Any of our friends and family, former guests, or followers of our blog know that our youngest daughter, Olivia, was diagnosed with multiple life-threatening food allergies when she was less than a year old. She carries two epi-pens with her at all times when she is not at home. At home, they hang on the back of my chair at the kitchen table. Throughout the past eight years, we are grateful that she has outgrown many of her allergens: dairy, cinnamon, avocado, strawberries, blueberries, bananas, grapes, kiwi, pineapple… too many to list. She’s knocked them off one-by-one.
About two years ago, we started challenging tree nuts, one-at-a-time. First almonds, then pistachios, pecans, walnuts, cashews, and finally Brazil nuts last April. She passed each of the tree nuts until Brazil nuts, which produced five hives. We were surprised by the result and determined that it was probably due to cross-contamination because the nuts we used had been in a package, processed in a plant with some of her other allergens.
The plan was to give it some time and try again. I was able to find Brazil nuts in the shell at Christmas and stuck them in the freezer until her appointment last week.
The good news is that she passed her Brazil nut challenge without any issues, so is now only allergic to peanuts, eggs, and soy.
She is happy because she has earned herself a new medic-alert bracelet with fewer words; it turns out she doesn’t care whether or not she ever gets to eat tree nuts or not – they aren’t her favourite!
While we were doing her challenge, we also re-tested her for her egg, soy, and peanut allergies, both by skin and blood. Our hope had been that her soy allergy tests higher than it really is due to cross-reactivity to peanut (both legumes) and that she might actually be able to tolerate it in a challenge. We were also hoping that she might be able to challenge baked egg. (Eggs in cookies, cakes, breads, etc. where the protein has been changed during the heating process.)
Based on her first skin-prick tests, soy did not develop a hive at all this time, and our hope was buoyed. They then did a second poke using actual soy milk (the first was done with the soy serum) which resulted in a huge hive.
On Friday, I received a call at school from Olivia’s allergist with the results of her blood work. It was not good news. Her numbers had all increased. Peanut and soy are now both >100 where they stop counting. (Soy had been 52 two years ago.) Egg, not as dramatically, went up as well. The chance of her passing a challenge is not worth putting her through the risk. It also means that her peanut, egg, and soy allergies are probably with her for life.
She won’t need to go back to the office (unless she has a reaction to something) for two years.
I have been reminding myself that although this news is disappointing, it is not life-changing. Although our hope for more improvements has been crushed, our lives are no different than they were when we woke up the morning of the tests. We know how and what to feed her to keep her safe and healthy. We haven’t added any new allergens. Her family, school, and friends are conscientious and supportive while doing their best to keep her included and safe when food is involved. We all eat healthier as a result since most processed food contains soy. Although it takes more work and advanced planning, she is able to eat out at a number of restaurants (not all) and to travel.
We do know that we can never become complacent.
She will continue to ask, “is this safe for me?” before eating anything new. We will continue to read labels every time. We will continue to bring our own food for her when she goes other places. She will continue to wear her two epi-pens whenever she leaves the house.
We will continue to cater to her allergies and those of our guests.
We will continue to be a peanut-free property.
We will continue to advocate for her and teach her to advocate for herself.
She is worth it.