BLOG: Seven Year Itch; by Sara and Maddy

There are over 50 OIT family blogs published in our Research & Learn library. They contain the journey of that family in OIT–some are in clinical trials, and others are in private practice with board-certified allergists. All the blogs are fascinating to read, full of wisdom and knowledge unique to that family’s journey.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Maddy Uninterrupted

Years ago, I could not wait for the days I could sign Madeline up for overnight camp. When I was a teenager, I had worked at a brilliant YMCA camp and loved being a cabin counselor – singing camp songs, acting out ridiculous skits, playing all-camp games, bonding with campers and other counselors, and best of all – challenging myself and my campers to beat personal goals. Camp was a place that helped me find myself as a young person and I hoped it would be there for Maddy as she grew up, too.

My hopes were dashed last summer, though, when I was looking at camp for the first time. Not only was I too freaked out to send her because of her peanut allergy, but the camps in our area were simply not like the camp I worked at in the past. They could not compare to my camp and my camp was just not going to happen between her food allergy, her age at the time, and our location.

Enter OIT.

There is no secret about why we choose OIT. It is evident in my blogs and on Maddy’s Seven Year Itch Facebook page – OIT was the best choice for this family in order for Madeline to lead a happier, healthier, and safer life. As you all may know, peanut desensitization allowed Maddy to keep living her life without interruption. I believe that if we had continued on last summer without OIT, Maddy’s confidence may have become shaken. A young child’s social and family life is key in how they grow up – their influences and their beliefs about their abilities shape the future of their self-confidence. I see it every day in my profession as kids learn and grow, their self-confidence changes the way they perform in and out of the classroom and that transfers to the big world.  The last thing we wanted to have happen was for Maddy to live life scared – all from a little-bitty peanut!

So this year, with OIT under our belt, a whole year no less, I signed her up for camp. My camp. And I could not have been more excited!

I was especially excited for Madeline to go to camp because as her days to go drew near, I received a call from an old friend. A special alumni week was being planned and I was invited to go with her. They had me at ‘Hello!’

In the 18 years since I had worked there, the camp had changed a little bit, but for the most part, much has stayed the same. Many of the same wonderful camp traditions – songs, skits, & ceremonies – have remained. Not only does Camp Algonquin push kids to try new things, it challenges them to work as a team, take some personal risks, and develop special relationships with each other and embrace their independence  – all within five days’ time and while having a ton of regular ol’ camp fun  – swimming, tenting, zip-lining, hiking, canoeing and more. The place is amazing!

I chose to stay just a few nights with a few other alum that I hadn’t seen in way too long – and let Madeline have the nights in between all to herself. I wanted her to have the true camp experience without me – to bond, to take risks, to challenge herself without me in the way. And boy did she ever.

It was exciting to get reports about her and unbelievable to see her push herself in the way only camp can make happen. While I was not there, a friend sent me texts, pics, and video, but the smile on Maddy’s face told me much more.  She had an opportunity to do two very cool obstacles – a high adventure ropes course and a climbing wall that were her absolute favorites. Each are at least 30 feet up, require children to be harnessed, and have special, specific safety rules for climbing. Each necessitate kids to utilize high energy, high patience, and to take some safe risks that may seem very scary, especially to eight-year-olds. Madeline challenged herself on each of these obstacles – she was excited to try them and when she came to a difficult part, the steps she took to continue on, were impressive. With each, she never quit – she made each of her goals – to the top of the climbing wall and through each of her obstacles on the ropes course that she had wanted.

I was proud of her, of course. I was excited about what she was able to experience there as well, but the coolest thing for me was when a friend of mine told me her account of watching Maddy.

“Maddy did awesome! She made it all the way to the top of the wall. It was so cool to watch her. Like a metaphor for her life, ya know – at her age all these obstacles she’s had and here she is moving right to the top, ya know?” Lisa said this to me and I was nearly moved to tears, not because I missed watching her do it but because really I had been there with her every step of the way through those obstacles, and this was a person that I had just reconnected with, had only seen our lives through FB and my retelling it recently, not lived it with us. And our lives had been tough lately.

Lisa was absolute right. Later in the week, I had an opportunity to watch Maddy on the wall and the ropes when her cabin headed up on each again. I watched her maneuver and manipulate when one path didn’t work on the climbing wall and when she got stuck on a new and very difficult obstacle on the ropes course, my girl did not give up, even though it almost brought her to tears.

I hid tears myself, as I thought of her young life and, like Lisa said, the unique obstacles she’s had – her food allergy, the peanut desensitization program, and her father’s cancer. We’re raising a fighter. We’re raising a child that doesn’t give up, who literally looks for a new path when one doesn’t work, a child that when faced with the choice of quitting or moving on is disappointed with the idea of failing – she won’t quit, won’t fail. If Maddy knows it is possible, she will make it happen. Madeline would not have given up on those obstacles, just like she would not let food allergies rule her life, or she won’t give on OIT even if she despises the taste of peanuts!
My daughter is amazing. She is a little fighter, yet compassionate and strong . She is a survivor. Camp is a great place for her to realize the potential she has inside herself and I am so glad it will be there for her like it always has been for me. She’s been singing camp songs ever since she came home, so get ready Camp Algonquin, she’ll be back!


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