Coping With Multiple Food Allergies, Atopic Dermatitis and Asthma

A Mother’s Perspective…..

Let’s be honest……living with multiple food allergies, atopic dermatitis and asthma is no walk in the park! Dealing with the stresses that they impose can be overwhelming . How does one cope?

Balancing it all can be a challenge.  One that I must admit I am still struggling with. My advice……find an outlet…take time for yourself.  Write a list of ideas that you would like to do that give you pleasure and follow through on them.

I know, easier said than done…………………but worth the effort!

Some of my favourites are:

Getting outside for a power walk or run. Seriously…this has to be the number one ‘feel good’ thing you must do. From the moment Michael was an infant, I took him out for walks in his stroller with our dog. (Not to mention it was the only way to settle him down for a nap…win/win situation!) Four years ago, I gradually turned my power walking into running. I now run every morning. It helps to clear my head and energize me for the day ahead. I even ran in the 2010 (50:26 minutes) and the 2011 (50:10 minutes) 10 km run for the Allergy Asthma Information Association (AAIA). I look forward to the 2012 AAIA run to try to get under 50 minutes. I also hope to one day try a half marathon! Just get active! The overall benefits for your mental and physical health will have immediate and long time beneficial effects. Just 30 minutes a day is what doctors are recommending…it is do-able!

Reading a good book. As much as I enjoy reading and learning from Allergic Living Magazine or related blogs…sometimes I need a break…cue easy reading! I loved the book The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Perfect timing with the movie out in theatres. Tie it in with a girl’s night out! (It was in the theatres when I wrote this…wait for the rental and have a girls’ night in) My mother, friends, neighbours and I are all recycling books between ourselves. It creates lots of great discussion and anticipation of the next good read! I also recommend these three books written by Kate MortonThe Forgotten Garden, Riverton House and The Distant Hours. I am excited to learn she has another book coming new out at the end of 2012. Until then…any recommendations?

Baking/Cooking: Believe it or not…I love to be in the kitchen whipping up something tasty for everyone to enjoy. It gives me great pleasure! It brings out the creative side of me. Not only that…the look of happiness it brings to my kids’ faces when I create a tasty treat or meal for them…well…it’s simply priceless!

Gardening. There is something therapeutic about tending a garden. My garden is generally perennials with my annuals out front in an urn. In the spring,  I love getting in the garden and ripping out all the spent perennials of the last season to unearth new growth. (I am lazy in the fall and just leave the dead perennials as a protective blanket for the winter) Anticipating the arrival of my tulips that survived the squirrels. Purchasing and planting herbs (basil, rosemary and parsley) and vegetables. (usually tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, sometimes peppers and beans) I get sheer enjoyment from watching the cycle of flowers that bloom throughout the summer. Which reminds me…I better plant my tulips soon if I am to see them in the spring!

Getting together with friends. Whether it is to go for a walk, a coffee/tea, a movie, out to the mall, or a play date with the kids. Find the time to keep friendship relationships in tact.  My friends are a super support network that help me to keep my sanity in check.

Couples Getaway. Find the time to get away with your significant other for an afternoon, an evening, a night or more. Spending one-on-one time together to reconnect is a priority for me. Our favourite get away is to head to Niagara-on-the-Lake. We stay at a Bed and Breakfast (Wine and Country Bed and Breakfast), and bicycle around to the wineries. We love to go during the Wine and Herb Festival which is held every weekend in May. Enjoying local cheese, wine, and our beautiful Niagara region together…heaven!

Girlfriend’s Getaway. My two best friends from childhood live on the other side of the country.(Western Canada)  For the past 5 years, we have made the effort to get together. They help keep me grounded. They make up another support network. (I will soon be heading off to see them. More to come!)

A Weekend with my mother. Spending a girls’ weekend with my mother is very special to me. I call my visits, my ‘Peanut Butter Getaways’. We rent girl’s movies, check out local festivals, enjoy a lunch out, make yummy dinners, take long walks, talk.

Church on Sunday. As a family, we have reintroduced church on Sunday. Personally, that hour in church allows me a time for reflection and gives me a sense of peace.

We must give ourselves permission to step away, recharge, have a break.

