Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"I feel a very unusual sensation- if it is not indigestion, I think it must be gratitude." -Benjamin Disraeli

It took me a long time to realize that I was lucky.

I was sixteen years old, hormonally unstable, riddled with teenage angst and, quite frankly, a huge pain in my mother's ass. I glared at the woman in the lab coat as she read off the metal clipboard in her hand. "Your endoscopy confirms the diagnosis," she said, in a tone that I still remember being irritatingly chipper. She began to explain the disease, lapsing into medical jargon that seemed way more interesting when it was coming out of McDreamy's mouth on Greys Anatomy, and I intentionally (and indiscreetly) tuned her out. I turned my head and fixated on a spot on the wall where the paint was peeling. "...oats, barley, rye..." Fuck her. "...processed foods, modified food starch..." Fuck this disease bullshit. "...pastas, pizzas, cereals." I snapped back.

It was there, in that cold, sterile, metallic doctor's office, as the list of foods I could no longer eat hit my ears with a dull thud and fell to the floor, a useless pile of past pleasures at my feet, that my world, much like the bottom of my food pyramid, dropped out from under me. I pouted. I sobbed. I screamed and yelled and cursed at every Dunkin Donuts I passed. I didn't feel lucky. I felt hungry.

Nine years later, I wish I could go back and apologize to that doctor. It wasn't her fault and I was, by all accounts, a total bitch. It's Celiac Awareness Day, and I feel lucky. No, I'm not lucky to have celiac. It's not a "great way to cut carbs," and it irritates the hell out of me when people say it is. It's an incurable autoimmune disease, and it sucks. But it sucks a lot less now.

It sucks less because there are people in my life who have worked hard to raise their own awareness, and it never ceases to impress and amaze me. This awareness goes beyond my parents and Aaron, who as I have said countless times in my posts, have offered me more love, support, and gluten free food than I could ever have asked for. I try to thank them every single day.

But there are others in my life who I don't always take the time to thank for being such a huge part of stabilizing my post-celiac world. My family members- grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins- for whom the terms "celiac" and "gluten free" are now second nature. I am so grateful for the first Thanksgiving dinner which my grandmother made entirely gluten free, the freezer full of Schar's bread that my aunt keeps stocked at her shore house, or the watchful eye of my cousin who caught me just in time as I, deeply engaged in dinner conversation and on my third glass of wine, blindly reached for the "gluten butter."

My best friend Ciara, who has known me before, and after my diagnosis, and who has been one of the most supportive to my cause. I mean, how many other friends would bake a trial cake the week before your birthday just to make sure it tasted good? I have never been struck with such an amazing appreciation of her unwavering friendship as I was when she told me she likes to order gluten free food when she goes out to eat because she wants to raise awareness. She muddles through as many gross gluten free products as I do trying to find the pastas and pizzas and chocolate cake mixes that taste the best.

Birthday Cake 2.0

And all of the other friends and coworkers who I have met along the way and who have, even in the smallest and most seemingly insignificant ways, educated themselves and me: passed along restaurant recommendations or websites or recipes, and have made this journey easier and infinitely more fun. Servers and chefs who I don't know, but who have taken a genuine interest in making it less challenging and more delicious to dine out on a gluten free diet. And anyone who is hanging in there reading this, you too, have unwittingly entrenched yourself in this sappy post and learned a little more about Celiac. 

I'd like to say thank you, from the bottom of my little gluten free heart.