In the age of food allergies, Sandra Beasley’s Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from An Allergic Life is a fascinating read for those of us who cannot imagine living with such food restrictions. Beasley tells her life story of dealing with severe food allergies and how she has learned to adapt her life around her extreme food sensitivities. Her food allergies are so severe that she rejected her mother’s breast milk as an infant. Over many years, doctors were able to determine that she is allergic to dairy (including goat’s milk), egg, soy, beef, shrimp, pine nuts, cucumbers, cantaloupe, honeydew, mango, macadamias, pistachios, cashews, swordfish and mustard; she is also allergic to mold, dust, grass, tree pollen, cigarette smoke, dogs, rabbits, horses, and wool. (Can you imagine?) However, the discovery of her allergies also involved countless anaphylactic shock episodes and trips to the emergency room before the correct offender could be identified.
Throughout the book, Beasley recounts stories of her childhood and also gives the reader a plethora of information about allergies, how and why the body reacts to certain foods, and some modern research that is being done for food allergies. (She even mentioned some research being done on a Chinese herbal formula that may help reduce the symptoms of food allergies!) Beasley also offers the reader an insider’s view on how living with food allergies can cause isolation and leaving people feel as though they are the “odd man out”. As the reader, we get to see how someone with such lifestyle restrictions finds different ways to survive (and thrive!) in today’s world. This idea made me think about people who struggle with lifestyle changes. I think how difficult it can be for people to give up or add certain foods to their diet. After reading this book, certain struggles (specifically struggles with food) have a new understanding and are put into a new perspective. Beasley also describes how difficult it is for parents to empathize with their food-sensitive children, which can lead to more feelings of insecurities for children. Beasley’s book is well written and full of interesting anecdotes and information about living with food allergies. An absolute must read for anyone with a loved one who deals with food allergies.