Ah, May. The trees are beginning to bloom, the tulips and daffodils begin to pop, and warm(er) weather hints that the worst of winter is now but a fading memory. It is also apropos that May just happens to be National Celiac Awareness month – since so many celiacs tend to view their diagnoses as a renewal or new beginning. I know I did more than fifteen years ago.
I also feel like it is the one time of the year when we can look beyond all the gluten-free noise that is out there and re-focus – even if just for one month – on the actual disease that is so much more than its prescription. Yes Virginia, there is an actual disease that forces people into a gluten-free lifestyle. See it’s not a choice for me and millions of others out there. Believe me, I was forced into it as I could never imagine selectively choosing to rule out wonderfully gluten-filled foods. I would never selectively choose to further restrict my food options since I am also hyper-allergic to shellfish.
Don’t get me wrong, I am the first person to talk gluten-free but as a celiac I know what it really means. It means that I can live a normal, full, and delicious life. It means the days destroying my intestine and malabsorption are over. It means that when I look into the mirror I see a healthy, albeit slightly zaftig, person looking back at me – not a skeleton that always looked like something was wrong (which it was). It means that I am part of a community that is a family in every sense of the word – united by our disease. It means that I now live my life on my terms and no different than my pre-diagnosis days with one exception – I am gluten-free out of necessity.
If just one person who is going through what so many of us went through when we were searching for what was wrong with us becomes familiar with celiac disease during the month and gets properly diagnosed – well, then shifting the focus and elevating celiac disease was all worth it. P.S. There is nothing wrong with us. We have a disease and we live and thrive with it — that’s all.