One week from today, on August 23 it will be one year since my life changed overnight. The first three weeks were the hardest; I felt like my world was off-balance, and it was to some degree. I was terrified to eat anything; I didn’t know what I would react to. Around the middle of September last year, I discovered non-dairy cheese and ice cream. It was a little thing, and at the same time a huge discovery. I again felt “normal”; by normal I mean that I didn’t feel like I was going to miss out on everything. As the months went on, I began to experiment with non-dairy foods and cooking; I began to move past my fear of eating.
For the obvious reason, I still have to be very careful about what I eat. In the area that I live in there are very few restaurants that I am able to eat at, but I have found a few favorites; one of which I really never wanted to try until I found that they actually had food I could eat. Eating out was & is one of the scarier thinks about being non-dairy. I can’t just “go out” without knowing where we are going & having a few days to find out if they offer dairy-free food choices. Two of the restaurants are BJ’s & Black Bear Diner. Both restaurants, in addition to having menu items that I can eat, have shown great service when I tell the servers that I am dairy free/allergic & care needs to be taken. I highly recommend both of those restaurants!
Another aspect of being dairy-free is that it doesn’t only affect me. My family, my friends & co-workers ~ it affects all of them too. When I am somewhere, besides my home, planning has to go into everything that is fixed. I just have to say that I am greatly blessed with my family & friends. The first few months my mom made several desserts out of a World War II cookbook for me; at work for my birthday a couple of months ago, my co-workers, instead of cake (which is usual) served a fruit salad instead (it was so yummy & much better, in my opinion). Thanksgiving last year was quite the challenge, not just because I am dairy-free but because in our huge family (a “small year” consists of around 35-50 people on average; a “large year” about twice that much…) we have multiple food issues ~ my sister-in-law & her mother are vegetarian & her mother and one of my cousins are gluten-free; my SIL’s dad is severely allergic to nuts and then there is my dairy free.
One solution that I have come up with is that when I go somewhere, I usually just take my own prepared food so it is not such a burden on my family & friends. This weekend is another such time. When this posts, I will be getting ready to come home from a camping trip on the coast (west coast, northern California…). We are having our meals “potluck” due to all of the same food issues as Thanksgiving, I have planned just to make sure that I have some extra chicken & ground beef (for hamburgers), in addition to the food I’m taking to share (which is non-dairy) so that if nothing else is available, I will have food I can fix.
Throughout this journey so far I have tried to think about what I can still have and not what I “can’t” have anymore. I’ve accepted it (didn’t have much of a choice) & have actually enjoyed experimenting a bit too (and sharing my experiments through this blog). Even with “missing” cheese and milk, mostly the cheese, I did not expect to have an intense craving for cheese. This last week has proven me wrong…I’ve been craving and missing cheese more than I though possible; at times, it has taken every bit of my strength not to just grab a handful & scarf it down. Logically, I have to remember, not the fact that I can’t have it any more, but how much it hurts, both physically & financially with another trip to the hospital or worse. I just keep reminding my self of that. Physically, it takes me about 3-4 weeks for my body to adjust back from the shock it goes into; mentally, it takes about the same amount of time to move past the intense fear that comes with the attack.
My attack last August was my 2nd attack. The first was Jan. 1, 2014. I was at my mom & dad’s house when I started reacting, however, we still don’t know what caused that reaction ~ that one wasn’t dairy. I have my theories of most likely a mold was the problem, but we’ll never know. I had one other attack between. I had made a cake for a co-workers birthday & sat down to look at a catalog that had come in the mail; I just started reacting ~ no idea what caused that as well; my best guess again is mold. I think that one scared me just a bit more than the others. During the January attack, I didn’t have time to panic & my brother (who is severely allergic to latex) panicked enough for both of us. Parts of that night are gone; my mom drove me to the hospital but I don’t remember anything thing except my aunt’s children were visiting her that day (I noticed their cars in her driveway) & that I didn’t think we’d make the 4 mile trip; I thought that we’d have to stop & call 911. My mom told me later that we pretty much hit every stoplight red.
A year ago I panicked a bit more – I live about 30 minutes from my mom & dad & since my reaction was about midnight, it took me about 15 minutes to wake them up with calling to tell them I was having a reaction. By the time I got a hold of them I knew there wasn’t time for them to get to me. I had to call 911. As the time went on I did panic a bit more – I had never been in an ambulance before (thankfully); my dog was reacting to my panic & she doesn’t like sirens or strangers & I had to lock her in my bedroom; something I had never done before. The 911 dispatcher was great; he walked me through everything. My fiercest moment of panic was when I had to use the EpiPen. When he said to use it, my brain seemed to just shut down ~ I couldn’t remember what to do. He helped me in reminding me to breathe & to just punch it in. I did finally calm down enough to use it & he stayed on the line until I could hear the ambulance outside. A funny thing ~ the ambulance/EMTs reached me before the fire truck/fighters did. Kudos to the EMT that was in the back with me – he put an IV in, going down the road & after all was said and done, I barely had a bruise. I was amazed.
The moment that I knew that I was going to be fine:
In the ambulance (remember, it was in the middle of the night) on the way to the hospital when they were driving on the freeway, I knew I was feeling better when I wanted to wave at the car behind us. I knew they could see me because the light in the ambulance was on. At that point, I knew everything was going to be okay.
This year has been one crazy ride with no end in sight. I’m looking forward to continue to experiment & share with you.
Do you have any tips for living dairy-free? Were you always dairy-free, did you choose to be dairy-free or were you like me ~ one day, without much warning, had a severe allergy to dairy? Leave me a comment & let me know.