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shelleylyn

Glutened At My Own Birthday Party

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My birthday is two days away from my nephew's, so this year we decided to have a combined birthday party. I was diagnosed with Celiac last summer so I have been gluten-free for a little over 6 months now. I am highly sensitive. I was looking forward to the party at my brother's house... until I saw the food...

They had a sandwich bar and cupcakes. Of course, no gluten-free bread, sandwich meat of unknown contents, chips made in a facility that also processes wheat, cupcakes, and ice cream sandwiches (because my brother didn't want to fuss with dishing out ice cream). Eating only salad (which my other sister brought who assured me it was gluten-free) and sliced cheese, I watched my extended family members happily munching away on their meals.

When it was time for cake and ice-cream, they brought over this huge plate of cupcakes (a prior weakness/love/infatuation of mine), with candles and said "ok, blow out the candles". My nephew and I blew out the candles, then they passed around cupcakes and ice cream sandwiches. I sat there, surprised and hurt that I was staring at my birthday cake and I wasn't able to eat it. My sister-in-law said "I don't think there is gluten in these ice-cream sandwiches, you can probably eat those." Then she pulled out a half-eaten cake from her fridge she said "hey, did you bring this bostom cream cake with you so you could have some cake too?" Really?

At that point, I said as calmly as I could... "I have Celiac's disease and can't eat cake. And yes, ice cream sandwiches have gluten in them. Gluten makes me very sick."

Thank heavens my parents had brought me some gluten-free food for my birthday and were at least able to pull out a box of wafer cookies. I am pretty sure that kept me from crying.

Now I know my brother and his wife love me. I know he and his wife didn't mean to be insensitve. They are busy people and were naturally thinking about their son's birthday more than mine. I certainly don't expect everyone in my life to have to change their lives like I have had to since being diagnosed. They are uneducated about the disease and I can certainly help them learn more. They apologized for it and I plastered on a smile and told them that it was ok. But between you and me, my celiac friends, that was a royal low point for me.

And the kicker... as careful as I was, I still got glutened at their house. The migrane started just as we were leaving, I went to bed bloated and with a gut ache, and had to take the day off of work the next day because my fatigue was so overwhelming. After getting glutened, I sleep forever, sometimes losing up to two days of my life as my body shuts down to handle the glutening. I don't know if this happens to you, but I think I hate that bit the worst. I've already lost so much "living" time to this disease that I hate losing another minute to it.

So the moral of my story (for me, you may find another moral), is to always host my own birthday parties from now on. I know my kitchen is safe. I know my food is safe. I make delicious gluten-free cupcakes that rival the best flour-filled confections.

I am telling this story to you all because I know you'll understand. Sometimes it feels a bit lonely out there in a world of people without food sensitivities. Even among the people who I know love me the best. So for your next birthday party, I wish you all the best gluten-free birthday ever. If there were enough of us in the small rural community where I live, I'd hold us one great big birthday bash. All the food and drinks would be safe, and anyone who came with gluten on their breath would be unceremoniously ousted :)

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Well, I'm impressed that you didn't cry. I probably would have.

Certainly, the hardest part of being unable to eat gluten is not giving up foods - it's trying to navigate a social world full of gluten and well-meaning people who don't get it. I hope you feel better soon and that your next birthday party is full of delicious things you can eat. :)

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First off, happy birthday.

Reading your post was so heartbreaking! It sucks to feel left out or forgotten. I'm so sorry you had a crummy party and yes what you went through is very understandable and sympathized with. You're a very sweet person for being patient with your family.

Some websites state that the best solution is to bring your own back-up food with you. I find that a little hard to do specially when the hosts have put a lot of effort in arranging everything, but it's still better than getting poisoned.

Hope all your coming birthdays go smoothly! Xoxo

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I am sorry that this happened to you and ruined your birthday. One thing you can perhaps learn from it is that we have to take responsibility for our own food and our ability to be able to eat wherever we go. No one else understands what our needs are and, unless things have been specifically arranged ahead of time, no one else is likely to give it a second thought. As your family becomes more familiar with your needs (and you will have to let them know what those needs are) they will likely be more accommodating, but until then I would do what most of us do and take your own food with you. When you go to a potluck, take a plate of food for yourself and take a dish to share (being sure to serve yourself first :) ). I know this sounds impolite, but it is a practical necessity before the food becomes contaminated. Many celiacs do this even for Christmas and Thanksgiving if they have families who are not accommodating.

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I agree--it totally sucks. My family continues to be insensitive. At least yours did apologize.

Yes and yes, always invite them (with the stipulation they wash first and put on clean clothes if they want to help in the kitchen--and everyone washes their hands thoroughly before eating--keep your towel separate by the way) or bring your own that you intrepidly eat yourself despite any and all comments or looks. If its a potluck, make your food and have your own portions separate from everyone else's since you know the food will get CC'd otherwise.

This is one of the harder lessons. All that social stuff... The thing is though, that visiting and interacting in a positive way is more important than the food. In time it will no longer be a big deal. It will just be accepted as part of who you are. Meanwhile, stick up for yourself. And don't go anywhere where they just made fresh cake or pies from scratch near the dining area since the gluten dust is likely to be spread around in the air.

Bea

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I am so, so sorry! You handled it very well and are a very understanding person.

