Juggling food allergies, environmental allergies and asthma while in a high responsibility role – BC Summer Games

erika pic2

It’s Tuesday morning and I am working on my to do list for the BC Summer Games. My emotions are very mixed. I am excited to be going to the Games and have been selected as head coach, however I am anxious about my food/environmental allergies, asthma and chronic pain I am dealing with. As head coach for our zone in Canoe/Kayak I have a lot of responsibility during the Games, but also prior to the Games. I have 12 athletes to get organized and make sure they all meet at the same place and time on Day 1. I’ve spent most of yesterday dealing with last minute registration issues and emailing parents and finally today, have some time to do my own work and get myself ready for this 4 day affair!

I have to prepare my food for 3 meals a day over 4 days where I won’t be able to prepare anything. I’ll have access to a microwave and that’s it. The schedule is pretty busy too, so won’t be able to go to the grocery store for food. So this is the challenge. It reminds me of the training camps I used to have when I was a competitive cross-country ski athlete, that were 3-4 days. Except I also am responsible for 12 other people now, so it is a little different…

You see, on Thursday morning I’ll be getting up at 3 am and my wonderful boyfriend will be driving me to the chartered bus pick-up location for 4:20 am! Yeah, that’s really really early! I am lucky to have a partner willing to drive me that early in the morning! We’ll be sleeping in a school, so I also need to make sure I have full asthma inhalers and lots of antihistamines at the ready.

This may be the last post for a little while because I don’t foresee much time to post while at the event. I’ll definitely be sharing my experience after the fact.

Conferences, events, and hotel food

sorbet

If you are living with life threatening food allergies, you have likely attended a conference or other catered event. Whether the event was a wedding, a holiday party or perhaps a conference, having a safe meal, or multiple safe meals can be challenging. Have you had an exceptional and memorable experience with hotel staff, or catering staff? Have you ever had an experience that may have resulted in a reaction?

I have attended numerous conferences and catered events, for all different occasions and each one has taught me a new tip and raised my awareness a notch.  A few action items I HIGHLY recommend are:

1. Provide a list of ALL your allergies prior to the event (either to event staff, or hotel management)

2. Before the first meal, ask to speak to the “Maitre D” or Kitchen Manager/Head Chef

3. If you genuinely don’t feel comfortable eating from the buffet, then do NOT hesitate to tell them. Tell them you would feel much safer having a separate plate for each meal. They should understand that.

Just because you have food allergies or food sensitivities, like I do, to gluten or dairy, it doesn’t mean you need to miss out on good food and dining! Live the conference, wedding or other event to the fullest while enjoying tasty food just like your friends or colleagues! Speak up! :)

I used to keep quiet and not eat very well. Now, I often eat better than others at the conferences. Some managers have even brought me meals personally! AND placed the napkin on my lap and pushed my chair in! While others were getting their own food from the buffet! Don’t get down because you have food allergies. Don’t let having food allergies be “unfair” they don’t have to be! Trust me on this one!

 

A fine balancing act

plane_landing_logo

Finding a balance between jobs, school, rehabilitation from injuries and volunteering, all the while still maintaining a healthy lifestyle can prove challenging at times. Even with many things on my plate, I find time to go for a walk, sit on a bench in the inner harbor to watch the float planes take off and land, or do some art. It CAN be done. Even if you think you don’t have the time. Find the time. Often times the reason I am not posting is because I have too much on my plate, and I am taking some much needed down time.

Like many other chronic conditions, allergies and asthma can add a significant time commitment to your already filled schedule. Reading all the food labels at the grocery store; on cosmetics, beauty or cleaning products, can take a fair bit of time, depending on the allergies you have. When I am looking for new products to use, whether it be; shampoo, conditioner, make-up or other soaps, I need to plan for a good hour or two for label reading, going to different stores if needed, and often, calling manufacturers. My most recent challenge has been to find a new shampoo as I have been getting hives from the one I used for years. It is becoming quite the search… A week later I am still looking.

