Celiac took me to hell and back, but it taught me something far more profound: how to let go.
I do not consider myself a religious person. I never have and probably never will. This was an exceptionally confusing concept to the man tattooing my side with the words, “Let go and let God,” last year on my birthday. But for me, this saying has never been about religion but about knowing that you cannot control everything and that sometimes you need to let go and allow the cards to fall where they may. It has been the saying that my grandmother has repeated to me over and over again to get me through the challenges life has thrown at me, and it is the saying that got me through the past year of my life with my sanity still (mostly) intact.
This year towards the end of March, I found myself lying on a table in the hospital preparing to have an endoscopy – you know, that super fun procedure where the doctors stick a camera down your throat to try and figure out what is wrong with your insides. I had been instructed to not eat or drink anything past midnight the night prior to the procedure, and through 11:59:59 PM, I was shoving as many Fig Newtons (my treat of choice) down my throat as possible. As I laid there on the table, doctors administering anesthesia, it occurred to me that I already knew the results of this test – I had Celiac’s disease, and never again would I get to taste the delicious goodness that are Fig Newtons.
Years In the Dark
My diagnosis had been a long time coming. Looking back at my childhood, which I thought at the time was quite normal, I constantly remember being ill; my brother even teased me for how often I had an upset stomach. I began suffering from joint pain around age 11. By the time I was in 10th grade, it had gotten so bad that I had to quit running, I would break out in hives and rashes for no apparent reason and during my period, my cramps were seriously bad – blackout from so much pain, bad.
Spelling everything out like that makes me feel like I must have been blind to have missed that there was some sort of underlying issue, but I really had no idea. I just kept going about my day to day life, acting like nothing was wrong. I had always felt this way and since my doctors never told me that I was sick, I assumed that healthy people must feel the same way too. End of story.
This is Not Normal
Fast forward to June of 2013. I had finally had enough of feeling terrible on a day to day basis, and had actually started to wise up and realize that what I felt was NOT normal. I decided to listen to my grandmother’s voice in my head, “Let go and let God, sweetheart,” and made a doctor’s appointment. I know you might be thinking that making a doctor’s appointment was the opposite of letting go, but really, I was finally letting go of my stubbornness and inability to admit that I had a problem.
After some blood work, it was determined that I had H. pylori, a fairly common bacterium that infects your stomach, causing a gambit of gastrointestinal issues. My doctor put me on a round of high-dosage antibiotics and omeprazole and sent me on my way. Over the next ten days I was in more agony and pain than I had ever experienced. Food and liquids would not stay down, I was too dizzy to get out of bed and every joint in my body ached. As I was lying in bed crying, I would occasionally look at my tattoo, hear my grandma’s voice again and toughen up a bit.
I was beyond thrilled when my ten days of anguish were over. Though I was hoping to start feeling like a new person, I found myself seriously disappointed when nothing changed. In fact, my symptoms got much worse. Like clockwork, every morning I would wake up and have to run to the bathroom or nearest trash can to throw up. I began getting debilitating migraines more frequently, I was losing weight, my skin was dry and patchy and I became depressed. I went through another round of stubbornness over the next few months, but finally decided to succumb to the saying and made the doctor’s appointment once again, where I received my long awaited diagnosis.
Finding a New Dinner
It’s only been about two months since my doctor uttered the words, “You have Celiac,” to me, but these two months have been some of the most challenging I’ve experienced. Between having to learn what exactly gluten even is and where it can be located (places you would never in a million years expect), reorganizing my kitchen to prevent cross-contamination and finding out that I would have to halt trips to the restaurant my boyfriend and I dubbed as “our spot,” my life has flipped. I spent the first month of my diagnosis constantly feeling like my life was going to be defined by this stupid protein that makes things taste so amazing. I cried (a lot) and would get angry and lose my temper (a lot) just trying to figure out what to have for dinner. And then I let go. I knew this was the diagnosis I was going to get, so it was time to stop being angry and start being thankful. I started bringing snacks with me everywhere and embraced my newly discovered happy, healthy belly.
Every day while getting dressed I see my tattoo. Seeing it reminds me that people go through much worse than I do and that there is nothing that I can’t handle. The cards will fall as they will, I can’t control that.
My health problems are long from over. My doctor’s appointment in March led to the discovery of other issues, and I now see more specialists on a weekly basis that I ever imagined possible.
But I’m OK with that…I guess I am finally learning to let go and let God.
About the Author
Taylor Norman is a 24-year-old badass originally from the small wonder, Hockessin, Delaware. Currently residing in Watertown, Massachusett, her hobbies include cooking, singing along to terrible music, drinking entirely too much coffee and hanging out with some pretty cool horses, Jack and Pleasure. In an ideal world, Taylor would spend her days in the kitchen of her restaurant cooking locally sustainable, gluten-free food and go home every night to her house on a ranch in the Sierra California Mountain Range with her family. She has two long-distance pets at home whom she loves dearly, Ricky and Lucy, who are long haired mini dachshunds, and hopes to get a dachshund of her own in the very near future.