My husband and I have been together for just over 9 years. When we were dating, I have memories of him talking about stomach pain and cramping, but since he didn’t make a big deal out of it, I didn’t give it a second thought. As time went on, though, the frequency increased to the point where he was feeling sick essentially on a daily basis, which was totally out of the norm for him. He wasn’t allergic to anything and hadn’t changed anything about his diet or lifestyle, so we knew we had to look further into it.
It was time to see the Doctor.
He was working full time as an RN in the operating room for a wide range of surgical procedures and had started becoming friendly with several ENTs (Ear, Nose, and Throat Doctors) and Gastroenterologists. Conversations led to questions, and finally, it was time for an Endoscopy. I’ll never forget that day. It was mid-December and I was working full-time in high-end retail – this was our busy season. I made arrangements and figured out how to pick him up from his procedure. His amazing physician told us that he’d looked for irritation and biopsied a couple of spots on his intestines. It could be a couple of different things, but he doubted it – he just wanted to be sure. And then we waited.
We had a great couple of weeks – my Christmas sales at work were better than ever, my parents had come in from New York, and our celebration was amazing. Our boys were 2 ½ and understood that Santa had visited with a truckload of presents. We knew we were waiting for results but he was wasn’t feeling any worse than usual, so we assumed (however optimistically) that the test results wouldn’t reveal anything major.
Our lives changed on New Year’s Eve – December 31. 2015.
He got a call from his Gastroenterologist that a condition he’d mentioned in passing – Celiac Disease – was his problem. I’d first heard about this ten years earlier when my roommate’s sister thought she had it. Going “gluten-free” was still largely a fad at that point – at least to us – so I’d heard of it but didn’t realize just what it entailed. But given my personality, I did all the research I could into it and haven’t looked back since. I cleaned out every cabinet – literally and figuratively – I removed all gluten-containing ingredients and did a thorough wipe down of their interiors. I found every gluten-free item available and researched the items with the best reviews. Some were good, some were…not, haha! We’re very fortunate that we received this diagnosis now, as opposed to fifteen years ago, where there weren’t many gluten-free options for everyday foods like bread and pasta.
But after a few too many gross items, it was time to take matters into my own hands.
I’ve always enjoyed cooking and baking. Entertaining and feeding family and friends has always brought me joy, so I knew I could find the silver lining in navigating our “new normal.” I started researching recipes, getting cookbooks, reading blogs, and asking questions. I got a TON of cookbooks from my grandmother and started recreating gluten-free recipes of all of my husband’s favorites. He’s definitely a creature of habit in the food department, so sometimes my creations are more for me than him, but he smiles through the missteps anyway! And oftentimes, he reminds me that I can just bake brownies instead of trying out a new recipe to recreate Hostess cupcakes.
Sure, it’s hard sometimes.
We can’t just order pizza or takeout. We have to be selective about where we go out to eat. I have to be VERY conscious when making pb&j on regular bread in my kitchen – just a couple of crumbs on the countertop can contaminate something else. One of us has to cook every night, so it can be tiring. But in so many ways, we are lucky. My husband was diagnosed very quickly – the average person takes four years to receive a diagnosis. He knew what he was feeling and could articulate it, as opposed to young children who are feeling terrible and can’t express themselves. We have the means to “experiment” with food, and try new things. We’ve been finding new recipes to try, and bonding in the kitchen – even bringing our little boys in to help sometimes. They understand that some things have gluten, which makes daddy sick, so he can’t eat them. I’d like to think that I’d still be cooking nightly and baking all sorts of desserts regardless, but being thrust into this lifestyle has made me hit the ground running.
It has also taught me to do more research than I think I need to and to be a fierce advocate. Ask the questions. Call the companies. Read the labels. Explain, explain, and explain AGAIN, to those who don’t understand why they can’t use the same spatula to serve the “normal” cake as they used to serve the gluten free one. Ignoring people who don’t think it’s real.
And if there’s something he requests to eat – you bet I will find a way to make it!