"Your child has anaphylaxis�an allergy which has the potential to be fatal."
As I tried to understand the implications of the allergist's words, tears welled up in my eyes, as images of my son's entire life flashed by. (He was 3 � at the time.) What will he eat? How can we keep him safe in school or at a friend's? Will he be able to go to camp? And what about university? How am I ever going to trust anyone? The fact that a lowly peanut could pose such a threat to my son seemed mind-boggling.
Over the next few months, as I worked through my anxiety, I slowly came to realize that I had focused on the wrong word. Anaphylaxis has the potential to be fatal�it does not mean that it will be fatal. It can be managed.
While anaphylaxis has taken the spontaneity out of many things that my son does, it has not defined him. He is a keen learner, an aspiring athlete, a nature-lover, a musician, and a brother who taunts his younger sister; he is a kid, like any other, who just happens to have a life-threatening allergy. Over the years, we've learned to work in a positive way to teach others how to manage and we continue to reinforce key rules with our son so that he learns how to stay safe. So far, our strategy is working.
There are still days when I have a meltdown, or he struggles to cope with what may be a life-long condition. We let ourselves feel sad�then we get on with life. We realize that there will always be some level of risk, but we've learned to discern what is perceived vs. real risk, so we don't drive ourselves crazy worrying about what may never happen.
Diagnosis was just the first step in this long journey. Along the way, we've joined the path of many others who are living normally with life-threatening allergies. We hope you'll find your way, too.
Prepared by Laurie (Laurie's son, 8 years old in 2002, is allergic to peanut, tree nuts, shrimp, chick peas, split peas and soy.)