It was my birthday last week. I am officially 14 years old and I have to say, it was a pretty amazing birthday. Things that were amazing about my birthday:

  1. Of course, #1 on my list is I am grateful that my family and friends are all healthy and were able to share in celebrating my birthday with me. 
  2. I got my hair highlighted for the first time ever and I love it! 
  3. My friend came over for a sleepover and we had loads of fun. 
  4. My parents reserved a Private Watch Party at my local movie theater! 
  5. We got to watch a movie of my choice, eat tons of candy, and talk as loud as we wanted since we were the only ones in the theater.  
  6. MY CAKE WAS AMAZING! It was ordered from my favorite gluten-free & dairy-free bakery and it truly was a work of art. Of course, it was delicious too!

As you can tell, birthdays are a big deal in my family. Even my dog gets a pretty special birthday.

Even though each and every one of my 14 birthdays have been unbelievably special, I can’t help but feel that each of my birthdays have never been truly carefree. Having a life-threatening food allergy to dairy makes everything difficult, including birthdays. It always starts the same way, trying to find something fun to do or somewhere fun to go that doesn’t involve food. You are probably thinking, there are lots of things to do for birthdays that don’t involve food. Is that really true though? Let’s go back to that amazing list. 

I got my hair highlighted for the first time. Very exciting, but for me, I have to be concerned about what is in the hair products. Yes, milk is a common ingredient in many beauty products and it’s not always easy to decipher whether it’s safe for me or whether I am going to end up in the hospital.  

Sleepovers are not always easy. There’s A LOT of planning and prep work involved. Most can just go last minute. Since we are talking about my birthday, my sleepover didn’t involve as much planning because I was staying home but I still needed to prepare for it. My mom took me to the store a few days before so I could pick out some candy for the evening.  I can only eat certain types of candy and I always worry that my friends won’t like what I buy. I get stressed about picking out the right candy and new candy is really scary for me. This time of year, all the Easter candy is out. If you can believe it, I have to worry about holiday versions of candy I have eaten safely a million times because sometimes they are made with different ingredients or they are made in a different facility that contains my allergen. So if I want to try new candy, I always have to call the company first to make sure it is safe for me. A lot of work just for picking out some candy. Thankfully all the candy I picked out was safe and it all worked out. 

Having the entire movie theater to ourselves was so much fun but not until I felt comfortable enough to enjoy it. Most of you buy your tickets, find a seat, and “enjoy the show.”  For me, it’s a little different. Every time I walk into a movie theater, I am hit with the scent of buttered popcorn. I know most people love that smell but I don’t. It actually makes me nauseous and it takes a while before my belly settles down. Then, I wipe down my entire chair, tray, and cup holder while my mom pulls old popcorn out from the cushions. As you can imagine, that part is not fun…. NOT AT ALL. Once that part was taken care of, I had a blast and I can’t wait to do it again. 

I am grateful to have a few allergy-friendly bakeries in my area. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the treats my mom has baked for me over the years, but it is so nice to have a birthday cake that came from a bakery. It’s even better that it is a bakery that specializes in food allergies.

I am not telling you this to feel sorry for me. I don’t feel sorry for myself at all. I know I am very lucky and blessed. I guess the point I am trying to make is that we never know what someone is dealing with in any situation and simple acts of kindness go a very long way.  For many of you, you get to go to “amazing” right away. For me, it’s different. I have to pass “safe” before I can get to “amazing”. So if you see someone who may be a little quiet or anxious in an otherwise “amazing” situation, it’s probably because they have to get past “safe” before they can get to “amazing.”

 I am very lucky to have such a supportive family and amazing friends who make sure that all my birthdays are special. I have so many wonderful memories because the people in my life took the time to care about me, my feelings, and my safety. When there are embarrassing and lonely moments in life, the people we love are there to help replace those moments with love and happiness and those are the moments to remember.

Shae Averaimo is a 14-year-old living in Connecticut with her parents, her sister who is 17 months younger than her (just saying), and her adorable golden retriever, Oakley. She lives in a beautiful coastal town and spends most of her summers at the beach and swimming in the ocean. She is an 8th grader who loves science, acting, art, and cooking. Her favorite foods are eggplant parmesan (minus the parmesan) and pasta fagiole (her dad’s recipe is amazing!). When she is not spending time with her family, she can be found riding her bike in her neighborhood, hanging out with her friends, and learning the latest TikTok dances with her sister. She has a life-threatening allergy to dairy and is very involved in the food allergy community. She has a website and an Instagram account dedicated to food allergy awareness. She especially loves taste-testing new dairy-free and allergy-friendly snacks and she reviews them on her Instagram. She is very excited to be joining The Daily Feels and she can’t wait to share her stories. Check out her website and follow her on Instagram @shaeallergy_07

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