Atopic Dermatitis was no match for my son’s love of the game of hockey.
As a youngster, hockey stick in hand, he would run around in circles hitting balls. He was labelled…a busy boy. His father, also a hockey fanatic, was so proud.
Our house is situated halfway down a street that encourages only those who live on it to drive by…perfect for road hockey! Neighbourhood boys congregate outside our house for ‘pick up’ games. I always know where my boys are and I get to know their friends.
No one was more excited than Michael to follow every Canadian boys’ dream…signing up for ice hockey.
At the tender age of 5, Michael’s dream came true…he would be playing ‘real’ hockey.
Skates and hockey equipment in hand, he headed off to the arena to meet his teammates, coaches and suit up for his first practice. Proud Mama and Papa followed close behind.
Sitting up in the benches, my husband and I watched as he flew across the ice with ease, weaving in and out of pylons and dropping himself on his knees only to pop back up and race down the ice. Michael was truly in his glory!
All of a sudden, everything changed. Watching him dash off the ice in a panic, my husband raced around to the hockey bench to unearth the problem. Michael could then be seen frantically disrobing on the bench right down to his long underwear. He had overheated and was in an itching frenzy.
Tears welled up in my eyes and my heart broke watching, what could be, the end of his dream.
My husband remained on the bench after helping Michael to re-equip himself in all his gear. Michael returned to the bench another time to undergo the undressing and redressing routine once again.
Waiting outside the dressing room for Michael seemed like forever. When he did emerge, I enquired, “How was the practice?”. With a smile on his face, he answered, “Great!”
Not once did he ever complain about his overheating episodes. Each practice was ‘great’. There was no question in his mind…he was bound and determined to make it work.
He wanted…needed to play the game.
My husband and I questioned how he could continue this routine during an actual game. We needn’t have worried. Come game day, his on ice times never overheated him and he was able to sit on the bench with his teammates and be ‘one of the guys’. I was overjoyed!
Over time, his need to undress completely at the practices dwindled until there was none.(When I asked him recently, if he remembers those times, he calmly states, “I just got used to it.”
Michael, a boy, with multiple food allergies, atopic dermatitis and asthma living a life limited by what he can eat, wear and do, was determined not to have his opportunity to play the game he loved the most, taken away from him. This was something, he himself could control. He mastered it beautifully!
I am so proud of him! As parents, our instinct is to protect our children. How easy it would have been to say, “You, know…hockey looks like it is not working out for you. Your exertion on the ice is making you overheat and causing your eczema to flare up…I think you should give hockey a pass.”
Instead, seeing how in control he was of his situation, my husband and I let him make the decision to continue with hockey. To tell you the truth, it went unsaid…we just followed his lead…heading to hockey practice and games each week.
The look on his face after a practice/game said it all! How could we take that away from him? No matter how painful it was to witness his uncomfortableness.
If there is one thing I have learned on this journey of ours…stay focused on the positive!
From this experience…I have learned to never underestimate the power of another person’s determination. When Michael chose to take on his eczema with hockey, it became his journey. We assumed he would not be able to tolerate the implications…we were wrong.
I have always felt that Michael has had to grow up much quicker than most children due to the many situations he has had to endure. I don’t necessarily look at this as a negative, rather as a positive. He has acquired so much compassion for others, benefited from living a healthy lifestyle, and discovered the power of determination…priceless!
Michael is now 15 years old. My husband and I continue to follow and cheer him on at his games. In fact, we are heading to one tonight.
After years of playing defence, he has been moved up to right-wing and is considered in second or third place for goal scoring!
Coaches are informed of all his food allergies, and exercise induced asthma. (Epi Pen and puffer are kept at the ready by the Trainer) He no longer suffers from overheating but needs to take his puffer before each game. Showers are mandatory after each game!
Why did he endure all that he did to play the game of hockey? “…because it is fun!”
Who doesn’t need a little fun in their lives!
P.S. This post was written specifically for those families with children with eczema. Listen to your children…sometimes they are much wiser than their years…willing to make sacrifices that we may feel are unnecessary… all in the name of fun.
P.P.S. At our most recent appointment with our Pediatric Dermatologist, he examined Michael’s skin and told us that he never thought Michael’s skin would ever look this good. I always believed that the day would come when Michael’s skin would clear…it has taken 15 years…happy days!
My advice… keep the flicker of hope alive, focus on the positive, learn as much about eczema as you can and persevere. Remember…you are not alone!
P.P.P.S. Have you ever questioned allowing your children to partake in something due to their eczema? Does eczema limit the choices that are made? Is eczema controlling your life? Would love to hear from you…please leave a comment.