More stories about life with asthma and allergies!

It’s been a busy few weeks with multiple oral food allergy challenges and preparing to attend Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (CSACI) conference in Vancouver next week, however I wanted to share with all my readers a few longer posts and stories or essays I have written about life with asthma and allergies. I’ve created a new page for these, so they don’t get lost in the my blog. The first two I have shared are titled: “Life with Asthma – The Never Ending Game of Chess” and “When thinking positively makes all the difference”

Check out the stories by visiting Longer posts and stories


Sea otter named Mishka has asthma just like us

Credit: Seattle Aquarium/ Twitter

Mishka is the first sea otter in the world to have been diagnosed with asthma. Mishka is in Seattle and has to take an inhaler just like those of us with asthma do. You’ll want to watch this video of them training her to use her inhaler (Flovent) and hear more about Mishka and her asthma. More research will have to be done to look at environmental factors and impacts on asthma to see how changes in the environment affects everyone, not only humans.

Milestones’ extraordinary care and attention to food allergies allows me to eat out without worry

Last night we finished work and decided we were going to go out for dinner. Now, with severe food allergies I’ve always recommended calling the restaurant ahead of time, when you make your reservation. Last night we went to a restaurant we trust; Milestones. We went to the Victoria, British Columbia location.

We have been to Milestones in Victoria a few times now and have also been to several different locations in Ottawa, Vancouver and Toronto. I feel very safe at Milestones, even with my long list of allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, soy, legumes (beans and peas) as well as gluten and dairy intolerances. Being a chain restaurant, with numerous locations across Canada, they need to have policies in place to ensure that people can eat safely and trust the restaurant. Every time I have eaten at Milestones, I am always so grateful that every staff member genuinely cares and understands that my order, and by consequence, my meal is prepared with utmost care and attention to avoid any cross-contamination. They check-in several times to make sure I am ok, that the meal is to my expectations and that I know that they have taken every possible step they can to make my meal as safe as it can be.

Last night was no exception to that rule; as our waiter, Kyle W. took very good care of me to make sure I would have a safe dinner out. He checked in numerous times to make sure everything was ok and I was not having any reactions or worries about my food. He genuinely cared and wanted to be sur we had a nice evening out, without incident.

I had one of the two meals I always have, because it is delicious and I know it is safe and easy to make safely. When eating out, what I have learned over the years is that simpler is safer. When you have allergies and are eating out, keep it simple. With my allergies, I always keep it to meat and veggies. At Milestones, I keep dinner to either steak, baked potatoes and vegetables, or a nice salad with salmon, avocado, strawberries. On my salad I keep it simple; balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

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Dinner was delicious and it meant I didnt have to cook. I don’t eat out very often, however when I do, it is to have a nice evening with friends and family, and not have to cook. Yes I want tasty food, but I always keep it simple, because I like seeing exactly what I am eating. Knowing every ingredient in my meal. It means that I can eat without any stress. Milestones has always gone out of their way to bring me a well balance meal. When I am hungry, I’ll get a baked potato on the side of my salad and that is enough for me.

When looking to eat out, the first restaurant I will look up is Milestones, because I know without a doubt in my mind that they will go above and beyond to make me a safe meal.

Have you ever been to Milestones restaurants? Which locations have you been to? What was your experience like and would you recommend Milestones for others with severe food allergies?

From allergic to not: The many emotions around an oral food challenge


It’s been quite some time since my last post. I have been meaning to post, however summer is always the busiest time of year for me as Director of Youth Programs and Head Coach for all youth camps and sessions here in Victoria, British Columbia!

After being severly allergic to almonds and at risk for anaphylaxis the majority of my 26 years of life, the blood work and numerous prick tests for almonds my allergist did over the last few weeks came back negative. My allergist said it was time to do a oral food challenge to see if in fact I was no longer allergic to almonds. My almond challenge was last week. My last series of oral food challenges, done at the hospital under supervision of my allergist and a medical team was almost 10 years ago. After such a long time of no challenges I wasn’t sure what to think or feel leading up to this challenge!

Not sure what an oral food challenge is? Click here

A few weeks before my challenge at my allergist appointment I made sure to confirm if there was anything I should do leading up to the challenge. Specifically with antihistamines or other medications.

The day before my almond challenge I was thinking how being able to eat almonds would mean I would finally have another easy source of protein. I was also thinking that there was a chance that I would react. For that matter, I didn’t want to get my hopes too high so I wouldn’t be so let down if I did not pass. Instead of being too fearful, I told myself that it was important for me to go into the challenge well rested and not stressed. As acupuncture really helps me relax and de-stress, I had acupuncture the day before my challenge. I went to bed early the night before, so I could get a good night’s sleep in.

