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  • Megan Tutundjian

Food Allergies as a Part of My Identity

"Oh your the girl who has all the allergies"

In a world where there are already so many difficulties and immune disorders add allergies. Now think of a world where food is most often the base of an enjoyable moment now add allergies. Lastly, think of how many times in the past day you saw something about food in the media, now add allergies. A life with allergies is full of frustration, temptation and personal development.

My story

I was diagnosed with food allergies at the age of six months old right after my mom began the breastfeeding journey, luckily for her, the amount of in public humiliating breastfeeding encounters decreased, on the other hand, I faced the consequences. After my first milk challenge test, permanently terrifying me, the allergist became the new villain in my life. The days spent with six doctors holding my little body down as I kicked and screamed breaking a few nurses' glasses while ten needles were stuck into my back created a life full of paranoia. Before the age of five, I was already diagnosed with allergies to nuts, dairy, sesame, sunflower/pumpkin seeds, and kiwi. After countless disappointing blood tests and skin pricks, I felt lost, I always wondered why the adventure of eating anything I wanted was taken away from me. How can you tell a little girl that she cannot eat birthday cake or drink milk with cookies? I always have felt like I should not speak up because I felt as though there were bigger problems people needed to worry about. I have been asked the most astounding questions such as "Are you allergic to water?", and I have had many unfriendly instances with security officers thinking my EpiPen was a weapon while trying to get into sports games and concerts. Going to a very small school from kindergarten to eighth grade, having parents as lunch ladies and everyone knowing my allergies gave me comfort, but as I transitioned to high school I learned otherwise. I often faced situations where my friends would forget about my allergies or ask if they could share my water (which is a huge no if you have food allergies). I felt less of a person and after having the first anaphylactic reaction that I can remember as a teenager I was left with constant paranoia and worry about death. I did not eat at restaurants for a whole year because I had so much anxiety. If someone gave me an orange and said it was just an orange I would not have believed them. I traveled less because I worried about the language barrier and my allergies. While my friends at the age of four were putting random things in their mouths I had to grow up and become more independent and use my words. The truth is as allergy sufferers we know we are not on the new "Weight Watchers" diet, but we are forced into a full-time job of worry and precaution. It was not until recently that I realized how much is available to the food allergy community, how easy it is to spread awareness and get involved in a community. During all these struggles I was able to take challenge tests for gluten and baked milk and to my surprise, I passed the tests. Although I have not recovered from all of my allergies the ones I have been able to overcome have given me more motivation to work towards eliminating the others and trying new things. I did not think anything existed that would support me on this food allergy journey. After finding FARE and being a TAG member for the past four years I have been able to become more confident with my allergies and I one day hope to have a career in our legal system to make changes that will benefit the food allergy community that is overlooked.

My advice

Truthfully having food allergies will never be an easy road to maneuver, however, reading this I know someone can look back and think " my food allergies have made me more open and easy at communication". You can sit down and worry about your food allergies or you can become more involved and use food allergies as a blank canvas to create change and help others. I never believed there were food allergy communities as supportive as the ones I have found, so my advice would be to go out there to do your research and get involved. Help the people who understand your struggles more than anyone! Get involved in research, social media, writing, and even baking. The world is full of endless possibilities for you and your imagination. Although food allergies are one of the first things people should know about you do not let allergies define you or let people refer to you as the food allergy kid because you are more than that!

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