Sorry, I Can’t Eat That

by Sarina Motwani, age 16
Sorry, I Can’t Eat That

“I reread this email for the tenth time with tear drops sliding down my face. My allergies had stopped me once again from participating in my community.”

“With this in mind, and knowing the severity of your allergies, we cannot encourage your being part of camp 2017. We recall regretfully what developed during camp 2016 and are concerned that this is not a safe environment for you.”

I reread this email for the tenth time with tear drops sliding down my face. My allergies had stopped me once again from participating in my community. I knew I was the first one to turn in my application for the Hindu Youth Summer Camp, yet my application was denied and I could not do anything to change it.

I had been at the sleepaway camp last year for three days before I was sent home because of an allergic reaction. I had really enjoyed those three days. The camp allowed me to embrace my Hindu religion, and still experience a regular sleepaway camp. The camp had told us that it would be nut-free, but on the third day they served Nutella crackers to the whole camp. When I saw the tray on the table, I was terrified. I immediately left the room in hopes of distancing myself from the Nutella, but my efforts were in vain. After snack, we had camp activities which required all of us to sit near each other and hold hands. Everyone else had Nutella on their breath and hands, and within minutes my whole body was covered in hives. I was immediately sent to the infirmary. My mind was racing with worries. Will my throat close? Does the staff know how to use an Epi-pen? What is going to happen to me? Finally, after four hours of the nurses not knowing what to do, the camp manager took me to the hospital at midnight. I was sent home from the camp the next morning. I was at home for ten days watching my hives dissipate, while feeling envious of all of those who were still at the camp. For the next ten days, I missed out on community prayers, field trips, and other basic camp activities because I could not control my own body.

My body has been controlling me for as long as I can remember. When I was five, I found that I was allergic to all nuts, seeds, legumes, and fruits. Since then I have tried not to let my allergies define me, but it is challenging. Every time I enter a new environment, I am concerned for my own safety. My allergies walk into each room before me. My allergies surround me. My allergies are around every corner, jumping out when I least expect it. My allergies follow me everywhere.

I was tired of my allergies controlling me. I was tired of having to decline offers to eating out with friends, or volunteer for opportunities where I would have to touch food that I could not even be around. I could not even be upset at anybody, because it was truly nobody’s fault. Yet somehow, I always wound up blaming myself for my inability to manage my body’s reactions to different foods. I had become subservient to my allergies. The doctors we had seen had done all they could, and nothing had worked. Therefore, my mom and I looked into other ways of treating my allergies. One of her friends had recommended Raj, a naturopath, who used homeopathic methods and Naet therapy to cure many diseases from minor intolerances to cancer. Raj’s practice is in London and it would require at least two years of constant trips to London on school breaks and taking homeopathic elixirs daily. At first I was not sure if I wanted to commit to intense therapy and regular trips to London, but when I realized that there was a slight chance of curing my allergies I knew I needed to take it.

The whole 6-hour flight to London, I doubted my decision to come and see Raj. I should never have convinced myself that this would be a good idea. Why do I have faith in Raj when nothing else has worked? If this does not work, I will have gotten my hopes up for nothing and I will have wasted my mom’s time.

I was fidgeting in the waiting room and could not sit still; this appointment would determine if I would be able to diminish an obstacle that had been controlling my life ever since I could remember. Raj walked into the room. Before the appointment he had asked us to triple Ziploc bags the foods we knew I was allergic to and foods that I was avoiding because I thought there was a chance I could not eat it. He then made me hold each Ziploc bag in my hands while he used a Galvanometer to measure the electric currents in my body, which would determine whether or not I could eat that certain food. As the pile of the foods I needed to avoid became bigger than the pile of foods I could eat, I doubted again if I made the right decision to meet Raj. I had just found out I had even more allergies than I knew about. I was devastated as I thought this treatment was supposed to help me get rid of my allergies. Instead I was learning that I had to be even more cautious around food.

I was staring at the dull carpet, holding over thirty Ziploc bags in my hand. Raj started to tell us what he was now going to do to me, but my mind was elsewhere. I could not focus on what he was saying. I was trying to be as still as a statue, otherwise both my mom and Raj would realize how terrified I was. Not only was I terrified, but I also kept thinking of everything that would happen if this treatment actually worked. I was imagining a world where all the passengers on a plane would not look at me, when they announced on the speaker that there was a passenger with anaphylactic nut allergies and no one else could eat nuts. I was imagining a world where I would not have to read the ingredients on the box of every snack I wanted to eat.

I felt a vibration on my back and realized Raj had already begun the therapy. The treatment was not painful, and I relaxed. I realized that going through these treatments to get rid of my allergies was a tiny price to pay compared to living with anaphylaxis all my life. I had two more days of treatment until the next time I came back to London, but I hoped that sometime soon I could go to a restaurant and order off the menu without having to list to the waiter all of my allergies. I am still waiting for the day where I can walk out of my house without carrying my Epi-pen.

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