Just over two weeks ago I started having some terrible stomach pains. Since my life on this blog is a bit of an open book, I will confess that I have had mild digestive problems for the past 10 years of my life. These issues escalated over Mother's Day weekend, and I found myself spending my Mother's Day and most of that following week in the hospital. I was discharged with some pain-killers, some medication to coat and ease my stomach, and no clear diagnosis. My stomach has felt pretty awful ever since.
And then on Thursday I received a call from my doctor that will forever change my life. The biopsy of my small intestine tested positive for Celiac Disease. I was shocked, and immediately sad because I knew what that meant. Goodbye to wheat, rye, barley, and oats. Goodbye to the comfort foods of holidays and special occasions. Goodbye to most, if not all, of my favorite recipes. I mourned, I cried, I called all my girlfriends to complain, and then I called a friend who has Celiac Disease. She assured me that my life is not over, I will find a new normal, I will stop dreaming about gluten, and in a few weeks I will start to feel a lot better.
And so today is Day 4 of my new gluten-free life. I will admit that five minutes does not pass without me thinking of food and what I cannot eat. I'm trying not to think about how my new diet is permanent. I'm taking it one day at a time, but I am dreaming about wheat based foods, including some of my favorites--pizza, pancakes, pasta and doughnuts. From what I read, gluten does that. It is like a drug, stimulating a part of the brain that craves for more. I eat and I feel full but my brain wants something more. I was told that in two weeks my brain will start to forget about gluten, the cravings will stop, and maybe the dreams will stop too.
I have spent most of the weekend researching gluten-free diets and food choices. I went to Whole Foods on Saturday night and spent $200 on gluten free baking flours and ingredients. I had to bake something, and I wanted it to be delicious. Baking something would be a small victory, a first step towards a new normal life.
At one point during my trip I wandered away from my cart in search of quinoa, and when I re-approached my cart I was shocked at what was inside. The contents looked nothing like what I normally purchase. Tapioca flour? Teff flour? Xanthum gum? Are these seriously real ingredients? I felt strange and sad. I tried really hard not to think about the permanent nature of my new diet. I distracted myself by adding sushi to my cart, and placing it in a very conspicuous location, and I continued shopping.
This morning I awoke and made gluten-free pancakes. They were good--not quite as good as my wheat based pancakes, but good enough. I smothered them with maple syrup and ate them until I felt full. And as I cleaned up the breakfast dishes I realized that I'm going to be ok. The pancakes were definitely good enough. I'll find other foods like the pancakes that are good enough. My life is going to feel normal again, and maybe sooner than I had originally thought.
You see, I already feel better. I'm not 100% percent, FAR from it, but I'm better in ways that I never thought were related to my stomach issues. Allow me to explain--
As we got ready for Mass this morning I realized that I forgot to make my coffee, again. I just didn't need it this morning, and I didn't need it on Saturday or Friday. I then realized I didn't have a headache on any of those days. Headaches normally motivate me to make coffee. I have not gone 3 days without a headache in at least a year. Maybe that's a coincidence, but probably not. My doctor told me that regular headaches are a symptom of Celiac Disease and I can't tell you how excited I am that mine seem to be gone!
And my allergies seem to have disappeared. A few months ago, I resorted to taking a daily allergy medication because my sneezing and wheezing were just that bad. But my seasonal allergies are now gone, and the change has happened almost overnight. Some of my joint pain is gone too. I had pain in my neck and back almost every day prior to my diagnosis. And it's gone. Maybe this is a placebo effect, but I'm loving it!
My gut is going to take a bit longer to heal, likely several months, but I trust it will heal in time. I'm praying the fatigue goes away too, and my doctor said it probably will.
And so tonight, for the first time, I'm ending my day thanking God that the sacrifices of the past few days have yielded such obvious fruit. The way I feel is motivating me to keep going, and I'm really curious to see what other minor health issues might disappear. For the first time in a long while I feel full of hope about my health. Celiac Disease in a gluten-loving world stinks, but tonight I am starting to see the silver lining, and I'm loving it.