I’ve overcome my allergies and asthma! Bring on 2017!

I just realized the other day that I hadn’t posted in almost a year and decided it was time to get back into a routine with my posting! So much has happened over the last year. I wanted to update you all and keep you posted on the successes as well as the hurdles I’ve been working through. After 8 years living in Victoria, British Columbia I have moved back to Montreal, Quebec to be closer to family, where I grew up. I’ll catch you all up slowly 🙂

On the allergy front, the past year has been filled with wins.

Firstly, I am thrilled to announce that I am still eating almonds!! It’s been over a year after passing my challenge to almonds, and I must say, having one more source of protein in my life has made all the difference.

Secondly, after 6.5 years of cat and dog immunotherapy, I can be around all dogs without issue and without antihistamines. My body seems to be considering the same for cats though it has not been as accepting of them yet. Emphasis on yet.

During the holidays, I had an exciting win! I tolerated 3 hrs in a house with 3 cats! I had taken some antihistamines and gone for short breathes of fresh air throughout the evening… That being said, I was in a house with cats!?!?! if someone had told me 10 years ago that one day I’d be in the same house as a cat, I’d have told them they were crazy… But they would have been right 🙂 To all those out there feeling hopeless about your pet allergies, I urge you to look into immunotherapy and talk with an allergist. Reducing the severity of my pet allergies has changed my life. Everyone I run into who talks about having to deal with major allergy flare ups when they go to a family members house with a cat or dog, I say, you don’t need to suffer. There are solutions out there. There are advances in the science of allergies and asthma every day and the research is starting to come up with potential solutions to all of this. Please don’t suffer in silence. Ask me questions here if you want, or send me an email and I’ll gladly answer any and all you may have.

Getting control of my allergies has resulted in EXTREMELY controlled asthma. Without changing a thing for my asthma treatment, my lungs are better than ever! Allergies and asthma are a domino effect. Solve one thing, and another will be resolved too.

If there’s any wisdom to share with you all from the last year, I’d share this:

Ask questions and be curious.
Ask for help and never give up.

The answer you’re looking for could be right around the corner!

And most importantly of all… Keep smiling and focus on the positives! Trust me on this one. Focusing on what’s not working the way we like is not the way to go. Think of embracing the challenges you are faced with. Strategize how you might overcome them and who you might engage in your journey to success! And know that it’s ok to have moments where we feel down. I’ve had them too. It’s what makes us human. It’s what we do to get through these moments that shapes us. If you can find the strength and resilience to pick yourself up when you are at your lowest low, you can take on anything life throws your way.

Life’s a journey and we don’t have all the answers. Be open to asking others for help and guidance and you can reach your goals and milestones. I struggled with asking for help. Everything changed when I started asking for help and not feeling like I was burdening others by doing so. At the end of the day, it’ll be up to the people you ask to let you know if they don’t have time or the capacity to help you. To be your best self, one needs to believe that we are never alone. Friends, family, colleagues, medical professionals, people we meet on the ski trails or at a coffee shop. We are surrounded by people who all have their own successes and challenges. Speak up and you’ll get to where you need to go.

Wishing you all the best for 2017 and looking forward to sharing some recipes I’ve been saving up and some more insight with you all on how I’ve overcome my allergies and asthma. You heard that right. I have overcome them because they no longer control my life, I control theirs. 😉 They exist, there are foods I can’t eat and some places I won’t go with a ten foot pole like a pet store, but I’ve got the reins on my life and no one can stop me! Perspective is everything. Watch out, there’s no stopping me now.

In health,
Erika

 

2016 Victoria Leadership Awards – Another Milestone

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The past few months have been a whirlwind. Though I am very involved in the asthma and allergy community in research, advocacy and support, I have always been extremely passionate about coaching youth sports programs. Fortunately throughout my youth I had some great coaches who believed in me and went out of their way to support me and help me reach my full potential. Over the last 10 years I have coached youth in cross-country skiing, sprint kayak/canoe, dragon boating, as well as rowing. The confidence, life skills, and determination I gained through sport has helped me become the leader I am today, and I have wanted to help youth have opportunities like I had, to learn and grow.

Back in the fall, VI Paddling (VIP) Society, the paddling club I have dedicated countless hours to over the last 2 yrs, nominated me for a Leadership Award. I was honoured and more than anything, excited at the attention this nomination would bring to our family and youth programs in the Greater Victoria community.

Fast forward to the morning of Thursday February 25th, 2016; hours before the Victoria Leadership Awards Event… All nominees had been asked to prepare a brief acceptance speech, which needed to be less than 90 seconds. To help make the event more memorable for all in attendance, we were asked that our speech focus on something inspiring, helpful or touching that we learned or wanted to share about leadership or our community. I spent a fair bit of time thinking about this, because I have learned so much, especially in my role as Director of Youth Programs at VI Paddling. As I wrote down bullet points of lessons learned, and stories I could share, I remembered what my grandfather always used to say, and my speech came together quite easily after that. He would always say “L’union fait la force!” which in English means that there is strength in numbers, and that together we can accomplish great things. Though my grandfather would not be in person with us for this milestone in my life, I knew he would have been proud of me whether I received the award or not. Sharing his wisdom gave me strength. I read my speech over and over again until I felt I had it just right.

