To be honest, I really wish that I had never learned about this disease, or that I at least had comfortable distance from it, but things don’t always go as we want them to, and that can turn out to be a good thing. ‘Gluten intolerance’ has become a widespread term in the past few years, but I never really paid any attention to it, thinking you only needed to avoid bread and that was the end of it. Oh, how wrong I was!
When my sister Michelle first said that she was feeling bad, we thought it was just a phase that would pass soon. She was anemic and often tired, and her cases of bad digestion would come and go often. It wasn’t until she noticed that she began bruising much easier than she did before, and she was bloated no matter what she ate, that she went to see a doctor. Diagnosis: Celiac disease and severe gluten sensitivity.
Learning about her condition has made me realize just how present gluten is in our lives–chocolate chip cookies, pizza, pasta, beer, gravy, crackers, bread… The list kept getting longer and longer, and she grew more desperate with every item added. Luckily, she was diagnosed early enough, so her gallbladder stayed healthy, and there were no signs of osteoporosis which was good. We learned how it works: because her body simply ‘doesn’t like’ gluten, when she eats it, there is an immune response, and her small intestine attacks it, which results in damage on the villi (those are that small finger-like projections of the small intestine) and she can’t properly absorb nutrients from her food.
As much as we, as a family, could support her and be strong for her, we weren’t the ones experiencing what she was, and it was difficult for us all. She was angry and sad for a long time, and she cried a lot at first. But I guess that sadness and anger had to go away somehow. It is not easy knowing that you will never be cured from your disease. What helped all of us a lot was the discovery of the SCD Lifestyle (scdlifestyle.com) website and their 1-On-1 help center. It meant a lot to all of us that someone who has been through what she was going through could assure her that she would be fine.
Things get better, and those are not just empty words, but the truth. After the initial shock and disbelief, we all got into research and discussions with doctors. Today, my entire family is on a gluten-free diet when we eat together, and the taste of corn tortillas is even better than I expected! I still love eating cookies and enjoying a glass of beer, but this is our way of helping her cope with her illness.
When Michelle got diagnosed with celiac disease, we were devastated, but thankfully things have been changing for the better. Today, we are grateful that we finally understand what she is suffering from, so that we can help her. It has made us all more open and thoughtful, and what’s more, it has strengthened the bonds in our family. We know that all of us are always there for each other, no matter what, and everything is easier when you can rely on someone.
The informational content of this article is intended to convey a personal experience and, because every person’s experience is unique, should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.
This story is intended to convey a personal experience and, because every person’s experience is unique, should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.