I love my family…but I was so caught up in ‘survival mode’, so overwhelmed with chaos…I was scared my love for them could not shine through all the darkness that surrounded us.

For my sanity and for the benefit of others, learning how to balance it all has ultimately had a positive effect on everyone.

Finding balance is not a perfect science. Encountering rough patches is ‘par for the course’…recognizing those times, however, is key in order to rebalance. I am not an expert in this…trial and error are my mantra! I am constantly learning from my mistakes. Such is life.

How do you find balance in your life while living with multiple food allergies, asthma, atopic dermatitis or just life in general?  I would love to hear from you! I look forward to your experiences and your comments!

Speaking of balance…check out Carla @ My 1/2 Dozen Daily. She lives an inspiring life of balancing her food allergies, asthma, chequebook, creative cards and sewing projects while raising a family of 4 children with her husband. She is also currently trying to raise money to help those who also strive to find balance in their lives.

P.S. As always, any products I mention in these posts are my own personal recommendations. No one’s paying me to recommend them. They’re just what has worked for our family. Your own needs and preferences may be different!

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Suffocating with Multiple Food Allergies and Atopic Dermatitis: Catching My Breathe in Scotland

At times I feel like I am living in a bubble. In another world, outside that of the ‘real world’. I get so caught up and overwhelmed with the stresses of every day life, it feels like I am choking.

Stepping away allows me to ‘catch my breath’.

Taking My First Breath:  My Trip To Scotland

ancient macbeth family tartan

In July 1999, I met my brother in Scotland to visit my 90-year-old Grandfather and our entire Scottish clan. (my dad was the only family member to emigrate) Due to my pregnancy, I missed the trip my family took the year before to celebrate my Grandfather’s 90th birthday. It was devastating to me…I was torn apart inside…I so wanted to go…I resisted the temptation…much to my chagrin and stayed home.

The following is a list of events that led up to my trip.

A buildup of events:

– My father was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease, September 1996. It was just after Michael was born. My father died 18 months later.

my father and michael summer 1997

I love this picture of Michael and my father… it brings back such happy memories. They both look so deep in thought…actually, they are watching my mother struggling to put up the patio umbrella. She was not amused that I was focused on taking this picture whilst they watched on. Summer 1997.

-The week after my father died, Michael, with yet another ear infection, had tubes put in his ears and I discovered I was pregnant.

-Fall of 1996, Michael showed his first signs of atopic dermatitis on his forehead.

-I went back to work full-time (February 1997) when Michael was 6 months old. (commuting an hour or more to work every day).

-At 6 months, Michael had his first visit with an allergist: no milk, soya, wheat, potatoes, eggs,tomatoes and seafood. His formula was changed to Alimentum.

-My daily schedule included: changing Michael’s bedding every day due to the fact that his scratching in the night would produce soiled bedding, vacuuming his room and house due to the shedding of skin which would accumulate, general dirt and the fact we had a dog, preparing, cooking and storing homemade baby food, preparing daily meals in general, keeping up bathing and creaming schedule, and commuting back and forth to work an hour or more each way depending on the weather. I worked up until June 1998.

-Matthew was born in December 1998. Although he was a happy baby, he was never hungry enough for breastfeeding, so I improvised…………bought a double breast pump to use after each feeding to fool my body into thinking I had twins! I froze the extra breast milk to use later when introducing cereals.

 -Michael suffered from atopic dermatitis. (it exploded all over his body in January 1999, consequently leading to bathing and creaming 3 times a day) It breaks my heart to look at this picture of Michael at his worst. (actually, this was his atopic dermatitis clearing up!)

Michael at his worst with atopic dermatitis and Matthew, Jan. 1999

He also had multiple food allergies, food sensitivities, multiple inner ear infections (up until the tubes went in), bouts of impitego, and trouble sleeping. (I suffered sleep deprivation alongside him)

-We took a family trip to Myrtle Beach, April 1997, to get away from it all. Unfortunately, it proved to be more stressful than relaxing.

As you may suspect, the time from January 1999 up until my trip in July 1999, was a bit of a blur.

Recognizing an intervention was needed, my mother and brother devised a plan for my escape……they pooled their Airmiles’ points together…and my brother and I flew to Scotland.(separately as my mother will not allow us to fly together)

I know most people would think travelling with a 7 month old baby alone on a 9 hour flight insane. Let me tell you it was pure bliss!

