This is the second post in a short series chronicling our search for treatment for food and environmental allergies and asthma. You can read Part 1, The Fall I Gave Up on Food Allergies here.
“This is not sustainable.”
The thought rattled, rolled, and knocked around in my head nearly every day in the fall of 2013. Multiple accidental exposures, and worsening allergic reactions to foods that we considered safe brought me to this conclusion.
Living a life of complete avoidance of even the smallest traces of foods that could kill him would not allow my son to live life. Looking ahead to junior high/high school/college … and all of the responsibility and burden that would land right on his shoulders overwhelmed me.
Sure, we train him, but statistics show teens feel invincible and that our hard-fought training may still end up with an EpiPen® left behind at home because he’s too embarrassed to carry it with him.
Forget about whether my trick-or-treater could ever eat half of what he hauled in. How would he handle summer camps, camping trips, or study abroad with life threatening food allergies? If he were just allergic to nuts, that might be easier to figure out, but all nuts and eggs? I just couldn’t even imagine.
I was more motivated than ever to figure out how Zachary could come to live a life without a daily inhalation of steroids for his lungs, a daily dose of antihistamines, and without having to carry his own cupcake to every single birthday party he was invited to.
I found multiple options in trial and a couple offered only in private practice. The two treatments that caught my time and attention were oral immunotherapy (OIT) and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Oral Immunotherapy (OIT), a treatment for IgE mediated allergies, aims to desensitize an individual to the allergen through small exposures. Because of risks involved, this is a treatment that should only be considered with your board certified allergist, and should not be tried at home without supervision. The aim of OIT is to improve quality of life through lowering the possibility of reactions to accidental exposures. It is not considered a cure, but does eventually allow individuals to eat something without concern of cross contamination.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is offered in private practice as an individualized treatment plan by Dr. Xiu-Min Li, whose specialty is pediatric allergy and immunology, and who spearheaded the research on the FAHF-2 treatment. Dr. Li’s treatment aims to reset a person’s immune system and resolve all four of the issues found in the allergic march – eczema, asthma, environmental allergies and food allergies. She merges Chinese medicine with the Western world’s approach to medicine. Her work is best explained in the book Food Allergies: Traditional Chinese Medicine, Western Science, and the Search for the Cure by Henry Ehrlich, which follows Dr. Li and her work.
Once I had narrowed it down to these two options, I broached the subject of seeking treatment for Zachary with my hubby. Up to this point, the closest I came to suggesting treatment were little hints dropped here and there mostly in the form of, “You know, I found a new study on food allergy treatment, it looks promising.”
After dropping these hints for several months, I decided to see what Adam thought. Maybe he didn’t feel the same way I did about it all. I just didn’t know.
So, one cold, snowy night in February 2014, we were out to dinner on a rare date. We used the time to catch up and reconnect over a meal at our latest favorite restaurant. The time felt right, so I took a deep breath and said; “I think we should seek treatment for Zachary. Living life this way is not sustainable. I pray every day that he is able to live a full life without restriction, and I’ve found a couple of treatments that may be viable. What do you think?”
And I held my breath.
Next up: Getting the Boys on Board