Archive for January, 2012
At AllergyKids, inspiration matters to us…a lot. Because when you are handed a diagnosis – whether it’s a life-threatening food allergy or a child’s cancer – you need every shot of hope, inspiration and strength that you can get.
So when a friend emailed an article titled, “Happy Anniversary,” the same week that marked the 6 year anniversary of that life-changing breakfast that resulted in a food allergic reaction at our breakfast table, I reflected on how there really are no coincidences. Just lessons.
And we are grateful for them.
And when we hear stories like the one you are about to read below, we feel compelled to share them. Not because we believe that there is a one-size-fits-all approach to health and wellness, but because they offer so much hope. And hope is the knowledge that change is possible even when it seems hard to imagine.
I have never been into anniversaries. That sounds so un-romantic. I am always aware how many years Lance and I have been married, for example, and secretly psyched when we made it a decade, and kept on going, but I didn’t care about making a big deal about the actual day. I like to celebrate random days, not necessarily THE day.
However, this anniversary is different. It’s significant. It brings mixed emotions. Usually when you say “Happy Anniversary” it’s because that particular day was a celebratory one. A year ago was not celebratory for us. In fact, it sucked. It was hands down the worst day of our lives. I was sitting in ICU thinking all the worst things one could think, crying my eyes out, ridden with shock and sadness.
So when I look at where we are now, I think now that’s something to celebrate! Lately, I’ve been looking at Lance, thinking, “Damn, you look good.” In fact, this past weekend, we were at some hot springs near Winter Park with our friends. We were all coming out of the changing rooms with our swim suits on and both my friend and I took a double take when Lance came out in his bathing suit. He looked fit and strong and healthy and just plain good. My friend said something to me about how Lance looked, I nodded.
And when I think about all that we learned and grew and did and tackled and accomplished in the past year, it makes me beam with pride. We worked hard at getting where Lance is today. We didn’t let anything get in our way…not doctors, not naysayers, not statistics. We just put those aside and tried to be the best students possible. We continued to learn as we went along and added, or subtracted whatever was serving us or not serving us and kept on forging ahead. This included not only nutrition, but meditating, visualizing, resting, learning, learning, and more learning, being conscious in everything we did and being really clear on what we had time for and what we didn’t. It was like the ultimate fine tuning of our lives.
Also, a year is significant because getting to a year in Lance’s case was a big deal and increases his chances all the more. A couple months ago, I started feeling that sense that we were coming up to a year and Lance was doing so good and it made me think of the little engine that could and I kept thinking, “Come on, you can do it.”
While my Dad was in the hospital here in Boulder with his broken leg, I asked him if he would like to see Lance’s last MRI. Since my Dad is a retired radiologist (that specialized in neurology) this whole business with Lance has been a little touchy. I knew without discussing his views that we had very different perspectives on Lance’s condition but he kept his thoughts to himself (thanks Dad, I am eternally grateful to you for that). However, in this bonding father/daughter moment, I showed him Lance’s last MRI and watched him as he stared in quiet disbelief. He really could not believe what he was seeing. Because what he was seeing was practically NOTHING!
We didn’t immediately share Lance’s results on purpose for 2 reasons. 1) We both needed it to sink in and savor it. 2) We don’t want to jinx ourselves and seem cocky (we are still in this game). Basically what was once the size of a racket ball is now the size of a pea (and that could be just dead tissue).
So what we have to celebrate is a successful year of extreme discipline. I don’t think about that day, one year ago, and what it was like. I think about today and how far we have come. I think about how life and every single day should be celebrated, not just that one day. I think about that no matter what you are going through, there is always hope, there is always beating the odds, there is that silver lining. I feel grateful that Lance and I were blessed with that strength and foresight to have the outlook we have had. I hope that no matter what you are going through, whatever adversity you are facing, that you can have the strength to pull yourself out of it. Know that life is constantly changing and if you face your issues head on, with love and openness, before you know it a year has past and you think to yourself (as I do know),”What a difference a year can make!”
About Nancy Gentry: Nancy is living proof that norms, rules (and diagnoses) are made to be broken. In January 2011, Nancy’s husband found out he had brain cancer and had major brain surgery a few days later. Rather than accept the doctor’s dismal diagnosis, Nancy decided to tackle her biggest life challenge with food, juicing, love, laughter, meditation and more and put her and her husband on an uber-healthy trajectory. It took a little while for the burger eating, fried food loving, multi-tasking, too busy running Justin’s Nut Butter president to adapt to this way of life. However today, Lance and Nancy feel they could not be healthier and look back on 2011 as one of the biggest gifts of their lives. Their new balanced lifestyle and attention to every aspect of their lives has given her husband a new perspective allowing him to thrive. Nancy has begun coaching others on incorporating love, laughter and veggies into everyday life (www.lovelaughveggies), creating preventative, inspiring lifestyles for those who want to live life to the fullest and healthiest both inside and out. She hopes to inspire people (and you!) to take care of themselves and learn from their experience and learn how to prevent DIS-EASE by implementing some simple changes in their life NOW. From the non-stop frenzy of producing her own tv show, to the runways of the Parisian modeling world to being one of the world’s first moms to choreograph their husband’s healing from a malignant brain tumor, Nancy is living proof that norms, rules and diagnoses are meant to be broken.
