“I have effing celiac disease?!” I inadvertently exclaimed in front of my 7-year-old daughter. Then we both burst into tears (which is when I realized she was standing there). “You have a disease?” she asked, freaking out, through her tears. I quickly gathered her into my arms. “No, baby, no! I’m so sorry, it’s not serious. It’s just I can’t eat certain foods. It’s really no big deal.” I cradled her, stroking her hair, saying to myself, “Nice job, Sheri. Worst mother ever. You not only said the F-word in front of your child, you scared the living crap out of the poor thing!”
Consoling a child while simultaneously consoling yourself is not an exercise I recommend.
That was on September 5, when I first opened my blood tests results. And it was a big deal then. It was a huge deal for me, in fact. It was like my world…my world in FOOD…spontaneously combusted.
And then there was my husband’s reaction. Not at all what I expected. I felt like I had to defend the integrity of the test results, the lab that ran them, my very own integrity because I had gone to a naturopathic physician. You know, a charlatan, a charmer, a voodoo priestess. But she diagnosed me, so I love her. Traditional medical doctors had not uncovered the mystery, which is why, in desperation, I went to a naturopathic doctor. In fairness to Barnaby, I had been going down a long road - one that was frantically picking up momentum - in a desperate search for explanations into why I felt so crappy. Not normally a diet book buyer, I was acquiring all sorts of literature in hopes of finding answers, and the stack of books is high. Admittedly, I glommed onto theories that (perhaps) lacked science. Was it peri-menopause? Arthritis? Adrenal fatigue? Were my hormones out of whack? Should I be eating for my blood type or would I have more energy and brain clarity on a ketogenic diet? I have all of those books and more if you would like one. Not a one helped me (with the exception of the keto/paleo diet, which is GF). So I think my dear husband was just as burned out by my frantic search as my body felt burned out.
Now it’s October 11 and it’s really no big deal! I am
totally okay getting there with having celiac disease. I’m eating basically as I did before but with some tweaks here and there: lots of vegetables and fermented foods, fruit, fish, grass-fed beef here and there, and a bit of what we now refer to as “legal grains”. But I’m much more cautious with goes down my gullet or even what I touch (yes, I had to wash my hands after tearing apart my daughter’s flour quesadilla) lest I then lick my fingers; not that I’m a finger licker, mind you. It’s the sneaky things that gluten is slipped into as a cheap thickener that are a challenge. Like having to check all my lipsticks, chapsticks and glosses, my toothpaste, each and every sauce in my pantry, medications (what the?!). Yes, they are all things that can contain gluten. Crazy, huh? We even had to get a new toaster. Doctor's orders.
I do miss the carefree feeling of going to a restaurant and ordering whatever I want without giving thought to cross-contamination. Those were two words that didn’t even exist before in my vernacular: cross-contamination. What a buzz kill. If you can’t imagine this feeling, let me paint a better picture for you: It’s like not wanting to get pregnant and worrying the whole time you’re having sex that you’ll get knocked up. Kinda takes the joy out of it, you know what I’m saying?
I can’t count the number of people who have asked if I will grow out of it (you can, actually, grow out of an allergy; you cannot grow out of an autoimmune disease). Or, if I’m really good (e.g not eat gluten) for a long time if I can just cheat and have, say, a baguette? I’ve even had a shocking number of people say that the gluten isn’t as bad in Europe as it is in the US, so I can eat bread safely over there. I smile politely, but inside I am thinking, "It.Is.Still.Gluten. Gluten, you know, the shit that has been literally melting the lining of my small intestines for my entire life? No, gluten is not any swankier in Europe. I'm steerin' clear, merci beaucoup.”
Each day is better. And each day I learn something more about celiac disease, and I hope to share what I learn with you. But best of all, I have solidarity and support, which, sadly, a lot of people with celiac don’t have. My family is taking the time to understand and adjust along with me and that has made the transition and adaptation to a new way of eating so much easier.
That is love. And I am so thankful.
Read my new Suddenly Celiac series here: