SLOANE MILLER: What are your allergies?
RF: Yes and prednisone as well.
SM: We're like twins! I have the same medications in my purse and I always carry them with me. At what point in your life did you realize you had these allergies?
RF: As a child, I had asthma and eczema. In those days, they used to treat asthma by having the patient inhale a burned powder substance like Moxa (a substance used in Chinese herbal medicine). Also, when I was a child I would get blisters on my mouth, but we didn't think much about it. I was the only one in my family with asthma or eczema and no one thought about allergies or anaphylaxis.
When I was in college I lived in India for a year on an exchange program. And again I would get blisters on my mouth when I ate certain foods, but they would go away eventually so I didn't look into it.
I had my first allergy test in London. I had sought some treatment for my asthma, and peanuts were on the list to avoid, but I had no big episodes until my 30s.
Then, at 31, when I was already a professional writer, I was traveling to Miami, by mistake I ate something that had peanuts in it. My lips swelled up but I had to get to my destination. So, I boarded my flight and sucked on ice cubes until we landed. After that experience I went to see a doctor to get a full diagnosis.
SM: That's sounds very scary. Have you had other experiences like this?
RF: Once on a domestic flight, I had pre-ordered the peanut-free meal. However, the moment I took my first bite I realized something was wrong: it had peanuts in it. I immediately drank some liquid Benedryl and injected my thigh with the Epi-Pen. I informed the airline stewardess of the situation and luckily didn't feel the need to ask them to land the plane. We landed and I went home, self-medicated and rested and it went away. However, over the last 30 years, I've had about 12-15 Emergency Room experiences related to my allergies.
SM: If this was me, and I had just one of those experiences, I'd never want to leave the safety of home again. How do you do it?
RF: It probably helped that these severe reactions to peanuts didn't happen until I was already an adult in my 30s. I already knew what I wanted to do in my life, which was travel and write. I wasn't going to let anything stop me, not even a life threatening allergy. I love what I do; I love seeing what's around the next corner.