I weighed a measly three pounds the day I was born. I looked like a wrinkled potato, shivering in a tiny incubator (I have several photos as evidence of this phenomenon). The nurses must have taken good care of me because, in 10 days, my weight had increased to a whopping four pounds.
During my tween years, I was lanky and had an embarrassing overbite. I needed some major dental work done, so I used my swaying powers and begged my dad to let me get braces. I also stocked up on protein powder and bottles of Ensure to rid my body of its “lankiness.”
Then, things went downhill. I noticed that my skin would occasionally turn into a blotchy red color. There were specks of white-crusted, circular spots (sorry for the graphic details) all over my skin. The bottom of my eyelids also started to itch uncontrollably.
I tried to hide the grotesque markings on my body but, of course, my mother noticed and was very concerned. I went to a doctor who told me that I had a skin disorder called eczema.
The doctor had said that eczema usually disappeared with age and, in the meantime, I would have to apply ointment, avoid soap with flowery scents and stop itching. I followed his orders, but also applied frozen peas all over my body and itched when no one was looking. It did the trick for a while.
But I noticed that the itchy spots would reoccur during different seasons. It annoyed the heck out of me, and I felt self-conscious at school. I hid myself in turtlenecks, sweatshirts and long-sleeved shirts, even when it was 90 degrees outside.
A couple of months later, I noticed that I started feeling a bit lethargic, even after having slept for a good nine hours. Mother was worried, as usual, so she had me take a blood test at Quest Diagnostics.
I sat in an ugly orange chair and put my arm out while one of the nurses tested out the injections. I got goose bumps all over my body and started up a random conversation to see if she’d forget to inject me. It didn’t work. She took out so much blood from me that I felt nauseous and horrible.
Weeks later, the doctor told me that the reason why I felt lethargic was because I was allergic to certain types of food and environmental allergens. I didn’t realize how bad it would be until later.
I later received a ridiculous six-page-long document that contained every single thing I would have to avoid: most types of citrus (no more oranges, lemons, strawberries, nectarines, plums, peaches, mangoes, grapes and most definitely not grapefruit), bananas, celery, cucumber, avocadoes, any type of nut (peanuts, almonds, pecans, especially walnuts), crayfish, certain types of trees, cats, dogs, horse hair and so much more.
For a while, it was hard for me to adjust. It wasn’t as though I was highly allergic. My story isn’t even remotely close to the tragedy of the boy who consumed a peanut and kissed his girlfriend who ended up dying from an allergic reaction.
But I do remember my freshman year when I accidentally consumed a cucumber while writing a Humanities Core research paper. I noticed my throat closing in and immediately yelled for help. The last thing I remember was my RA calling 911 and a bunch of scared freshman running around with water bottles and frightened faces.
Not going to lie – it was a scary experience. But it was kind of funny how a little cucumber could have such a big impact on one’s life. I have so much gratitude toward those who manage to overcome the temptation to eat things they are allergic to. It’s difficult, especially if you are confronted with delicious food every night on the dinner table.
I am still able to eat an orange and survive – but that probably wouldn’t be a good decision because my throat would end up closing in, I’d go into anaphylactic shock and the next day I’d have a puffy eye. Not pretty.
This isn’t to say that my allergies are completely eradicated from the face of this earth. Like many other allergy-prone people, I carry the classic Epi-pen in case I get a major allergic reaction. Being allergic to so many things is still a pain in the butt, but definitely part of my identity.
It’s quite difficult when I go to potlucks or restaurants. Imagine going out on dates and saying “no” to every item on the list.
Even now, when my friends order cocktails filled with lemony goodness and mango sweetness, I have to look away and drink a glass of good old water instead.
“What aren’t you allergic to, Monica?” my friends often ask. I guess the good thing is that I’m not allergic to people. *Knock on wood*…