Since this is May and Celiac awareness month and food allergy awareness week, I want to share the story of my diagnosis, which would not have happened in my opinion if it had not been for my kids. So continue reading if you want to know my not-so-normal road to diagnosis and answers that saved my life.
“You just need to lose weight .” - should be my mantra for almost all of my life; that is what I heard from so many doctors. My weight and health have always been a struggle. I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) when I was four years old, which started the whole overweight issue, and I had my gallbladder removed at fourteen. I had five miscarriages in three years. At my heaviest, I weighed in at over 400 lbs.
In 2002, after I gave birth to my youngest child, my health started to decline fast. I could not lose any weight, and my stomach issues became worse. I went to the gastrologist and had scopes done. He told me to take acid reflux medication and lose weight. I was under doctor’s orders on 1400, 1600, and 1800 calorie diabetic rotation diet to lose weight. I returned to the doctor's office for a check-up after six months and 50lbs. Heavier. To paraphrase the doctor, I was not following the diet, I didn’t want to lose weight, and I had no self-control. I left that office in tears and believed I was just meant to be fat.
My youngest had their first severe allergic reaction at nine months old. It was a shock since no one had talked about any food allergies, but there was a history of “stomach issues” in the family. I am suddenly part of the allergy mom club, which no one wants to be part of. I neglect my self-care even more in search of safe foods for my daughter. To say it was or is still stressful is an understatement. My stomach issues kept getting worse; my hair was falling out, I started having migraines.
I then find myself in an allergist’s office and testing for my baby. She is clueless as to what is going on, and then the testing is over. I am overwhelmed by all of this and have a meltdown on the doctor after receiving her results. At the time, it was positive testing for peanuts, tree nuts, and strawberries. This doctor listened to me and encouraged me to have basic food scratch testing done. Which I decided might be a good idea. Long story as short as I can make it: Surprise, you have food allergies!
The most challenging allergy for me to accept personally at the time was chocolate. I thought the doctors were wrong, and I had eaten chocolate all my life. At this time, I had not eaten chocolate for around three months. I felt better but not symptom-free. One day, I am separating chocolate candies for my two oldest children. I think to myself, “A little bit can’t hurt me.” Famous last words to myself, yes I ate one chocolate candy, which led to a migraine within 15 minutes and itchy skin all over.
In 2009 my health and my relationship with all of these “new” food allergies had improved some. I had lost around 100lbs at this point, still had migraines occasionally, my hair still fell out, stomach issues, and what exactly was a regular bowel movement? At this point in my life, I really could not remember. I was still fat, still sick, and tired of being sick and tired. My mother mentions that she had seen on TV that the gluten-free diet helped kids on the autism spectrum and ADD. My oldest child, who is 12 years old at this time, has both of these.
We, as moms, never give up on our kids, and that is what I did: I went and learned what I could about this diet that could help my son. I am reading a book, and before I can even finish it, I am calling my oldest sister, and I am telling her I think I found out what was wrong with us. My sister was having massive issues as well at this time. I go to my gastrologist and demand to have this test done. He refuses to do the test: since I am overweight, there is no point. I then find a gastrologist that does perform the test. My son gets tested as well. Our results are positive, and we eliminate gluten from our diet.
After a few months, we start to recover. I am calling my sister on an almost daily basis, and we are sharing our newfound health. My stomach issues improve, I can quit taking the acid reflux medication. My migraines start to go away, and I eat less because I feel full, and I start to lose weight. After just six months, I am feeling better, and my kids are too.
I made two appointments with those doctors who told me I was crazy for thinking I was sick. I took my test results in and told them each how they had made me feel. Of course, I understand they are human, and no one is perfect. I fully support doctors, nurses, and everyone in the health care industry. However, I also believe that as a patient we have to educate the doctors to think in a different light sometimes. I want them and everyone else to know that not every celiac patient is underweight; some of us are fat!
I still need to lose some weight! Just not as much as I used to. Over the past 12 years, my health has improved a great deal. My oldest child, my youngest, and I all maintain a gluten-free lifestyle because we have to. My youngest has 33 severe food allergies that we know of, and I remind myself it could be worse. I genuinely believe that it was my children that saved my life.
Through my children, I started to fight for their health and realized I couldn’t take care of them if I were not healthy. I understand the daily struggles both as a Mother and as a person that has food allergies. Allergy Dragon was born from these issues I have had to face. I believe everyone deserves to eat safe, healthy, and delicious food regardless of their diet restrictions. Please share, like, and comment on this post. Have you had a similar experience? Please let me know.