(Our peanut allergy research journey. May 20)
His story is about so much more than peanut allergy and our escape from it. He’s a Warrior. And there’s a story about that.
My husband and I are Warriors, too. We graduated together, married and had children, but he and I didn’t get married until twenty-four years after we met. We blended our tribe of his and hers and then we added this little warrior.
I started working at Lamar School District when Coleman was in first grade. By a simple roll of logistical and locational dice, he had been enrolled in a different district when he started school. And his journey began… friends, nerf wars, playground shenanigans, ABC’s and 123’s. It was a seamless adventure of childhood school days until we hit a wall. Half way through his fourth grade year, we made a difficult choice to transfer him from the school that he had been familiar with since kindergarten to our own Alma Mater. He did not want to go. I will never forget the torturous begging and screaming and crying when we sat him at the table and told him what we had decided. We did our best to make promises to keep his friends, to heal his broken spirit, and to restore his lost confidence.
It was just before Christmas Break so we took him to Lamar to meet his new teachers and see his classrooms. They each graciously stood with him for a picture. We spent the holiday looking at the pictures and building excitement for his first day as a Lamar Warrior. As we had anticipated, Coleman and Lamar were a perfect fit. He adjusted quickly and enthusiastically.
A couple of weeks into his Spring semester, we were at Walmart and he saw a Lamar Warriors blanket. His eyes lit up when he asked if he could have it. I had cash out before he could get it off the shelf. He had embraced the Warrior within and I had been validated that the trauma brought triumph. A few months later, I was lovingly presented with an identical blanket for Mother’s Day.
Coleman’s reputation for comic relief preceded him… my coworkers heard a daily dose of “you won’t believe what my kid has done now”. When he became a Warrior, they became believers.
… A sixth grade teacher once told me that if that boy walked any slower, he’d move backwards. Yep!
… The principal and I got our daily laugh watching the video cameras while Coleman meandered down to the high school in his zig-zag pattern, staring into space.
… The face and sounds he made when he took to playing the trumpet were indescribable, and the laughter was unrecoverable.
All to say, it wasn’t long before this little warrior was part of the tribe. And the tribe had this boy’s back. It’s not easy being the kid with a food allergy. Warning posters in the classroom, a designated table in the cafeteria, epi-pens always within reach. But his friends and our faculty couldn’t have been more caring, and alert, and protective of their new warrior. Coleman and Lamar were a perfect fit.
Fast forward four years. Just after Christmas Break we received the call that led to this life changing experience. There were hiccups. Hopes rose and were crushed and dangled before me again. It was something I couldn’t dare put my son through until I had certainty. So I turned to my friends… because we aren’t simply co-workers: we are family, we are a tribe. I sobbed, they comforted. I worried, they calmed. I hoped, they encouraged. I rejoiced, they cheered.
It looked a lot like this…
~ I just got a call that could lead to Coleman no longer being in danger of having a life threatening reaction to peanuts!!
“THAT’S AMAZING!!! He’ll be part of history!”
~ I just got a call that it won’t work out for us after all.
“Another child needs it more. He will be ok. You’ll be ok. I can’t imagine your pain,”
~ They called to say they’re still considering him!
“It’s meant to be. This will happen. I know you don’t want to get your hopes up but we will.”
~ He’s in! He’s scheduled for the screening!
“We knew it! When can we tell him?!!”
If there is a Co-Captain for Team Coleman, it is our school nurse. It was flu season when we received the 31 page consent document and I sheepishly laid it on her desk and asked her to just please glance through it if she had time and no worries if she can’t get to it and oh dang I’m sorry I asked… it sure smells like germX in here.
She came to me later to say that she really didn’t have time to read it but once she started, she couldn’t put it down. And she couldn’t stop smiling. So when the time came to tell Coleman, it seemed natural to do it in the nurse’s office.
I sat him down and told him the news and I said, “This is your choice. If you do this, it will make you sick. It will put you in danger. It will take a long time: two years. You won’t be able to stop. You will have to talk to us about how you feel ALL THE TIME. You can’t keep any secrets. If you don’t want to tell me, tell the nurse. But when it’s over, you will not have to worry about peanuts hurting you anymore. And you will have helped many other people.”
The first question he asked was….
“Can I still be on the football team?”
…”Yes. We’ve already talked to the coaches and they said whatever needs to be done will be done.”
After all, they’re Warriors.
We explained he’d miss a lot of school but all of our teachers are so excited to have a student who is helping make history, helping change the world for people who suffer with peanut allergy. They will help you stay caught up.
After all, they’re Warriors
I was trying not to cry, and succeeding… until I looked up and saw a cluster of my tribe crowded around the nurse’s door grinning and fist pumping. I told him to look at the door and I said, “This school is your team. They all want this for you and they will help you every step of the way. This is your tribe: Team Coleman.”
After all, they’re Warriors.
There was a three month wait from that day until the first screening. Three months of anxiety, denial, hiding my anxiety, trying to calm down my enthusiasm, trying not to get my hopes up, trying not to count the months/weeks/days. Three months of my tribe listening to me go on and on and on. Three months that they empathized, encouraged, endured.
After all, they’re Warriors.
Today we had our third and “officially” final screening (three more appointments before we start treatments). It was incredibly serene knowing that this one would be a breeze compared to what we’ve done already. I actually was looking forward to a long day of being alone with my boy and not worrying. So it was with a welcome and long awaited peace early this morning that we sleepily shuffled toward the door to make the ninety minute drive to the appointment.
…and Coleman stopped and asked, “Where is my Warrior blanket?”.
“It’s in the dryer… I’ll get it.”
And I grabbed mine, too.
After all, we’re Warriors.