The Ultimate Irony
- By Melissa Blanco
- Published 09/15/2008
Melissa Blanco is a freelance writer and blogger who was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2007. You can visit her website at www.melissablanco.com.
Seriously, I thought. “Are you absolutely certain?” I asked. Which I promptly followed with, “But how?”
Although I was reeling with outward shock to the physician, I was not really surprise by the outcome, based on the fact that I had asked for the blood test. No, I had practically begged for it- even exaggerating symptoms of severe gastrointestinal upset that should never be mentioned in a public place.
The doctor smiled and said, “Well you have tested positive for Celiac Disease, so you need to not eat gluten for the rest of your life.”
For the rest of my life. I thought. “Okay, so gluten is wheat, right?”
“Yes, and barley and rye. Here, let me print out some information for you on resources you can find on the Internet. There are some support groups and a list of what foods you should stay away from.”
For the rest of my life. “So this is not something I will just get over one day?”
“No. Once you have the disease, you will always have it.”
After leaving the doctor’s office, I sat in my car and began to make a list of all of the foods that I would no longer be allowed to eat. Ironically enough, this was two days before Thanksgiving and I was so not thankful that I would never be able to eat my Mom’s stuffing again. As the list of forbidden foods grew longer, I began to think back of the signs I had over the years- little things I may have miss that would have told me that maybe all of my favorite foods were literally poisoning me.
Stomach aches- Is it abnormal to go to bed several nights a week with a stomach ache? I’d had them for so many years that they became normal and expected.
Tooth Discoloration- Why is it that I had staining on my teeth as a child (thank goodness for modern day bleaching) that no dentist could find a reason for other than “they just appeared” or “maybe you hit yourself really hard in the mouth once.”
Canker Sores/Mouth Ulcers- More severe during times of stress, college finals and my husband’s deployment to Iraq, they would oftentimes become the size of a pencil eraser head. Ironically, they usually deterred me from eating gluten because they hurt worse when I did. I saw a pamphlet at the dentist’s office once that said mouth sores could be due to a wheat allergy. I shrugged and thought, That is definitely not me.
Recurrent Miscarriages- too painful to go into detail, but a potential link.
Anemia, chronic fatigue, weakened immune system- all symptoms that I suffered for years and mistook for something else. I had every excuse in the book for my problems, and chose to ignore what was obviously right in front of me.
Yet, I was beginning to think that maybe there was a link between my health ailments and Celiac Disease. Still attempting to forgo a lifelong abstinence from gluten, I scheduled a consult with a Gastroenterologist, knowing that if I was going to be passing on the pizza at my kids' soccer parties, there had better be a good reason for it. I should mention that I did give up gluten immediately after leaving the doctor’s office on that November day. For dinner that night, I ate yogurt.
The Gastroenterologist, who is one of the nicest doctors I have ever had the pleasure of working with, ordered an upper endoscopy, to biopsy my stomach and small intestine. He also told me that in order for the test to be accurate I would need to have consumed gluten for at least two weeks prior.
“So I get to eat gluten again?” Like I said, he was a great doctor, and he was telling me exactly what I wanted to hear.
For the next two weeks, I took my husband and children to every restaurant that I loved. I ate spaghetti, pizza, hamburgers, sweet and sour chicken, donuts, cake, cookies, sandwiches, consuming basically everything that was on the “forbidden” list of foods. It was glorious, and I will always remember my fourteen days of blissful gluten gluttony.
Of course I developed a respiratory infection, lost my voice for a week, and felt terrible the entire two weeks, but at least I was well fed. So- when the nice doctor told me that my biopsy did prove I had Celiac Disease, I did not argue with him, or cry, or storm out of the office in despair. I picked myself up out of the chair and realized that it was time to make a change.
Looking back at all of my years with undiagnosed Celiac Disease, I think of all of the ironies that were present in my life. There were the meals when my track coach said to carb-load before the big race and I would do just that. Chucking the impending stomach aches off as nerves, I could never understand why I felt so sluggish and sick on race day. There were the Monday mornings in college that I would come down with a cold after a weekend of fast food and pitchers of beer at the local off-campus bar with my friends. There were the afternoons when I could not keep my eyes open after eating a “healthy” whole wheat sandwich for lunch.
I also look back upon my jobs in high school and college- working in a fast food restaurant, serving donuts and slicing bread in a bakery, and as a waitress in an Italian restaurant. It is too ironic- yeah, I really do think.
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