In Sickness and In Health: 10 Lessons Learned
Written by Robyn O’Brien
Have you ever looked into the eyes of a father who has lost his child to a food allergic reaction? Read an autopsy report? Or held the hand of a mother who lost her toddler to cancer? I hadn’t either until I began this journey six years ago.
But in the last several years, I have done these things. Too many times over. Cancer is now the leading cause of death by disease in kids under the age of fifteen, reports the Centers for Disease Control. And while the CDC doesn’t track food allergy deaths, it does track the hospitalization rates related to food allergic reactions, which have increased 265% in recent years.
So last week’s revelation of yet another food allergy death, an 8 year old in Maryland, brought so many memories flooding back, including the memory of a child whose death and story inspired courage in the early years of the work of AllergyKids.
And as I reflected on the impact that these experiences have had on families, friends and communities around the country, I also reflected on the continued impact that conditions like allergies, cancer, diabetes and obesity are having on our children (who have earned the title “Generation Rx“), our country and our economy.
And there are powerful lessons that have been learned in all of it. Here are just a few:
- Hope is the knowledge that change is possible, even when it seems hard to imagine.
- Hug your loved ones like there is no tomorrow.
- Eat like there is one.
- Asking for help is a sign of strength and will help build a stronger future.
- Listen to and then let go of criticism.
- Hold onto and nourish family and friends.
- None of us can do everything, but all of us can do something.
- Believe in your unique abilities to help create change.
- Love is a rocket fuel that can make the seemingly impossible possible.
And perhaps, the most important lesson is one that was shared by the author of Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne:
“Promise me, you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe,
and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
Because together, we can restore the health of our children and loved ones for the sake of our country.