Happy Anniversary to Me!
Two years ago I was so anemic I had trouble walking short distances. I also picked up every bug or virus possible, leading to more and more severe chest and lung infections - at least two or three every year minimum. On top of that my stomach was constantly a wreck, my skin often covered in rashes and my head always in pain. All of which I thought was “normal” or “just me”.
My coworkers constantly joked that I needed to find a bubble to live in and I tended to agree. I ate “healthy” foods and exercised. I’d ask doctor after doctor what I could do to stop getting so sick and they didn’t have any suggestions! “You’re healthy”, they said. “You’re just allergic to everything.”
But that all changed when my parents got involved and started taking me to some of my appointments. They saw how defeated I was and how nothing ever seemed to change no matter how many waiting rooms I took residence in. My dad started researching every symptom I had, hunched over his laptop for hours, and finally suggested I ask to be tested for Celiac. That’s right, my dad, not a doctor, found out I had Celiac.
It wasn’t an easy transition for me. My disease was very advanced according to biopsies and when I cut out gluten, I experienced months of more and more severe withdrawals. The doctors locally who didn’t know about Celiac knew even less about how to help me during this transition and so after several very painful and hopeless months, I found the Celiac Center at Columbia University. Thank God!
Fast forward to today. The day before my two year “diagnosis anniversary”, I ran a half marathon with my sister-n-law. And it felt amazing! The next weekend? I tried acro-yoga, something I’d always wanted to try but never had the ability to. I haven’t been sick with a sinus or chest infection in over a year, something that never would have happened B. C. - (before Celiac).
The diagnosis of Celiac quite literally saved my life. Not just in the critical - “does she have a pulse” - sense. But also in a real, emotional sense. I can try things, accomplish things, LIVE LIFE! Does that mean I don’t have setbacks? Of course not, I have very real, painful and embarrassing setbacks when my stomach rebels for some unknown reason and my joints hurt from head to toe. But I know what I’m up against now.
My hope and passion has never been clearer. Raise awareness so that fewer and fewer people have to suffer. Not only suffer physically, but also in the way that makes you feel small and insignificant. Like when a waiter treats you like you have leprosy because you ask for a gluten free menu!
I am thankful for Celiac, even though it pains me to say so. And as long as I have it (fingers crossed for a cure), I will work to raise awareness for myself, and for each one of you. Because I now have a lot of years left to LIVE life to it’s fullest!