Happy Birthday, Maddy!

When Maddy turned seven, our family celebrated by beginning a new chapter that was be life changing, helped to raise awareness for those suffering from food allergy, and helped educate people about OIT. Now, as Maddy turns 8, and will begin the 3rd grade, so many possibilities are open to her as a child that doesn't have food allergies standing in her way!

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Check out my other blog, The Best Medicine, about my husband's battle against cancer.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Celebrate Good Times

Picked out 'Rainbow' after graduation.

Do you remember the first time you tried something really scary? Like really scary? The first time I rode a big roller coaster we traveled to Sandusky for our annual trip to Cedar Point. The Iron Dragon was the big draw that year and though I loved the rides, something about those cars hanging down, swinging side to side, zooming through fog, bugs, and screaming amusement park guests simply freaked me out. My mom (who loves roller coasters), godmother, best friend, and my sister, though just didn’t care – they were going on that ride no matter how much I sobbed, dragged my feet, or told them it was not a good idea. And they were taking me with them.

At ten years old, I wore my anxiety on my sleeve and blue-mascara tears streaked down my face as my mother dragged me toward that horrifying death trap of a ride. I was petrified.  This amusement park ride, a calculated risk that was not going to hurt me physically was tearing me up inside – there was no way, in my mind, that I was going to live to tell the tale of The Iron Dragon. In the meantime, I looked a damn fool crying in that line! Our little group lugged me along, inch-by-inch, rail-by-rail, anyway. My mom knew me well enough to know I sometimes needed a bit of a shove to get myself off the ground. And that’s what she was doing that day. 

No worry ice cream!
Occasionally, Maddy has gripping moments of anxiety about the unknown, too; as many children do I’m sure. Every now and then she will get to thinking about house fires or tornadoes and the devastating effects that could occur.  She’ll hear snippets about the real world - from friends, on the news, that vast world I can’t control once she leaves these Mommy arms. She might read something in a book, think and think, then end up down to talk to us about her concerns. Those nights we talk to her about the ways we keep our home safe, her safer. Rarely, though is she the inconsolable child laying it all out, being pulled by her parents to the front car of the biggest roller coaster of the year.  It’s just not how she works.

In my own 35 years, my fears and worries have subsided some and what’s left, I’ve learned to push up my sleeve a bit, hide what I used to wear so visibly. To a perfect stranger, even to those that know me, as it turns out, my unease isn’t evident most days. Some have even gone so far to call me STRONG. And I’ve believed them, too, so I go with it, “work it,” as they say. 

It has taken Maddy far less time to live strong – to not let this peanut allergy rule her life anymore . She, though, is brave. Braver than I ever was as a child. And she has no need to hide anything up her sleeve. I rarely have to give her the same little shoves my mom had to give to me - and it is a constant surprise to me. 
Graduation came just in time for Valentine's Day Party - phew!

Days before Peanut Allergy Desensitization Graduation, we contemplated, “how long do you think it will take Maddy to stop asking, ‘is it okay for me?’ or to ‘have mom check it’ before she is comfortable eating a new food or even a tried and true?” How long, I wondered more often, would it take me? We were all quite certain these habits would not only be difficult to break, but uncomfortable - intentionally allow her to eat food laced with poison we know just months before would have killed her. Even though we’d watched desensitization working, even as we’d seen her nibbling peanut after peanut, even as we dreamed of free days ahead, I was sure my worries would get the better of me, and then her. 
The Iron Dragon

Free days were ahead, though. Graduation day came and went with exhilaration similar to that roller coaster ride. Maddy’s anxiety was quickly squelched by her excitement and the minute we left the building she began talking about her new life – what she could do, who she would tell. Our other questions were swiftly answered – it took Maddy exactly no time to stop asking to check labels, if food was okay for her or anything at all related. At dinner that evening, she specifically said, “Mom, do not say anything about peanuts.” She ordered her own food, allowed me no time to ask the server anything, ordered a cookie for dessert, and she was fine. More than just fine - she was ecstatic!

Maddy's 1st concert - livin' life to the fullest!
Since then, Maddy has embraced this new identity – readily. She has eagerly tried new foods, jumped in line at church coffee hour and has been elated to tell us, “Do not even look at the label, mom,” over & over. And we have really celebrated together! It is amazing how quickly she has adapted. I have shakingly adjusted to the new identity as well - stuffed my anxieties up that ol’ sleeve and strapped on my OIT safety belt. And just like that 'tween at Cedar Point, as soon as I realize something is safe, and even sometimes good for me, I embrace it wholeheartedly. The Iron Dragon, for instance became my favorite ride that trip – we rode it over and over! 

The night Maddy graduated, our little group brought her gifts & cards and toasted together to this huge achievement, this new sense of freedom for Maddy. Our server asked if we were celebrating a birthday - we couldn’t tell her yes, of course, but it was almost difficult to say “no,” as well. We were commemorating a day in our lives that will go down in our history as one of great importance - the first day of the rest of her ‘new’ life - one that she was ready and willing to jump right into! 

The Iron Dragon photo - http://www.puderluder.com/Rollercoaster3/iron_dragon.htm