Living With Food Allergies

My experience with food allergies started when my youngest child turned a year old. The pediatrician I had for my two older children believed that cow’s milk is for calves, so he suggested I feed them soy formula. He said that I could introduce them to cow’s milk when they were a year old, and I did, with no problems. I had a new pediatrician when my youngest child, a boy, was born, but I decided to stick with what worked for my two older children and only gave him soy formula, too.

After my youngest son turned one, I gave him some cow’s milk and then put him to bed. A little while later, he was crying, so I checked on him. He was very swollen. Everywhere. His eyes were practically swollen shut. I took him to the E.R. where they treated him for an allergy. I couldn’t sleep that night, because I was afraid he would stop breathing.

The next day, I took him to see his pediatrician and discuss what happened. The doctor said that he probably was bitten by a spider or something. That didn’t make much sense to me, but since he wasn’t too worried about it, I wasn’t either.

That evening, I gave my son another bottle of milk. The same thing happened. He swelled up. When I saw the doctor again, he referred my son to an allergist for testing. I didn’t give him any more milk.

About a week later, my son had the allergy tests done. I could not believe the results! The list of things he was allergic to was quite long. Dairy, eggs, corn, peanuts, bananas, dogs, cats, birds, horses, eucalyptus, mold, mites, and on and on. I was told to keep him away from everything he was allergic to. How did this happen? No one else in our family had food allergies.

I quickly learned a lot about food and allergies. I subscribed to the Food Allergy Network and bought a cookbook with allergy-friendly recipes. My shopping trips took a lot longer now, because I had to read every label. I didn’t want to buy products that had any of the allergens or derivatives in them. I changed the way I cooked for the whole family, so that there was no chance of cross contamination. I still made family favorites, but tweaked my son’s food.

I taught my son at a very young age not to eat anything from anyone outside of our family without checking with me first. He always took his own lunch to school. Prior to each school year starting, I met with the teachers to discuss my son’s food allergies. I gave them a bag of goodies to keep that were safe for my son, so that when the class had a party for a holiday or birthday, there was something special there for him.

The average person doesn’t understand how serious food allergies can be. When my son was in kindergarten, his class made peanut butter playdoh. The teacher sat my son off to the side, where he played with real playdoh. When the bell rang, the kids ran outside and played tag. One of the other students tagged my son on the neck, and because she didn’t wash her hands after playing with peanut butter, he had an allergic reaction. His eyes and face swelled up, he got hives, and was having trouble breathing. All this from an allergen only TOUCHING his skin! There was another time that my son had a bad reaction from a child hitting him in the face after eating scrambled eggs with his hands.

When my son was in second or third grade, he dropped something on the ground at lunch. One of the women on yard duty thought he threw it down, so as punishment, she told him that he had to pick everything up off the ground. He told her that he couldn’t touch the food on the ground, because he had food allergies. She asked him what he was allergic to, so he told her. She said, “Do you see any milk down there?” She was ignorant to the fact that milk was an ingredient in some of the foods that were on the ground. Since he wouldn’t pick up the food, he was put on detention. I went to the school to talk to the Assistant Principal to help her understand why my son wasn’t allowed to touch food. I told her that I don’t mind him being punished if he does something wrong, but they were not to punish him with food, because it was dangerous to him. He has allergic reactions just from skin contact.

While growing up, my son handled his food allergies well. He was very careful about what he ate. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before he outgrew his allergy to corn, which gave him a lot more food choices to eat. You’d be surprised how many foods have some form of corn in them. Unfortunately, he never outgrew any of the other food allergies. To this day, he’s never eaten an egg. Since he’s allergic to both the white and yolk, he can’t have it at all. He still has never had anything containing dairy. We learned how to prepare things that are safe for him without those ingredients.

Allergy medication

In 2004, I had an allergic reaction to nuts. It was scary. I had allergy tests done and found out I’m allergic to peanuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans, cashews, pistachios, and green peas. Prior to the allergic reaction I had, I ate peas and peanut butter often. The worst part about it, is that I have to be very careful when I eat anywhere other than home. I always have Benadryl and an Epipen in my purse. Food allergies are just a way of life for my family.

