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Meet Olivia: Navigating Life (and College!) with Food Allergies

July 21, 2020 •  no comments.

 •  Blog, News, Stories

My name is Olivia Moll. I am a 19-year-old rising sophomore at the University of Miami, and my mom is my hero. I was diagnosed with my life-threatening food allergies when I was an infant. I am allergic to dairy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, and as if that wasn’t enough, somehow I am also now allergic to peas. I owe my years of safe eating to my mother. She taught me how to take care of and advocate for myself. Her constant vigilance with food safety is frankly superhuman.  She seems to never let her guard down, and always has my back when I need it.  My mom has been by my side through my ups and downs of my allergy experience.  Sure, we fight, like every other teenager and parent on planet earth, but in the end, her example and help has been vital to my dealing with food allergies safely.

My mother and I have worked together over the years on how to best go about our relationship with my food allergies. I know that she is my mom and will always be nervous about me. On the other hand from my perspective, her non-stop worry can get annoying. It is constant and at times feels overbearing. When I was in middle school, we came to an agreement that she would only ask once after we had meals out or trying new foods by using the phrase “how are the potatoes?”  I know it sounds weird, but it was a way to not call attention to the “allergy”, but instead, make it mundane sounding query. I would reply, “they’re done” meaning I am feeling good and “still cooking” for I don’t know yet. We had an understanding that she wouldn’t constantly ask if I were ok and in return I promised that I would tell her if something started feeling wrong.

Additionally, I am in a romantic relationship and safely so. Before I left for college I met Jake. We, together, had to come to an understanding about how he can keep me safe. I think even on our first date, I told him that he couldn’t kiss me if he hadn’t been safe for the whole day. He’s amazing and waits 24 hours before kissing me after eating something that will put me in the hospital. During the summers, we spend almost every day together, meaning that he eats on my diet to help keep me safe. Relationships were such a worry for me. Of course, I was scared that I would be put in danger from someone who would not understand or did not care enough. Additionally, I was terrified I might never find someone who would care enough to transition to my diet all day every day. It’s hard to know how some guy is going to react to the whole food allergy thing. I am here to share that people like him do exist. You will find your someone and they will do what it takes to keep you safe and love you for who you are – I’m proof that it’s true.

My very first allergist said something to mom and me that we will not forget: “You should get a boyfriend”. As weird as it sounds, it means that you should always have someone who knows you, your symptoms, and knows what to do if a reaction ever occurs, around you, especially in social situations.

This leads me to my next point, about the connection to your friends and family. I like to describe this in four levels: me, the inner circle, close friends/extended family, and people who might know. People who might know are classmates, sorority sisters, distant family members,  or friends I see infrequently who might know I have food allergies and might know how to help if I have a reaction. My close friends and family are the ones who know the basics. They know that I have allergies, know where I keep my medicine, understand that I can’t eat like they do, and do basic things to keep me safe such as washing hands. My inner circle is made of the people I trust with my life. They are the ones who know just about everything there is to know about me and my allergies. These people are the ones that would stab me in the leg if it came to that. My inner circle is made up of five people: my mom (who is head of the whole project) my dad, my brother, my best friend, and my boyfriend. The highest level is me. I am my last defense. I am the most important person in my life of food allergies.

My mom and I have always been a team. She and I have worked together for years to help keep me safe. When I was young she was the one driving the bus. Now that I am older (and have a driver’s license), I am taking the wheel. My process and years of teamwork with my mom, have helped me become the strong young woman living with food allergies I am today, and I owe so much to her.

 

Olivia Moll is a nineteen year old college student who has lived with food allergies her entire life.  She is a guest author and intern at AllergyKids this summer and will be sharing her experiences here, so stay tuned!  And look for more great work from her and what it looks like as a college kid, navigating food allergies away from family.

Featured image from Vitacost.

 

 

An Inspiring Conversation with the Founder of Partake Foods

July 20, 2020 •  no comments.

 •  Blog, Stories

I loved this conversation with Denise Woodard of Partake Foods! And I am so grateful for the incredible women coming into the free-from space, providing solutions for families with children who have food allergies. 

Partake Foods’ Denise Woodard is the only woman of color to raise $1M for a food start-up. During her career with Coca-Cola, food allergies were never top-of-mind for her, but when her daughter, Vivienne, began eating solid foods, it suddenly became clear she had several. And just as suddenly, their lives began to change.

Listen as we dive into what it looks like to be a mom starting a business out of your kitchen (hint, it’s not all sunshine and ease!) and who her MVP is (again, it’s not who you think!).  Necessity is the mother of invention. For Denise Woodard, that necessity resulted in the creation of her allergy-friendly cookie business, Partake Foods, in 2016. Thank goodness, and thank goodness for her talent, passion and ambition. You can learn more at www.partakefoods.com