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.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Agree to Disagree

More memories like this, please! OIT was for us!
Have you ever argued with your husband? Done the unthinkable - actually gone to bed upset or even downright angry? Remember that advice given to newlyweds, “the secret to a long marriage is to never go to bed mad – kiss and make up even if you don’t agree.” I don’t know about you people, but that is just not the way it always works in my house. For posterity’s sake, I may pass the same advice on to my daughter, but realistic – I’m not so sure.  Now that we’re all grown-up, though, it’s important we recognize this as an important part of being mature, responsible, and civil models for our children – we can agree to disagree and move past it, even learn from it.
My husband and I sometimes disagree. There, I said it. Finally! We can quit hiding it from the world! And, to make matters worse, there are times when a good ol’ discussion turns into one of those good ol’ healthy arguments when one of us just can’t seem to see the others' side. Say what? Tell me we aren’t the only ones. That going to bed happy thing… good theory, not always highly executed – and never once have we run to write the divorce papers up! We are stronger today than ever – for these experiences, these arguments, they help us learn from and about one another.
In the world of food allergies, there are many strong personalities - resilient and smart people who are trying desperately to do the very best for their babies. As the incidence of food allergies has increased, affecting up to 15 million people in the United States, so many of those children - 1 in 13 of those children, in fact, (http://www.foodallergy.org), so too has the need, the want, the hope for a cure. Along with this spike in food allergy we have seen the options for networking – e-mail, Facebook, blogs, and texts making our world smaller, allowing those with similar afflictions to become closer; making us feel less and less alone – creating small communities from a world so big that it once felt too overwhelming to comprehend it all alone. Support groups do not hold the same meaning as they once did - we now are able to FB a group for advice & receive instantaneous responses - Benadryl, Epi, or emergency room for a child reacting to an allergen? Years ago, a support group would have been there - after the fact. A different world – full of immediacy and information - creates a different a world jam packed with personalities sharing their experiences, an opinions all at once.
Stronger and smarter today and loving it!
Those same strong personalities – the ones that are creating groups, blogging, spreading the word about food allergy news are also the ones that are ‘putting themselves out there’.  They are taking risks by sharing their experiences with each other – with people they don’t even know until they set foot into cyberspace. I, for one, have greatly appreciated this, by hearing about their lives – their successes, their mistakes, and their heartaches. OIT is a journey not many have even started, let alone completed - Maddy was one of the few in this state to begin working with Dr. Mayer as a peanut desensitization patient when she began OIT! So these networks were not only important, but essential to us.  As a blogger, I am one of those people, too – our story, my opinions, and my questions are out there and since I “can’t please all of the people all of the time,” I try desperately  to be respectful to all of the people all of the time, even if I don’t agree with them!  And if you don’t agree with me all of the time, that’s cool. As long as you understand I don’t agree with everything you write and you do. You & I - if you’ve accepted me into your multi-media circle - don't have to have to have the same opinion. And we can move on from that. Know what else is cool? We might actually learn from each other, if we can get past the hang-ups, break down the wall, and really try!
My 'assertive' daughter.
Once, as a young lady (maybe a stretch, but I was young!), a friend’s parent described me with those words exactly, a “young lady” and she added “strong personality.” At the tender age of twenty-five, I was offended. I felt like it was a nice way of saying the word uttered about strong women who dare show off their tough outer edges and ability to pursue their own dreams and make their own decisions – those who dare say what they think - you know the one – ‘the B word!’  And maybe it was exactly what she was saying, but I’ve grown into that now, and take pride in the fact that even then, I knew what I wanted and didn’t hide my personality to be more meek and mild simply because I shared an opinion every now and then. As I’ve aged, I’ve taken that ‘strong personality’ and used it for good, not evil – in this case, spreading the word about food allergies and sharing information the best I can. We call this particular trait “assertive” in this house, as we raise Maddy and see some of the same characteristics in her - independent, confident, and bold.  I’ll be proud to see her as a young woman, too.
Peanut Oral Immunotherapy is slightly controversial. There are pages upon pages arguing that this therapy is safe and effective (www.oitcenter.com) and a few articles that claim it is not quite ready for private practice.  As many of you have read in my blog, you know that for us, the decision did not come lightly, we did not jump into it – there was a progression for us that came with growth and finally a decision made together as a family. We educated ourselves, learned from others, and we found a board-certified allergist that we trust whole-heartedly, and we are certainly glad we did. We feel Maddy is safer and certainly see every day the benefits of our decision - her immune system has strengthened  as well as her overall quality of life – she is simply healthier and happier. In her own words, “I am so glad they have OIT. Whoever invented it is awesome!”
"OIT is awesome!"
I remember being on the flip-side, when we weren’t ready to try OIT, skeptical even. I took the educational process into my own hands, never allowing one article, doctor, Facebook group, or “expert” make a decision for me. As adults, we easily become set in our ways - tunnel vision sets in, even as we impart upon our children to do the opposite – try new things, make new friends, show respect, live by the Golden Rule. I'm unsure if this is always clear in our own experiences with each other, even in disagreement. The reality is kindness and respect go a long way. Consider the last time anybody was rude or spoke down to you - online, in person, or otherwise. Was that person one you wanted to listen to, take advice from or could learn from? I may go to bed angry, but your nasty comment will forever sit out there in cyberspace or in someone's thoughts, for the entire world to see. I’ll wake up refreshed and 'over' the entire thing - a good night’s rest helps me with that (just ask my husband). So, in your next exchange, challenge yourself to take a moment before hitting send – really listen to that other person, learn from them, and above all else, remember it is okay to respectfully agree to disagree.  Emphasis on the respect.
As I traverse the pages of Facebook, read articles shared, or comments made, things might “burn my butt” every now and again, but as the model citizen and parent that I am (eh, em… okay that I TRY to be), it has become important for me to recognize agreements and disagreements are perfectly acceptable, even encouraged, within this network of people - this world - and it can be done with dignity and respect. A lively discussion is good for the soul and promotes learning - just like good ol' Joseph Joubert, French essayist claimed “The aim of an argument or discussion should not be victory, but progress (1842).” I think he was spot on – if we could just remember that on Facebook!