Back Pain to Spine Surgeries to Back Pain

I’ve had back pain for many years. It used to be nothing that a few trips to the chiropractor couldn’t “fix,” but it started getting worse. I was in constant pain.

I went to the doctor, who referred me to Pain Management. The pain management doctor started me on Cortizone injections in my lower back and SI joints. He also referred me to physical therapy. I got the Cortizone injections about four times total, but they didn’t work. Neither did physical therapy.

Next, I went to see an orthopedic surgeon, who sent me to get an MRI. He said that the MRI showed degenerative disc disease at L5-S1 and some posterior bulging. He said that it could easily be fixed with surgery and it would take away the pain I was suffering from. That sounded pretty good to me, so I opted to have the surgery in October, 2016 and only stayed one night in the hospital.

After the surgery I was in so much pain I thought I was going to die! I’ve had 15 surgeries over the course of my life and I’ve never been in as much pain as I was in after this one. I was taking Oxycodone every four hours and Dilaudid every four hours, but not at the same time. I took pain medication every two hours, alternating the two. I was so heavily drugged that my mom said I was like a zombie. It was necessary, though, because I couldn’t handle the pain.

I continued taking pain medication for about six months. I was miserable. The doctor kept prescribing them and I kept taking them. I was going to physical therapy, but was still suffering from pain that I couldn’t deal with. In July, I tried to make yet another appointment with the surgeon to discuss the pain, but he no longer worked for my medical group. He left the state.

I had to see someone, so I made an appointment to see another orthopedic surgeon. I was so glad that the original surgeon was gone, forcing me to see someone else, because the second orthopedic surgeon wanted to find out why I was still having so much pain. He also reviewed my records and told me that he NEVER would have done spine surgery on me in the first place, because the problems I had weren’t that bad. He asked why I didn’t get a second opinion and I immediately felt “stupid” for not doing so.

He sent me to get a CT scan. The results showed that my spine never fused and the hardware was loose. Apparently, that’s why I was in so much pain. So, I had to have surgery to repair the problems. I wonder how long this would have gone on had the first surgeon not moved out of state, because he never bothered to check it out?

I was scheduled for two surgeries this time, because the surgeon wanted to go in from the side to secure the spine from the front, then go in through the back to finish the repair. It took months to get scheduled for surgery, because the doctor needed space on his calendar to fit the two surgeries in. On January 2nd and 4th of 2018 I had the surgeries. I was in the hospital for a week.

The doctor grafted cadaver bone and injected cells into my spine to help it fuse. He also replaced all of the hardware from the first surgery with bigger hardware. I had to wear a bone growth stimulator for nine months after surgery and a hard turtle-shell type of brace for a few months. I was in pain for a short while, but NOTHING like the pain I had after the first surgery. I only took Oxycodone for about a month after the second surgery. I did not take any Dilaudid at all.

About four or five months after surgery, I noticed a big lump on my side where the incision was. It turns out that I developed a surgical lumbar hernia where my side incision is. I was referred to the surgery department to have it repaired, because it was quite large and my kidney was right by the opening. I had that surgery in August of last year. Healing from the hernia repair surgery was very painful. It felt like my skin was being pulled apart and it was hard to breathe. Fortunately, the pain stopped for the most part after about a month.

I have seen the second orthopedic surgeon a handful of times since surgery and am scheduled to see him again next month. I STILL have back pain. Unfortunately, the pain is worse than what I had before the surgeries. I had another CT scan and this time, my spine is fusing and everything looks good, but I still hurt. The surgeon said that the pain I am feeling is most likely due to Fibromyalgia. He said that he never would have performed surgery on me, because I have Fibromyalgia and it’s difficult to tell what is causing the pain. He only performed the surgeries because the first surgery was unsuccessful and needed to be repaired.

Image by kai kalhh from Pixabay 

I regret ever having spine surgery in the first place. I am still in pain, except now it is worse, because I can’t do things like I used to. I can’t bend easily from my lower back, because my spine is fused. I have screws and rods from the L3 to S1 discs. I have cross bars at L3-4 and L5-S1 and disc spacers at L4-5 and L5-S1. I also have a bone cage at L5-S1. Just turning over in bed is difficult. Drying off from a shower is exhausting.

