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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Unbelievable Skin Test Results

I found out that I had severe allergies without even touching peanuts. I was two years old in a mommy-and-me art class where there were a couple of stations with different art projects set up- one of which was a bird feeder made with peanut butter. My mom has always hated the smell of peanut butter so we were doing a project at a different station. But, there was a big bucket of soapy water in the middle of the room, and I would periodically run up and wash my hands in the bucket with everyone else - including those washing peanut butter off of their hands. I ended up with huge welt-like hives all over my face and arms. Luckily, the reaction was minor and my pediatrician knew immediately that this meant I had food allergies.

Hives have always been the very first indicator of a reaction for me. Throughout my entire life, I was painstakingly careful not to touch any surface that someone else could have touched after coming in contact with peanuts (lunch tables, movie theater seats, you name it.) To tell you the truth, the weirdest, scariest moment of this entire study was probably getting peanut butter on my hands for first time. 

I recently had a doctor's appointment for my first updated skin and blood tests since beginning the trial. I was seriously blown away by the results.

This was my skin test result before starting the study:
Note: The inner-most circle is the actual hive itself, while the circle drawn around it is the area of redness that surrounds a hive. 



And is my most recent skin test result:




In the picture above, peanut protein was tested on the last circle marked "P," while the first is the positive histamine control and second is negative control. I cannot even begin to explain my shock at these results. I literally did not have a hive. Like, at all. The circe drawn merely indicates a relatively small patch of redness that resulted. 

This means the skin test came back negative. As for the blood test, I find out the results when I have my next blood test on February 4th. 






Adventurous Meals

Though I love to travel, going on vacation was always daunting, especially when traveling to foreign countries. The best part about experiencing a new culture is trying out the cuisine, and it was something I was rarely able to take part in. 

However, my family recently went to Peru. The trip was incredible, and it was the first time I was able travel without dreading dinner every night. I didn't have to order "safe" items from the menu, or  explain that my food couldn't be cross-contaminated with peanuts in broken Spanish. I ate adventurously, trying everything from guinea pig to a delicacy made with a kind of worm. Without the SAFAR study, I never would have been able to go on this kind of vacation - it would've been far too risky. 

But now, I'm looking forward to my next adventure. 



 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Peanut Flour Chocolate Crinkle Cookies





Throughout this experience I have tried multiple methods of eating peanut protein - all of which I find pretty revolting.

Peanut butter proved to be an irritant to my throat and esophagus, and actual peanuts were pretty hard on my stomach. But my wonderful mother started experimenting with baking peanut flour into cookies.

First, we tried shortbread cookies. Now, I have absolutely no idea why I thought this would be a good idea but I definitely would not recommend it. They tasted like dog treats, and to no one's surprise, the dog ended up devouring all of them one afternoon when no one was home. 

Then my mom tried using peanut flour in a chocolate cookie recipe my experience has improved ten fold. Not only does this method completely mask the taste, but I'm hardly having any symptoms.  The specific peanut flour we chose has a relatively high protein content, and relatively low oil content, and has less flavor than the other choices.  The recipe makes 24 cookies with 1000 milligrams of peanut protein in each cookie. The cookies have only 1000 milligrams because for now that's all I need to eat, and because we wanted to minimize the peanut-y taste. 

Peanut Flour Chocolate Crinkle Cookie Recipe:

Ingredients:

Confectioners' Sugar: 1/2 cup
Byrd Mill Peanut Flour Dark Roast 12%: 1/2 cup (24 grams of peanut protein)
All Purpose Flour: 1 1/6 cup 
Unsweetened cocoa powder: 1/2 cup (we use Hershey's) 
Baking Powder: 1 1/2 teaspoons
Salt: 1/4 teaspoon
Butter: 1/2 cup (1 stick), at room temperature
Sugar: 1 1/4 cups 
Large eggs: 2
Vanilla Extract: 1/2 teaspoon

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease 2 baking sheets with butter
2. Put the confectioners' sugar into a medium bowl and set aside
3. In another medium bowl, stir together flour, peanut flour, cocoa powder, and salt
4. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar for about 3    minutes, until creamy
5. Add 1 egg and beat on medium speed until blended. Add the other egg and vanilla and beat until blended
6. Turn off the mixer and add the flour mixture. Mix on low speed until just blended
7. Using a tablespoon, scoop up a rounded spoonful of dough and roll the dough into a ball
8. Roll the ball in the confectioners' sugar until covered. Place the balls on a prepared baking sheet. Repeat, spacing the balls about 2 inches apart
9. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until crackled and puffed
10. Cool on cooling rack for 15 minutes

Update

A few weeks ago I got sick once again, and had a pretty severe reaction that ended in using my EpiPens.  Additionally, my seasonal allergies are at their worst in October, which has most likely contributed to my difficulties. Since my reaction, I haven't been able to handle 16 peanuts and many nights have ended in stomach aches and throwing up, even after cutting my dose in half. 