I was able to use the Air Canada Lounge, courtesy of my brother. It was a quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of  the airport lobby. I was able to have something to eat and breastfed Matthew in privacy.

I was seated at the bulk head with a bassinet for Matthew to sleep in. I took a pass on the meal and opted for as much sleep as I could possibly get. It ended up being the entire flight’s worth!  I had not had a full night’s sleep in I don’t know how long. I woke up refreshed and clear-headed………..I felt like ‘myself’ again.

I scooped up my smiling, happy baby boy, breastfed him on the descent, and walked off that plane with my head held high, my shoulders back, and my chest out.

I was ready for our adventure in Scotland!

Papa and Matthew, July 1999 in Motherwell Scotland

The above photo is of my Grandfather and Matthew. It is priceless! Notice the gold oval framed picture in the top left hand of this photo. It is of 1-year-old Michael we sent to him for Christmas 1997.

The trip gave me the experience of living as a mother of a child with no limits. I got a better sense of what I needed to adjust in my everyday life back home.

I realized I needed to accept the challenges I had been given and move forward. 

I would step up to the plate and do the best that I could for my husband, my children and myself.

By the end of the trip, I was ready for my life back home.  The fog had lifted. I now had a clear head to deal with the challenges that faced me.

This trip was a turning point in my life. It was the first time I had really stepped back and looked at my life with fresh eyes.

The trip was also filled with firsts for Matthew: his first trip in an airplane, his first time in Scotland visiting relatives, he cut his first tooth, he mastered his crawling, and his first time ‘walking’ on a golf course…the famous 18th hole at St. Andrew’s…his grandpa would be impressed!

matthew and me, july 1999, st. andrew's 18th hole, Scotland

I knew, heading back home on that flight, I needed to find the time, no matter how small, to incorporate some ‘me time’ or better yet, ‘me and hubby time!’ 

Believe me, this has not been easy to do but worth all the effort. It is an ongoing process that continues to this day. My life is an endless roller coaster ride of highs and lows with some coasting in between. (thank goodness for that!)

Having outlets gives me the strength to deal with the everyday challenges of life.

We are all faced with many challenges in our lives.  It is how one deals with those challenges that will help shape and determine the person we are and the life that we lead.

My challenges/experiences in life have made me the person I am today.  I wouldn’t change that for the world.

If I could wave my magic wand and vanquish my children’s food allergies, asthma and atopic dermatitis, I would. But life doesn’t work like that. 

The silver lining of this story……….. I believe our family leads a healthier life. 

I will never forget witnessing… one by one… the pleasures of life that my father once enjoyed… becoming too much for him to endure.

I can still hear him saying, ” If you don’t have your health………….what have you got?”

Take care.

My brother and I flew back to Scotland for my grandfather’s funeral. He passed away on August 2, 2000 at the age of 92. I feel so thankful that Matthew and I were able to see him before he died. (Michael met my grandfather the summer before my father passed away when my grandfather and my father’s sister came to Canada to visit my father. Summer 1997)

P.S. Allergic Living Summer 2011 has a fabulous article titled, “Get Your Life Back!”.

P.P.S. Allergic Girl writes about the importance of balance in ones’ life. Check out my book review.

Tip: It is articles and books, like the above mentioned, that make me realize I am not ‘crazy’… they give me the strength to focus on my family needs and deal with those who just ‘don’t get it’.

Do you ever feel life’s pressures overwhelming you so much that you feel like you are ‘choking?’ How do you ‘catch your breath?’ Please share in the comments below.

This post was written for all those living with multiple food allergies, asthma, atopic dermatitis or any affliction that leaves you feeling that you are alone in your journey…know that each of our journeys are unique…they bond us together…together we are not alone. 

I will be posting coping mechanisms that have helped me manage living with mulitiple food allergies, asthma and atopic dermatitis. Strategies that I continue to utilize every day…because life is always full of little surprises.

P.P.P.S. As always, any products I mention in these posts are my own personal recommendations. No one’s paying me to recommend them. They’re just what has worked for our family. Your own needs and preferences may be different!