My allergist's office called. The results for my dairy component test are in, and they are low enough that they want to bring me for an oral challenge. "Can we book you in at East York hospital?" She said, as though it were the equivalent procedure to getting a cavity filled. Yes and I'd also like a heart transplant while we're at it, the old ticker has been rusty lately.
"How long will I be in there?" I asked, expecting her to say 3 days with an IV hookup and a private nurse. And all that for just the preparation. "About 2 hours", she replied. 2 hours seems an incredibly small amount of time to work out an issue I've been preparing for my whole life. She didn't seem to understand that.
"You see, I've gone nearly 3 decades without dairy so it's suddenly a big jump to think of consuming it." I whined. "Can you email me some more information?"
"Well you just think it over and let us know. We don't have email."
Now I was on to a new issue; who in this day and age in a developed area like Toronto, does not have email?
I told the secretary I'd have to think it over and call them back. I couldn't commit. People with anaphylactic food allergies often have to make difficult choices - should I skip an event, can I take a bite, is this anxiety or the real deal? But this one is beyond me.
You might be wondering what an oral challenge is. Despite what the name might suggest, it is not a spelling bee or a vocal range demonstration, and it's certainly nothing sexual. An oral challenge is when you sit in a hospital and slowly eat a serving of something you may or may not be severely, life-threateningly allergic to, while a doctor monitors you. It's about as much fun as it sounds. For me it would be one serving of milk, something that most Americans consume every morning without medical supervision or a high level of personal introspection.
6 years ago I went for a blood test for dairy and the results were supposedly low. I went for an oral challenge consultation with a different allergist who was a complete joker if you ask me. He told me I'd never pass and dismissed me. That after asking if I desired to do the challenge only so that I could eat a particular brand of cookie. He said this with a straight face, somehow. As though I would subject myself to mental anguish all so I could stuff my face with Oreos.
Previously we tried a baked milk skin test, which I failed. Earlier this year I went for a component blood test (where they test reactivity to the proteins and sugars individually) and the results were very low. I didn't believe it and didn't want to deal with the potentiality of what that meant, and went back again a couple weeks ago to get another blood test. If it were up to me, I'd regularly have my blood drawn so that a lab could test it for everything. I'm convinced I have a dormant illness of some kind. Mercury poisoning from one too many tins of tuna over the sink in university, or an appendix that's about to blow.
Now here I am, faced with this decision. I'm not the type of person to take these things lightly. In fact, I take them with extra drama. I mean, I'm also the type of person who uses the word "potentiality" with regularity. Do I go for the test and hope for the best? Do I allow myself to be, essentially, a guinea pig for the sake of food allergy research? Or do I stay in my safe little bubble and pretend this never happened?