This moment has been an awfully long time coming, over 4 months and 7 food fails in a row in fact, but finally we have a fourth safe food to add to M’s repertoire: apple. The last few months have been emotionally tiring as we’ve worked our way down the list of food challenges agreed with our dietitian and M has systematically, and sometimes dramatically, failed each and every one. It has felt as if that elusive fourth food was our personal Holy Grail and there were times when Mike and I both began to wonder when we would ever achieve it.
One of the complicating factors we’ve had to deal with during the food challenges has been the whole host of reactions that we’ve seen along the way. We were never told, as far as either of us can remember, that it was possible to see so many different allergic responses to the varying foods M was trialling and we were certainly not advised that he could experience some that he’d never had before. His severe oral reaction to sweet potato was, in many ways, the easiest one to identify, even though horrendous to see happen, as we knew immediately that it had to be an instant fail; but the others have not necessarily been so straight-forward.
Our main goal is to maintain the improved health and toileting that M has achieved since he first went elemental back in December and even though that has meant ruling out some foods that would have been great to have back in his diet, I remain firm that his well-being, both physical and psychological, is our primary concern. At our last appointment, we discussed with both M’s consultant and dietitian our approach to the food challenges and agreed that anything that causes a loss of bowel control, of any description, has to be considered an instant fail for the time-being. These foods are not ruled out permanently – well, sweet potato is as far as I’m concerned! – and we will, without a doubt, revisit them at some future point once we have more safe ones back.
Sadly he has reacted to some of his old favourites, but he has coped admirably well with accepting the outcomes. He still remains reluctant at times to acknowledge exactly how he is feeling and telling us about the aches and pains we know he must be experiencing, but 9 years of parenting M means that I have become highly attuned to his moods and can sense when he’s feeling under the weather. His willingness to lose a food again at times has indicated to us that he also identifies when it’s making him feel poorly, especially when he has been prepared to fight for those that he believes he can cope with.
Never was that so true as at the start of our apple challenge. During the first couple of days, his body reacted with hives and itchy skin, just as we saw when we first reintroduced rice and he also struggled a little with his bowel control. However, unlike with other foods where he has reluctantly agreed that it was likely a negative response to the challenge, this time round M insisted that the fault was his for not listening to his body and responding quickly enough and that he felt he was still in complete control.
10 days on and he has proved to be right, which is a valuable lesson for us all:
We have spent years fighting for our voice to be heard when it has come to M’s health and each step of the way have been shown to be right in our concerns and our thoughts for his ongoing treatment. It seems that now we need to start listening to what M has to say too and take into consideration his opinions and insights about his body. Of course, at 9 he is nowhere near old enough or responsible enough to make his own choices or sway our decisions unduly, but, just as I have spent a long time arguing my place as the expert on the subject of M because I’m his Mum, now as Mum I need to encourage him to be his own best advocate and take an active and involved role in his care. After all, that’s a key part of my parental role.
And whilst I ruminate on this latest insight into M’s development, I’m eagerly gathering ideas and recipes to incorporate apple, in all its glory, into his diet. So far, we’ve ventured little further than apple juice, apple slices and apple pancakes, but with the help of good friends, including one whose son is just a few steps further down the food challenge road than M, and great resources such as The Recipe Resource, then apple crumble, apple crisps and apple cakes are all on our horizon.