This can often add more anxiety to our lives. Too much anxiety is not good. What do you do to wind down, relax, take a break? Who helps you to let loose and take some time where you are not thinking about the million things you have to get done?

Fun with friends in a trigger-free environment!

Carol and I

My friends and I had a fun time cross-country skiing the other day. An activity where I do not need to worry about my allergies in the least bit. And with controlled asthma I have even less to worry about. Even though I was only able to go for a short ski due to pain from injuries, I had an AMAZING time! That short ski made my day! Often times, it is the small things in life we need to embrace.

There have been several occasions when I cannot attend an event with friends, because the building the play or event is being held in, is old and dusty. There are also occasions I cannot attend a celebration or potluck dinner because the host has pets. However frustrating those instances can be in the moment, when I look at the big picture, there are many things I CAN do with friends where I don’t need to worry about my allergies. A hiking trip, a picnic on the beach (I make my own food), a bike ride or a walk along the inner harbour to watch the float planes take-off and land. Another one I like is; dinner at our place, where guests bring the wine and we make dinner.

Whenever I invite others into my SAFE & controlled home environment, I need to be sure they are not coming in clothes that are covered in pet dander. I also need to inform them not to wear strong perfumes or deodorants as these will trigger me. Most friends understand and are willing to take action. Friends who have pets will bring clothes fresh out of the dryer to change into when they arrive and avoid wearing perfume or strong smelling deodorants. I used to feel bad listing the precautions friends would need to take, to insure that my safe zone is not breached and I quickly learned that close friends will take the measures they need to, to keep me safe. There are occasions when I have felt like a burden, however I quickly learned that I am NOT a burden. And that I should never think that. Friends and family will listen. You just need to communicate with heart and honesty. Whether they understand how serious it is, or how to take precautions, well, that’s a story for another time…

 

 

Allergies are not fair…

Let’s be honest. Sometimes when we have to miss out on something we really want to do, or perhaps our plate looks less appetizing than the person next to us, we start to think “allergies are not fair, why me?”. It’s what happens when we have allergies. Whether it be food allergies or environmental allergies. I’d be lying if I said that I’ve never missed out on something or felt a little angry and even sad because I could not attend an event. And there have been numerous times when I went to a party and ended up eating veggies while others ate things that looked a million times more appealing… however I’ve always tried to spin my thinking.

It’s easy to start telling ourselves that life would be so much better without allergies, especially the food allergies… It is often easier to focus on what we’re NOT able to do, and NOT able to eat than it is to tell ourselves all the great things that are going on in our lives. Society nowadays leads one to want to compare what they have with what others have. If I have allergies and not one of my friends do, it is easy for me to feel frustrated and think life’s unfair or unjust. Is it always easy for me to embrace life? No, it’s not. It takes a little more energy, more confidence and a lot of honesty.

Whenever I start to feel down about not going to a party because my friends have a dog or a cat or not being able to attend an event because it is in an old, dusty building I just have smile and tell myself “it’s not the end of the world” and plan something else. It is what it is. There are a lot of people out there that would much rather have allergies than the disease they are fighting, or the injuries they have sustained from an accident. Allergies do suck sometimes, however allergies can be managed. We can control our environment. We can control the food we eat. And not everything involves food. We can still go to the movies with friends, go for a hike or a camping trip. To some people, these are all things they wish they could one day do…

Embrace life. Next time you think to yourself that you wish you didn’t have allergies and that life is unfair, think of those that have even more allergies… There are a few people that instead of being allergic to 4 things, can only eat 4 things.  I can’t even imagine.

At the end of the day, what matters the most is not the food you can or cannot eat. There is sooo much more to life. Allergies do feel unfair. Sometimes I’ve wished they’d just disappear on me. Reality is that my life-threatening allergies to peanuts, nuts, lentils and soy are likely here to stay. And I’m ok with that. Are you?