The morning of my challenge I headed to the grocery store an hour before my challenge to buy some almond butter and almond milk. I must say, it was really weird buying something I hadn’t eaten in years, especially something that had sent me to the ER a few years back! I knew my allergist had taken every precaution possible with numerous prick tests, blood tests and I knew I could not be at a safer place to do my challenge. I held my head up high and purchased my almond products with a smile on my face. My hope was that I would be back for more. For me, being mentally prepared is so critical. My backround in competitive sports has proven to me how beneficial it is to be prepared mentally; especially in reducing any anxiety one might have.

Challenge time. I walked into my allergist’s office with a smile and ready for the challenge. I knew I had done everything I was supposed to leading up to the challenge and felt safe at my allergist’s office. If I was going to react, I knew I had my 2 epinepherine auto-injectors at the ready, and they had multiple doses on site as well. I was the most ready I could be mentally and physically. They did a prick test with the almond butter and almond milk. Neither reacted.

The first dose went down fine. As I had never had almond butter before, or any other nut butter, I had no idea what the consistency would be like. It was so foreign. I drank lots of water and sat down to wait and see if anything would happen. Nothing happened.

It was time for the second dose, so I grabbed my water bottle and went for more. Once more, the nurse checked my body for hives and confirmed with me that I was not feeling any different since the last dose. This time, I started to realize I really should have brought something else to take it with. I was not used to something so sticky and gummy.

While waiting to take my third dose of almond butter, a younger girl there for her challenge started to have symptoms of anaphylaxis. They treated her with epinepherine and kept her under very strict observation. Seeing this happen while I was also doing my own challenge as tough. As the reality was that it could have happened to me too. The little girl was so strong. She kept her smile and after treatment, she read a book and it was like nothing had happened. Through all of this. I reminded myself to stay calm and not worry. To focus on my own challenge and be fully in tune with my body so I could recognize if in fact I was reacting to the almond butter.

Two more doses of almond butter later I started to really wish that I had something else to help get this almond butter down. Let’s just say I had quite the protein filled morning! Eating 1 whole tbsp of almond butter with only water to wash it down after never having eaten it before. Quite the challenge I tell you!

Everything seemed to be going ok, until all of a sudden I felt a weird feeling at the back of my throat. It was not the same feeling I have had when I have had anaphylactic reactions. I told the nurse and my allergist right away and we decided we would wait before taking another dose. They immediately did a pulmonary function test and my airways looked great. They checked me for hives or other symptoms and nothing else was apparent. I decided that I wanted to have some fresh air to see if it would help, as I thought I was actually reacting to the office environment. With all my environmental triggers, staying in one place with lots of foot traffic for over 3 hrs could easily trigger me. It doesn’t take much; deodorants, shampoos, lotions, any of these could have been the culprit. We didn’t know at the time. While outside, I focused on my breathing to make sure I was not getting worked up and that I was staying calm, in case it was a reaction to the almonds. And so, after being outside for 20 min, my throat stopped hurting. The nurse brought me back in to see the allergist and we debriefed on the challenge. My allergist was certain it was environmental and told me I had passed the challenge. Just to be safe I stayed at the clinic a little longer. Better to be on the safe side. Sure enough, I was fine!

I thanked the doctors and nurses for being there for me for this first of a series of challenges. I have several challenges lined up between now and November as blood testing and prick tests seem to suggest that my allergies have gotten significantly better!

At 26 it is really exciting to think that things can change so much. After this first challenge I am really looking forward to the next challenges I have lined up with the great health care team I have. My allergist is supportive and knowledgeable and makes me feel confident that many of my allergies may in fact no longer be an issue. Next ones coming up are chickpeas, soy, pecans and walnuts! Stay tuned!

Looking back, I found it very helpful that I had a wellness plan going into this challenge. It may be my new favourite food! After a few days of feeling hesitant eating almond butter at home, I am comfortable and no longer worried about eating it. I am now eating almond butter daily and I love it. I must say it is extremely weird to get used to having this food I used to avoid with a 10 foot pole in my fridge! It’s like my world has just opened right up! :)

If you have any good recipes for me with almonds or almond butter, please share them! Unfortunately finding whole almonds that are free of all other tree nuts and peanuts is proving to be a little more difficult than finding safe almond butter.

Have you or your child had food challenges? How did it go? Are there any tips you would have for others going in for a food challenge? Let us know in the comments below.

If you’d like to read a great article about preparing for an oral food allergy challenge, please read Demystifying Oral Food Challenges by Kids with Food Allergies.



Vote for the video I made about my research and help me win!

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As many of you may or may not know, aside from all my advocacy, leadership programs and coaching, I am also a research assistant at the University of Alberta. I work in the Social Support Research Program with Dr. Miriam Stewart developing online peer support programs for families living with asthma and allergies. I started with Dr. Stewart’s team back in 2008 when I was a mentor in their very first online program and have remained extremely involved ever since. These programs are a very large part of my life and I stand behind them.

