The Peanut Challenge

A few months ago I took Aaron in for his yearly allergy appointment.  An allergic event a year before had caused us to need an allergist as he had an anaphylactic type reaction.

I remember the event like it was yesterday.  My dear friend had joined Aaron and me for dinner at a Mexican restaurant.  He had a cheese quesadilla.  He tried refried beans during this meal which was different than any other time.  It was experimental.  It was broadening his horizons.  Within a few minutes Aaron was coughing.  It was a croupy kind of cough.  Any parent who has a child who has had croup can relate to the “bark” you hear when your child coughs.  Aaron had had croup before, so without any anxiousness I took him outside in the colder weather to help with this croupy cough.  Only this time, it wasn’t working.  I walked back into the restaurant with Aaron and told my friend, that didn’t work…this isn’t croup…we gotta get him to the doctor.  This friend has experience with food allergies as her son had a peanut allergy.  We went in super mom mode.  I was scared.  I cried on the way to the urgent care.  On the way there we debated ER or Urgent Care…which one would be best.  Which one would get him in fast and help him even faster.  We opted for Urgent Care because it was closest.  We quickly walked into the office.  They receptionist could tell I was scared and with not many if any people in the waiting room we got right back to see the doctor.  It was at that time the doctor gave me Aaron’s first EPI Pen prescription and told me Aaron needed to go to an allergist and get tested.  Something had caused this reaction and we needed to know what.  They gave him a steroid and maybe some other stuff and he was good to go.

We got home and all I could think about was ….

“I cannot lose this little boy.”

“Jay would NEVER forgive me if I let anything happen to him.”

“If he had been worse…had I not acted quickly and had my dear friend with me…what would have happened?”

During the initial visit after this event I had to explain to the allergist what Aaron had done that day.  I had to detail out what he had eaten.  From this the allergist sent us for blood work and then we had decided to test for peanut, soy, chicken, red meat and dairy.  When I called for the results, I remember specifically how he started the conversation.  “Well Alyssa…a really good thing we found was he is not allergic to peanuts.”  I remember being relieved and scared even more.  What could have caused him to react so badly?  He was a 2 (on a scale from 0-5) with soy, red meat and dairy.  The thought was the refried beans along with the quesadilla was too much and that caused the reaction.

For the next year I worked with daycare and anyone I trusted to be with Aaron to know exactly what he could not eat.  I also never left the house without Benadryl or his EPI Pen.

A few months ago we went in for a follow up.  We redid blood work.  This again is a conversation I remember like it was yesterday.  “Alyssa…not much has changed with his results except….now…it shows he has a peanut allergy.”  My heart dropped.  My stomach turned.  What did this mean?  When I asked the allergist this question his answer was…”I’d stay away from Peanuts.”  He had renewed Aaron’s EPI Pen prescription and in the moment he answered that question, to me, that was the only good thing he had done for me that day.

In that moment, I knew I needed a second opinion.  I called my dear friend who was with me during the first event.  I got her doctors information and within 2 weeks we had an appointment to get tested by her.  Keep in mind, this doctor I called usually had atleast a 2 month wait to get in.  The stars aligned for me that day.

We went to the appointment and she didn’t do blood work.  She did the back test.  The itchy, why would you do that to someone’s back test.  When the doctor read this test, my heart sunk again.  Peanuts showed up again.  What was great about this test was she was able to give me even more information including seasonal problem allergies.  What happened next gave me hope.  Instead of just telling us to stay away from peanuts this doctor looked at me and said, “Alyssa…I think this is a false positive.  Please let us do a peanut challenge to confirm.”

So the other day we did the peanut challenge.  Here are a few pictures from the challenge.

Before the testing started.  I love this picture because it shows what was in the room for him to play with.  I brought his iPad as well.

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And then the “feeding” began.  I have never met peanut in any form I didn’t want to eat.  This little boy hasn’t really been exposed to it.  It was a new experience.  Terrifying for mom at first but once the first couple tests went well I got less anxious.

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And then here are a few pictures to show what we did between tests or feedings as I like to call them.  There were not many options in a doctors office but we managed.  He did amazing.

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The end result was the Peanut allergy diagnosis was in deed a false positive.

When I got pregnant with Aaron I was praying the test was NOT a false positive.  Luck was on my side that day because it was indeed positive.  The other day I was praying the peanut allergy WAS a false positive.  Again luck on our side as it was false.

I wasn’t sure we would, but in the end Aaron and I survived the peanut challenge.