The event was one I will remember for years to come, because of the extraordinary people in attendance. Victoria is home to so many inspiring leaders and organizations, working collaboratively to have a lasting impact in many areas, like health, housing and sports/recreation, to name a few. I will admit, sitting and listening to all that was happening in Victoria made the fire within me grow as I became more excited to connect with many of these leaders and organizations. All I could think of was if there would be ways to collaborate or even partner with some of these organizations making waves in our community. Sitting, listening to each award recipient, I knew my award category would be coming soon. I was a little nervous, however, with my friends and family surrounding me I was able to relax.

When my name was announced, I smiled and stood up. All the nerves disappeared. I was happy, confident and proud. This was my moment to share what I learned in my leadership roles at VI Paddling. Standing up at the podium, I was overwhelmed by passion, confidence and excitement. Passion that I was leading from the heart, confidence that I was heading in the right direction as well as excitement for what lay ahead with VI Paddling and my long term goals. Though I came home with a beautiful framed award Thursday night, it wasn’t all I came home with. I came home with a great ball of fire/energy within. A new, stronger energy I have never felt before. A drive to go bigger than I have gone thus far. And a renewed self-confidence that by embracing the challenges I have faced and continue to face, I can accomplish great things.

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?

A roller coaster of emotions for those of us with food allergies

Erika Profile - China Beach

Anxiety. Fear. These are some of the things that those of us with food allergies feel or have felt on numerous occasions. Fear of a severe allergic reaction. Anxiety over the fact that the food may not be 100% safe for us to eat. We have all felt it. Sometimes we might even question how safe food prepared by a loved one is. And that is not because we don’t trust that person, might it be a parent, family relative or really close friend. It’s hard to explain. I’ve questioned food prepared by loved ones before. No one ever gets hurt by my asking. Often times, I just need to know what is in the food. I need to know exactly what went into it, what knives were used, what surfaces the food was prepared on and who prepared it. To some people it may seem like we are crazy. And that we are extremely anxious. Some might think we are too anxious. That we are worrying too much. Please do not worry about what others think. Let them think whatever they want. I know from my own experience that if I feel unsettled or feel some nerves before eating something, that the only way to settle those nerves is to find out exactly what I am eating, who prepared it and what was used to prepare it.

When you live with severe food allergies, there are times that you start to question everything. You wonder if the cereal you eat might have been made in the same facility that other products you are allergic to are made in, even if you or your parents called the manufacturer to inquire. We all have times in our lives, whether you have food allergies or not, where we feel more vulnerable. Sometimes we are scared of letting our guard down due to a recent close call. Other times, we are just in a different head space and anxiety kicks in. We start to question everything. When that happens, having family and friends close by to re-assure us and be our eyes and ears is the most important. We need to feel safe.

We hear about safety in the media; safety precautions with severe weather and when in dangerous neighborhoods after dark, safety at work, and staying indoors when there is a threat, only to name a few. For those of us with food allergies, we also experience fear over our own safety. No one can compare levels of anxiety or fear from one situation to another, because each situation is unique. Each situation likely had very different triggers or circumstances. It isn’t even fair to compare two different allergic reactions, even if it was two of my own reactions. I am always reminded to focus on the present. Not to dwell in the past. I use experiences from the past to help me in my present and in my future, however I do not let it consume me. Allergic reactions I had when I was a child have stayed with me. I remember exactly what happened, the drive to the hospital, and the fear that I might not make it to the hospital.

When I am extremely anxious about my food allergies, or get stressed out in a situation when someone is trying to make me safe food, I feel like I am on an emotional roller coaster. Do you ever feel like that? I can feel calm, confident and collected one minute, then the next, I can be anxious and emotional. I don’t understand it. Someone out there might… I cannot explain it. All I know is that it’s ok. It’s ok to feel scared. It’s ok to be worried. It’s ok to feel emotional, and to shed a few tears. We are all human. We all have emotions. And we all have different triggers.

For those of us with food allergies. We fear a severe reaction. I have always told myself to embrace fear. To not let it overcome me. To use fear and anxiety in a positive way. To use it as a learning experience. When I look back on times when I feared a reaction and was emotional about it, I see the actions I took to make sure I was safe. I give myself a pat on the back for asking questions, for making sure everything was safe. When I am anxious, I tell someone. I don’t go it alone. Sharing the reason for your fear and anxiety with someone is the best thing you can do. So I urge you to please talk to someone when you feel scared. When you feel worried or anxious. You do not have to overcome that fear alone. Talk to your parents, your friend, someone you trust. Together you can figure out ways to manage your feelings and cope. Asking for help takes courage. Please do not be afraid to ask for help. You are not alone.