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:( :( :( So sorry!

As soon as you're feeling better, throw yourself another birthday. You can eat all the cake and ice cream you want - I give you permission. :D

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I would have left and gone home by the time they brought out the cake, were I you.

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I think I would have cried. I certainly would have been terribly hurt that my family did not consider what I needed to eat. But then I thought about it & gee, sometimes I forget for a minute or two that I can't eat the things I used to. The habit of eating a certain way for an entire life is hard to break at least in terms of the automatic thought process. Your family has some adjusting to do just like we do. But I would not be silent on the subject. When you are calm I think you should tell them in no uncertain terms how their actions hurt your feelings. Stand up for yourself. They are your family & therefore this affects them too even though they don't have the disease so they need to learn what they are going to have to deal with. They need to show some respect.

Having said that; I also say always, always bring your own food & make no apologies about it. So consider the episode a lesson learned for both yourself & your family & then move forward.

DO have that lovely birthday party for yourself when you get well. And enjoy!

Happy Birthday! (((Shelley)))

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I'm sorry you got your feelings hurt. You're new to this so you'll learn. Even tho these people are family, they have no idea how to cook safely for you. You would not have wanted to eat a gluten-free cake she made in her flour encrusted mixer & in pans with flour in all the cracks. Or potato salad with potatoes drained in the Colander used for pasta once a week for the last 6 years.

One of the 10 commandments of Celiac, be responsible for your own food. :)

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Update: Over the last week I made wonderful angel food cupcakes, lemon cupcakes, and a delicious yellow cake with strawberry frosting. I had to start inviting the neighbor kids over to help eat up all the cake :) My spirits have lifted once again, and I am ready to have an open conversation about what that was like for me. I also plan to keep educating them (and myself) about what it is like to have this disease. Sometimes I feel like a broken record, but I can live with that.

Thank you all for your kindness and support!

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Update: Over the last week I made wonderful angel food cupcakes, lemon cupcakes, and a delicious yellow cake with strawberry frosting. I had to start inviting the neighbor kids over to help eat up all the cake :) My spirits have lifted once again, and I am ready to have an open conversation about what that was like for me. I also plan to keep educating them (and myself) about what it is like to have this disease. Sometimes I feel like a broken record, but I can live with that.

Thank you all for your kindness and support!

I would have come over ! Those sound great!

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YUM! YUM! YUM! Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.....

That's the spirit Shelley. Go girl!biggrin.gif

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I love that you were able to "bake" yourself happy! :D

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Update: Over the last week I made wonderful angel food cupcakes, lemon cupcakes, and a delicious yellow cake with strawberry frosting. I had to start inviting the neighbor kids over to help eat up all the cake :) My spirits have lifted once again, and I am ready to have an open conversation about what that was like for me. I also plan to keep educating them (and myself) about what it is like to have this disease. Sometimes I feel like a broken record, but I can live with that.

Thank you all for your kindness and support!

Aw! Thats great!

I would have cried at the party! Or left and drove to the nearest grocery store to find something gluten-free!

I have started to enjoy taking gluten free food to parties, people's houses. So far I have been surprised, usually at every party there is one person who either is struggling with something they think is celiac and have debatted going gluten free, or else was recently diagnosed with celiac and they are struggling with it, and usually estatic with a gluten-free option!

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I have been there with food you love and know very well what it is like. You are not alone. The great thing is, they are really making better gluten free products. Loving the brownies I make and knowing I can eat them!

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I'm sorry your birthday was a flop, but I'm glad that you took it as a lesson, and turned the lemons into lemon cake.

I think Yolo said it best... we have to take responsibility for our own health and always make sure we have what we need to eat with us.

In fact, if I didn't already have several long-standing celiac members in my extended family, I probably wouldn't trust eating anything they made anyway. It takes a bit of education and trial and error to get gluten-free cooking and baking down right. How many of us have glutened ourselves in the early stages because we didn't know about some forms of hidden gluten? Expecting non-celiacs to know all the ins and outs of cooking and baking gluten free is a recipe for disaster (or, maybe just diarrhea).

Cut your family a break, and tell them not to worry about you... that you will always bring food you can eat as long as they do not try to cajole you into eating something that you know is not safe.

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Sorry to hear of your upset.

I had a similar thing on the 26th Feb. I'm only 1 mth into (trying to be) gluten free, but the dads of the other birthday celebrator are not my relatives, and their son was 2 the same day I was 43, so I suppose it shouldn't have been a surprise.

I had thought of taking my own food, but these friends are ace at salads and healthy food, so I wasn't expecting the bread and cake frenzy. Live and learn, I went home hungry and thinking hard.

I've decided on a solution, as we go to lots of BBQs spring to autumn, thought it might be worth sharing for those in warm climes. I've got one of those car cigarette lighter powered coolie boxes. I intend to make up a nice gluten-free salad or two and 'accidentally' leave them in the car. Then if I need it, I can pop and get them. If I don't need to, I've already got lunch sorted for the next day. Yet to be tried.

I'm not sure it'll work at a sit-down meal rather than a BBQ without a slight bad feeling, but thinking about it, good friends will probably feel a little bad about forgetting, and having an alternative to hand could ease their possible guilt plus my hunger, hopefully better all round.

To be tested at a social occasion this weekend!

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