The last few days

Quietly and unknown to many I relived those days before and the days after Jay died  around what was the 3 year anniversary.

The days leading up to the anniversary I would look at the time hop app on my phone.  I saw exciting posts about being pregnant 4 years ago with Aaron.  I saw remnants of my past life.  I also saw statuses and posts from the past 2 anniversaries and I sit not knowing how to feel.

I caught myself staring at my phone and lost in thought thinking how naive I was thinking nothing like my reality now would happen to me…to us.  I found myself not mad at Jay or life but mad at myself.

I found myself on the anniversary looking at my phone and seeing the status I never wanted to post.  I had prepared for the day by pampering myself and surrounding myself around people I love and trust.  I even spent the day initially watching Aaron go crazy with excitement at Sesame Street Live.  As we wound down from that I again found myself looking at my phone.

The phone I answered that day in May 2012 has since been replaced but I still struggle with the phone and yet I feel connected to it in a weird way.  When Aaron is not in my care I have it with me at all times.  And even then when it does ring, my heart still skips a beat and then beats fast.  I answer clinching my teeth together hoping it is not similar news I received that day.

And yet on a day I should stay away from my phone I sat there staring at it.  Beautiful and loving friends sent messages saying “thinking of you.”  I smile knowing I have amazing people in my life.  I cry knowing why they send the message.

I found myself remembering this past weekend that I wasn’t back to work yet 3 years ago.  I found myself remembering 2 years ago when I had to take a leave of absence from work this month because I was starting to unravel.  I found myself remembering last year when I was still struggling but feeling more put together.

I struggled with the 3 year. I will not lie.  Nothing prepared me for what happened on May 9th, 2012.  Nothing prepared me for relying on other’s memories of Jay to help me through an anniversary I never wanted to live through. Nothing prepared me for reliving the day.

Dear Aaron

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Dear Aaron,

I hope you never forget how crucial you were to my survival in those seconds, minutes, hours and days after your daddy left the physical world.

I hope you know it was you I woke up for the day after and the day after that.

It is your smile that reminds me every morning and every night that life is meant to be lived being happy.

It is your laugh that reminds me life is meant to lived having fun.

It is your hug and kiss that reminds me we are going to be just fine.

Aaron, YOU are the reason I push myself each day to be better than I was the day before. YOU are the reason I continue to work through my grief and strive to live a good life.  YOU are the reason I let go of the anger and hold on to the memories.  YOU are the reason I continue your daddy’s legacy of love of life, giving the benefit of doubt to all and helping people in whatever way they need.

My hope is simple.  My hope is you never lose your heart of gold, your amazing spirit or your ability to have an impact on others.

You have helped me in ways you may never understand.  You have made me the strong person I am today.  Never ever doubt how much I love you, because I love you with all my heart and I always will.

Love always,

Mommy

Healthy Living

At the end of March I started a cleanse.  The unachievable goal was to lose a ton or weight.  The cleanse was 30 days.  There were some tough moments,especially the first 2 days, but after the first 2 days things got easier.

I did not end up losing the weight I wanted, but I did lose a few things that have proven to be bigger than any weight I wanted to lose.

I lost my need for coffee and pop.  I lost my craving for sweets.  I willing ask for water when out to eat versus drinking a Diet Coke.  I willing make myself tea rather than make a cup of coffee.

I will be the first to admit my eating habits are not perfect but I hold my head high knowing I kicked part of my yo-yo in getting healthy.

I have also become much more active.  Do I go to the gym more often…no.  That is a goal but in the moment I am moving more and getting outside to be active with Aaron.  And when I am out with him playing in his pool or whatever he wants to do I can see a smile that keeps me going.

So up to this point I am more active and eat better.  What has happened next is what really excites me.

My mind is more clear.  Stressful events or weeks are still what they are but the effects are less dramatic.  I work through the stress and move forward in a way I never have.  Clarity is at my disposal.

Healthy living is not just about the body…it is about your mind.  The effects it has had on me put a smile on my face I have not seen in awhile.  I am in love with healthy living.

