Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Where I Started Part Deux

December 2006
Eight months before starting my GF adventure
February 2012
I won't say 'After'. I'm still working toward better health.
It's been a few weeks since I began my health tale. See here for the start to my story. For those who'd rather just jump right in: When I left off, I had just been to the ER for an esophageal spasm and discovered probiotics by reading this book. Go here for the author's latest book.

In 2006, I was also experiencing some other health problems. During my workouts, I began having severe pelvic pain and went to my OB/GYN to be checked out. An ultrasound revealed signs of endometriosis and ovarian cysts. That scared me nearly as much as the trip to the ER. My mother had a full hysterectomy by the time she was 32 due to endo and I really didn't want to follow that path. Though not his specialty, I also spoke to my doctor about my stiff and painful knees. He suggested it sounded like rheumatoid arthritis and recommended I see someone about it.

There I was at 34 with endo, chronic sinusitis, potentially arthritis and a barely controlled weight issue, much of what my mother battled most of her adult life. Given that she died at age 53 from cancer, I was not liking the direction things were moving. Beating heartburn was great, but it felt a bit inconsequential compared to the rest. I knew I needed a doctor who could help me with it all. I didn't have the time or patience to see multiple specialists. I really wasn't sure where to start looking. I'd never been the alternative medicine type and I wasn't even sure that's what I needed. Somehow through a Google search, I found Dr. Dale Guyer in Indianapolis. He didn't take insurance, but his website struck a chord. He was a real MD, but he was focused on healing, not just treating symptoms. I made an appointment and crossed my fingers.

That first appointment was and still is one of those unforgettable moments of my life. I was led into an office rather than an exam room. Shortly thereafter, Dr Guyer came in, sat down at the desk and began a thorough 45-minute interview of all my health complaints and family medical history. It was a complete shock to my system. I was used to fifteen minutes of glib and quick diagnosis. Beyond the paperwork completed for an initial appointment that I wasn't sure anyone read, no doctor had ever asked me about my full history, much less my parents'. At the end of the discussion, he said he was confident my mother had celiac disease based on her medical history of multiple immune system disorders. In addition, the number one killer of celiacs is non-Hodgkins lymphoma, precisely the cancer that took her life. Celiac is a genetic disorder, so he ordered a blood test for it as well as my thyroid, food allergy panel and vitamin levels.

I spent the next few weeks on cloud nine. I was so excited that someone was taking my health concerns seriously and was actually on my side to help me figure them out. When the results were in, according to the blood work, my thyroid was extremely low and I was at the very least gluten intolerant. Dr. Guyer advised against the full biopsy for definitive diagnosis of celiac. After all, treatment for each is the same: no gluten in the diet. He also put me on Armour for my thyroid and fish oil supplements for what tests showed was early rheumatoid arthritis.

Dr. Guyer was more than I could have hoped for, but he wasn't perfect. The one item he failed was teaching me how to eat gluten free. I remember thinking GF meant scraping the topping of pizza and removing the bread from burgers. That went on for a couple of months and I did actually get a bit better. Then I attended a tailgate for a concert. There was some great food and beer and I just couldn't resist. Besides, what could a little indulgence hurt? I'll not forget that day and wish I could forget the next. That tailgate was the last time I knowingly ingested gluten because the next day, I couldn't get out of bed. I was doubled over in pain into the afternoon. At that point, I pulled out my computer and started reading. Turned out, gluten free means not a crumb or morsel. No cheating could be allowed for real health with celiac disease. It was August 2007. That's when things really started to turn around.

By September, I noticed I was happy most mornings, even before coffee. I laughed more. I wasn't about to face plant on my keyboard at work in the afternoon. My focus improved and my weight dropped to 145. It was just enough to give me hope and keep me motivated. Thanksgiving was so hard that year. I remember standing in the aisle at Whole Foods with tears in my eyes. I was trying to find anything that I could take with me for holiday meals with our families four hours away. I didn't even know how to tell them about my new food paradigm. It still felt crazy to me, but I at least knew it made me feel better. I was certain they would right it off as a passing fad diet. I would have. I was terrified. The nicest lady walked up after noticing me staring at the wall of GF foods and told me it would get better. Her daughter nearly died at age 9 before she was finally diagnosed with celiac. She assured me it would get easier and took the time to make suggestions. She even gave me her number. I am still disappointed that I lost that number. I would love to let her know what a difference her kindness made. After her pep talk and helpful tips, I felt more confident and began to focus on spending time with family rather than food that year.

I think that's as good a spot to pause as any for tonight. I'll not wait so long to resume this time. It's a fun reflecting on how much of my life I've changed through my choices in food and health care. Those choices were sometimes only incrementally better, but over the last seven years, those little adjustments have had a big impact on my life and my family. What changes or choices have you made that have helped you? I'd love to hear.

Take care!


1 comment:

  1. The funny thing is -- the thinner your face gets, the more your features resemble Denise.


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