I have a lot of work to do to be able to physically do some things, but so far, the surgeon hasn’t given me permission to lift any weight over 15 pounds. He told me not to go to the gym or lift anything heavy, because my fascia is very thin. He said that he doesn’t want me to bend my back, but sometimes I have no choice. Even then, my body doesn’t work like it used to. I’m not sure what kind of exercise is safe for my back. I do take walks, but after a very short time, my lower back hurts. I also have a lot of foot pain from my past foot surgeries, which I talked about in an earlier blog.

I wish I would have seen the second surgeon first, because I never would have had spine surgery. I did learn from this experience, though. I will never have another surgery without a second opinion.

Fibromyalgia: Hits and (Mostly) Misses

Pins and Needles
Image by LeoNeoBoy from Pixabay 

As I’ve mentioned before, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia about 15 years ago. I’ve seen several different doctors and specialists for help and answers. A couple of years ago, I came to the realization that the doctors aren’t much help. Sure, I’ve tried different medications, but most of them either have worked for only a short time, or not worked at all. The most effective medications I’ve taken so far are Gabapentin and Flexeril, but even those aren’t as effective as they used to be.

I’ve spent a lot of time reading books and articles on the internet about Fibromyalgia. I joined Facebook groups specifically for Fibromyalgia sufferers, hoping to learn helpful tips. I have friends who recommend things that will help me feel better. If someone recommends anything to me, I try it. Believe it or not, I’ve spent thousands of dollars chasing remedies and/or anything that will give me relief. As you probably know, one of the symptoms of Fibromyalgia is chronic pain. I have good days and bad days, but most days, I hurt on some level. Suffering from chronic pain has made me desperate, so yes, regardless of cost, if there is something out there that is said to help with pain, you bet I’m going to try it.

I’ve tried an elimination diet, twice. The only thing that did was make me depressed, because I wasn’t allowed to eat things that I love. I hung in there for a few months, but without feeling a change, I stopped that diet. I’ve tried natural remedies, but none of those have worked either. I was told that I would feel a lot better if I used essential oils. After spending hundreds of dollars on oils, and using them religiously for months, I had no changes at all.

I’ve read that CBD oil really helps with pain relief. I have friends who swear that CBD oil works for them, so with an open mind and hopeful expectations, I spent almost $1,000 on what is considered high-grade CBD oils and pills. When I take it, I don’t feel anything at all. I definitely don’t feel better.

Some people have said that hyperbaric oxygen therapy helped them. I went through hyperbaric oxygen therapy several times for a MRSA infection in my foot. Not only did it not help the infection, it did nothing to alleviate my fibromyalgia pain.

Why hasn’t anything worked for me? It’s super frustrating and my husband is tired of me spending money on things that don’t work. I don’t blame him, but I also feel that if there is something out there that can help me, I should try it, regardless of the cost. If I find anything that helps with fibromyalgia pain, I’ll share it! For now, I’m sticking to a traditional low fat high fiber diet for weight loss and increasing my activity levels. More on that soon!

Fibromyalgia & Surgery:

I have fibromyalgia, which means that I suffer from chronic pain. Over the years, I have had quite a few surgeries – 15 to be exact. In retrospect, there are some surgeries that I never should have had. Since my surgeries, I’ve come to learn that a lot of the pain was related to the fibromyalgia, and no surgery was going to fix it. This blog relates to the foot surgery nightmare I endured in 2009.

I had pain in my right foot when I walked a lot, so I went to an orthopedic surgeon to see what was wrong with it. He told me that I had a neuroma, and it was easy to fix with a simple surgery. That sounded great, so I scheduled the surgery. I was feeling pretty good after the surgery, and was looking forward to walking without pain.

