A Year Without Bananas, It Was… Bananas
I was known amongst my Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis friends for my love, passion if you will, of bananas. I would post all the different ways one can enjoy bananas. When I saw Bubba Gump recite all the ways you can make shrimp — this was how I felt about bananas.
I still do.
You can add them to dry cereal, you can freeze them and blend to taste like ice cream or blend them into smoothies, or cook them down to make a hot pudding. My favorite recipe back then was frying them in a pan with coconut oil, honey, and adding some spices.
Honestly, I can keep going.
The day they took the bananas away
The day bananas were taken away from me was crushing and awful, and scary. Not because of the lack of bananas, it was the process that lead up to that entire ordeal.
The day started out like any other infusion day. When I arrived at the infusion center, I checked in and waited for them to call my name. A new-to-me nurse was in the back with my usual infusion center nurse. I had been having small allergic reactions during these infusions, but we managed them via antihistamines. I braced myself for having to explain this all to someone new.
Nothing was moving on schedule
The usual routine was to pre-medicate with an antihistamine, steroid and pain reliever prior to the start of the infused anti-TNF medication. Another dose of antihistamine was administered when appeared.
It had been over an hour since my mom dropped me off at the center, and we hadn’t even started the infusion yet. My mom asked them to bring me a smoothie she had picked up while running errands. It was a classic smoothie with strawberry, yogurt, and bananas. By the time infusion day would roll around, nothing would stay in my body for long. Also, the IV usually would make me vomit. So, a smoothie's cool creamy texture was a welcome feeling to my raw throat and an empty belly.
Shortly after starting the IV, things went sideways. Like clockwork, hives appeared. I notified the new-to-me nurse and asked her to get the center’s nurse practitioner. A new round of IV antihistamine was administered and the medication drip was turned back on. I resumed smoothie consumption while fighting the sleep-like blanket the IV antihistamine floats through your body while talking to my infusion neighbor. She was there for the same med.
Something was not right
It wasn’t long after the drip had restarted that I began to feel funny. I mentioned it to my neighbor. A few minutes later, I felt my head bobble and eyes shut, while mid-sentence with her. My blood pressure had dropped. My mouth began to itch and tingle, while the back of my throat suddenly felt closed off. It was scary and bizarre. I rang for help and began to cough to help get my blood pressure back up. This was the start of anaphylaxis. I was trained on what to expect and prepared for this moment, or so I thought I was.
Nausea began to set in, and I pointed to my throat and the IV, as the nurse hovered. The hives were back, too. They stopped the drip and administered another dose of antihistamine. Thankfully, I responded without needing epinephrine.
It was the bananas- it was not the bananas
And then it happened. The new-to-me-nurse planted the seed. It was an evil little seed.
“What is in that smoothie?” she demanded.
I told her it was strawberries and bananas.
“Oh, I used latex gloves on you, too. It’s probably the bananas.”
Wait, what? Bananas?! I eat them all the time!
“Well, people can develop allergies to anything.”
That experience turned out to be my last infusion of that medication. If you guessed that I was allergic to the medication, you would be correct.
I experienced anaphylactic symptoms for a few weeks afterward, along with severe anxiety whenever food went near my mouth hole. I would eat something and couldn’t tell if I was having an anxiety attack or anaphylaxis. To this day, I struggle with anxiety over new medication.
I fought for my right to eat bananas again
Every time I attempted to eat a banana, plantain, or avocado, I found myself reaching for the Benadryl. It took a little over a year before I was brave enough to eat a banana in its entirety without Benadryl being involved, but I did it. I had Epi-Pens and Benadryl nearby, as well as my allergy test results to show my brain that I was not allergic to bananas. Any time my throat would begin to tingle, I recite a list: allergy test results, accidentally eating avocados and surviving, plantains, gloves.
A day later, I did it all over again.
I don’t know why that new-to-me nurse blamed bananas. Maybe she dislikes them?
What I do know is that bananas are a really delicious and versatile food that those of us with IBD can enjoy and not feel like it is a consolation prize.
Have you had someone plant a fear of food in your ear?
Does exercising regularly help in the management of your symptoms?