So, Dr. Nadeau decided it would be best if I went down from 4000 milligrams (16 peanuts) to 1000 milligrams (4 peanuts) at least until this allergy season is over. Throughout this and next month, I'll be slowly increasing my dose. 

On the other hand, my parents and I have discusses the possibility that I may not ever be able to handle 4000 milligrams without symptoms. But even if I end up only able to eat four peanuts, I think that is still a pretty remarkable success. The goal for me was never to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, but just to be able to be able to eat without having to worry about cross contamination.  



Monday, July 2, 2012

Giving Back- 4000milligrams.org





Seeing the food you're allergic to is like the way other people see a poisonous snake or a tarantula. If you have food allergies, you know what I'm talking about. It's fight or flight. That fleeting moment of sheer panic that makes your stomach drop and your heart kick into overdrive.

For as long as I can remember, Epi Pens have been my security blanket. I can't remember a time when they weren't either in my bag or glued to my hand. They made eating things, touching things, and smelling things less intimidating. It was like the earthquake kit on the shelf in the front hall closet. Even if I never used them, just knowing they were always there gave confidence to live my life without being afraid of food.

But on August 8th I wont need them anymore. And as liberating as it's going to be, I have to admit that it is, psychologically, a scary thing to do. 

And I realize that there are many who suffer from food allergies that cannot afford to have Epi-Pens. So I've decide to raise money for the two causes that have truly changed my life.

My first initiative is to raise money for Epi Pens for children who don't have health insurance or whose health insurance does not cover Epi Pens. The money will be donated directly to Dr. Nadeau's patients.

My second goal is to raise money for Xolair. Xolair has enabled me to complete the study in just 6 months with fewer reactions. 

Please visit www.4000milligrams.org to donate. 

Thank you for your help!

You'd rather have what?

"Wait why do you need your own cup?"

I realized this was the first time I was going to have to explain my allergies to a guy I didn't know. And I had absolutely no idea what to say.

"I... just can't share anything with anyone right now!"
"Why?"
"I'm...sick. I have mono."

The words came out before I even realized their implication. Saying "I have mono" is NOT something you want to tell a cute guy at a party.

"Wait... do you really?"
"Um no just kidding. I actually... I actually just have a peanut allergy so I can't really share stuff with people. I think I'd rather have mono though.."

I waited for him to react. To walk away or something. Only he didn't.

"Oh. Haha nah that's way better than mono. Trust me you don't wanna have mono."

After that night, I wondered why my allergies seemed like such a big deal, and why I hated telling people so much. I realized that it was the worst kind of attention you could possibly get. A hot spotlight of vulnerability. Acknowledging my allergies made me feel weak and awkward, both traits that normally don't apply to me.

Vulnerability is a funny thing. It consumes you. It eats away at you until your self-esteem is centered around that one quality that makes you feel like you're different. After a while there's no "putting it into perspective" because every time you have to refuse a piece of birthday cake or order out at a restaurant or carry Epi-Pens, it's this constant, gnawing reminder that you're inadequate.

Now, all this might seem incredibly dramatic. And it is. But it took me a while to realize that. Having allergies was only a bad thing because I convinced myself it was a big deal. Cute Guy certainly didn't seem to think it mattered. I think I was so wrapped up in the fact that having allergies set me apart from my peers that I forgot to look at the big picture. That in the end, it just means you can't eat some stuff. That it doesn't define you at all.

The further I am into this study, the more removed I feel from my allergies. It has less and less of a looming presence in my life. It's easier to look my allergies for what they really are when they're not a constant source of anxiety. Just like with anything, food allergies are only a big deal when you act like they are. And when you think about it, seriously, having mono would be a lot worse.

Last Xolair Shot


ouch!




My "Dose Diary" where I record any symptoms I've had 


This is my last doctors appointment until I "graduate" from the study in August. I'm getting more and more excited!