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Aniwaka Roberts for blog

Aniwaka Roberts is a talented young midfielder/defender for the Capital (Wellington) Women’s hockey team. Ani loves hockey. She loves the team environment, the shared journey with her teammates to train and compete, highs and lows. So it was a blow when she starting feeling fatigued and ill during and after games and trainings, especially when playing at the highest level.

The illness started making an impact when she played international hockey with the Black Sticks Women’s squad on a tour in the USA in 2013, and just got worse when the diagnosis made was some kind of exercise-induced anaphylaxis – or allergy made worse through exercise. Imagine playing your game at the highest level, and finding out that playing it hard was making you sick because on some mystery food that you ate?

Ani was limited to only a blue Powerade, a banana and ham/white bread before those US tournament games while they tried to figure out what was wrong. Without the ability to fuel as she needed to, and made worse by the hot weather, Ani couldn’t sustain the energy levels – she’d finish the games faint and wasted as a result of input not matching output. It was frustrating, upsetting and added strain to an event that required her positive focus.

Ani drew together two of the Four Corners of Health: Nutrition and Mindset to try and forge her way through finding out what was wrong, and trying to maintain an international sports career at the same time. She underwent a rigorous process of food testing over 9 months to find out what was causing the reaction. Mentally she had to cope with focusing on what she had to do, putting the work in for the team, and not letting the negative thoughts take hold. It was a slow process.

Then one fateful night she went to a Christmas function at a seafood restaurant the night before competing in a triathlon, dining out on seafood chowder and steamed mussels. The next day, Ani collapsed after completing the triathlon. She couldn’t breathe and her partner needed to jab her with an epipen 5mins past the finish line to administer relief. So luxuriously dining out at a seafood restaurant was how Ani found out that she was strongly allergic to seafood.

The great news is now Ani can manage her allergic reactions with knowledge and understanding of what she eats and when she eats it and how that works around her sporting career and commitments. She’s found along the way that she has mild reactions to other foods such as peanuts, but it remains a medical mystery as to why people develop these kinds of allergies later in life.

Ani is a great example of how elements of the Four Corners of Health work together to help you work through injury or illness. Keep your mindset strong, and employ patience in the face of frustration, work through your rehabilitation methodically and don’t lose heart that you’ll find the pathway back to full health.

Aniwaka Roberts has represented New Zealand with the Black Sticks Women’s squad and is currently playing for the Capital Women’s side in New Zealand’s NHL (National Hockey League) competition. Proactive have a partnership with Wellington Hockey, treating players with physio and other wellbeing services.

Read another inspiring story, this time from dual international cricket & hockey player Sophie Devine as she battled Diabetes while maintaining her international sporting career.

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