Through my involvement in research I joined the AllerGen Students & New Professionals Network (ASNPN), in 2010. As a trainee, I attend regular symposiums for career and professional development. This year they have their first annual Video Competition and I have entered a 3 minute animated video about my research.

I need all the votes I can get to win this competition, so please watch my video  and vote for it by “liking” the video!

** In order to vote you will need to sign in to your youtube account or create an account. It is quick to create an account.

Voting is open until May 15th!

Please share with your friends and family!

Thank you all for your support, it means the world to me!





Flying to Toronto with Westjet with allergies another success!



A week ago I left Victoria, headed to Toronto for a series of conferences and meetings with AllerGen NCE and the Asthma Society of Canada. A few days prior to leaving I called Westjet to advise them of my allergies to both food and cats/dogs. Within a minute of calling, my call was answered. I was amazed! What great customer service!

I mentioned that I had severe allergies to peanuts and tree nuts and she asked if I wanted them to make an announcement on the plane about having a passenger aboard with allergies. I said yes. The customer service representative then advised me that at that time no pets had been added to either of my 2 flights. I was relieved. She did remind  me that pets could be added to the flight anywhere up to 2 hrs prior to the flight. I told her that I would check again at the gate.

Fast forward to departure day…

I had my entire “travel kit” ready. In my purse with all the antihistamines I could need, my medications, wipes and masks.

Fl01ng K2t

I went to the gate 1.5 hrs before departure to be sure I had enough time to speak with someone. As it turns out, a dog had been recently added to the flight and was going to be 2 rows in front of me. They changed my seat so I would be at the back of the plane, which was great for me as I ended up with no one beside me, and could have more legroom too.

I went through security and then at the gate I went straight to the desk to speak to them about pre-boarding and identify myself as the passenger with all the allergies.

At that time I was advised that there was a dog on the plane that had just landed, which we were boarding and it had been very close to where I was supposed to be seated for my flight. We considered moving me to the middle of the plane but it was pretty full, so they told me they would wipe down the seats for me before I boarded the plane and had me pre-board way before anyone else. When I boarded the plane the kind westjet flight attendant in the above picture, mentioned that he had wiped down the seats near where the dog had been and my seat. He even offered me more wipes to clean further if I needed to. I advised I had my own wipes and thanked him for having gone above and beyond to try and make the aircraft as safe a possible for me.

I did my own cleaning of the seat, table and seat belt, placed my epipens and inhaler in the seat pocket infront of me and put on my mask and took my antihistamines. Then settled back in my seat; ready for the first leg of my flight to Edmonton…

Halfway through this first flight I brought out my safe oatmeal from Libre Naturals and asked the flight attendant for some hot water. Whenever I fly, oatmeal is the easiest food to take with me. And it fills me right up!

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Second leg of my trip from Edmonton to Toronto went great as well.  When I landed in Edmonton, I went straight to the gate and once again identified myself. They already had all my allergies in the file and said that I could pre-board soon.

Once again, Westjet made another announcement about my allergies and I had a safe flight. Landed safe and sound in Toronto!

If you can fly Westjet, I 100% recommend you fly with them over another airline in Canada. As they truly do everythign they can to make sure you have a safe trip, with the least stress possible.

Thank you Westjet!








Another terrific dinner at the Six Mile Pub!


We don’t eat out much with all my food allergies and sensitivities to gluten and dairy, however the Six Mile Pub is a place we will keep going back to! Seriously, if you have allergies and want to go out for say a birthday dinner with friends or date night, consider giving them a try! You will not be let down!

Sometimes you wonder if the great service is just a one-off. Like if you just happened to get a great server who understood how serious your allergies are. After going back a second time, I assure you, they take food allergies and gluten sensitivities including celiac, very seriously! This time, I called in around lunch the same day to make a dinner reservation. I mentioned all my allergies and the waitress mentioned she had made a not in the reservation and that the staff would talk to me upon our arrival to make sure I had a good, safe dinner.

Sure enough, we were seated and the waitress brought my handwritten list of allergies to the kitchen immediately. Before even getting us drinks! It was great! Just that simple action relieved any anxiety I might have had about dinner. The waitress came back with the chef and he knew right away that I had been here before and said “you wrote that blog post about us, right?”! I smiled :) They remembered me. The manager came over after as well, to check-in and introduced me to the sous-chef incase I were to come a night when the head chef is not in.

I had another delicious meal with no stress and looking at my plate, no one would have known I had any food allergies or sensitivities! Presentation was yet again, an A+.

Thank you Six Mile Pub for making dining out with food allergies less worrisome. It’s great to know a restaurant 100% genuinly understands the risk of cross-contamination.