Living With(out) Limits from Celiac Disease

Since childhood, we are raised to believe that the world is limitless. Dreams can come true, impossibilities may become possible, and hard work can pay off. Cue the horror music as celiac disease stomps into the picture, kicking all of these beliefs to the curb.

Celiac disease, by its very nature, involves limits. Limits on what foods put into our bodies, limits on the social activities to attend, limits on what products are slathered on our skin. Sometimes, though, a so-called limit needs to be blown to pieces. For the common good, of course.

I dropped my first bomb on Tuesday when I laced up my black soccer cleats for the first time since my diagnosis. Soccer practice. The only better two words are "Soccer game." Except, when I stepped onto that grass field, my eyes on Coach Jack a few paces ahead, I'm the one who felt the shock waves. 

Excitement. I scored on this field on our last soccer game. 

Fear. I haven't ran in months! Or even touched a soccer ball! 

Determination. Yes. I'm finally here. 

I already texted my coach and told him the deal. I hated every word while writing it and every minute waiting for the reply. I've always had a problem admitting weakness and I'm competitive with myself to a fault. If I played awesome soccer last year, this year I want to be even better.

My coach told me to step out of line and rest if needed. Thing is, celiac disease may have messed with my body, but my competitive drive hasn't budged. 

I appreciate his concern, just as I appreciate my parents' urges to start easy and work my way up. And when we jogged through our first round of exercises, my inner couch potato whispered that excuse in my mind while my body screamed in protest. "Running?" It said. "Really you're running now? What happened to horizontal jogging on the couch?" 

Nobody would blame me if I stepped out of line, I knew. I had the Golden Ticket - without the chocolate, unfortunately. But what would the fun in that be? And, despite the pain, that's exactly what it was.

No pain, no gain
I juggled the ball, zigzagged around other players, laughed with my friends over bad passes. I ran and sweat and kicked and pivoted for an hour and a half, never more than a step behind. 

And, really, for me, there is no better high than hearing the thud of cleats against rubber, feeling the caress of a slight breeze on slippery skin. For the first time in a while, I was dying a perfect death as I pushed my body past any of celiac disease's physical limits.

I wasn't the recovering celiac; I was one girl in a throng of soccer players, each dirty and exhausted but too happy to mind. 

Of course, the aches and pains crept in on me later. A blister on my foot. An ache in my ribs from breathing so hard. The discreet shriek of my muscles, unfamiliar with such demanding physical activity. But I'm going to practice again tonight and I don't care at all

The truth is, some of the limits set by celiac disease shouldn't be crossed. Don't eat gluten. Don't pick the strawberry scented shampoo over the bland, gluten free version. But, at the same time, don't live in a world whose borders are decided by celiacs.

When I was younger, I dreamed of being an astronaut. Floating around in a pool of black, leaving the boundaries of reality behind to enjoy a universe of fantastical porportions. I may not go into space, but, three months since my diagnosis, I'm examining the "limits" celiac disease has placed on my life and crossing all the lines I can.

After all, you never know what you can and can't do until you try. As I'm running around the grass field tonight, sweaty shirt glued to my back and ball near my toe, I'll be glad I did.

Do you view celiac disease as limiting? What limits have you challenged? Comment below!


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