You can follow Nancy and Lance at www.lovelaughveggies.com
At AllergyKids, we know that parents and caregivers of children with special needs and conditions are constantly juggling things…from the work/life balance, to doctor’s appointments and the homework load. And in an effort to stay organized, streamline as much as possible and run a happy house, we are always on the lookout for words of wisdom when it comes to time management.
So when we came across this article from Inc., written for those in the workplace, it hit us that moms and pretty much anyone could benefit from this wisdom, too.
So with little more than that, here’s the takeaway on how anyone looking to create a little more productivity in their lives can do exactly that with just a few simple steps.
Here are 7 tips for staying productive:
1.Work backwards from goals to milestones to tasks. Writing “launch company website” at the top of your to-do list is a sure way to make sure you never get it done. Break down the work into smaller and smaller chunks until you have specific tasks that can be accomplished in a few hours or less: Sketch a wireframe, outline an introduction for the homepage video, etc. That’s how you set goals and actually succeed in crossing them off your list.
2. Stop multi-tasking. No, seriously—stop. Switching from task to task quickly does not work. In fact, changing tasks more than 10 times in a day makes you dumber . When you multitask, your IQ drops by an average of 10 points, 15 for men, five for women (yes, men are three times as bad at multitasking than women).
3. Be militant about eliminating distractions. Lock your door, put a sign up, turn off your phone, texts, email, and instant messaging. In fact, if you know you may sneak a peek at your email, set it to offline mode, or even turn off your Internet connection. Go to a quiet area and focus on completing one task.
4. Schedule your email. Pick two or three times during the day when you’re going to use your email. Checking your email constantly throughout the day creates a ton of noise and kills your productivity.
5. Use the phone. Email isn’t meant for conversations. Don’t reply more than twice to an email. Pick up the phone instead.
6. Work on your own agenda. Don’t let something else set your day. Most people go right to their emails and start freaking out. You will end up at inbox-zero, but accomplish nothing. After you wake up, drink water so you rehydrate, eat a good breakfast to replenish your glucose, then set prioritized goals for the rest of your day.
7. Work in 60 to 90 minute intervals. Your brain uses up more glucose than any other bodily activity. Typically you will have spent most of it after 60-90 minutes. (That’s why you feel so burned out after super long meetings.) So take a break: Get up, go for a walk, have a snack, do something completely different to recharge. And yes, that means you need an extra hour for breaks, not including lunch, so if you’re required to get eight hours of work done each day, plan to be there for 9.5-10 hours.
No parent can afford to ignore the numerous dietary challenges of their kids. Fear for obesity, allergies, and religious concerns are among the reasons that immensely determine the type of foods we take. However, being so choosy with whatever we consume and outright rejections of some may be a costly undertaking.
The IRS extends a tax relief in cases of food allergies. The tax man will allow you a tax break if you prove that you are usually propelled to purchase special foods to contain your diet under certain conditions.
To benefit from this tax break, there is a criterion that you must meet before incorporating the special food costs as part of your medical expenses. To begin with, the special diet must be validated by a doctor. Just because you dislike some foods and you opt to buy some special substitute is not justifiable enough for the tax break, a physician must validate that indeed you are forced to resort to the special foods for health reasons.
Secondly, the special food must be used to meet your routine nutritional needs and also, the special foods should be linked to treating or alleviating some illness.
You don’t qualify for a tax break for if you purchase special foods simply because of your own personal or family’s moral beliefs. A vegetarian might dislike the idea of killing innocent animals but that does not make the IRS extend the tax break. Also, religious beliefs that bar people from eating some foods like pork and products related to it cannot qualify one for the tax break. Further to that, the overwhelming number of people fighting obesity and trying to get rid of the extra pounds through special diets does not qualify for the tax break.
Simply put, the special food must indeed be special and be able to treat your medically detected illness. This includes those with serious disorders like celae disease and allergies. There are limitations though; only the amount the special foods exceeds the cost of normal foods can be included in your medical expenses. If the normal food costs $10 but the special diet retails at $ 15, then only $ 5 can be included in your medical expenses. You can only deduct the amount the special foods exceed the normal diet and not the whole cost of the special food.
You should bear in mind that these expenses still have to meet the 7.5 % floor for medical expenses which are deductible on a schedule A in case you itemize. However, they are only deductible on a schedule A if they exceed 7.5% of your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI).
