When I was younger I ate a tuna fish sandwich at my great-aunt’s house. I broke out into hives and we assumed it was the mayo. For a long time after that I stayed away from anything with mayo, but that turned out to be an isolated incident and I never reacted to mayo again. Other than the occasional itchy eyes and nose when around cats, I am allergy-free.
Sandra Beasley doesn’t have it so lucky. From birth she refused to breastfeed, formula caused internal bleeding and standard alternatives such as goat’s milk and soy milk wreaked havoc on her system. Beasley is allergic to dairy, egg, soy, beef, shrimp, pine nuts, cucumbers, cantaloupe, honeydew, mango, macadamias, pistachios, cashews, swordfish and mustard, in addition to several environmental allergies. Interestingly, she is not allergic to gluten or peanuts, which are some of the most talked about food allergies. The title, Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life, is borne of her birthday parties as a child where everyone in attendance — except the birthday girl — could eat the birthday cake, but then could not come anywhere near her without contaminating her. Even a kiss on the cheek by someone who had eaten the frosting would result in a lip-shaped rash.
Part memoir, part cautionary tale on how not to raise an allergic child, Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl is wry without being scathing. Beasley compares the world we live in today, where food allergies are much more prevalent and schools have several page-long action plans in case of a reaction, to her childhood in the 80s where making allowances meant giving her the first lunch period and bringing in “Sandra-friendly” snacks when the other kids were getting cupcakes. She credits her mom for getting her through her childhood and references several times she camped out in the ER waiting room waiting for either the Benadryl or the anaphylaxis to kick in.
Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl explores some of the science of food allergies – what causes an allergic reaction, the difference between an intolerance and an allergy, how allergy tests work and why they aren’t so reliable, current research into treating allergies. Beasley maintains that not much time or money is being spent on researching the reasons behind the recent surge in allergies because the real benefit (and profit) is in treatment. She is an advocate for food allergy issues and Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl is an educational and fascinating look at life with allergies.
Nancy considers herself lucky that neither she nor her kiddos have food allergies. She writes about her boys, books and life in Colorado at Life With My Boys and Books.
It sounds like this is a great book. I have to admit that when my daughter was first placed in a peanut free class, I was a little irritated. PB was something she easily ate and was cheap, easy and healthy.
I’ve gotten much more sensitive, but it seems like this book is a great way to raise awareness, but also be entertained.
I’d never heard of this book, but am excited to get my hands on it. Sounds fascinating, and since my children will probably share my many allergies/intolerances, I would love to get as much info on dealing w/ them as possible.!