Pro Triathlete Kayla Kobelin shares how an allergy discovery changed her life, her training, and her outlook.
The last week of January of 2019 started out as any week did. Review my workouts for the week and make sure I was getting enough sleep. After a pool workout with my boyfriend we headed to the cafe to grab a salad topped with pistachios. I started feeling uncomfortable after I started eating but chalked it up to just being really hungry. A few moments later my boyfriend offered to go get help. I knew something was wrong but didn’t know what. The next thing I remember was having the EMT’s cut my pants and poke me in the leg. At that moment I began to breathe normally, and didn’t feel like I was gasping for air. I was told to avoid pistachios until I could get allergy tested. Turns out I had an Anaphylactic reaction to my salad. At 24 years old and never having any allergies I was shocked to learn that this can happen to you at any age.
Over the next 5 weeks, I ended up having 4 more life threatening Anaphylaxis reactions, each time from something different that pistachios. Every day I was living in fear putting anything in my mouth that may try and kill me. The drugs that are given to you during your hospital stay always made me feel sleepy and uncomfortable the days following. It was the hardest 5 weeks I have gone through, feeling like everything I knew and loved about food was taken from me. I was finally able to get in to see a doctor who could test me for all the new allergies I kept reacting to. I found out that I was severely allergic to ALL nuts, peanuts and Salmon. When I found out, I was in disbelief. How could this happen? My boyfriend and I go out to eat all the time, does this mean we can’t share nice meals at restaurants?
It took months to get used to my new normal. Double checking every single food item at the store, making sure it wasn't made in a facility with nuts. You don't realize how limited your food options become until its a matter of life and death. I felt bad my boyfriend wasn't able to keep peanut butter in the house, but we were able to adapt and now we keep sunflower butter stocked at all times. It really does help having a support system to help you through these life changing adaptations. I struggled with a lot of anxiety just going to the grocery store. And with being a professional athlete this meant travelling and flying on airplanes. It has been an adjustment, but with things like pre-boarding and carrying my Epi pens at all times, I learn to control everything I can and make sure I am doing everything to keep myself safe.
Fueling for all my sports became different too. I had to be much more careful about what I ate on long rides and even be careful what my friends ate around me too. Luckily I had an awesome support group so cross contamination during exercise has never been an issue. It made me change up my after workout protein drinks and pre-workout meals as well. Luckily for me there are no nuts in NUUN, so that was always safe for me. :)
I never once thought about allergies stopping my life or stopping me from doing things. I always find a way to still do everything I want to do, it just looks a bit different than before I had these allergies. I still go out to certain restaurants I know are safe, and even call ahead of time to let the chef know. I use certain airlines that have stricker allergy rules for flying. I still find a way to make my favorite foods and use alternative ingredients. For those faced with a large challenge that seems so vast you don’t know how you’re going to tackle it, my advice: One day at a time, pick out the small wins. Its easy to get overwhelmed, but if you take it day by day, eventually you will look back and see the huge amount of progress you made. Always keep a positive attitude and find the small wins in each day to keep you moving forward. I was blindsided by a situation that changed my life and instead of keeping it from me doing things I love, there are always ways to achieve what you want to do.
It has taught me to be brave when you are given no other option to be brave. It has taught me to speak up for myself at restaurants or if friends bring food over. Although there were a lot of negative things that happened, I feel like a stronger person because of it. I also have now gone 15 months without an allergic reaction or hospital visit and hope to get that number much higher as I adjust to the new “normal” for me. When you are put in a position you feel like you can never get out of, you will surprise yourself at how strong you can be.