Nascar Bullies Those with Celiac & Food Allergies

In my last blog post I wrote about how I once had a stranger say that in the past, food allergies would have been called natural selection: implying that my son was weak somehow and the world should just let him die sooner because he is flawed. Food allergic people run into this a lot, where people feel it is a horrible inconvenience and unfair to them that they have to sacrifice what they want to eat in their school or place of work. But, I had hoped that this sort of bullying was dissipating; that people were starting to see how serious food allergies can really be, starting to see that it really is a community problem that we need to tackle head on.

I guess I am wrong, because a soon to be released Nascar Super Bowl ad says, “When our idea of danger is gluten, there’s trouble afoot. Yes, we the people have gotten soft.”

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Though I can see the larger “joke,” this is why I have never liked sarcastic, slap-stick humor. I don’t see how making fun of people who live with real challenges just because they are different is funny. This is the very definition of bullying, trying to reap some form of personal gain (e.g., inflated sense of self-worth or popularity) by publicly making fun of or taunting others who are perceived as weaker for some reason.

Just as with kids who are bullied, the truth usually is that those being bullied are really the stronger and kinder human beings. The same holds true here. My kids suffer from multiple foood allergies, some life threatening. They have to learn every day how to be strong enough to be OK with who they are even though those around them see the challenges they live with daily as an inconvenience, a lie, or something to be afraid of. They have to figure out how to NOT define themselves by what they can and cannot eat, even though many of those around them do so constantly. They have to figure out how to live with the knowledge that food could kill them, when kids are supposed to grow up feeling invincible. The fact that they’ve figured all that out and are still successful makes them some of the strongest people I know.

And the fact that whomever wrote that ad, and Nascar execs who approved that ad felt they needed to disparage an entire community in an effort to make a “catchy” and “edgy” ad that will incite a large amount of attention makes them some of the weakest people I’m glad I don’t know.

This world needs far more compassion and empathy and far less sarcasm and apathy.

I will end my soap box rant now.

If you agree and wish to share your disapproval, a petition to have Nascar pull the ad is here.

If you need to see it in order to decide for yourself, the link to the ad is here.

“Mom, I hate my allergies!”

Yesterday was a rare day in our household. It was a day where my husband and I allowed ourselves to wallow over how unfair it is that our son has to live with sever allergies and a hyperactive immune system. We have been managing his health so well for the past 6 years that we haven’t really had anything challenge us enough to bring us back to that place where we find ourselves thinking, “Why did it have to be our child?” But we returned to that place for a while yesterday.

Our son is an amazing, highly intelligent preteen who wants to grow up to be a scientist. He is quite shy, loves to learn, and loves to ski. He was so nervous to go to junior high this year that he was begging not to go, but then he LOVED it. All of it. He loved his teachers, the kids, the interaction, the increased independence. We saw him starting to be a bit less shy, starting to make new friends, starting to interact more with his peers and seem a bit more confident. We were so thankful and happy that he was finally getting past the less than stellar aspects of his childhood that taught him far too early that his life wasn’t guaranteed, that health is fought for, that constantly watching for potential danger is a must.

Then, about a month after he started at the school the little sirens in our guts were warning us that we were in for another unwelcome ride. In all honesty, I had an inkling when we visited the school for orientation, but I didn’t want it to be true. Since our home is a clean air bubble, I am far more sensitive to things that don’t belong in the air, and I thought I noticed the faint scent of potential problems. We had been through this before, during a time where we were less aware of how our son’s health was directly connected to his environment and the things in it, during a time where we were blissfully ignorant but he was severely ill. This is no longer that time.

In this place and time, we are painfully aware and he has been blissfully healthy: until this fall. Since September he has been slowly but consistently reverting back to the very sick child he was when he was almost two. That toddler child was unable to walk more than a few steps without his legs hurting, unable to breathe very well without medication, unable to eat without feeling sick, unable to be hugged because his skin hurt him so badly, unable to tolerate clothes or textures because his nerves were so hypersensitive, unable to fight off infections or stay off antibiotics long enough for us to replenish his system with probiotics. We had celebrated when those challenges were finally eradicated, and over the last couple months, we’ve been watching them slowly come back.

