I recently finished reading the book Wonder by RJ Palacio. It’s an inspiring story about a boy, August, with a facial deformity who is starting public school for the first time at ten years old. It’s a great lesson in empathy, loyalty, and above all, kindness. While I was about halfway through the book I had to take my son, Dylan, for a follow up appointment with his allergist. It had been a year since our peanut challenge so we were due for a rescreen. Before the appointment he needed to have blood drawn so the results would be available when we met with the Doctor. I was really worried about it because the first time he had blood drawn he was three and young enough that I didn’t have to prep him. Now he’s five and I had to tell him what was going on. And the reason for my worry is that he doesn’t do well with shots. What kid does, I know.
So I told him that he needed to have blood taken from his arm and that it would pinch for only a second. Then I promised him that he could pick out a special toy afterward. I’m not above a bit of bribery in these kinds of situations. We went to the clinic and initially all was good. He was happily playing with his cars in the waiting room and I thought, “This isn’t so bad.” Once it was his turn and the nurse sat him in the chair it was all downhill. Let’s just say she had to call in another person – a rather large burly man – to hold him down. My heart broke seeing him so scared, which I think was more the reason for his hysteria than the actual pain from the needle. One lollipop, roll of stickers, stressed out mom, and Lighting McQueen Mack Truck later we made it. Through the first hurdle at least. And when it was finally time for the allergist appointment I was in high spirits. His bloodwork results came back so low last year that I was optimistic. To be honest in my mind I kind of always operated with a mentality that even though he had the allergy it wasn’t that severe and I thought he would outgrow it. Not to say I would ever give him peanuts, but I wasn’t CRAZY about it. Well, that was likely my downfall. Because the results changed significantly and his levels increased from 0.86 to 10 and he is now in the severe range.
That is not what I was expecting. And while we won’t do anything differently, it’s been a mental shift for me.
I never gave him baked goods or anything that may contain peanuts or was manufactured on shared equipment, but it felt like everything changed. Suddenly the thought of him leaving his nut free day care is way more daunting. Oh, and P.S. I learned he is now allergic to tree nuts too. Big sigh. My daughter was really upset upon hearing the news because she hates that she can’t order a cookie when we go to Panera or eat the Snickers bar that was in her goody bag. I was so upset I wanted to scream, “But you CAN do those things.” I just don’t let her because it’s not fair to Dylan. I know, it’s not fair to her either. But life isn’t fair. Why should my son have this disease where what he eats can cause a fatal reaction? Why should August be born with a disease that only 1 in a gazillion get? Then I started thinking about this fictional boy and all of the hardships he faced. The endless surgeries, wearing an astronaut helmet so people couldn’t see his face, loving Halloween because it’s the only holiday he can wear a mask and feel like a normal kid. And it put things in perspective. I thought, “I have a sweet, beautiful boy.” This doesn’t change a thing. He’s stubborn and smiley and loves trucks and wants to be a firefighter – and he has a peanut allergy. It’s just as much a part of who he is as his mischievous grin or the three little freckles on his left cheek. We’ll deal with this and while it’s never something I wanted, it’s life. We all have challenges and hardships to overcome, some big and some little, but that doesn’t diminish any of them. Or my love for my son, my little Boy Wonder (and his awesome sidekick sister, too).