In Loving Memory
As the saying goes, sometimes it's true that "The good die young." My mom and I, aside from my allergies, inherited a serious genetic mutation (BRCA1+) that can lead to genetic-related cancers, often aggressive and fatal. From the time I was a young child, she dealt bravely with breast cancer three times, malignant melanoma (a deadly form of skin cancer), lesser skin cancers, and, finally, non-smoker lung cancer triggered by the mutation and breast cancer radiation treatments thirty years prior.
When I was a little girl, my mom would tell me she couldn't wait until I grew up, so we could be friends. She and I eventually became the best of friends; our genetic conditions, surgeries, and more drew us even closer together in her final years.
When I was diagnosed with food allergies as a teen, just prior to a birthday, my mom felt her most important goal was to make me a birthday cake. This was one of her favorite food allergy stories. She used soy lecithin, thinking it looked like eggs. She said she loved watching it rise and seeing it look so beautiful in the oven. Well, after she removed it, she was left with a big glob of goop! Oops! What a mess! She eventually adapted a public domain "wacky cake," and one of her legacies today is that she has helped many children with allergies have an allergen-free birthday cake.
She worked tirelessly to come up with allergen-free recipes or modify recipes to feed me (her daughter) and her husband. Almost everything had to be made from scratch, so she spent a lot of time in the kitchen! Especially at Christmastime, when she and I would try to make a wide variety of allergen-free sweets.
Each mom with an allergic child has to be an advocate. I know my mom is the reason I got through high school. She argued against their unfair policy of failing students who had more than 15 absences (I had 16 absences in one class and was making an A in it, and my teacher thought the policy unfair, yet the school rules required failure!), picked up my homework, and helped, along with the allergist, convince my school to do more to help me. She also encouraged me during the many years it took me to get through college, taking zero to two courses per semester, as health permitted.
We started FAST together soon after my diagnosis as a teen. We were in our van talking--my brother was there, too--about making a newsletter for people with allergies. My brother said it should be called "Food Allergy Sufferers Together." Putting a positive spin on it, my mom said, "No! It should be 'survivors!'" She started the positive spin on FAST that others have often commented on. FAST started as a newsletter; at age 19, I put FAST online.
As seventeen years passed since it went online, she asked about the group members often, hoping she could help, and wanting to know about new members' circumstances. She felt everyone allergic to wheat or gluten should know about her flour substitute (1 part arrowroot to 1 part brown rice flour to 1 part white rice flour). One of her common questions when someone new joined was, "Have you told them about my flour substitute?"
Of course, there was much, much more to my mom than things involving food allergies, but I know these are the things that would matter most to FAST members.
A lot of times, people ask for monetary donations in honor of a loved one. I don't ask for that. If you were ever helped by FAST, you were helped by my mom. In return, I ask that, should you know someone with cancer, you be a loving and constant presence in his or her life, and the life of his or her family. Being someone who sticks by someone through the long haul is more gift than money can ever be. If you do that for someone else, you will truly be honoring my mom and her memory.
Here are links to some of the things my mom contributed to the Food Allergy Survivors Together website. She was also involved in the Food Allergy Survivors Together Cookbook (out-of-print) and Food Allergy Survivors Together Journal.
Allergen-Free Retro Recipes
Miracle White Bread:
Stuffing (for turkey):
Thanks for everything, Mom.