Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Don't Kill the Birthday Girl

One of the ways I relaxed during our recent visit to Mackinac Island was by reading, and my book of choice was Don't Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life, by Sandra Beasley. It turned out to be a good choice, enjoyable and informative.

In the introduction to her memoir, Beasley writes,
"I am allergic to dairy (including goat's milk), egg, soy, beef, shrimp, pine nuts, cucumbers, cantaloupe, honeydew, mango, macadamias, pistachios, cashews, swordfish, and mustard ...

"Those with food allergies aren't victims. We're people who - for better or for worse - experience the world in a slightly different way. This is not a story of how we die. These are the stories of how we live."
Beasley's style is friendly and informative, sometimes self-deprecating, sometimes matter-of-fact. She shares experiences gleaned from 30 years of living with allergies, mixed with science and the social aspects of allergies. She describes how she learns to cope in a world where danger truly does lurk around every corner. She considers why people carry, but seldom use, their EpiPens. She relates her friend's remarkable (and successful) effort to provide Sandra-friendly cake at her wedding. She describes the awkward situations that arise in dating - especially those dates that end up at the emergency room.

She praises her mother:
"... I have to honor that there's an intimacy being created there, too, one unique to any parent who manages a child's chronic illness. My mother, the diplomat. My mother, the (un)registered nurse. My mother, the translator of cries and bubbles.

"If my child did have allergies, I'd know where I'd look for guidance. My mother, the teacher. If kids like Jennifer and I had blazed a trail, it's only because parents like her cleared the path."
I think I would like Sandra Beasley. It seems that she has found a balance in her life; she writes "My job is to center on staying safe in this world, but my job is also never to assume the world should revolve around keeping me safe." I recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand more about allergies, and about living with those around us who have allergies.

My niece Emily has a daughter with multiple allergies. In the introduction to her book, Beasley refers to a cookbook by Emily, Sophie-Safe Cooking. You can order Emily's cookbook here: www.sophiesafecooking.com. Emily also has a blog, Food Allergy Thoughts, at foodallergythoughts.blogspot.com.

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