About two weeks after surgery, my foot developed a hole where the incision was. I’d say the hole was about the size of the tip of an eraser at the end of a pencil. I asked the surgeon about it and he literally said, “Hmmm. I don’t know why the incision is opening up, but I can sew it closed again.” He didn’t bother to figure out why the hole was there. Fortunately, I had recently quit my job because I was struggling with health issues due to fibromyalgia and I no longer had the medical insurance coverage I had when I had the surgery. I only had coverage through my husband’s medical insurance, which meant that I had to go to a different medical group and hospital.

I went to the new medical group, where they tested the hole that had formed on my foot. The tests showed that I had MRSA, which is a staph infection that is difficult to treat. Thank goodness I had to use the new insurance, or the surgeon would’ve closed the hole with the MRSA in it! Apparently, I contracted the MRSA during surgery. I was referred to the wound clinic.

I went to the wound clinic and the doctor tried to treat the MRSA infection. He cleaned the wound out and man, that was painful! He stuck a long q-tip type stick in the wound and hit a nerve! Ouch! He put some kind of bacteria fighting cream in the hole and covered it. I was told not to put ANY weight on my right foot, so I used a wheelchair. This went on for a couple of weeks with no progress, so the doctor referred me to an Infectious Diseases doctor.

Getting treatment through the infectious diseases clinic was awful. The doctor said that I needed a strong antibiotic that I couldn’t take orally. I had to go to the hospital to have a Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter put in. A PICC line is a long tube that was placed in my arm and positioned in a large vein near my heart for long-term medicine use. I had an IV in for weeks. My husband learned how to put the medicine in the IV every day and I had a home nurse who checked in on me a couple times a week to draw blood and check the IV and medication. I was still using a wheelchair to get around, but I had to lay on the couch with my leg up the rest of the time.

I finally had the PICC line removed and stopped the medication, because it didn’t work. I still had MRSA. I went to see an orthopedic surgeon who told me that he couldn’t do anything for me, because the infection was in the tissue. He recommended I see a plastic surgeon. Meanwhile, the Infectious Diseases doctor gave me a referral for hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Being locked in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber is no fun, at least not to me. I had to take a shower and not put ANYTHING on my skin afterwards. No lotion, no deodorant, no hair products, nothing. I had to change into a hospital gown and lie down in the chamber. I could not take a book or anything else into the chamber with me. The reason for all of these rules is that they do not want anything in the chamber that can possibly cause any type of spark. The chamber is full of oxygen and can ignite. If that were to happen, they couldn’t open the chamber until they brought the oxygen level back to normal, which takes time. Inside the chamber, they take the oxygen level to that similar to a submarine. Fortunately, they did let me watch movies through the glass, and I could hear through speakers in the chamber.

Being in the hyperbaric oxygen chamber gave me high anxiety. I had to take anti-anxiety medication to get in the chamber and I was afraid to move at all once I got in there, because I was afraid of causing a spark of any kind. I know I was going overboard with my thinking, but that’s how I felt.

During the time I was getting the oxygen therapy, I went to see a plastic surgeon. The surgeon said that she would perform surgery to clean out the MRSA. FINALLY! I had been jumping through hoops for months, all because the insurance company wanted me to try cheaper remedies, which in the end, cost them more. After five months of failed treatments and staying off of my foot, I had the surgery.

After surgery, the doctor told me that the MRSA had eaten through bone, nerves, and tendons, so she had to remove some of the bone to get all of the MRSA out. My foot healed and I was finally able to walk after eight weeks post surgery. Unfortunately, because the MRSA had eaten through bone, my toes were all leaning to the right, and continued to get worse. I ended up having a third surgery five years later, to straighten my foot and toes. I now have a steel plate and some screws on my big toe, and some screws in my second toe. I also have two big scars on my foot: one on top, one on the side. I recently got a tattoo of a peacock feather over the scars to draw attention away from them.

Guess what happened a few years ago? I started having pain in my left foot, just like the pain I had in my right foot. After learning more about fibromyalgia, I found that it’s very common for fibromyalgia patients to have foot pain. I went through that whole horrible ordeal with my foot for NOTHING! Not only do I have pain in my left foot now, I STILL have the pain in the right foot that I had surgery for. The only thing I got out of having the foot surgery is difficulty buying new shoes, because my foot is wider now.

