Five years! Five whole years. In some ways, I feel that the Celiac diagnosis happened a long time ago. In other ways, it feels like it was yesterday. The journey go discover what was making me sick was a long, stressful, and tear-filled journey. I have never felt so completely empty and so completely scared in my entire life.
And it all started a couple months after returning from my New Year’s trip to Ireland.
I’m about to get very real with you for a short moment…so please hang with me.
There is something very, very scary about stepping on a scale, in your clothes, and seeing only 2 digits reflecting back at you. In my jeans, tennis shoes, and shirt (with sweater), I went to my doctor for a check-up…and weighed in at 92 pounds…in clothes. I hadn’t been feeling well since before going to Ireland. I was fatigued all the time, often falling asleep on the couch while watching television or a movie. I had no energy. My body ached. I was angry and cranky and just a really mean person at times. My brain felt like it was in a fog. And it was just…bad.
While in Ireland, I discovered that when I ate sometimes, I would feel really sick. Or I would get a pain in my side that would just make me want to curl up and not move for awhile. It continued upon my return, so I went to the doctor…
The doctor immediately started running some tests on me for things like diabetes, gallbladder issues, cancer, and the like. I was told to take in more food, so I started to really up my protein, carbs and calories, any way I could think possible. I was probably taking in 5000 calories a day…and still losing weight. It was scary. My doctor ordered ultrasounds and a HIDA scan just in case it was the gallbladder or liver. Those results came back normal. As did all my blood work…save for a B-12 deficiency (and being vegetarian, that wasn’t unusual). I was tested for anemia, diabetes, and an overactive thyroid…but nothing was unusual. Everything was “normal.” But it wasn’t. I wasn’t feeling well.
And during this time, my friend, Heather, contacted me and asked me a few simple questions about my symptoms. And she said I needed to get tested for Celiac Disease. She sent me a link with the symptoms, and asked me what my current in-take of wheat, wheat gluten, and other food products that might react to someone with Celiac was. She had a friend diagnosed with it and thought the symptoms were familiar.
Guess what…she nailed it. Despite my calorie and food intake, I was still eating foods that my body couldn’t handle. The gluten was making me sick and malnourished. It was causing my body serious harm and doing great damage. A change had to be made. And it wasn’t easy. For weeks, I would go into the grocery store and just cry…stand in the aisle and burst into tears. It was not an easy transition…and for awhile…I still cheated. And then, I realized that the cheats weren’t helping me any…just making me sick.
And…three years after that, my malnourished body finally began to show some signs of recovery. The weight loss I was dealing with was because my body couldn’t absorb the nutrients from the food I was eating. So…once I fixed that…and gave my body a fair shake at healing…everything started to fall back into place.
Five years later, and I feel healthy. I no longer live in a brain fog, or drop off to sleep on the couch for no reason. I don’t yell and get angry over stupid things. But, most importantly, I feel good. I have become a strong runner. My muscles and my body are still on the rebound, at times, but I look healthy. And I don’t get the mean and hurtful comments about “being all skin and bones” like I used to. I didn’t ask for that to happen to me…but it did happen. And the comments that people would make about me cut deep. They still hurt at times.
So…there it is. Five years ago, I had to make a change in my life…or put my life at serious risk. Without hesitation…my eating habits changed and soon, so did my health. I am living life again…and, trust me, this gluten-free, dairy-intolerant, vegetarian still gets her foodie freak on. You would be amazed at the foods I can eat!! Oh, and it has made me become quite the chef too. My kitchen experiments don’t always work out…but when they do…bliss.
There are times, when the office does pitch-ins or has lunches where I feel a little left out because there is rarely something I can eat…but you will never hear me complain or “hate” the fact that I am a Celiac. I don’t want people to say to me, “That’s horrible, I could never do that!” Guess what…it’s not horrible, and yes…anyone could go gluten free when it is the only option to feel happy and healthy again.
YES…I do get miffy at the people who treat it like a fad diet. I know there are people who go gluten-free to enhance their athleticism, or because it’s the “hot diet” at the moment. But, it does make it really hard for people like me, who medically have to eat that way, to be taken seriously. No, I can’t have just the filling of a pie…if it touched the pie crust. I WILL get sick. No, I can’t use your peanut butter if you have spread it on regular bread and then put the knife back in. I WILL get sick. No, I can’t eat that meal you put down in front of me because the pita bread was put on the plate. I WILL get sick. And YES…you need to remake the entire dish. Yes…that cookie WILL hurt me if I eat it. This is not an easy lifestyle…but it DOES get easier.
My health is the most important thing. And I never want to go through the months of worry and stress and pain I had to go through to get these answers. I am fortunate enough to have restaurants around me that handle my dietary needs without making me nervous about going in there. I have a gluten free (allergen-free) bakery that I visit at least twice a week. My life wasn’t made more complicated by this disease, it was just made more interesting.
I am fortunate enough to be a healthy weight, running strong, and being the best Celiac I can be! Nothing slows me down for too long…
So…five years later…feeling fantastic. Still a work in progress. I want to build up my muscle mass again, so strength training will commence. My body is strong…it can handle it. Because it will just make it stronger in the end.
This disease didn’t drag me down…quite the opposite. This disease opened my eyes and made me really examine my health and my choices. I’m healthier now for it.
My journey wasn’t easy…but a journey worth taking rarely is. I have learned a lot about my body, my food, and myself. And I’m not done yet.