Big Step

Next week is looking jammed pack with a few events with some friends and then some speaking for organ donation.
I saw this on the calendar a few weeks ago and I started to panic.  One of the events  starts at 3:45 and the end time is nowhere close to when I usually pick up Aaron from daycare.
In my mind the one option I usually default to is to just not go to the event.  An option that comes to mind…I could ask my babysitter to get off work a little early and meet her at the house with Aaron before I need to get to my event.  Another option…I could ask my parents to take Aaron for the first part of the week.
I did not want to ask either for this favor.  They probably would have because my babysitter is like a sister to me and my parents love to have Aaron but no…I wasn’t going to ask.
It is in that moment I thought of another option.  Somewhat scary and definitely a big step for me.
In talking to my boyfriend I explained the situation and then asked…”Can you pick Aaron up for me on this day and get him home so I can go out?”
I instantly felt guilty.  Why?  Because for the last 3 ½ years I have never asked anyone to pick Aaron up from daycare.  Rain or shine…healthy or sick I have been the one that always drops him off and picks him up.  Even when Jay was alive I just took it upon myself to be the one that dropped Aaron off and picked Aaron up.  My work was closer to the daycare center and it just made sense.
The past two weeks we have been doing test runs.  It started with my boyfriend riding with me in my vehicle and walking in with me to daycare so not only did those at daycare get to know him but he knew where and what to do to get Aaron.  Then we put the car seat in his car and he drove with me in the car to get Aaron.
The other day I took a really big step and with the car seat in his car I met him at daycare.  I met him there after work having driven my own vehicle.   Aaron got in my boyfriend’s car,  was buckled in his car seat and I got into my car…alone.  We drove home and everything was great.  Aaron was good for him and as expected we all made it home safely.
Why is this such a big step?  Ask my babysitter and my parents.  It took me so much time and strength to even let them be alone with Aaron after Jay died.  And when I left Aaron with my parents for the first time…I cried the whole way back home.  It isn’t because I don’t trust my parents or my babysitter.  After losing Jay, all I could hear in my head is “protect Aaron”…”You can do this all by yourself”…”He deserves all of you”…”You do not need help…figure out a way.”  I am lucky to have amazing people in my life that have worked with me to help quiet those words.
It is a big step because I am allowing someone who is not a blood relative or known Aaron since he was 3 months old to take on the role I have held on to so tightly since May 2012.
In the beginning of this journey I was so proud of myself for taking tiny steps forward.  I knew a day would come when tiny wouldn’t be what was needed.  I knew there was going to be a time when I would have to take a really big step.

3 Years Ago

3 Years ago yesterday my life was changed in a heart beat.

As I navigated through yesterday, the 3 year anniversary, I had flashbacks from the day.  The moment I got the call.  Knowing life had just changed in a way no one could fix.

3 years ago today I was planning an event I did not want to attend.

3 years from tomorrow, before the visitation, I made a decision.  It seemed crazy.  It would later take on a meaning I did not expect.  I sat with my family and Jay’s family and when asked who I wanted to speak at the funeral I looked him the eyes and said, “I’ve thought about it…and I would like to speak.”

The time came and I walked up to the podium.  I unwrapped my paper.  I stood in front of room FULL of friends, family and my son.  It is in that moment I told myself if I could do this, if I could speak to these people here in this unthinkable moment I could do anything put in my path in this now unknown future.  I triple dared myself to do it.  I made it through my speech, although my hands had started to shake and go numb almost up to my elbows by the time I was done, but I did it and I sat back in my seat knowing I had done a good job.

Since that day my goal in life is quite simple.  Be kind always.  To understand and be understood.  To really listen to people.  To help people when I can.  To be the best daughter, sister, friend and most importantly mom I can be.

3 years ago my life changed.  3 years ago I changed.  I can impact the future in a positive way based on my experience.  That is something I have control over.  I cannot change the past.  I cannot change what happened 3 years ago.

 

do not stop believing

This morning I received a phone call I have been expecting for a week or so.  It was Jay’s mom.  Jay’s dad passed away this morning.

He passed away ONE day before the 3 year anniversary of Jay’s death.

In the last 2 weeks, my boyfriends uncle, my grandma and Jay’s dad have passed away.  That is a lot to take on…it is a lot of emotion to work through.

How do I work through this?  Here is my plan.  I will tell my self “Do not stop believing.”  Believing in what?  In God.  In deserving and living a good life.  In finding the good in each obstacle.  In moving forward.

In my communication to my army of friends and family many have asked…”Is there anything I can do?”  My answer is this…do not stop believing.

last week sucked

A single statement can sum up my week last week.  It sucked.

On Monday I received news my grandma was not doing well.  She had stopped responding and eating.  Not 30 minutes later talking to my mom I got a phone call from my boyfriend.  He had just found out his uncle had passed away.

On Wednesday morning my phone rang.  I looked at my phone and my heart sank. It was my dad.  I answered already knowing what he was about to tell me.   My grandma had passed away earlier that morning.

