenda. I offered to send in the epi-pen trainer and an old epi-pen for the staff meeting so that’s all been taken care of.
While it was agreed that the letter I pen each year to the parents of my child’s classmates (including homeroom where she eats her lunch) would go out again along with my list of suggestions for the multitude of friendly foods/snacks that can be brought to the classroom, that’s all I needed to do.
I’m not sure what to do with myself. It all seems too easy – I keep racking my brain to see what I’ve missed. I don’t appear to be missing anything, could it really be that easy? Just in case, I’m knocking on wood.