Food allergy entertainer and educator Kyle Dine shows us how his boyhood health challenge is now a platform for growth, learning and fun.
We all know growing up is filled with plenty of challenges. Boys and girls alike make it through the ups and downs of childhood and hopefully end up as healthy, fully functioning adults. Dealing with self-confidence issues,” frienemies”, bullying , changing schools, family restructuring and such can be a lot for children who experience them. For kids who have health concerns along the way with everything else, things can really be hard. Every kid I’ve ever met wanted to be what the world considers normal. The reality is, we all have our own version of normal and when we can own OUR normal, life gets better.
For Canadian entertainer and food allergy educator Kyle Dine, his normal included living with potentially life threatening food allergies. As a child, Kyle was diagnosed with this condition before mainstream media ever thought about reporting it. Fortunately for today’s affected kids, food allergies are in the news, on congressional agendas, and on the “to deal with” list for educators all over. Many schools have allowed nurses or clinics to keep stock epinephrine in case a child without medication presents with a life threatening reaction called anaphylaxis.
I recently spoke with Kyle and asked him what it was like transitioning from being a boy under the watchful eye of his parents to a man who had to deal with multiple allergies on his own. As a child, Kyle noted his parents were quite vigilant about keeping him safe – in fact so safe he joked about a neon fanny pack he wore that housed his medications. During his teen years, he said “I took many risks that I shouldn’t have; with some people the transfer of responsibility doesn’t happen until later because they are kept safe by their parents.” When asked about dating, Kyle said he was very lucky to have had understanding people around him. He said “sometimes we underestimate the willingness people have to help.” One thing he did mention that can make dating, long term relationships or marriage a little more challenging is having to teach your mate’s family how to deal with helping you manage your food allergies. Things like family get gatherings with new family members can be hard for some people who’ve never had exposure to food allergic life. Kyle stresses “it is important to slowly bring people up to speed to avoid them becoming overwhelmed.” Fortunately for him, Kyle married someone who has food challenges of her own which helps out a lot. He also said “everyone with food allergies could benefit from marrying someone else with food allergies but that’s not everyone’s reality.”
When asked if men deal with their food allergic condition differently than women Kyle said “the strategies can be different.” Due to societal stereotypes, he felt there’s a notion that most men don’t want to seem picky, complicated, high maintenance or even weak to some. Dine states “people become afraid it will define them as the allergy guy but that’s not true….I have hockey and other things….you can make it work.” He did say it’s not easy hanging out with the guys in your younger years and everyone is ordering burgers, fries, pizza and so on and you have to ask to look at the menu and check ingredients while carrying meds. Now, I will admit, I had to chew on that thought for a minute. This made me think about my own child and the 15 million Americans who live with food allergies every day going through those tough 14-24 years trying to figure out who you are and trying to fit in. Kyle said some guys will do things like get their girlfriend to taste their food first or carry their medications in a purse for them. As a food allergy mom, I’ve personally met some people who play the “I know what not to eat” game even though there’s no guarantee there isn’t cross contamination at a restaurant or another person’s house. For many food allergic people their last recollection of a severe reaction was as that of a child and they often forget how critical a reaction can be.
Kyle’s worst memory of a reaction was Christmas Day 2005. Everyone was buzzing about and he ate something….something he was clearly allergic to. A day set to be filled with family fun became a nightmare as his own life was in hung in the balance. Kyle described it as if he were watching a movie scene. All the actors were going about in a frenzy as he was there trying to stay calm knowing it was bad, really bad. Though he remembers being there, he felt helpless seeing people upset and hurrying about. He knew once he recovered he never wanted to experience that again. Sadly, many have not recovered and this is why Kyle continues to share the messages about taking food allergies seriously and getting as much education as you can on this condition.
Kyle has taken his own health concerns and used them as a way to help others. He says he “never wants to come that close to dying again.” When asked what message he has for boys and men living with life threatening food allergies, he offered the following:
- Know that it is ok to make your health a priority
- Carry your own medication (there are smaller types of injectors you can put in your pocket)
- Trying to have a smoothe restaurant experience is not worth your life
- When you travel, bring plenty of your own foods or snacks (Kyle calls himself the granola bar king)
- If traveling to a foreign country get your allergies translated in advance – plan ahead
- Don’t take chances – all it takes is one bite, or one small slip up, it’s not worth it
Growing up, Kyle wanted to be an entrepreneur and own his own business. Well he’s doing it now and enjoying his passion – music. What he’s not doing is allowing his food allergies to stop him from living a full life. He focuses on other things that matter and raising awareness through his music and his work with Anaphyalxis Canada. Visit Kyle here and see how you too can make food allergies work for you. You may also join Kyle and others like him celebrating Love Remembers Day on March 31 or during Food Allergy Awareness Week in May.