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Determination and Overcoming

Donning the Jacket

Tonya B. | Nutrition Counselor, Mother of 2

Actual Eczema Sufferer

Until recently, I didn’t realize how many ways my atopic dermatitis has affected my life. I always blamed the trajectory of my life on external circumstances that had nothing to do with my skin. I had to really stop and think about my career and how, due to my atopic dermatitis, I had to modify it from my original dream of being a chef.

I learned early that a lot of what goes on in the kitchen aggravates my atopic dermatitis and causes flares: the juices from cutting tomatoes, onions, lemons, etc, and the constant hand washing. Still, from the first moment I put on the chef’s jacket, I knew I wanted to be involved in the culinary field. Every time I put on the jacket, it brings on that feeling of fulfilling my dream; however, it wasn’t until I went back to school to get my master’s in nutrition that I was able to realize my dream, just in a different way.

While I was at undergrad, I looked at the career options open to me with a master’s in nutrition. One of the options offered me the opportunity to teach at a culinary school. It was exciting to know that if I couldn’t reach my dream of being a chef, I could still work in the culinary field. So I researched it for a little while and evaluated my options. Since I would potentially be making a pretty big career change, I used my family and friends as a sounding board, talking out what I was thinking and how I arrived at that decision. Everybody was excited that my involvement in the culinary field was still a possibility.

Having the support and validation from everyone I spoke with added to my excitement, but I couldn’t help being nervous. I was nervous that maybe I wouldn’t be satisfied with this decision, that I would still feel that void. And at the same time, I was concerned about bringing that kind of stress upon myself—grad school can be pretty stressful, after all. But ultimately, the prospect of being involved with a culinary program was too exciting to pass up.

I am reminded that I’ve been able to modify my dream to accommodate my eczema. I just have not given up on that dream.

It’s hard to explain what it feels like to put the chef’s jacket on. Each time I take the jacket, I am reminded of what could have been but wasn’t. But every time I put it back on, I am reminded that I’ve been able to modify my dream to accommodate my eczema. I just have not given up on that dream. I’ve found ways to be in the kitchen and cooking.

When I put on the jacket, I’m watching my dream develop and take form. And you can, too.

Caregiver and patient stories reflect personal stories. Individual experiences may vary.