by Ian Runge
I suddenly and quite violently threw up all over the floor and the couch I sat upon. My younger brother stared in awe at the reminders of my pain and misery.
My mother proceeded to rush me to the nearby bathroom where I continued to barf up half-digested morsels of food: the sink was a mess; the floor and couch were a mess; I was a mess. At five-years-old, I had no idea what was happening to me.
Soon after this event I learned what had triggered the unexpected flow of regurgitated food from my stomach: an allergic reaction to peanut butter that was jammed in between two crackers.
Unbeknownst to me, my mother had suspected such an allergy from the time I was a toddler when she had witnessed several small reactions of mine from other nuts. Stranger, however, was an instance when I was no more than two-years-old; my great aunt attempted to give me a Nutter Butter cookie and I immediately refused it. It was as though my body was protecting itself from the danger it knew would occur if I ate the cookie.
During the months following my initial reaction, I was subjected to several tests to confirm my allergy to nuts. One occasion saw my back littered with needles containing small doses of extract from different nuts, an experience that haunted me for many years afterward.
The results of the tests verified that not only was I allergic to peanuts, but also to walnuts, cashews, pistachios, and every other nut in existence.
As knowledge of my allergy spread throughout my family, no one was as worried or frightened as my grandmother. Every time I visited her, each piece of food I ate had to be checked, double-checked, and re-checked. She refused to give me processed foods as they contained the infamous allergy warning labels “may contain nuts.”
Her extreme fear for my health developed in me an acute sense of awareness and prudence when eating certain foods. One significant consequence of my vigilance is my tendency to smell every piece of food that is put in front of me, a ritual which has not gone unnoticed by my family and peers.
The care and concern I use whenever I eat has manifested itself in other parts of my life as well: I often stress over important decisions and I am risk averse. However, this has not stopped me from being outgoing; I love daring to try new foods, traveling to different countries, and performing theater and music before large audiences.
Though my allergy may have created some limitations in my life, the heightened awareness that developed because of it encourages precision in every activity I participate in.