I think it is time you claimed this break if you qualify. Don’t bear the burden alone if the IRS can help you lessen it.
As originally seen on Limon Whitaker and Morgan.
Written by Angie Nordstrum for AllergyKids, introduced by Robyn O’Brien
We’ve all seen (or at least heard of) the movie “Erin Brockovich” in which a bold and fiercely determined mom takes on a chemical company for exposing a small town and the families and children that live there to toxic chemicals that have been linked to cancer. It’s Academy Award winning material.
And it’s happening again.
In a small town in Colorado, 600 yards from three elementary schools and a childcare center, the natural gas industry is about to drill wells and expose hundreds of school children to chemicals that have never been proven safe, for which there is no accountability when it comes to their safe disposal and for which there is no clarity on who would assume liability (and future medical bills) for the health of these children should they become ill.
It’s an unprecedented situation, because in the haste to drill, no regulations and no long-term human health studies have been conducted to assess the impact that these processes and the chemicals used in them might have on the health of children.
According to the Denver Post, “the American landscape is dotted with hundreds of thousands of new wells and thousands of drilling rigs, as the country scrambles to tap into this century’s gold rush for natural gas. Drilling companies have developed techniques to unlock these enormous reserves, and energy companies are clamoring to drill.
But the relatively new drilling method — known as high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking — carries significant environmental risks. It involves injecting huge amounts of water, mixed with sand and chemicals, at high pressures to break up rock formations and release the gas.”
Given that the American children have already earned the title “Generation Rx”, due to the rates of asthma, allergies, autism, ADHD, diabetes and the fact that cancer is now the leading cause of death by disease in children under the age of 15 (source: Centers for Disease Control), perhaps it is time that we stop and learn a little bit more.
Angie Nordstrum, a mother of a young child with multiple food allergies and asthma, sheds light on what is happening at her child’s school.
My son attends the new Red Hawk Elementary in Erie, Colorado. This state of the art green school is a LEED certified building which means that it is complete with geothermal heat system, super insulated building envelope, skylights and displacement ventilation. The mission of the school is to focus on math, science, technology and integration of the arts by fostering a sense of environmental responsibility by taking care of one’s self with healthy eating and exercise and reducing environmental waste. Students begin each school day outside.
The school also has a 1500 square foot garden space. Students and staff will be an integral part of the gardens, with beds for each grade level.
In the news recently, you may have heard of something called “fracking” or “hydraulic fracturing”. It is a drilling process used by the natural gas industry to extract natural gas from beneath the ground.
And there are health and safety concerns about it. Despite provisions in the Clean Air Act, there is something called the Halliburton Loophole that allows the gas companies to inject proprietary mixtures of methane, ethane, liquid condensate, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the wells. Some of the VOCs that are used in the mixtures have a significant impact on health and include benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene. Health effects of exposure to these chemicals include neurological problems, birth defects, and cancer. Other symptoms may include bloody noses, asthma, GI distress, diarrhea, dizziness, migraines, nerve pain, neurological disorders and skin rashes.
These health risks pose a potential threat to children.
Yet despite these concerns, drilling is beginning on eight natural gas wells less than 600 yards from our school, Erie Elementary, Erie Middle School and Exploring Minds Childcare Center. Yes, three schools and a childcare center are about to be exposed to an unprecedented experiment in children’s health.
Will the school nurse will be seeing dozens of sick children in her office. What health issues will these students have in 5 years? In 10 years?
The companies will begin the drilling process in the next couple of weeks. It will be visible from my son’s classroom. The only access to the site will be from the road which runs right in front of the school. Let me repeat that, “The only access to the site will be from the road which runs right in front of the school” because while there is another road that is actually closer to the drilling site, this road cannot be used for drilling transportation because the chemical-carrying trucks are not allowed to cross railroad tracks on the course of their path.
At what point are children more valuable than railroad tracks? The trucks transporting the chemicals cannot cross the railroad tracks but they can transport toxic chemicals right in front of the entrance to our school?
Erie is an old coal mining town. There are parks and ball fields built on top of these mines for kids to enjoy all over our town. Our school garden sits on top of an old mine. We don’t want our children to be the canaries in the natural gas coal mine.
To learn what you can do to protect yourself and your family and how to prevent the drilling of these wells near children’s schools, the following pages and resources provide information about:
- The drilling planned for your community
- The harm drilling can cause
- Steps you can take to limit the dangers to yourself and your family
- Resources in each state in which drilling is or is likely to occur.