It started with the constant runny noses, slight headaches, rashes, and what we call ‘fuzzy brain.’ That moved into constant sinus issues and us helping his body fight off the infections using as many of our natural methods as possible. Then the stomach aches and general loss of energy along with sore muscles. By this point, it was obvious that there was some sort of allergen in the school, and it was slowly building up in our son’s system. He is VERY allergic and sensitive to molds, much more so than even most mold-allergic people. So much so, that his system starts to go haywire, his immune system weakens from the constant exposure, and then nothing is stable. He reacts worse to his other food and environmental allergens as well. That is the our best guess as to the allergen culprit.

We started talking about removing him from the school during first quarter, when it was just sinuses and some other lesser warning signs; but none of us wanted to take him out. He was thriving educationally and growing socially. The last thing we wanted to do was pull him. So, we saw his allergy and immunology specialist. She very bluntly told us we had only two options. The first: put him back on the allergy shots that somewhat block the mold reactions, but worsen some of his other issues (again, taxes his system and can make his reactions more severe). The second: pull him out of the school. Since the shots increase his risk of life-threatening reactions to his food allergens and don’t even really start working until he is on them for 3-6 months, we all decided the best option was to switch to cyber school. With cyber school, it is best to switch at the end of a quarter or semester. Otherwise he has to make up all quarter work he has missed.

As we waited for second quarter to end, he got worse. His leg muscles have been weak and he has felt overall weak (even before the infection) and he has found it difficult to fully enjoy his ski team, which is usually the highlight of his young life. We lost our battle with the infections and he had to be treated for a sinus infection and bronchitis…but the antibiotics have not worked so far. His sensory issues returned and he forced me to cut all his tags out of his shirts again (I hadn’t had to do that for years). He has this vocal tick that has returned as well.

Yesterday I went to sign the withdrawal form and pick him up from his last day of school in that building. I wasn’t expecting to get emotional, but I did start tearing up. I just resent that I have to remove him from a normal school experience when clean air should be a priority…especially in our schools. A very nice lady there asked me why I wasn’t speaking up, why I wasn’t forcing the district to do something about the air quality. I know many of you will judge since that always happens when you put something like this out there, but our journey has been long. We had to pull our son from a school for these same reasons before, and that time we did speak up and try to help the others in the school. We told the principal. We asked permission to pay for air testing ourselves. We shared with other parents since, even though their children were not as highly sensitized to it as our son, it is logical to think it is still not healthy for them either. What we received in return was:

  • Defensiveness from the school and a complete refusal to let us test the air. I am sure it was because if we found molds they would have to come up with the money to clean it, plus calm parents’ concerns, and potentially lose students. I understand the logistical challenges, but was saddened that money was more important than the potential health of the students.
  • Skepticism from one group of parents who thought we were just members of one of those tree-hugging, conspiracy-theorizing, witch-crafting groups that make mountains out of molehills and try and brainwash people into believing that what we put on and in our bodies/environment has an impact on our health, and that organizations exist who want people to believe it isn’t true. In hindsight, I guess I am a member of that group now, but back then I still didn’t completely grasp the concept, I was just trying to keep my son healthy.
  • More anger from another group of parents who felt we were stirring unnecessary trouble and risking the future of the school they loved.
  • Even more anger from another group of parents who didn’t want to have to pay for any kind of air cleanup since molds are a fact of life and their kids were ‘fine.’ Colds and infections are a normal part of life, so why should their tuition or taxes increase just because my son is ‘flawed’ and cannot handle it. Yes, a very nice gentleman actually said that to me. He even suggested that in the olden days, that was called survival of the fittest. Ouch.

So, I am tired of fighting those types of fights. It is hard enough fighting the ones I have to fight right here at home. Right now, my energy needs to be focused on supporting my son as he tries to figure out cyber school, and in finding him other social opportunities for peer interaction. When I picked him up from school yesterday, he said to me, “Mom, I told Josh this morning that I hate my allergies.”

Maybe tomorrow we will remember that in many ways our allergies have been a blessing; how we are all much healthier thanks to not being able to eat most junk foods and having to learn how to cook with real, whole foods; how we have been able to pay it forward and help many others who found themselves in the overwhelming position of that initial diagnosis. But right then, all I could say was, “I know, buddy. Right now, I do too.”


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Disclaimer: I am not a Physician. I am a wife, a mom, a certified health coach, and someone who loves learning about natural wellness tools and sharing with others the incredible things I learn through my classes, research, personal experiences, and the experiences of friends and family. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. Rather, they are intended to support your body in its efforts to restore balance and maintain health.