When times are tough, don’t give up, keep swimming! What an odd little phrase, but as I was thinking about this post, I realized that the imagery is appropriate for those of us managing food allergies, either personally or as a caregiver. When we first find out about a food allergy diagnosis, it feels like belly flopping into a very cold swimming pool with all your clothes and shoes on. At first it’s uncomfortable and we want out, but swimmers know that if you keep swimming, your body warms up and the experience becomes less unpleasant. With food allergies, we find ways to cope by joining a support group, finding more information by reading, and studying food allergy books, online resources, or medical journals. We become proficient at reading labels or developing different ways to cook and eat. Just like a swimmer, we eventually feel tired, develop a leg cramp, or need a break but what if we’re stuck and can’t get out? What do we do and how do we survive? Perhaps a friend comes by with a life ring or a flotation device to help us out or a group of friends come along to play and then we forget how tired and weary we are.
That perfectly describes my experience with some of the people that formed a new food allergy organization, Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team (FAACT). My son was a toddler when we finally figured out that he had very severe life-threatening food allergies and I had no idea on how to begin to teach him about food allergies in a way that was informative without being terrifying. I found a sweet book about an allergic elephant with just enough facts for a toddler written by a FAACT team member. We managed our life with food allergies very well for years and our family felt content and happy. Our children’s preschool and elementary schools were very accommodating and kind, we were able to travel, and participate in many activities.
We need friends to come alongside for support when It’s inevitable that we experience challenges in dealing with food allergies, when some people might be confronted by issues such as bullying, lack of consideration and support at school or work, accidental exposures to allergens and reactions, etc.. That is when we need friends to throw a life ring to help us hang in there, to cheer “KEEP SWIMMING!” or just get in the water and keep us company. I have friends who helped me not to feel alone in this food allergy journey and we talked, cried, and giggled our way through absurd situations, and for once I felt normal through these precious friendships. Through the years, I have benefited so much from the support, resources and willingness of many of the members of the FAACT team who are willing to extend themselves as well as some of the board members, which is why I believe that they will achieve much on behalf of the food allergy community. I am so proud of these individuals, excited about their new organization, and happy to join as a member of FAACT.
“FAACT’s mission is to educate, advocate, and raise awareness for all individuals and families affected by food allergies and life-threatening anaphylaxis. FAACT is also your voice for food allergy awareness. Whether it’s keeping children safe at school, responding to food allergy bullying, dealing with workplace issues, or simply taking the family out for a bite to eat, this Web site has all the facts you need to manage food allergies and stay healthy.”
Their webpage has so much information including the basics about food allergies and how to manage food allergies in schools and restaurants. They have formed groups for teens and for siblings and children can attend Camp Tag, a summer camp program. FAACT will host conferences in 4 different locations around the country, where people can meet and make connections with each other. FAACT also included comprehensive sections regarding civil rights advocacy and government relations. FAACT brings together passionate members of the food allergy community with exceptional professional talents to help those living with food allergies to have a better life. I can get behind and support FAACT’s mission and am proud to be a member as well as share a guest post on their blog.
We are so lucky that there are many fantastic food allergy advocacy organizations already but we need all the help we can to support the 15 million people living with food allergies. Welcome FAACT by visiting their website, http://www.foodallergyawareness.org. Are there food allergy advocacy organizations or advocates that you love to support and cheer on? Which ones have touched your life and get in the water with you? I would love to hear how you have been positively impacted by an organization or an advocate.