When I was a little girl, I started noticing that carrots made my mouth itch. (Hang with me – it gets better.) No biggie, I just started staying away from carrots (huge sacrifice on my part, as you can imagine). Then I started noticing that cantaloupe did too. Then watermelon and honeydew. Then nothing really new happened on the mouth-itching front for years.
I was in my twenties when I was in someone’s apartment for the first time and within ten minutes, literally thought I had caught a cold. It was crazy. I realized right away that I must be having an allergic reaction to their dog. Very odd seeing as I grew up with two of my own.
Head into my thirties with me and I notice that, more and more frequently, I was finding myself choking in restaurants. Kinda weird, I know. I would cut my meat into these tiny bites and still need to run to a restroom to make myself throw it up. (I am one classy, classy lady.) It was becoming ridiculous. There wasn’t a friend who hadn’t experienced me holding up my index finger, as in, “Wait with your story, I have to run and throw up because food is caught in my teensy little throat, but I’ve done this before and I’ll be fine and I’ll be right back…hopefully…but maybe come check on me if I’m not back in like five minutes” (yes, I can say all of that with one finger), and then they’d watch my mad dash to the restroom. I started telling people that my epitaph would read: “mother, friend, writer. Died of a freakishly small esophagus.” We’d have a good laugh, but geesh, there were some pretty close calls there.
One evening I found myself at a Pampered Chef party. (I could write an entire story on the irony of that sentence alone. At least I’ve got the pampered part down.) As I was sitting in the way back of the room with another gal, she happened to mention that she was allergic to bananas. I asked what happened to her when she ate one and she said, “They used to make my mouth itch; now my throat starts closing up.” Eureka! I was ALLERGIC to stuff! I couldn’t believe it. (How this had never even crossed my mind is a mystery to me. And pretty blonde of me.)
Shortly after, I went to an allergist to get tested to see what foods I should avoid. If you’ve never done this, man, are you missing out on a good time. Your back gets stuck with about thirty needles as your body responds to each potential allergen. Unless you’re highly allergic. Which, apparently, I was. They had to stop halfway through and give me epinephrine because my back was covered with red, itchy spots and they didn’t think my body could handle any more in one sitting.
So I had to go back a week later to finish the testing. When done, the doctor and I had a little chat. She looked at my list of allergens and sighed. I said, jokingly,“Maybe it would be easier for you to start with the foods I actually can eat.” “You’re probably right,” she says. (Gulp.) “Water…” Pause. I’m not kidding. She actually said “water” and then had to pause. “Rice…” Pause. “Oats…” Pause. I finally just interrupted and said, “Water, rice and oats? Ummm…maybe can you just go back to telling me what I can’t eat? Because right now, you’re completely freaking me out.”
My allergist went on to list about thirty-five to forty food items I needed to stay away from, or at least be cautious of. And she prescribed an epi-pen and showed me how to use it on myself (that’s the thing you’re supposed to shove into your own thigh in case of an allergy emergency). Oh, and I was also officially allergic to cats, dogs, dust, pollen, grass and trees. So, the world, basically. I was allergic to creation. Interesting. I should stay away from outside, inside and food. But I could have water, rice and oats, so all was not lost. The parties I could throw with water, rice and oats…
Fast forward a year or so and I found myself at my favorite retreat center. They make yummy meals for you that make you feel very taken care of. Meal time is one of my favorite times on retreat. But one of these times, I bellied up to the little buffet and realized, sadly, that the only thing I could safely eat that had been prepared for me was a piece of white bread with a side of water. How pathetic. So I’m sitting there eating my bread, trying to make it last, just looking out the window at the beautiful scenery and for some reason my mind drifts to thinking it reminds me of what Eden might’ve looked like. And then my thought goes on one step further, and I think to myself, “This isn’t what God intended for me. Food is a gift. He wants me to be able to eat all foods.” And I did something that had never, ever occurred to me to do, I’m ashamed to admit. I prayed. Right then and there, after twenty plus years of food allergies, I asked God to heal me. That’s all I said. And I’ll be honest, I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought after that.
Right before that retreat, I had looked into getting allergy shots. Not that they can cure you of food allergies, but apparently if you’re taking these shots, they can lessen your other allergies, which in turn lessens the severity of any food allergy reactions you may have. I was tired of running to restrooms in public, so I was kicking this around. Only problem – it would cost $10,000 and for some reason, wasn’t covered on my insurance. That was a fairly significant problem.
So I’m sharing this entire story with my Dad and he actually gave me a check for $10,000 so I could get the shots. It was an incredibly generous gift. I was beside myself. I decided to head back to the allergist to get re-tested for my allergies so that if I were really going to do this shot thing and dump $10,000 of my father’s money into it, I wanted to make sure I was getting the exact concoction for my specific allergy mix.
I’m in the allergist’s office, maybe a month or two after my retreat and therefore after my retreat prayer, getting all of the same tests done (about a year after my original allergy testing). I’m noticing that I’m not feeling any itching as the tests are being done, and I start praying feverishly. Heal me from these, Jesus! I know You can. This would be a miracle!
The doctor comes in to share with me the results. She starts the list. These are the things I was allergic to that day: green peas…walnuts. That was it! Jesus had healed me of my allergies. My mouth hasn’t itched in years. I can eat all of my original listed no-no’s with abandon. I praise God when I bite into cantaloupe or dip a carrot into ranch dressing.
I’m not allergic to the world anymore. And do you know why? Because our loving God is still a healing God.
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Elisabeth, I’m sorry you endured so much but I’m glad you shared it–I love hearing stories of how people’s faith carries them through difficult times. This post was a true inspiration.
I’ll Tweet it.
I read your blog alot and I found this entry so interesting and this one spoke right to me. My son struggles with asthma and food allergies and we’ve had a hard time lately. It’s funny how often I pray for God to protect him from allergen exposure, and not just for outright healing. Thank you, Elisabeth and God Bless you.
What a great reminder that no prayer is too small…or too big.
Our God is an awesome God!