She doesn’t wear a cape, she doesn’t have a super power, my food allergy hero doesn’t even have a food allergy. Instead, she has logged countless hours of prep work, baking numerous birthday cakes for kids in classrooms she didn’t know, weekly loaves of bread, and so many cookies you could fill Lake Ontario with them. No, my allergy hero never had to use an auto-injector, but she carried one every day, went to yearly training, and taught others in schools and businesses. She was never at-risk for anaphylaxis but still to this day refuses to eat or keep peanuts or tree nuts in the house. She doesn’t need allergy testing, but she’s never missed an appointment in the past 20 some odd years. My hero then, now, and forever will be my mother, Sharon.
A woman who, without a second thought, dropped everything, switched gears, and transformed her and our family’s lives (and cupboards) when I was diagnosed allergies to peanuts and tree nuts at age three. She hasn’t looked back since.
Growing up with the risk for anaphylaxis was tough on me, but it started as an unimaginable journey for my mother. Suddenly the grocery store was a nightmare. No food seemed safe and if we didn’t know each and every ingredient of a product, forget about it. No restaurant seemed feasible anymore since we didn’t know what was going on in the kitchen. It looked like we as a family were lost, but not my mom. She took charge and decided that if nothing was safe, she would make it safe. And just like that our house was filled with baked goods, safe meals, and treats that I could reach for anytime and feel safe. To me, it was perfectly normal, I thought every kid had all these homemade foods in their home. I never saw my mother in the kitchen ‘till one in the morning cooking, baking, and worrying. I also assumed most kids had the choice of going home for lunch and that I was just lucky enough that my mom would come pick me up, and let me watch cartoons at home, then drop me back off at school. It never occurred to me that I had to go home because once the lunch boxes came out, our classroom was seen as a dangerous place to my mother.
My childhood for all I knew was normal, I never knew or realized the time, effort, and work my parents put into everyday to make me feel like a normal everyday kid or the tears she shed over the fears she had for me and my childhood. I never knew how special our situation was because she took the brunt of it upon herself and shielded me like a hero from the things that could hurt me, both physically and emotionally. To me it was the best childhood I could ask for, shrouded in a wonderful haze filled with memories of baking, specials meals just for me, and most importantly, love.
It is these reasons, and so many more that my mom is my food allergy hero. She’s brave, and kind, and was willing to give up everything for me so that I could be a normal, happy kid. Most people ask if I would ever give up my food allergies if I had the opportunity, and I always say no. First, they made me who I am today, and second they filled my childhood with so many wonderful, unique memories between me and my mom that I wouldn’t give any of it up for anything.
My food allergy hero may not need tights (unless she’s dressing up) and a cape, but she gives me inspiration every single day to live better, be kinder, and make the smallest differences in people’s lives because in the end, it’s the little things that matter.