Celiac Disease: The Inevitable Bungee Jump

Now, I think most of the human population can be separated into two categories: the bungee-jump-loving adrenaline junkies, and those who pee their pants just thinking of falling down twenty feet. I've shifted in my bungee identity throughout my life, but in the past week I've come to accept that there are some up-and-downs that can't be avoided. Like returning to school after missing a week because of celiac disease complications.

I'm a Type-A personality, so I had already kept up with most of my class work all I while I sat like a couch potato with a nose tube in my house. As I drove up to PLNU on Saturday afternoon, however, butterflies were practicing the tango inside my stomach. As soon as I saw Hendricks Hall, though, I sighed. Because I know I belong here. My dorm mates immediately smothered me in hugs when they saw me and we formed a moving band as we dragged my bags of food and books up the hill, up the stairs, and into my dorm room. It wasn't until I saw my room - Hendricks 234 - that I started to tear up, though. 

My loving poster!

Displayed proudly on the door was a sign that reads, "We Miss You Casey!" with dozens of personal messages written on it from girls in the hall. One of my biggest fears as I bonded with an IV and nose tube two weeks ago was that I'd be forgotten. That bonds would form from activities I didn't join, jokes I didn't hear, and talks I didn't participate in. In the hospital, as well as in my house, I felt trapped inside a celiac bubble of IV's, medicine, and homework that drew a line in the beach sand between my hall mates and I. That sign changed everything. After seeing that, I knew I had never left PLNU, if only existing in the thoughts of my friends. Nothing is more powerful than support that destroys the motto "out of sight, out of mind."

I'm not going to lie and say I danced through my first week back. Basically, I crawled through the make-up tests, the regular tests, class work, and social commitments like a turtle with four broken legs and a lazy attitude. Now into my second week, though, I can look back and pat myself on the back. I could've self imploded. I could've given up. But I didn't, with the help of my family, friends, and thousands of motivational messages left on my blog, and now my college experience is taking a turn for the better.

The second day back, I met with the head cook of my school's main cafeteria, Urs. Now, Urs and I had already talked briefly at the start of school, going over my dietary needs and going on a tour of the gluten free areas of the cafe. After living off of salads and minimal protein, though, I knew I needed to change up my routine if my second chance at college would work. That meant switching from eating whatever gluten free trimmings were left to ordering my own specially made, gluten free meals.

My first meal - and they've only gotten better!

Compared to grazing, this definitely is the road less traveled by. I email Urs with my food requests the night before and give him the time I will be there to pick it up. Now, I'm also allowed to take food out of the cafeteria, which is usually "illegal" by the school rules. When I grabbed my first pre-ordered meal - baked tilapia with rice and a side salad - multiple feelings battled for supremacy. Relief that I didn't have to scrounge or worry about contamination. Excitement 'cause I got fish while everyone else is stuck with chicken. Hope that these protein-packed meals would act as garlic to the vampire IV's of a future hospital stay. 

As I've continued on this plan, though, there have definitely been a few bumps. I can't always eat with my friends because the time my meal will be ready differs from their hunger patterns. I have to choose all my meals, resulting in a slightly repetitive and bland diet. And, I must awkwardly stand in the corner of the caf waiting for my "special" meal - I've become one of "those" people! Yet, I can't complain too much. The food is delicious, I feel safe eating it, and I'm slowly gaining weight. So, two thumbs up from me!

Another fave - gluten free pizza! Holla!
The simplest, best part about this whole journey, though, has been re-finding myself. I'm enjoying food again - savoring the different flavors, treasuring my morning Nutella and nightly treats - but, even more than that, I'm enjoying life again. Two days ago, I ran for the first time since celiac disease stole the reins out of my hands. I was slow and limited on my distance, but free. Yesterday, I applied for a Semester Abroad in London next year. Even if I'm not accepted (which, fingers crossed, won't be the case!), at least I know my health isn't to blame.

I'm back. Right where I'm supposed to be.

Bungee jumping is scary. Putting all your trust in one wire as you experience the highs and the lows, the adrenaline and the fear. I still have my struggles. Sometimes, my stomach still throws a fit, or the workload seems to heavy, and I don't know what I'm going to do. For the first time in months, though, I have moments where I'm completely, absolutely, purely happy.

There's no better high than that.



What keeps you going with celiac disease? What is your "high?" Comment below!






Comments

  1. YAY! I am so glad you are back and thriving! And I sure hope you will get to go to Europe next sem!

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    1. Thanks for the excitement and well wishes! I'm super pumped too! :D

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  2. You are an inspiration. I'm new at the gluten-free diet (positive biopsy 9/11/2013; the diet is working already!). You have it so much worse than I do that I'd be ashamed to complain too much about all the adjustments I'm having to make. So hang in there, keep fighting, and keep reporting your struggles and triumphs. You're certainly giving me (and I suspect a bunch of other people) a lot of encouragement.

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    1. I'm so glad that sharing my story has helped, even if only a small bit. Everyone's story and challenges are different, but they are all equally hard in my eyes. Thanks for the well wishes and I hope you keep staying positive and strong as you learn all about your new lifestyle! Celiac disease may be a challenge, but it's nothing that we can't handle! :D

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  3. That's so great that you're starting to gain back weight, and that you can go running and eat Nutella. I wish I had my own personal chef, haha. What keeps me going is gluten-free baked goods. I get them whenever I need a change from my usual diet or a pick-me-up. Gluten-free red velvet cupcakes are amazing for putting me in a good mood :)

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    1. Yes, running has definitely been my savior! Stress relief!! The weight gain is super slow, but I'm getting there. Yes, a personal chef will be missed greatly after college :( And gluten free goodies are the best! I'm a muffin and dairy-free ice cream person. Just throw 'em at me! :)

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  4. So happy to hear that you are gaining weight and have returned to school and classes. My daughter's weight gain seems to be a very slow process too, but we go in for a weight check on Saturday and I have my fingers crossed that we'll see an increase from last month. I try to push the Carnation Breakfast Essentials...250 calories each (Only the ready made is Gluten-free, not the powdered mix) and peanut/nut butters. Thanks for the updates. I'm so encouraged to hear that the weight gain seems to be helpful in overcoming some of the GI problems that can accompany Celiac Disease.

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  5. Haha I definitely understand what you mean about having to stand awkwardly in the corner of the dining hall, waiting for your food to be ready, as well as how much it sucks sometimes to not be able to eat with your friends...it's totally worth it though! I have celiac and several other severe food allergies, and it finally took getting special meals made before I was able to lead a healthy and productive life at college. It can be annoying sometimes, but kudos to you for advocating for yourself and making sure that the school is feeding you food that is safe! Hopefully in a couple of years, gluten free entrees in cafeterias will be as common as vegetarian options or peanut-free zones.

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  6. Your food looks great, and what a nice sign! You don't strike me as likely to be a forgettable person. Hope you've been having a blast at school.

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