Yesterday, Ellie got diagnosed with a food allergy, and I was overjoyed.
Let me back up.
We gave her egg for the first time when she was about eight months old, and she immediately broke out into angry red hives. Seriously, she had three bites of scrambled egg and a rash developed around her mouth. Then her cheeks turned bright red like she’d been slapped. Five minutes later her body was covered in hives. She wasn’t terribly fussy, and she didn’t have trouble breathing (thankyougod) so the nurse we talked to at our pediatrician’s office told us she was probably OK. The next morning the hives had turned into small red bumps and her eyes were puffy, so her pediatrician told us to make an appointment with the allergy clinic at the children’s hospital in our city.
Yesterday was that appointment and her allergy was confirmed.
After the scratch test confirmed the allergy we had her blood drawn to determine the best course of action (food challenge with egg baked into something? Food challenge with pure egg? Avoidance of all egg forever and ever amen?). We also had a stern talking-to by a nurse about the protocol for epi pens, cross contamination, forms for daycare, medical alert bracelets (!) and the like.
So why am I so overjoyed about this?
Well, at this particular children’s hospital, the allergy clinic shares a wing with immunology, hematology, and outpatient oncology. This meant we were sharing a waiting room with some very, very sick kids.
Now first of all, if my kid had cancer, I would be pissed that she had to hang out in a waiting room with a bunch of germy kids. Seriously, is it too much to ask for our own waiting room? Damn.
But from a (horribly, incredibly) selfish perspective, it was terribly distressing to see pediatric oncology patients. Cancer is absolutely one of those worst nightmare situations, a hypothetical that my mind cannot fully contemplate. Any time my thoughts turn to that particular nightmare, I immediately disengage and zip off in another direction, like the mere mention of cancer actually burned my brain, like the word cancer sends an electric shock deep into my psyche.
Seeing those kids brought my woe-is-me-ing into harsh perspective, because here’s the truth: yes, it does suck and it is scary that Ellie has this allergy. I really don’t have any experience with the food allergies, and I now have another thing to add to my mental list of things to freak out about when I’m trying to fall asleep: anaphylactic shock. Fun!
But you know what is awesome? How incredibly, shockingly lucky we are.
We have access to world class doctors at a hospital entirely devoted to children that is five minutes from our house.
We can afford to pay to be seen by those doctors.
We can afford medications that will keep our daughter alive in the event of a severe reaction.
We send our daughter to a daycare that will take her allergy seriously and have members of the staff trained to administer epi pens as needed.
We are educated enough to understand her diagnosis and treatment.
We are empowered enough to advocate for our child.
It is a food allergy. Not cancer.
So last night, Ellie and I put on our dancing shoes and had a dance party in the kitchen while we made our (egg free) dinner. Our song came on, and we kicked up our heels to the mighty jungle and howled at the moon and the peaceful village and toasted our good luck and great fortune.