Thursday, November 3, 2011

One Year Ago

One year ago in September I opened our mailbox to find a large envelope addressed to me from my Doctor. I knew some form of communication was coming from him, but my heart still raced as I was unsure of what the communication would say. I felt unsettled as I ran to the house. I stood on the porch and contemplated if I should open the envelope. Once opening it I knew my life would be different, although I did not know how. But I had to open it.

As my fingers trembled, I opened the envelope and read the note. Dear Amanda..... What came next, I could not even decipher because I was in shock as I read the words. The letter informed me that I had Celiac disease and that I would have to start a strict gluten free diet immediately.

I opened the door and walked in the house to John cooking Pad Thai (with wheat noodles nonetheless) and I burst into tears. Concerned, he ran over to me asking what was wrong. I handed him the letter and he read. I knew my life was going to change. I am accustomed to changing my diet as I had done it twice before. Once at the age of 14 when I became vegetarian and then when I became vegan about three years ago. This was different though, this wasn't because I wanted to save animals from a life of torture and suffering. This had nothing to do with a personal conviction. This was because I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.

I did not even want to eat that evening because I knew that our dinner was what was making me sick. John tried to convince me that I should take gradual steps towards gluten free to help ease the transition. Those of you that know me know that when I make a commitment to something I go all in. This would be no different. The next day, I started my gluten free journey.

The good news was that despite having a disease, I did not have to take any drugs. I could control this through diet. When I put it into perspective, it did not seem as tragic as I first thought. I was not being given a death sentence, I was being given a chance to live. I was told that if I did not follow the diet, there was a possibility that I could die early from cancer or get osteoporosis and/or other issues. I am a fighter and I would fight this and win. I would not let Celiac disease defeat me.

It is now a year later and I have lived virtually gluten free for a whole year. I have had a few incidents where I accidentally consumed gluten unknowingly, but I have not once eaten it purposefully. While the feat may seem small to most, this is something that I am proud of myself for accomplishing. I have had many occasions where I have drooled over people enjoying vegan confections, breads, sandwiches, pizza etc. and I stayed strong. I have many flaws and shortcomings, but will power is not one of them. When I set my mind to something I stick with it and having a disease with consequences makes it even more important for me to stay on track.

This past year has been a challenge and I constantly realize areas of my life where I will always be different from others. I identify most with compassionate vegans, but still feel different from them- they can consume gluten. So I find myself in a strange and often lonely category- a Gluten free vegan. It becomes painfully obvious how different I am when folks (usually omnivores) say to me "what the hell can you eat?" I try to spin it in a positive direction.

Most of the people in my life have been supportive. Some of the people in my life have been nothing short of amazing in my journey. John has willingly removed almost all gluten from his diet at home as to make the kitchen a safe place for me. My vegan and vegetarian friends always consider me in making sure there is something gluten free for me to enjoy. My Mom has learned how to bake both gluten free and vegan. This is touching as she is neither gluten free nor vegan. Then there is the amazing blogging community which has shared so many recipes. Without the loving support of John, my parents, and friends I am not sure that I would have made it to a year of success.

Thank you to all of you who have been there with me this past year and have helped me through my journey. Thank you for not making me feel like an outcast and accepting this new version of me. Thank you for listening to my struggles, tears, and successes. I appreciate all of your open ears and hearts and for loving me.

Happy one year.


Dawn said...

That is no small feat, Amanda! Congratulations on one year of taking good care of your body. I'm sure it thanks you daily.

Cadry said...

It sounds like you have been really blessed with supportive and caring people! Congratulations on one year of living gluten-free!

Cara said...

I love John and I love your mom so much! You are definitely blessed to be surrounded by people who care like that. Thank you for sharing your story Amanda. I love learning more about you--you are such a sweet person and I feel so blessed to have found your blog. I'm so happy to find more GF/vegans! I really understand how much of an "outcast" a gluten-free vegan can feel--I get that question a lot about what I can eat. I usually just tell them that I fill up on grass and air :)

VeggieAmanda said...

Thank you Dawn, Cadry, and Cara!
Cara- I have really enjoyed learning about you as well. I like your explanation on what you fill up on! :-)

Mandee said...

Well done, Amanda! A year without gluten is something most people couldn't comprehend but you've done really well :)

It can be hard surrounded by gluteny foods but if you know it's bad for your health, it gets easier to avoid.

John said...

You deserve many accolades for continuing to cope with Celiac disease--I know how hard your struggle is and what a strong person you are. One year is quite a milestone to be proud of!