Image by PhoenixSierra0 from Pixabay

I’ve had other surgeries that went awry, and will write about those in other blogs. The main thing I want to get across is that if you have fibromyalgia, make sure the surgeon knows about it! If you are contemplating surgery because something is causing you pain, your situation may need to be handled differently. It definitely should be handled carefully. Sometimes, fibromyalgia pain is the problem, and surgery won’t fix it.


A lot of people joke about OCD, usually innocently, when laughing about something they do or something they’ve done. I really have OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). A psychologist diagnosed me with it four or five years ago, though I’ve suspected it for a long time. (I was going to a psychologist in the pain clinic to help me deal with chronic pain.) I don’t have OCD as bad as some people. I don’t have to do things for a certain number of times before I’m content. I don’t wash my hands hundreds of times during the day. Mine is more in the form of needing to have control over things, and when I don’t, I get stressed.

I used to joke about having OCD when I did things that others laughed at. One thing that comes to mind is that I don’t like it when anyone reads the newspaper or my magazines before I do. People laugh and say things like, “Why can’t anyone read the paper before you? Are the words gonna fall off the pages?” I know it’s irrational, but I have to read the paper first. When I finish with it, I keep it in order, page by page, and fold it up nicely so it looks like it hasn’t been read yet. If anyone does read the paper before I do, it makes me crazy when they mix up the pages and sections and leave it in a messy pile. When I get magazines delivered in the mail, I hide them until I’ve read them.

One thing I do every single day when I wake up, is plan everything in my head that I’m going to do that day. Most of the time it isn’t much of anything, but it’s still what I’ve planned to do. If someone calls me to ask if I want to do something, I have a hard time being flexible and doing what they’ve asked. I tend to put it off until another day, because it wasn’t pre-planned. It is possible for me to be spontaneous and do something without planning, but it must be something I really like to do.

Shelves in my closet where I keep medical and personal hygiene supplies.

My clothes are hung up by color in my closet. I am very organized and keep everything in its place. I always know where things are when I need them. When I shop, I buy several of each item, so that when I run out of something, I have more on hand. When I get to the second to the last one of any item, I buy more.

My husband drives me crazy sometimes, because he isn’t organized at all. He puts things in places they don’t belong. If I complain, because he has a stack of papers on his dresser, he cleans them off. Later, when I open a drawer for something, I find the papers thrown in there. Instead of putting them away or in the office so I can file them, he hides them to shut me up. There are times when he needs a copy of a document for something and can’t find it, because he doesn’t put anything away. We have files for all of our documents, and if he would just put the paperwork in the office, I would file it in the appropriate folders where he could quickly find whatever he needs. It seems so simple to me.

My mom, stepdad, and brother live with me and my husband. That’s a WHOLE ‘nother blog. Heck, it will most likely be several blogs. We also have five dogs in the house, four of which are small, hyper, barking dogs, who sometimes drive me crazy in their own special ways. I feel like I don’t have control over much of anything, and I get stressed out a lot. I’m working on being more patient, because it’s not good for me to stress out over everything. I’m trying to exercise more, pray, and just not let things bother me so much, but sometimes it’s not easy. I’m sure it’s not easy for people to live with me, either.

The Power of Prayer

Christian Cross

Prayer works. I’ve had a lot of prayers answered, but I’m going to specifically share two stories of answered prayers involving my family. First, when my daughter was 19 years old, she had a tonsillectomy that led to a huge medical scare. When her surgery was finished, the surgeon came to tell me that he had a hard time closing her sutures, but that everything else went well. I took my daughter home to recover.

A couple of days later, her throat started bleeding. I took her to the ER and they called the surgeon in. He performed a second surgery to close her sutures again, and said that she was the worst case he’d ever had. He released her to come home, but this time, he said he wanted her to stay down and only get up to use the bathroom. He was afraid her sutures would pop open again if she did anything too strenuous.

