Poppy's Pediatric Peanut Protocol

Poppy was diagnosed with a peanut allergy when she was nine months old. We’d started playing with solid food around the six month mark, and she’d shown some interest, but we also noticed an increase in how angry she could be (baby gal has never been shy about voicing her rage,) her sometimes rash-y skin became constantly inflamed, and she kept spitting up in earnest (we’d hoped that once she wasn’t exclusively breastfed, maybe she would become less leaky).

On one particularly rough morning, Poppy started crying after breakfast and it wasn’t a normal cry. It was a panicked, anxious cry. There wasn’t anything in our environment to produce this type of cry; Grady was puttering around getting ready for kindergarten, Shawn was at work, the dog was busy eating the breakfast remnants under the highchair, and I was drinking coffee. But Poppy was wailing. She contorted her body and clawed at her sleeper. I thought maybe a bug (what bug? It was winter!) had crawled into her pyjamas so I stripped her down to her diaper. As I peeled the sleeper from her wildly twisting torso, I saw an angry red rash spread over her entire body. I quickly snapped pictures with my iPhone (how did people parent before iPhones? Serious question.) and made an appointment with her doctor as soon as they opened.

Poppy’s doctor looked at the rash photos on my phone and called in an urgent referral to an allergist on the spot. We were seen within days, Poppy’s peanut allergy was confirmed, and we were thrust unwillingly into the world of Epi-Pens and IgE blood tests.

When Poppy was first diagnosed, her allergist told us that because she was so young there was an approximately 20% chance she could grow out of her peanut allergy. As the years passed and her skin prick test reactions got smaller and smaller, he upped his estimation to 50%. Last April, her skin didn’t react to peanut protein. We were ready for an Oral Food Challenge.

Today was the big day. The day Poppy would eat peanut butter, on purpose, after almost two and a half years of us creating a peanut-free bubble for her. To say that I was anxious is an understatement. I couldn’t even acknowledge the day, or talk about it with anyone, until yesterday. Last night I slept in drips and drabs, spending the majority of my hours just watching Poppy breathe. I was in excellent shape to face a challenging day this morning is what I’m saying.

The challenge itself was just that: a challenge. Poppy was confused and frustrated that I was trying to get her to eat peanut butter after our years of allergy training. Grady was with us because he’s on summer break, and I underestimated a: how freaked out he would be and b: how pissed off Poppy would be that I made her brother anxious. I am still processing the event (I literally zoned out when we gave her the first taste of peanut butter. I have zero recollection of it) but the result was better than we dared to hope. Poppy ate a significant amount of peanut butter and suffered no reaction. No rash, no hives, no runny nose, no vomit, no tingling, no wheezing, no rage, nothing, nada, zip, zero. It still doesn’t feel real.

So now Poppy starts a pediatric peanut protocol to build and maintain her immunity against peanuts. We’re starting slow and steady. We’ll feed her tiny amounts of peanut butter regularly and cross all of our fingers and all of our toes that she stays symptom-free.

We’re not out of the allergy woods yet (she’s still allergic to eggs) but it is a huge relief to cross peanuts off my worry list. Being responsible for a tiny allergic person is overwhelmingly stressful in a way I struggle to articulate. It was terrible. Today it feels less terrible.

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That Time I Didn't Have Cancer

Speaking from experience, going to a doctor's appointment convinced you have cancer and being told you do not is infinitely better than going to a doctor's appointment confident you do not have cancer and being told you do. I've done it both ways. Today, hearing the specialist tell me my pathology report came back clear felt like a million pounds being lifted off my shoulders. I have been paralyzed for months anticipating the surgery, having the surgery date changed multiple times, fretting, planning my kid's birthday parties just in case the surgery went wrong, actually having the damn surgery, and recovering. Today is my New Year's Day. A January 1st redo on May 1st. I'm celebrating with bubbly, obviously. Because that's what New Year's Day calls for. Cheers!

Waiting

My surgeon told me to expect the pathology report within one to two weeks after my surgery. Tomorrow marks four weeks since my surgery and I still don't have my results. 

Patience is not one of my strengths. When I want to know something, I want to know now. I don't want to wait, I find no comfort in "no news is good news," and trusting the system is something that's been slowly squeezed from me almost five years into this cancer thing. 

May will mark five years since my diagnosis. Five years is a huge milestone in the cancer world. For a lot of types of cancer, fives years means the risk of recurrence drops drastically and life expectancy raises significantly. Five years is a bfd. 

The logical part of me knows that having a recurrence now would be terrible, but so would having a recurrence at six years, or ten years, or twenty. A recurrence means cancer and cancer is terrible (even if it's a good cancer DON'T EVEN GET ME STARTED). 

But the emotional part of me wants to get to five years. It feels like we've been working for it since the day I was diagnosed. I say "we" and not "I" because it's been a group effort. My family, my friends, people who used to be acquaintances, strangers on the internet, so many people have played a role in my recovery. I couldn't even attempt to list the numerous ways people have supported me and loved me as I've flailed my way through this. Not reaching my five year mark feels like I'm failing them as much as my body fails me. (I know, I know. But this is not the logical part of me, okay? It is the stay-up-all-night-the-night-before-surgery-and-watch-my-babies-sleep part of me.) 

And so I wait. Practicing patience, or at the very least, honing my fortitude until I finally get the results from my surgery. Laser eyes and positive vibes welcomed and appreciated.

Aggressive Brightsiding - Surgery Edition

I had my surgery yesterday and now I'm home resting. I'm feeling pretty low so here is some aggressive brightsiding to try to lift my mood. 

- Heated blankets. I don't know why I love these so much but whenever I'm in the hospital, I make it my mission to have a constant rotation of heated blankets. They're just plain flannel sheets that are folded and stacked in a blanket oven but I freaking love them so much. After my surgery I had the chills and one of the recovery nurses stacked six heated blankets on top of me. It was bliss (apart from all the pain and bleeding).

- I did not have a single panic attack. Not when I went under and not when I came out. It was actually the smoothest general anesthetic I've ever had.

- It only took two tries to get my IV in. I have rolly veins. I don't actually know what that means but it usually takes 3-4 attempts to get an IV going (my record is five. Shout out to the paramedic trainee who will probably never forget me and my rolly, gushy veins.) Yesterday the nurse got my IV in on her second attempt and I didn't even get woozy.  

- After my IV was placed, Shawn sat with me for about half an hour while we waited for the operating room to be ready. Our parking expired, and we were told I'd be heading in in the next five minutes, so I told Shawn to go. And then there was another delay and I waited 45 minutes by myself. Normally this would be the perfect time for an anxiety spiral of doom but instead I tried some of the coping techniques my therapist has been working on with me. I was anxious but did not panic. I was able to identify my anxious thoughts and calm myself. It was so gratifying to see my hard work paying off.

- One of the recovery nurses was a goddamn hoot. She's been a nurse for 48 years. She retired years ago but is called in for casual work when there's a shortage. She gives not a solitary fuck. Y'all, she was amazing. She gave the patients identifying nicknames, which is probably something nurses do when talking amongst themselves, but she referred to us openly as "frozen guy," "throat bleeder," and "little lamb," etc. (I was little lamb or lambikins. I don't know why.) While reviewing my discharge info with us, she told Shawn to "take matters into his own hands" when going over sex restrictions.

 - We are surrounded by love and support. It has been a huge comfort to know how wide our circle of support is. I am basically one step up from useless right now but my people have stepped up to handle it. It is a huge weight off my mind to know that we've got oodles of backup.