I have a severe allergy to cow’s milk protein and was diagnosed at a very young age. Overall, I find that life with a food allergy isn’t so bad, it’s just who I am. Occasionally, people unfamiliar with allergies have a hard time understanding how I can actually “live without cheese,” which in truth is quite an ironic statement, since eating cheese could actually threaten my life.
Explaining a serious food allergy can be tricky, especially in my case, since lactose intolerance is also common, and often referred to as an “allergy.”
Occasionally, I will get some funny, annoying or just plain strange responses when I explain my allergy, or when I politely decline food. Below are a few examples with my likely response in italics.
“So, you can’t eat it, like, ever?” –As much as I’d love a day off from the threat of anaphylaxis… no I can’t eat it ever.
“How do you find anything to eat?” – There are many foods in the world, I can usually find something.
“Are you sure you can’t just try a little bit?” – Yes I’m sure.
“Don’t eat anything! I don’t want to have to call 911!” – Well, me neither.
“Do you love eating dairy, even though you’re allergic?” – I can’t eat dairy and considering I spend my time trying NOT to eat it, I definitely don’t love it.
“Will you be mad if I eat this in front of you?” – Of course not!
“I feel SO bad for you!!” – Really, it’s fine. I’m okay with not eating a butter tart right now.
“But I used organic milk/butter/cheese, maybe it won’t affect you?” – It may be fancy, but I still can’t have it.
While some of these sound a little ignorant, I believe everyone meant well. Lots of people find my diet interesting and have a lot of questions. And I actually don’t mind discussing it. I think most people with an allergy would agree that living with a life-threatening allergy really is just a way of life. Many people don’t have allergies themselves, or deal with family members with allergies, so it’s true, they really just don’t know what it’s like. I think that in general, if we are honest and open about our allergies, people are quite accepting.
Sometimes I get asked: “Do you wish you weren’t allergic?” Well yes, I wish I could grab a menu and blindly try something new. I wish I could accept my neighbour’s baking without giving her the third degree on ingredients. I wish I could share foods with my kids more. I wish I could kiss my husband after his morning cereal. But, that’s not how it works for me, and that’s the way it is. So my answer is always “yes, I wish I didn’t have to live with allergies, but it’s okay, I’m used to it.”
– MorganTags: Allergy Awareness, Attitude, communication, Explaining My Food Allergies Series, Morgan, Snappy Comebacks