Over the next week or so, my daughter complained off and on of having trouble breathing and sharp chest pains. Overall, I took her to the ER and Urgent Care twice each, to have it checked out. We kept being told that she was having anxiety and they gave her medicine to relax her. During this time, her throat started to bleed again, but the doctors were able to stop it with ice cold water. Finally one day my daughter was panicking and saying, “I can’t breathe!” I took her back to Urgent Care and fortunately, this time there was a doctor on call who knew to do a blood test to look for blood clots. It came back positive. After more tests, they found that she had pulmonary embolisms (blood clots) in both lungs! It was a miracle she had not died! They had her transported to the hospital by ambulance.

My daughter was admitted and for the next week, she was given blood thinners to get rid of the blood clots. She was still healing from the two tonsillectomies and was unable to eat. Three days after being admitted to the hospital, my daughter’s sutures popped again and she started bleeding. After bleeding all day, her surgeon came in to see her. By now she was weak and very white; she looked like she was on her death bed. The surgeon said that he had to do a third surgery to close sutures again. He had my daughter’s blood count checked, because she had bled all day. Her blood count was too low, so he said he couldn’t perform surgery on her until she had a blood transfusion. While my daughter was getting a blood transfusion, I was signing papers. The doctor told me that my daughter might not make it through surgery, but they had to stop the bleeding. I signed the papers and the surgeon left to prepare for surgery.

Meanwhile, my mom came in to visit. I went into the bathroom and broke down, because I didn’t want my daughter to see me cry. My mom prayed over my daughter. I walked out of the bathroom and my mom looked up and said, “God said there isn’t going to be a surgery.” Within five minutes, my daughter stopped bleeding, just like that, after having bled for about ten hours. She did not have that third surgery, and she never bled again.

Over the next week and a half, my daughter continued to take blood thinners orally and through injections in her stomach, until the blood clots were gone. She was finally discharged from the hospital. For a while, my daughter suffered from PTSD, because she had a fear of dying. She’s doing great now and is married with four children.

The second answered prayer I mentioned, happened when my son and his wife were expecting their first child. While pregnant, the doctors found that my unborn grandson was having heart problems. The doctors did not give my son and his wife any hope. In fact, they advised them to abort the baby. My son and his wife could never do that! They were going to have the baby no matter what, even if it meant that the baby would not survive. With a lot of faith and prayers, my grandson was born. I am happy to say that he is five-years-old now and he is healthy. He still has some minor issues with his heart from time to time, but he is happy and loved. He is truly a miracle baby who has blessed our family immensely. God is so good!

Fibromyalgia, the Invisible Illness

I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2004. A lot of people think Fibromyalgia is a “made up” disease, because you can’t tell someone has it just by looking at them. If you know someone who has Fibromyalgia, I can assure you, it is not “made up” or “in his or her head.” Over the years I have read everything I can get my hands on to figure out what it is and how I ended up with it. I have seen several doctors who have different opinions. Some believe that it’s a nerve disease, while others believe it’s brought on by trauma. One thing they all agree on is that there’s no cure. I can honestly say that I have no idea how I got it or why I have it, but I do know that it affects everyone differently. There are many symptoms, but not every person has every symptom. While some medications work for some people, they don’t work for all people. I will post about this often, as it affects me every day. I will share things that have worked for me, as well as things that haven’t. Just keep in mind that just because something worked for me, doesn’t mean you will have the same results.

There is no magic pill for treating Fibromyalgia. Currently, I take Gabapentin, which helps with pain. I’ve tried several different medications, but Gabapentin has been the most effective one I’ve taken so far. It helps, but I can’t say that I’m pain-free. I used to take Cymbalta with the Gabapentin, until I realized that it wasn’t doing anything for me, so I weaned myself off of it successfully. (NOTE: It’s best to speak to your doctor before weaning off any medication.)

I’ve been told that exercise helps with Fibromyalgia pain. Unfortunately, it is difficult for me to exercise much, due to surgeries I’ve had on my spine and right foot, which I will talk about in another blog. I’ve also heard that eliminating foods that cause inflammation from your diet may help with pain. I’m now working on making changes to my diet, so I will update you on my results. In the meantime, I try to stay positive and keep my mind busy.