Natural Resources Defense Council : Steps to Keep You and Your Family Safe from Fracking
Gasland: The Movie
Blue Green Alliance: Chemicals in the Environment
Fracking Across the United States: Learn about “Fraccidents” and How to Protect Your Loved Ones
Written by Daniella Knell for AllergyKids, introduced by Robyn O’Brien
This week brought the tragic headline of a 7 year old girl who suffered an allergic reaction at school that resulted in cardiac arrest and her heartachingly premature death. As she left for school that day, fully aware of her life-threatening condition, she turned to her mother and said, “I love you, Mommy, I’ll see you later.”
In light of that story and the countless others, including the story of Emily Vonder Meulen, which gave us the courage to move forward as an advocacy group several years ago, we can not emphasize enough how important it is to take food allergies seriously. School should not be lethal.
At AllergyKids, we can not emphasize enough how grateful we are for those working to protect the health of children nor emphasize enough the importance of each and every one of us when it comes to protecting the health of our loved ones from the dangers in the food supply. It is our collective talents that will create the changes we want to see.
I have had some incredibly positive experiences throughout the past year. However, the one which has impacted me most profoundly included my first allergy bullies.
Above and beyond everything else I have learned, is the understanding that we can all benefit from more knowledge and education about managing food allergies.
I have come to realize that unless allergies are a part of your personal world, they can be quite difficult to understand, especially when one is being asked to make accommodations for someone else’s child. Although milk is the most common allergy out there, to date, nuts are the most life-threatening.
‘Keeping nuts out of the classroom’ is just one small part of managing food allergies, particularly once children are of preschool or kindergarten age. Every person is different. Some have sensitivities; some have intolerances; while others have systemic reactions, meaning one or more systems in their body will react strongly to an allergen they should be avoiding. This is where the life-threatening aspect can come in, and the worries increase ten fold.
For parents of children with life-threatening allergies, here are some common anxieties:
- Will other adults in charge take his/her allergies seriously?
- Will the adults in charge see my child’s allergy as just an intolerance or sensitivity? Do they understand that ‘lactose intolerance’ is NOT the same as a ‘milk allergy’?
- Will the adults understand the difference between a mild vs. serious reaction? An itchy mouth may not mean the need for an epi-pen but multiple systemic reactions just may, ie, itchy mouth, hives, coughing or the obvious, projectile vomiting and/or labored breathing
- Will other adults be too quick to give an epi-pen? It’s always better to be safe than sorry, but these kids can be easily traumatized, especially the younger ones
- Will other adults be too slow to give an epi-pen? It’s a no-win situation, isn’t it?!
- Food exposure in the classroom and the cafeteria; let’s NOT forget the computer keyboards, doorknobs and playground equipment, for those whose children are allergic by ‘touch’
- The emotional toll of being so different, especially for those who have multiple food allergies
- Will my child be forced to sit at a table alone? Will they be able to participate in classroom activities or can they be included? Will there, again, be ingredients in the activities that they can’t touch?
- Will my child be made fun of by his/her classmates? by his/her classmates’ parents?
Without a doubt, managing food allergies starts at home with education and awareness.
However, the youngest ones with life-threatening food allergies often don’t even realize the gravity of their situation, NOR SHOULD THEY. Truly grasping what a life-threatening allergy is, is an age appropriate concept. The day will come when they understand.
We do not want to raise fearful children who are afraid to go out into the world. Just like most parents, our hope is to raise happy and self-confident human beings. The surprising benefit of having these challenges so early on in their lives, is that I have found a majority of these children to be more compassionate and understanding of other’s differences. More so than many adults.
Parents, educators, peers and other classroom parents are all part of the village members who help influence how well our children will or won’t be accepted. With your help, we will help these children to successfully be able to take care of themselves.
On behalf of so many parents like myself, THANK YOU.
- Thank you, for your simple kindnesses, such as sending in treats ALL of the children can eat safely. This means a lot to kids who often can’t participate in school activities and bake sales because of their allergies.
- Thank you, for being so understanding as to why accomodations have been made to help keep ALL of our children safe in the classroom. We understand the concessions you have to make in possibly not being able to send in your very favorite treats to share!
- Thank you, for your phone calls late at night and early in the morning to let us know you will be sending in something so that we have time to also send in alternatives for our children.
- Thank you, for your compassion in NOT making fun of our children.
To all of you, thank you for making sure ALL of our children know they and their needs are equally important. If we work together, it won’t be so difficult in ‘keeping nuts out of the classroom’ .
May 2012 bring you continued good health, happiness and much goodwill!
Daniella Knell, B.A., is the owner of Smart Allergy~Friendly Education. As an allergy awareness educator and consultant, she is actively involved raising allergy awareness via school and hospital presentations for children and adults, national telephone workshops and one-on-one consulting. She also partners with the Boise CO-OP promoting allergy~friendly products which can be found locally. Her children are allergic to 6 of the top 8 allergens plus a few extras. Looking for allergy~friendly ideas for your household? Be sure to follow her via her blog, www.smartallergy.blogspot.com, Facebook, Linked In or Twitter