How Years of Pain Finally Led to my Celiac Diagnosis (Part 1)

“Pain is meant to wake us up.”: Jim Morrison

It’s time to put a quarter in my time machine and take a look back at when I was diagnosed in late April 2011:

I’m honestly not sure when I developed celiac.  I don’t know if I had it for years or if something caused a final internal meltdown to trigger it beyond the point of no return.  I just know I’ve had stomach problems my entire life.  Throughout high school I swigged Pepto Bismol straight from the bottle like it was my own personal flask.  As a child I used to tie a belt as tightly around my stomach as I could to quell the pain (don’t ask where THAT logic stemmed from, but it seemed appropriate at the time).  It just seemed that 75% of the time I was in pain or uncomfortable. There was no explanation.

Throughout it all I did my best to simply live a normal life, and even when I took up running in 2004 I dreaded any long runs for marathon training because I KNEW I would have multiple pit stops; it was a real bummer.

My stomach made the rules, I meekly abided.

For years I was given indefinite answers from family doctors, my favorite being the good old IBS diagnosis:

You have IBS.  Good day. *gentle shove*
But I…
I said GOOD DAY!
But I don’t like Melba toast…*pout*

Sorry folks, but to me IBS is an acronym for “We don’t know WHAT’S wrong with you, so this should suffice until you have more complaints”.

I did everything to try to eliminate the symptoms to the point where I was afraid to consume food; after cutting a lot of food groups from my diet to attempt to pinpoint the problem, I finally broke down and saw a gastroenterologist.  This was only after a night of horrific pain that almost made me go to the Emergency Room. When describing my symptoms (drastic weight loss, stabbing abdominal pain, TMI, TMI and more TMI) she gave me a long sideways look and asked:

“Have you ever been tested for celiac disease?”

Um…what? *in solemn Cartman voice*

Everyone, this is where Stage 1 exits and Stage 2 comes into play: DENIAL

I stopped short.  I had eliminated EVERYTHING but wheat: meat, dairy, eggs, raw veggies, legumes.  There was NO WAY it could be wheat.  I NEEDED it and I would absolutely DIE without it!  I was a runner (or struggling to be one at this point) and I NEEDED wheat-laden carbs for success!

I recalled an earlier phone discussion with my mom, telling her how I was finally breaking down to see a specialist.  She said that she wouldn’t be surprised if the catalyst for my issues was wheat.  I stubbornly declared “No way, it better NOT be!  I’ll die! Give me wheat or GIVE ME DEATH!” I suddenly embodied the spirit of Patrick Henry in my declaration of love for all things wheat.  There was just no way I would ever be able to give it up!  Ever!

There was nothing to do but get the blood work started and anxiously await my fate.  The phone call from the specialist might as well have been a collect call from Neptune, I just felt like every minute was an eternity.

*cue solemn music swell*

*screen cuts to black*

TO BE CONTINUED…

*I know the suspense is killing you, right?….but it’s like “If you’ve read the book you know the movie…” same deal. You know how this story ends…and then, happily, begins with a new chapter…*

Next Time: The Beginning of the End and a Whole New Way of Life

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