December is here, which means it is time for your monthly dose of allergy inspiration! Danielle shares some of the challenges she faced with her food allergies and the advice that she would give to someone else who may be confronting something similar.
You may already be familiar with Danielle from the Allergy-Friendly Reverse Advent Calendar that we launched on December 1. She started this initiative because she has personally experienced the financial burden food allergies can have on a family. You can read about why it is near and dear to Danielle in her Instagram post.
I have known Danielle for several years and love her perspective on life with food allergies. Together we agonize (in a fun way) about the strange things that peas and soy are found in, and of course, our love for travel. Hearing some of Danielle’s struggles resonate deeply with me as I had a hard time making friends in my youth. Only now, as an adult, do I feel confident enough not to let allergies hold back those connections. I am happy to say that Danielle is among those I call a friend.
Allergies and when you were diagnosed: peanuts (6 years old), tree nuts (24), soy (18), peas (21), chickpeas, lentils, and lupin (24). I also have exercise-induced anaphylaxis (diagnosed at 24 but the first reaction at 17).
Allergy Struggles and Overcoming Them
Biggest struggle as a kid & advice you would give to help overcome it
I honestly didn’t struggle too much as a kid – I lived in a really great, inclusive, rural community.
But I’d tell myself not to trade snack for my friend’s “chocolate with crunchy bits” that ultimately caused my first reaction at 7 years old!
Biggest struggle as a teen & advice you would give to help overcome it
In university, I struggled a lot to make friends, and after my allergy list started to grow, my “friends” stopped inviting me to go out with them or to come over to study etc. You know, typically catty 18-year-old girl stuff.
I remember being so hurt when I got a message from someone I considered a really close friend, that said “X and I are going for dinner this week, we thought about inviting you but decided not to because we figured you wouldn’t come because of your allergies, but yeah…come if you want.” They were going to my favourite restaurant! Why would they think I didn’t want to come?! That began a tidal wave of 95% of my “friends” no longer talking to me because they were never really friends, to begin with…but naturally, they still wanted my study notes from class!
This was the first time in my life I’d ever felt insecure or angry about my food allergies. I’d tell myself to move along, that they weren’t real friends to begin with and that real, genuine friends don’t use a medical condition as an excuse to be terrible human beings.
Biggest struggle now & advice you would give to help overcome it
I think right now, my biggest struggle is feeling comfortable with my diagnosis/allergy list and letting go of what I thought were the causes of my reactions before being diagnosed. I kept having anaphylactic reactions to new foods, and my allergist was basically like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ At one point, he said I must have developed a new allergy overnight. I now know that’s not the case, as I’ve been diagnosed with exercise-induced anaphylaxis, but for years I basically didn’t eat because I was so scared of developing another allergy overnight.
It’s been just over a year since I started seeing a new allergist, and I’m slowly starting to feel better. I still struggle to introduce new foods or reintroduce foods that I have refused to eat for years, though, which I know is not logical.
I would tell my past self to see a new allergist and not wait seven years to do it. I think a lot of my insecurities and anxiety now would never have manifested had I had an allergist who took me seriously. Just because one allergist doesn’t know what is happening, doesn’t mean another one won’t.
Danielle’s Allergy Inspiration
What was the best piece of advice you got?
I’ve always been taught to thank every person and be kind to everyone – whether it’s the janitor or a CEO. As an adult, I try really hard to be thankful and make sure people know how thankful I am for them, and to be kind to every person I meet (even if they aren’t reciprocal).
What is your food allergy motto?
One of my high school teachers recently messaged me her travel motto – “never don’t go” (although, she did say the grammar makes her cringe). It’s become my new motto for basically anything to do with allergies.
Anytime I think I don’t want to travel somewhere or that it would be too risky with my allergies, I think of that quote and evaluate why I’m hesitant. After cancelling a trip to the Faroe Islands in 2015 because I wasn’t sure if I could find food there, I vowed to never again cancel a trip because of my allergies. This quote helps me remember not to let my allergies stop me from doing something that I know I want to do. Shoutout to Ms. O’Grady for being the best human in the world!
Favourite food: Pizza
Favourite allergy-friendly snack or product: Basically, anything made by Dare.
Texting or talking? Texting. Just the sound of a phone ringer makes me cringe.
What’s for dinner tonight? Probably pizza
Last picture you took on your phone: A photo of my very sweet kitty, Nora
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Kortney is your typical atopic triad! She manages asthma, eczema, environmental and food allergies. Kortney is a co-creator of the online community Allergy Travels and co-host of The Itch Podcast. She wants to spread joy in a community that can easily see the hard side of life with atopic disease and believes that you can have a full life with food allergies, it may just be lived a little differently!