Even though Samantha Pecoraro can eat barely anything, she is passionate about cooking. The 15-year-old from Cape Coral, Florida, has a condition called eosinophilic esophagitis, an autoimmune disease that causes the vast majority of foods to make her extremely sick.
But despite her diagnosis, she dreams of becoming a professional chef. According to ABCNews.com, Pecoraro begins most days with a 7 a.m. culinary class. A self-labeled "blind chef," she focuses on presentation and takes photos of her meals for her culinary portfolio. Recently, she's made escargot and crême brulée.
"I miss mac and cheese and chicken fingers and salads and broccoli," she told ABCNews.com. But if she indulged in any of these foods, she says, "I would have extreme vomiting, nausea and diarrhea, and I would be extremely tired and my throat would hurt."
Eosinophilic esophagitis is rare: It only affects 1 in 1,000 people, according to CURED, a research foundation Pecoraro supports that is dedicated to the disease. After years of dealing with vomiting and pain, Pecoraro had surgery to insert a gastric feeding tube into her stomach, where she gets most of her nutrition. She can now eat plain white potatoes, which her body is able to handle without getting sick.
Another teenager who is pursuing his dreams despite a life-changing autoimmune disease is 13-year-old Landon Light, who has just become a competitive swimmer on his school's team even though he is paralyzed from the chest down.
Nikki Ripp, Light's coach, told CBS Local, "At the first meet, I cried. I think everybody in the stands was absolutely blown away."
And, in a different case of a life-threatening and rare food allergy, 14-year-old Lauren Robinson from Colorado has a dairy allergy so severe that being near anyone who has recently consumed it could kill her. But that doesn't stop her from going to school and even finding love -- she has a robot attend classes for her, and her boyfriend brushes his teeth, washes his hands, and showers before seeing her.
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