Tuesday, January 28, 2014

My Donor May Not Have Been So Bad After All

No ice cream, or die: an unimaginable predicament and I wasn’t even given the choice. My bone marrow donor unknowingly transferred her milk allergy, which began affecting me six months after my transplant, leading to frightening episodes of hives, mouth swelling and chest tightening. I visited an allergist who administered a skin prick allergy test. Milk protein resulted in a 10-millimeter reaction, while just a 14-millimeter reaction would have indicated potential anaphylaxis. I had to give up milk products forever.

I dealt by going through the classic stages of grief: denial (read: ER visits), anger, bargaining (read: brainwashing myself into thinking that soy is great), depression and acceptance. I achieved acceptance after understanding the relationship between allergies and health. Eliminating my allergies and receiving seasonal allergy shots cured my eczema and reduced my ear infections by 90%.

Last month I visited my allergist for my annual seasonal allergy testing. “Has any progress been made in developing shots for food allergies?” I asked the nurse, an annual inquiry in which I know the answer.

“No, unfortunately. But, we can test you again. It’s been about seven years since your last milk protein test.”

“Sure, why not!” I said.

The nurse pricked my arm with pollens, molds and milk, and my allergist came in later to see the results. My milk reaction had reduced from 10 millimeters to one.

“Many people outgrow their allergies and you may no longer be allergic to milk,” he said. “I see this in children and it makes sense since your immune system is only 10 years old.”

I suspended ecstasy until I was certain. That evening I began my kind of allergy test: drink milk one ounce at a time until I clearly show signs of allergy, go into anaphylactic shock, or feel confident that my allergy is permanently gone.

“How long will you continue your test—until you drink 8 ounces of milk?” my dad asked.

I reminded him that I haven’t had a real milkshake, Klondike bar, Chipwich, Dairy Queen strawberry shortcake, or banana pudding in a decade. “I’m thinking more like 40-60 ounces,” I said, knowing that once I give myself the green light, I’ll probably consume so many milk products that I’ll cause a milk allergy.

Testing milk allergy one ounce at a time with Nesquik chocolate powderI drank one ounce without a problem, two the next day, and so on. I am now up to 12 ounces. This test has reminded me why I always added chocolate powder as a boy: white milk tastes nasty. Time for my medicine, I think before each new, daily test.

My dad bought me Nesquik powder to make my medicine tolerable. To calm his fear that he’s aiding in my anaphylaxis, I promised to carry Benadryl the way I used to before giving up milk. Surely decade-old pills are still effective.

Do you want to see how this experiment unfolds? Follow my experiment updates on Twitter and maybe, hopefully, I pray, soon you can find me at every ice cream shop in a 70-mile radius.


Catherine said...

It's so fascinating (and crap) that allergies can be transferred. Well, good on you with the milk! And it's the perfect time of year for a hot chocolate. :)

Benjamin Rubenstein said...

I'm just about to continue my experiment with 14 ounces. A 14-ounce hot cocoa is acceptable, right?