Thursday, May 24, 2007

Soy Queen

Back in the day I drank chocolate milk every night with dinner. Nesquik tasted better, but Hershey’s was healthier because it was low fat. A tough decision, but I was a winner either way. Back in the day my friend Infincuralier and I frequently went to Dairy Queen. He always got the Brownie Earthquake and I would order the strawberry shortcake.

After my transplant, all of that changed.

Box of TastyKake Kandy KakesMy first allergic reaction happened shortly after eating a Tastycake peanut butter Kandy Kake, whilst drinking chocolate milk. My lip swelled like a balloon, and I was quick to lay the blame on peanuts. Everybody knows peanut is the most common allergy, and I wasn’t about to relinquish my Nesquik.

Things got worse.

At the beginning of my first semester back at college I had a severe allergic reaction nearly every night. On several occasions I put my roommate on guard, in case he needed to take me to the ER. Twice we had our shoes on ready to leave, right as the Benadryl began to kick in.

All of my reactions consisted of any or all of three symptoms:

  1. Any part of my mouth, lips, tongue or throat swelled and itched.
  2. My skin broke out in itchy, red hives.
  3. My chest tightened, reducing my ability to breath.

My reaction would take place nearly an hour after returning home from the dining hall every night. The only thing I could do was take Benadryl and wait, hoping my histamine went away before the reaction became dangerous. For weeks I had no idea what was causing this. I finally realized the only consistent item in my nightly diet was the chocolate milk I drank.

And just like that, my days of drinking chocolate milk were over.

Surely ice cream couldn’t cause the same problem, could it? Only one way to find out. Infincuralier and I went to Dairy Queen and got the usual. I popped one Benadryl before eating, and another after. I still felt a bit funny, but I couldn’t tell if I was imagining things.

I had to test it again, so when my family went to Virginia Beach for vacation, I ate strawberry shortcake at Dairy Queen. Sure enough, all three symptoms hit me hard. So hard that two Benadryl and four hours later, my lower lip looked like it had swallowed the rest of my face. My dad and I went to the ER.

Is it just a coincidence that my new allergy coincided with my transplant? No. It was just one of the many gifts given to me by my donor.

I really struggled with my new allergy. I had little trouble handling cancer, chemo and a transplant, but that damn milk allergy was getting the best of me. I tried switching to orange juice, but the acid often gave me heartburn. Grape juice was next. But I kept spilling it on my shirt and staining my clothes. As a last resort I began drinking water with my meals. Do you know what water tastes like? It fucking tastes like water! If you don’t believe me you can try it yourself, if you dare.

I became very spiritual and dove into the depths of my soul for answers. Why me? Why does it have to be milk? Why couldn’t it just be that damn Tastycake and peanuts?

My mom urged me to try soy substitutes, but I refused out of principle. Milk was dead to me.

The following year I complained to my roommate T-Unit about my dry cereal. The loud crunch every morning was causing me to lose my mind. My grades and social life suffered as a result. T-Unit finally convinced me to try soy milk with my cereal. I was reluctant, but had no other choice. It was either try the soy milk, or perish.

“You know,” I said during my first bowl, “this is actually really good. If I pour just the right amount of milk in the bowl I can moisten my flakes without actually tasting the milk.”

“Rubenstein, I’m truly happy for you.”

My mom even convinced me to try soy ice cream, but the two flavors I tried tasted terrible. “Don’t bother me about it anymore. I hate this stuff.”

I longed for my Dairy Queen strawberry shortcakes.

Then, something miraculous happened. This past Monday I had gum surgery and will be on a soft diet for two weeks. In order to consume enough calories, I had to give soy ice cream one more chance. My mom bought me the chocolate fudge brownie flavor and it was fantastic. Not only that, but for dinner last night I poured a glass of white soy milk and added two tablespoons of Nesquik powder.

Back in the day I drank chocolate milk every night with dinner. It shall continue.

*

Postscript: As it turns out, I am allergic to peanuts, as well.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Try that Tofutti ice cream, the chocolate is kind of nice. You can get it at those health-nut grocery stores but some regular stores have it too.

Rachel said...

OMG... you tried grape juice but kept staining your shirt? Hahaha...

delect said...

I am allergic to all kinds of fruit, I must say, benadryll quickly becomes your best friend.

Danielle said...

I was recently diagnosed with many airborne allergies aswell as a dairy allergy. I had been a milk guzzler for years. I tried Nesquick with my soymilk - but - it wasn't the same.

Anyway, if you thought soymilk was a challenge, wait until you delve into vegan cheese!

Note: soy cheese has dairy in it - so it must be vegan. :)