I was diagnosed with celiac disease in the summer of 1995 at age 39. The diagnosis came about because I went to my family physician due to having chest pain. On my father’s side, there is a strong history of coronary artery disease, so I thought I might have that problem, too.
The doctor told me there was nothing wrong with my heart, but was instead the pain was due to some cracked ribs. I had fallen from a ladder a couple of weeks prior to this. He also said that blood tests showed that I was very anemic and suggested that I see a GI doctor to see if I was bleeding inside.
The GI suggested an endoscopy to see where I was bleeding. The endoscopy determined that I had celiac disease because of the classic flattening of the villi in the small intestine. I went on a strict gluten-free diet and have felt better. It has amazed me that all of my conditions could be related to celiac.
I have always felt lousy. I was always tired. I had alternating constipation and diarrhea. It was not severe, and I did not consider it to be a problem. I thought it was normal. Who asks other people about their bowel habits? I have hypothyroidism and have been on meds for that for years. I have always been depressed. I thought this was normal.
The most significant problem was joint pain. All of my larger joints always hurt. I thought it was arthritis and did not seek treatment. I assumed that all of my symptoms were either normal or due to lifestyle. I worked a lot of midnight shifts and did not take care of myself.
My mother died at age 46 with a diagnosis of myelofibrosis. She was a lifelong alcoholic. I don’t have her medical records, but I am convinced that the small town doctor misdiagnosed her condition in 1979.
It was difficult at first to find gluten-free food. My daughter was away for the summer. I wrote her about the disease and sent her a list of the things that I could not eat. I attached a blank second page with the title “Things I Can Eat.” It was not that bad, but it is nice to now have grocery stores with a gluten-free section and having restaurants include gluten-free information on their menus.