Embracing a Mission, I Didn’t Ask For
Guest post by Rachel Packer
Our allergy story is common. We left the allergist’s office in February 2008 feeling dazed and confused, much like a deer in the headlights. I thought about the French toast I had promised to make Ari (my then three-year-old) for dinner that night. Eggs. Damn. What do I do? I started to feel hot and panicky as we walked to the car. I looked at my husband and suddenly, it began to dawn on me that this was going to change…everything.
Then, I was resentful that I had been given a mission I didn’t ask for and that our lives were being turned upside down. I knew it was selfish of me, after all, I knew parents whose kids had battled very serious diseases. I tried to keep it all in perspective and I prayed that food allergies should be the worst thing for my child to endure. I was internally angry for “overreacting.” I trolled various allergy blogs to glean some enlightenment, but instead of tough love, I found scores of frightened parents just like myself! I realized that I had every right to be frightened, because while an allergy-child doesn’t normally look sick or have visible symptoms, he nonetheless has a different battle lurking at every turn; a speck of nut protein, a drop of milk, a scrap of egg that inconspicuously fell out of someone’s sandwich. This is all it takes.
Early on, my husband and I were incessantly navigating the murky waters of food allergies by trying to educate the teachers, not to mention our own family members whom while their intentions were good, didn’t wholly understand our fear. We were just so tired of trying to prove to the outside world that this indeed was life threatening, and exhausted by our inability to make things right.
Today, we still deal with food allergies, and as our kids get older, we face new challenges. The difference, however, is our relationship with FARE and their tireless efforts to inform, support, and educate not just the allergy community but the extended one as well. They are a powerhouse of well researched information whether you are newly diagnosed or managing life’s milestones. As we prepare to send our daughter to college in two years (nut allergies) we are forever grateful to FARE for their FARE Food Allergy College Search. FARE has been there over the years, growing, changing and educating us through every phase of our children’s allergy journeys.
Over the last two years, we became more involved in FARE by working at the Food Allergies Heroes Walk in Rockville, MD. What we didn’t expect, however, was the overwhelming impact it would have on Ari. It dawned on me as I watched my 11 year-old talking to kids about his experience, seamlessly educating them about product samples and speaking to adults with a maturity I didn’t even know existed, that he had found his people. Throughout his young life, from pre-school through middle school, he was taught to be proactive regarding allergy bullies and ignorant adults who insisted he was “taking things too far with his allergies.” Finally, he found a place where he could truly just be himself without the stigma of being the “allergy kid.”
There’s such a level of energy and gratitude at a FARE walk, along with a renewed sense of hope and awareness. This exchange of information combined with these palpable connections is what FARE does so well. My wish is that FARE will continue to make our lives safer, healthier and more inclusive-this is their mission, and ours as well.
Families across the country like the Packers are navigating their food allergy journeys. FARE is there to help at every step, but we can’t do it without you. Progress is possible because generous donors like you support FARE’s educational resources. Continue this progress by making a gift today that will be doubled up to $100,000 thanks to a matching gift from FARE's Board of Directors.