For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with my health. Looking back through my health records and life before diagnosis, I am overwhelmed with emotions: frustration, anger, regret, and sadness flood through me, but thankfulness wells up and washes out all the others. This is my story… When I was a toddler, my mother knew something was wrong when I didn’t run around and play like the other children. I didn’t have the energy to. She started having my pediatrician test me for diabetes because of my frequent thirst, frequent urination, and fatigue. I tested negative for diabetes, so my doctor just said it was a phase. Fast forward to middle school…the chronic fatigue continued. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism when I was 13 years old. I also started experiencing excruciating stomachaches every time I ate. I remember going on a trip to Canada the summer after seventh grade and literally the only thing I remember from that trip is the tour bus bathroom- how sad is that. I was in there the whole time and I was so embarrassed. Eventually, I just barely ate anything because my stomach felt fine when I didn’t eat and this went on for several months. My doctors just told me it was an ulcer and put me on Prilosec.
In the middle of my eighth grade year, for some reason, the stomachaches became tolerable and I was able to start eating regularly again. During this time, a number of symptoms emerged…rashes began to appear on my extremities, and when ointments didn’t help, the dermatologist told me I would just grow out of it. I started having back pain and was told I had a bulging disc, even though nothing showed up on the MRI’s. I also started having migraines. Mentally, I was in a fog. I paid very little attention to detail and just floated down the river of life. When my friends laughed at old memories, I laughed and pretended to remember. I couldn’t remember anything, I could barely even process things. It took me forever to do my reading homework and to study. Experts said I had a learning disability, and as a result I was given extra time to take tests.
As I moved on to high school, my symptoms only worsened. I hid it very well from my peers because I was embarrassed. Only the people closest to me knew that I was sick.
Chronic Fatigue became my norm. Not only did I continue having thyroid problems, but I also started having adrenal and pituitary dysfunction. Migraines haunted me, so did weight fluctuations, irregular menstrual cycles, irregular blood sugar levels, low vitamin levels, and depression. It was just a given that I would catch whatever virus was making it’s way around the school. My back pain continued and so did the brain fog. I made good grades, but only because I would spend hours studying until I understood the material. I didn’t understand how other kids had the energy to enjoy sports and extracurricular activities. I forced myself to participate in clubs and sports, but dreaded every meeting, every practice, every game, and I couldn’t wait until each season was over. All I wanted to do after school was go home and go to sleep. On the weekend that is what I did- I stayed at home and as a result, relationships with my friends suffered. I continued bouncing around from doctor to doctor hoping for an explanation. I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome by one endocrinologist, and the ongoing diagnosis from most of the other doctors I visited was “a virus that mimics mono”. I remember getting on my knees almost every night and begging God for answers and for healing. I cried myself to sleep so many nights and no one ever knew. I became reluctant to keep going to doctors because they treated me as though I were crazy. Finally, one day in June 2003, my prayers were answered, and I was diagnosed with celiac disease.
I went on a gluten free diet and I wish I could say I never had any more problems, but that wasn’t the case. Over the next year, while away at college, some symptoms improved, still others stayed the same. My sophomore year, I realized I had been staying sick due to unknown cross contamination and decided that I needed to take some time off from school to figure out the gluten free diet.
The good news is that I did, and through it, I fell in love with nutrition. I went back to school healthy and renewed and finished my degree in Health and Exercise Science. I then earned another degree in dietetics and completed my dietetic internship in 2008. I no longer had to have extra time on my tests because my brain fog went away. My back pain completely disappeared, the rashes on my arms and legs are gone. My adrenal and pituitary dysfunction went back to normal and so did my blood sugar levels. My weight stabilized and so did my vitamin levels. My energy increased drastically compared to what it was, and I am happy to say that I can remember things now. I still have a mild case of hypothyroidism and I still fatigue faster than my friends, but when my body is well rested, I feel wonderful. What seemed like a curse, turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I am who I am today because of my journey with celiac disease, and with it, I am able to fulfill my passion of helping others. I’m honored to be on this journey with you and will help in any way possible. Blessings to you and thank you
for listening to my story.