I have learned to speak up and ask for help. That is my greatest lesson learned.

Will you ask for help?

A Valentine’s Day you will Remember – For all the Right Reasons!

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With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, wherever you go, you are likely to see boxes of chocolates in heart shapes, pink and red decorations and flower bouquets on sale for the special day. To be quite honest, I prefer a nice home cooked meal in the safety of our own home. No stress. And for flowers, my boyfriend is always careful as some smell very strong and can trigger my asthma. We like to keep Valentine’s Day simple. On Valentine’s Day, I like to stay in.

What are your plans for Valentine’s Day?

Click one of the following links below to see a few tips to prepare you for a wonderful Valentine’s Day, if:

You are the one with Food Allergies

Your date has Food Allergies

** Remember, Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be all about food. You can go on a romantic date without any food! Like a nice skate, or ski or walk in the park. Perhaps even a hike, or if you live in Victoria, BC where there is not snow… A nice paddle. 🙂

Be safe and have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

I know I will! 🙂

Valentine’s Day if your date has Food Allergies

If your date has Food Allergies, I have a few tips for you below.

Going out for a Valentine’s Day dinner?

  1. Your date may want to call the restaurant ahead of time to find out if they can accommodate their Food Allergies; some restaurants will not.
  2. Even if you wanted to keep the name of the restaurant a surprise, if your date asks, know that they will feel safer and more relaxed knowing that it is a restaurant where the staff is prepared to accommodate their Food Allergies.
  3. Lastly, order a meal that would also be safe for your date to eat. Your date will feel wonderful knowing that you want to eat something that is safe for them, and will make the evening more relaxed. Who knows, might even mean you get a nice kiss for being so thoughtful 🙂

Staying in for Valentine’s Day?

  1. Be sure that the ingredients used for your dinner are safe and there is no cross-contamination
  2. If your date asks to help you in preparing dinner allow them to help, even if you wanted to make dinner for them. Or, show them all the ingredients you plan to use and have your date help you ensure the kitchen is clean and they feel safe with the utensils, pans and dishes you plan to use. Personally, I feel safer using metal cooking utensils over plastic in a kitchen where my allergens may be present.
  3. If your date would like to clean utensils, pans, cutting boards and dishes before making dinner, go with it. Help them feel safe and relaxed. It’ll make the evening even more romantic and enjoyable if they feel supported and understood.
  4. Avoid eating things your date is allergic to for the one night. You can have them tomorrow. Keep this evening relaxed, fun and safe.
  5. If your date asks to have the evening free of all foods they are allergic to, don’t question it. You will have a wonderful Valentine’s Day evening without worry.

Wanting to give chocolates or another edible treat? 

  1. Double and triple check the labels – Look for a may contain statement which may not be close to the ingredient list.
  2. If you feel uncertain, skip the chocolates. Make homemade chocolates or buy some roses, write a nice card or be creative. Valentine’s Day doesn’t always have to be about chocolates and candies.
  3. Tell your date that you tried to find chocolates however you were not sure if any of the ones you had found would have been safe. Your date will appreciate knowing that you wanted to find chocolates or candy or other however at the end of the day, you chose a safer option.

When in doubt, just speak up! 🙂

Have a safe and romantic Valentine’s Day and please leave your thoughts and comments below!

Valentine’s Day if you are the one with Food Allergies

If you are the one with Food Allergies, I have a few tips for you below.

Going out for a Valentine’s Day dinner?

  1. Call the restaurant you are going to ahead of time.
  2. Prepare a cue card listing all your allergies and level of severity before you go
  3. Talk to the waiter/waitress when they first come to your table and ask for drinks; that way, they may notify their manager about the allergies before you even order.

Staying in for Valentine’s Day?

  1. Be sure that the ingredients used for your dinner are safe and there is no cross-contamination
  2. If your date wants to make you dinner and you feel a little uncertain about cross-contamination in their kitchen, tell them that you trust them, however you would feel more relaxed if you could help prepare and cook – They will understand
  3. If you are concerned your date may eat something you are allergic to and then kiss you, speak up. Please do not sit all evening feeling stressed or anxious about what may or may not happen.
  4. Ask to have a completely safe evening, with only foods you can have, so you can kiss and not worry about what they may or may not have had

Receiving chocolates or another edible treat? 

  1. Double and triple check the labels – Look for a may contain statement which may not be close to the ingredient list.
  2. If you feel uncertain, let your date know that you appreciate the gift, however you’d feel more comfortable after calling the company to confirm that it was made in a safe facility without cross-contamination.
  3. Ask that your date not eat them either, in case they are not safe for you; tell your date that you would feel more relaxed knowing they had not eaten anything you may be allergic to.

When in doubt, just speak up! 🙂

Have a safe and romantic Valentine’s Day and please leave your thoughts and comments below!