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I am allergic to everything — eating rice, bread or mustard could kill me

Massachusetts resident Caroline Gray suffers from a rare chronic illness that makes her allergic to everything -- to the point that eating rice, bread or mustard could kill her.
Massachusetts resident Caroline Gray suffers from a rare chronic illness that makes her allergic to everything -- to the point that eating rice, bread or mustard could kill her.

Any meal could be her last supper if she isn’t careful.

A Massachusetts woman suffers from a rare chronic illness that makes her allergic to nearly everything — even eating everyday food like rice, bread or mustard could kill her.

“I am at the point where my diet is only EleCare (a brand of baby formula) and oatmeal,” Caroline Cray, 24, told South West News Service of her debilitating affliction and highly limited meal plan.

The Boston resident specifically suffers from mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), a rare immunological disorder in which a person experiences “repeated severe allergy symptoms affecting several body systems,” according to the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology.

“I don’t rule myself out of things’ though; I sit down and eat with my family every night,” said Cray. “I will go out for meals but I bring my own food, and I will go for nights out and take a water bottle.” Caroline Cray / SWNS
“I don’t rule myself out of things’ though; I sit down and eat with my family every night,” said Cray. “I will go out for meals but I bring my own food, and I will go for nights out and take a water bottle.” Caroline Cray / SWNS

The healthcare recruiter’s list of potential allergy triggers is a mile-long and includes fish, peanuts, sesame, kiwis and mustard — as well as black mold and cat or dog fur.

Eating the wrong thing could induce anaphylactic shock — a potentially deadly allergic reaction.

“It is really tough — you don’t think about food at all when you can eat normally,” lamented Cray, who has to bring her own meals and drinks whenever she dines out.

The New Englander first realized something was awry in September 2017 when she went into anaphylactic shock after eating ice cream and was hospitalized for 12 hours.

That same month, she suffered a string of attacks that were triggered by consuming pizza, bread, and rice and beans — with the latter combination landing her in intensive care for a shocking 12 days.

Despite her severe symptoms, doctors assumed that the reactions would only last a few months. They then put Cray on antihistamines and referred her to a specialist.

Cray says she’s been relegated to eating oatmeal and baby formula. Caroline Cray / SWNS
Cray says she’s been relegated to eating oatmeal and baby formula. Caroline Cray / SWNS

However, her affliction reared its ugly head yet again.

“It was really discouraging that a few months later I was really sick,” said Cray, whose life became like a game of allergen Russian roulette as she awaited the specialist’s verdict.

“Every day I was wondering if I was going to end up in the hospital. I had a really tight throat, and I was itchy and wheezing,” she said.

Cray has ended up in the hospital multiple times after suffering from anaphylactic shock. Caroline Cray / SWNS
Cray has ended up in the hospital multiple times after suffering from anaphylactic shock. Caroline Cray / SWNS

After 10 agonizing months, Cray was diagnosed with MCAS, which turned her life upside down.

“I was emotional, which was very surprising for me,” the distraught gal revealed, adding that her mother, Julia, 59, also was affected.. “I am a very cut and dry person, but me and my mum were both crying.”

Interestingly, Cray initially found it somewhat “validating” that she had a chronic illness — and therefore needed to be treated as such.

“It is really tough – you don’t think about food at all when you can eat normally,” said Cray. Caroline Cray / SWNS
“It is really tough – you don’t think about food at all when you can eat normally,” said Cray. Caroline Cray / SWNS

However, she was also distraught by the idea of having to “live with this the rest of my life,” she said.

Indeed, this illness has forced Cray to avoid the aforementioned items, relegating her to eating oatmeal and the amino-based baby formula as her three meals a day.

“My biggest trigger is the process of eating and digesting food,” she said. “I am currently meeting with my MCAS therapist to try trialing different foods.

“I will try single foods one by one, so if I have a reaction we know exactly what it is to,” she said.

Along with navigating the dietary minefield, Cray also adheres to a strict medication regimen, including Xolair allergy shots every 14 days, daily antihistamines and immune deficiency treatment Hizentra every seven days.

Despite those restrictions, Cray makes it a point to eat with her family every night and also regularly goes out with friends — as agonizing as that can be at times.

“The fact you’re not eating the same food in the restaurant is more noticeable, especially when I open my Tupperware,” she said.

However, Cray says she “doesn’t mind” abstaining from boozing as “not everyone drinks or cares that you’re not drinking.”

“When I go on nights out, I am always the designated driver,” she joked. “I can fill people in on what has happened the night before.”