I am working on a step by step guide to help those that have recently been diagnosed with celiac disease or looking to go gluten free for a number of health benefits. I know that when I was diagnosed it was incredibly overwhelming to say the least. What do I eat? What do I read on labels? What will happen if I eat out? What will I do with all my food that is full of gluten in my house? Give it to the homeless man in the alley? Throw a party for my last days ever ever ever being able to eat gluten and celebrate what will be the end of my life?!?
My diagnosis was an incredibly emotional day, which I’m sure many of you can relate to if you have experienced this yourself. Let’s go back in time to the end of 2010/beginning of 2011. I got mono AND strep throat….at the same time…yes, terrible, terrible, beyond terrible. I was not 19, but 28. Yes, TWENTY-EIGHT and I had mono and strep throat. Miserable upon miserable. I remember finally dragging my butt to urgent care on a Sunday because I was convinced I was dying. In case you were wondering, I wasn’t dying – just mono and strep throat as you now know. Fast forward to the first follow up appointment with a regular doctor and not urgent care. Doctor (mind you, my age) walks in and very abruptly and quite rudely if I might say so myself, says you are a little old to have mono. Thanks, gee thanks. As I’m completely beyond miserable here you are going to point out that I’m not a college kid that should be having mono. Incredibly helpful you are, doc!
Now it has been ehhh, maybe six weeks since I was told I had mono (strep went away thank goodness for antibiotics!) but I still felt completely and utterly exhausted ALL.THE.TIME. I had just moved to Denver a few months before and started a new job. I had been out sick, even took time without pay because I didn’t have much vacation time, but then had to make myself get to work each day. I could barely make it through the work day. I mean, beyond sluggish, want to crawl under my desk and hope no one would see me kind of exhaustion. I would come home to my friend’s place that I was living with and immediately take a nap. Barely wake up for dinner and maybe a shower. Then back to bed ASAP. So I find a new doctor, because I was not about to go back to doc my age that wanted to point out my old-ness for mono yet again. Find a new doctor and she runs tests, listens to me complain about my exhaustion (and my years upon years of intestinal problems), and says she’ll call me with results. Great. More waiting while I slowly think I can’t make it through another day feeling like this. She calls 48 hours or so later to tell me I have major iron deficiency and to start taking supplements for a few weeks and come back in for a follow up, but that I should start feeling better soon.
I go back in about a month and the more we talk, the more she says she wants to test me for celiac. She says iron deficiency sometimes can be a sign of celiac along with all the intestinal problems, migraines, struggles with acne, etc. that I told her about. (Read more here about iron and celiac). Great I thought. Celiac would be the absolute worst thing that could ever happen to me. I mean, I love to bake. I love to eat pizza. Pasta. Bread. Yummy, gooey delicious bread hot out of the oven. Don’t you love how dramatic we are about these life things or decisions that we are sure we will not be able to make it through?! She says once again she will call me with the results. 48 hours later or so she calls me. I’m driving. I remember it well. Doc says my levels are off the charts testing positive for celiac disease. Gasp, hold back the tears on my end. She asks me if I have resources or need help in adjusting to what feels like my whole life changing and never being the same again. (And in reality, that moment did change my life forever. I cannot go back). There are many defining moments in our lives that we know our lives will take a different path than what we were on. This is most certainly one of them for me as I was on the crossroads of Broadway and Mississippi Street. I tell the doctor I can think of a few people in my life that are gluten free so I will reach out to them. She encourages me to read labels and to eat naturally. We get off the phone and I take a moment and then it starts… The tears just started streaming down my face for a few minutes. I’m overwhelmed. I’m scared. I love cooking. I love hosting. I love life centered around food and the beauty of authentic conversations over a shared meal. How will I navigate? How will I eat at other people’s homes? Will I always have to eat before dining anywhere other than the confines of my own house? Ahhhhhhhhh……
And the path got easier. One day at a time. MUCH, MUCH easier as I learned and asked questions and researched. The internet is a wonderful gift. Gluten free friends that I knew were a treasured gift to help navigate. Truly life saving in those first few days, weeks, and months. And what was 9,000% times better was that I felt better. After about a month…only one month. I was not on the toilet every other second. I was not getting random and terrible migraines. I started to have energy. Real energy in a way that I hadn’t had before. It was wonderful. And continues to be absolutely wonderful.
My goal and vision for my life has always been to help others. It has been in my DNA for as long as I can remember. I like being helpful and like doing what I can to make people I know or don’t know have life just a bit better, easier than I had it. I believe we all have a voice, (numerous) purposes, and gifts to offer one another. This platform is a place that I am offering up my voice and experience to help and give to others. Thanks for joining me on this journey. I hope to help you, encourage you, and make the world even the slightest bit better/simpler/easier for you as you embark on your gluten free journey. It gets better. Just like wine. It gets better with age (time).