On Thursday in true Alyssa fashion, I was trying with everything in me to put one foot in front of the other and move forward.  I was sad for my boyfriend, his family, his dad and his uncle’s children.  I was sad for my dad, his siblings, my family and my cousins.  But I could move forward.  The weekend was going to be difficult but I was going to keep a level head and make it through this without breaking.  And then while looking through my closet for clothes to wear to the funeral the fire extinguisher in our closet fell from a shelf right on a toe on my left foot.

This is where I tell you I broke down.  I couldn’t move forward.  Literally…I felt like I had broken my toe.  I stood there applying pressure to the toe not wanting to move.  I did not want to know for sure if I actually broke my toe.  Tears falling from my eyes my boyfriend guided me to sit down and elevate my foot.  I grabbed him into a strong hug and cried in a way I haven’t done in a very long time.  He told me to let it all out and I did.  He tried to convince me to go to the doctor and in that moment all I wanted was to take a shower. And so I limped my way to my shower, got hot water running and gently walked in, closed the door and broke more.  As I stood there I thought to myself “WHY did you let that thing fall on your foot Alyssa?”, “WHY did it take that happening for you to let go of what you were so tightly holding inside?” and “WHY did these two amazing people die now?”

A couple pain relief pills, ice pack and texts from my medical friends later and I was on the road to healing.

On Friday, Aaron and I jumped in the car and made the 4 hour drive back to my parents house.  I have gotten good at traveling with Aaron by myself.  We arrived and in true Aaron form he ran right to his grandma.  And when papa walked in from mowing he ran to his papa.  Understanding how they must have really felt it was nice to see them smile.  The visitation was on Friday night.  This was going to be my first family funeral since Jay’s.  I walked in and it took my breath away.  I could see the casket.  I could see my grandma.  I blinked and in that moment I looked in that casket and I could see Jay.  I blinked again and I saw my grandma.  She looked at peace.  There was something about seeing her this way that brought peace to my heart.  What surprised me is how I felt when I saw people walk in.  There was my dad’s family, some I haven’t seen in a very long time.  There were my parents friends, many who are friends on Facebook but I haven’t seen in a long time.  And then my mom’s family, some of who I had just seen the weekend before for my nephew’s birthday party.  I was overwhelmed seeing all of them.  More times than I could count, I found myself talking about Aaron as a detractor to the real reason we were all there.  It was necessary, but exhausting.

On Saturday, my mom, dad, Aaron and I got in the car and headed back for the funeral.  I have to give props to my mom and me.  Usually girls are running behind in getting ready.  That was not the case on this day.  We were ready to go early.  We were all ready for this to be done.  We gathered as a family.   We walked in as a family.  And we listened as a family.  The sermon was good.  The music was amazing.  I had Aaron as a distraction when tears started to creep up on me and it wasn’t until we were walking out that I started to unravel.  I handed Aaron to my mom and looked at anything on the walls that would distract me.  As we walked down the stairs an image hit me again.  There stood my brother with my 5 male cousins as the pall bearers next to my grandma’s coffin.  All but one younger than me, it seemed unreal what they were called to do.

After making it through the week, I thought Sunday would be a relaxing day.  Oh how life had a slightly different plan.  As I was about to pack up my car and leave my parents I could not get my car key fob to unlock the car.  Using the emergency key I later found my batter was completely DEAD.  Jumper cables and a jump from my parents car and I was on my way home.

Last week sucked.  Truth be told this upcoming week isn’t the happiest of memories either.  But with all of this I have learned a lesson…it is this.

I am not the person I was 3 years ago, 2 years ago,1 year ago or yesterday.  Life hands us experiences.  God didn’t have a plan to test me and see how much I could handle in a two week period.  Life didn’t either.  It just happened.  What I can tell you is 3 years ago I did not understand this.  I was confused, angry and full of a misunderstanding about the true blessings in life.  The blessings for me are this.  1) A man who knew more about life and death than I did and taught me what I needed to know 2) A son who has all of his parents good qualities and as he goes to bed at night looks at me and says “I love you mommy” 3) A family that can only be described as amazing 4) A group of friends who have joined me in this journey and with a single text, post or conversation can remind me how awesome life is 5) A God who through all my trials, anger and emotion loves me unconditionally and has help guide me to the place I am today and 6) A man that even through a crazy week like last week walked and talked with me as we figured it all out.

I am not the person I was 3 years ago…and that is OK.  I am stronger.  That all said, last week sucked.