My Journey with Celiac Disease

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When I first started school at the University of Oklahoma, sleep wasn’t something I was familiar with. I stayed up scrambling to do homework that I put off because I was too busy partying the previous nights.

 

I was in a new environment three hours away from home and academics were not my first priority. I wanted to have fun and meet as many people as possible. I came in completely blind and did not know anyone here.

 

I joined a sorority and met a lot of great girls. I ended up moving in with one of the girls a few months after school started.  She was my partying girl and my late-night homework buddy.

 

While all of this was a blast, it contributed to added stress which eventually lead to health problems. In the beginning of October 2016, I began not sleeping due to enormous amounts of stomach pain and extreme nausea. I couldn’t fall asleep and if I did, I got woken up every hour due to feeling like I was being stabbed by knives.

 

I went to the doctor on campus and they asked a few questions about my health and lifestyle. I have always been a healthy kid and never got sick, so all of this was new to me. About a week later, I started noticing blood in my stool which led to a higher level of concern for me and the doctors.

 

They found out I was anemic and needed to begin taking iron pills to help regulate my blood. However, this wasn’t anything to be concerned about. They sat me down and told me they believed I had an internal bleed.

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Me, being the-over-dramatic-person I am, automatically assumed I was going to die. All of this was happening away from my family and I had nowhere to turn. What now? Do I have to move back home? Do I need surgery? What about my classes? I had a million thoughts go through my head and I could not think straight.

 

My next step was to have a colonoscopy which was weird for several reasons.

1)    I thought that only people over 65 got this done

2)    I had never had a procedure done so I was scared of being put under

 

My mom came up the weekend of the colonoscopy consultation and helped ease my mind. I knew deep down everything would be okay, but the anxiety was too overwhelming. We ended up scheduling the procedure and it just so happened that it was going to take place the same day as my sorority’s formal.

 

December came and it was finally time. My mom was by my side once again as I prepared for the procedure. I was up all night filled with anxiety that came with the possibilities of the next day. I felt like the world was completely against me.

 

After three hours of sleep it was time to head to the doctors. I was awake and ready for everything to be over. My mom was there before they rolled me back to let me know that everything was going to be okay.

 

I laid in the hospital bed shaking of fear unprepared to go under or learn the results. I remember being back in the operating room slowly fading out talking to my doctor about Joe Mixon and what a great season Oklahoma’s football team was having.

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Next thing I knew I was awake again with my mom holding my hand. The nurse came over to check on me to see how I was feeling before the doctor came back with the results. I was awake but drowsy from the anesthetic. However, I could still comprehend everything.

 

The doctor came back with the results of the procedure. I had absolutely no internal bleeding and seemed to have a healthy intestine. My mind was finally at easy but that didn’t answer the questions of nausea, pain and the bleeding. So, what was going on?

 

Once again I found myself in another doctor’s office trying to solve the mystery of my health. I was sent to another hospital for additional blood tests to find the culprit. This time it was for celiac disease.

 

It seemed like everyday was a new blood test so this was not scary anymore. It was my new normal and celiac wasn’t a life threatening disease, just something that would require a lot of diet adjusting. I honestly sat for a second and hoped that I would have celiac because it would force me to eat healthy and lose weight.

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Well be careful what you wish for. That was it. I had celiac disease. For those of you who don’t know, celiac disease is an immune system reaction to eating gluten. Goodbye carbs, see you never.

 

All of these tests, all of this anxiety and all of this pain for something can be fixed all by changing my diet. Wow. But the doctor visits didn’t end there.

 

I had to go to a dietitian to see what a gluten-free diet looked like and how I got here. So, how did I go from eating whatever I wanted to this? Stress. The doctor told me that the disease was there, but the massive amounts of stress I put myself under lead it to being a surface level disease.

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College is stressful but it is important to put yourself first. Late nights don’t help and neither does procrastination. I know it is easier said than done, but please take time to take care of yourself whether is 20 minutes in the gym, a healthier diet, drinking more water or simply going to bed at a decent hour.  

 

While it has been two years since the diagnosis, I still have not completely taken gluten out of my diet and I suffer from it everytime. But luckily there are several over the counter pills like Phazyme that helps take away the bloating.

 

It's hard to completely switch your diet especially when you were so used to eating a certain way. It has gotten easier with more gluten-free food being made, but sometimes I need a good ole piece of cake and a bowl of pasta.