Happy International Women’s Day! Since the first gathering in 1911 we’ve dedicated this day to celebrating women’s achievements and contributions to society. These historical women paved the way for us today, showing us how determination, persistence, and hope inspires change. We have so much to thank these women for, but I’d like to thank a smaller group who often goes unnoticed on this wonderful day: moms. While most might call Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt and Michelle Obama their hero to whom they look up to and aspire to become one day, I think of my mom. I’ve come to admire her more as an adult, especially after those terrible teenage years, and realized she was my fiercest protector growing up (and she still is). Likewise, Dr. Janice Joneja exemplifies this unmatchable power of moms out there. Her combined skills as a scientist and motherly instincts eventually led to her discovery of histamine intolerance due to her son’s continual misdiagnosis.
Before we begin, let’s travel back in time to the 1970’s on the day that Dr. Joneja’s son was born. His symptoms appeared at infancy, upon which he was diagnosed with severe asthma and his body camouflaged by eczema. Throughout his childhood, she noticed he negatively reacted to certain foods that left him shaking and scratching uncontrollably. When she raised her concerns about a “food allergy” to her son’s doctors, every single one immediately dismissed the idea, deeming her “neurotic” and “over-protective”. In spite of this, she continued consulting every expert that could possibly help her son as his symptoms continued to worsen and new ones surfaced. Much to her dismay, she lived in an era in which food allergies were dismissed as emotional stressors, and doctors believed patients dramatized their symptoms for attention. Even more, her expertise in food allergy and intolerance, did little to address the cause of her son’s allergic disease - a realization that left her feeling helpless as a mother and as a scientist. However, the “turning point” came when her son’s symptoms escalated into severe migraines almost daily, often leaving him bedridden for 24 hours and eventually hospitalized. Once again she insisted that it had to be food related, and once more his doctors rejected the idea. But instead of giving up, Dr. Joneja developed her own plan. Knowing that certain foods appeared to trigger his symptoms, she removed all meat, milk products, and citrus fruits from his diet. To her delight, his migraines disappeared immediately and his other symptoms improved. The outcome of her son’s challenging experience, as well as others in similar situations, revealed a scarcity in available resources and scientific research. This realization prompted her to pursue a deeper understanding of food allergies, noting that food should nurture the body, not be a cause of distress. Using this as her primary objective, she established a program called Vickerstaff Health Services Inc. which allows those with food sensitives to live with their problem while improving their health. With success, her work has allowed these patients to enjoy their life - and food - once again.
Dr. Joneja’s journey was not an easy one in the slightest. However, combining her skills as a scientist and as a mother allowed her to navigate the tricky maze that is food sensitivities. What we can gain to learn from her is that change does not always come easy, but it always helps to have someone on your side. In this case, moms are the best (and perhaps the most vicious) of protectors. With persistence, determination, and hope she inspired change not only for her son but for an entire group within our society. That said, I would like to say thank you to all of the moms all out there. You are truly the modern day superhero we all need.