Before we began this journey I read Facebook groups and blogs, emailed and called mothers who had children in oral immunotherapy and I asked lots of questions. I knew there would be rules to follow as far as being calm after dosing and eating beforehand in order to reduce the chance of a reaction. I saw what can happen when people didn’t always follow the doctor’s advice and I vowed that any side effects would be caused by my son’s deep intolerance of peanuts and not my own mistakes.
What no warned me of was that my son’s shy, reserved demeanor would fade away; that I would get to see a big, bright smile in pictures that had disappeared years ago when he started ducking as the flash went off.
I didn’t know that he would run around with a pack of kids and leave my side, finally, at 6 years old. Anxiety and fear melting off him before my eyes was never once explained to me. This was one side effect I couldn’t have dreamed even if I had tried.
In the beginning of his treatment, we had one nurse at our weekly appointments that my son had a harder time with than the others. To her, it must have seemed he had a total inability to follow directions or answer questions. Looking her, or anyone, in the eye was out of the question. Months passed where she wasn’t on our rotation. When she walked into his exam room again, my son looked up and started talking to her. Non stop. That was the day I acknowledged the changes I saw were real. I saw the look on her face and all that I had thought was happening was confirmed. Every day I get signs of a new life and new attitude from him.
For as long as we have been asking him the question, my son has broken down in tears and sobbed uncontrollably when asked what he wants to be when he grows up. He tells me he wants to be a boy and live at home forever. He has sometimes asked out of the blue if there is any way he can just stay a boy or if he will have to grow up, with tear-filled eyes.
Today, my child volunteered that when he is 18 he will buy his own house and he will be a football and a baseball star. I will encourage him every step of the way. Do I think that is really what he wants or what he will do? No. I will never tell him that, though. I will put him in sports and cheer until I turn blue.
I get emotional thinking what must have been going through his little mind these last few years that kept him from thinking about his own future. Was he just so scared to leave my side that the prospect of growing up and not having me around and was too overwhelming? Or, the hardest thought of all, did he think he wouldn’t get a chance to grow up?
There is zero doubt in my mind what has given my little boy his confidence back. The thing that threatened to take his life at least once and scared the hell out of us a few more times, is giving him his life back. He is regularly consuming peanuts. His graduation date is on the calendar. His list of places to go and foods to eat when he has completed this treatment expands every day.
I don’t feel sad that I am “losing” my little boy. I am proud he is becoming independent and that he can finally see a bright future and all that lies ahead for himself.