Ashley P.'s Story
My story starts like so many other sufferers with intestinal symptoms. Put any checklist of symptoms in front of me and I identify with them all!
From as far back as second grade, I can remember the discomfort that food brought me. I was constantly in the nurse’s office waiting for my Mom to meet me at school for lunch. The nurse ignored my symptoms, telling the other children in the office that I just missed my Mom. I liked food but hated the way that it made me feel -- too tired to play outside after eating. I continued being a picky eater but my symptoms got better until I went to college.
During my freshman year in the dorms, I got salmonella from cross-contamination. That year should have been the best time of my life. I had met a wonderful guy, Jason. I was learning about subjects I cared about, and meeting friends from all over the country. Jason met me in September and salmonella hit two months later.
Now I can look back and joke about the person I was but, at the time, it was no laughing matter. I felt sick whenever I ate, which affected Jason because I was constantly dragging him along to find food outside of the dorms. I missed Jason’s first achievement in college basketball, winning a dunk contest, as I lay in an emergency room bed watching the foreign painkiller liquid drip into my body. I felt like a prisoner because I wanted to be happy but was grumpy and snappy at the people I loved the most. Fortunately for me, Jason stuck with me through it all and continues to be a support as I conquer this disease.
After months turned into years of being in and out of the emergency room, the pain grew so excruciating I could not move from the fetal position. Here I lay, an active 20-year-old unable to stand without pain. The emergency room doctors would pump me full of painkillers and fluid before releasing me. I was always handed a sheet on the way out explaining the diet to follow: oatmeal, applesauce and crackers. No wonder the pain only became worse once I was back in the comfort of my home!
After emergency room visit upon emergency room visit, I was eager to find out what was wrong. In my mind, there was no way the doctor’s diagnosis of food poisoning could continue every three months for three years.
Upon leaving the emergency room for the last time, they referred me to a gastroenterologist who ordered an Upper GI test. After waiting weeks to find out all they saw was scarring, I was frustrated but not ready to give up.
I am one of the fortunate ones. As soon as I got out of the emergency room, I could not wait to get my hands on information that could tell me what caused my stomach pain, low energy and migraine headaches. And, then, there it was laid out in front of me in a magazine -- a “rare” disease with a funny name.
The doctor wanted me to have a colonoscopy which I scheduled and, then, requested a blood panel to test for celiac disease. After receiving the simple blood test that confirmed my suspicion, I was eager to learn as much as I could. Being diagnosed was a blessing! I finally could eat all of these wonderfully strange foods like quinoa and amaranth that actually made me feel alive when I consumed them.
I immediately researched celiac disease on the Internet and was led to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness website. Finally, there was a contact with people like myself who understood that we didn’t receive a death sentence with this diagnosis. Instead, we have received a full life that many undiagnosed sufferers will never know.
Does this story sound similar to your or a family members? You might have celiac disease, find out now, take our celiac disease symptoms checklist.