Starting Over, Celiac Style

There are a lot of new beginnings in life. A new job. New home. New relationship. Some (I'm talking to all victims of the dreaded "break up") are better than others, but they all have a purpose in life.

At least, that's what I'm telling myself as I type this post with a heat pack tied to my cheek to treat the infection that invaded the space where one of my wisdom teeth used to be.

Nothing like pantyhose and heatpack to
make a girl feel attractive!
As I mentioned in my last post, I knew something was wrong when the chipmunk cheek returned, but what I wasn't expecting when I walked into the doctor's office was my infected gum dancing the tango with needles and metal scrapers. And leaving - after a traumatizing thirty minutes of cleaning - with the instructions to start my wisdom teeth treatment "all over again."

I know the dentist meant to be comforting by implying that I already knew everything I had to do; that I was just getting a fresh start at a happy jaw. But I hated the implied failure. The idea that no progress had been made and therefore my suffering after the first wisdom teeth episode was moot.

Was all this for nothing? (Source)
Yet, as I spent yesterday zombified by pain killers and banana-peanut butter smoothies (I'm following readers' peanut butter-pound gaining advice), I found another reason for my dislike of that phrase: that, after all the "ends" celiac has thrown in my life, I'm tired of starting over.

I'm tired of gaining weight only to lose it during weeks of stress or sickness.

I'm tired of attaining the mystical healthy gut until a glutening stomps on my intestines.

This tiredness has never seemed more clear than this summer when I've had the time to realize the weaknesses of my post-celiac body. One summer ago, two summers ago, I was at my physical peak of fitness. My mom jokingly called me the "muscular Barbie" as I transformed from a natural stick to a sleek, strong young woman. I reached my highest weight, but also my highest confidence because I knew the strength this body - I - contained.

Me, two summers ago
Now, I'm dead after 15 minutes in the pool. Now, my sneakers haven't beat the pavement in months. Now, I'm back to being a stick. I can't help but hate celiac for nixing all the stamina and strength that I worked so hard to achieve. I hate that, like with my wisdom teeth, I've been forced to start over, not only in terms of my physical strength, but also in my identity as an athlete.

What I'm even more tired of, though? Negativity haunting my life. This morning, the first morning after my infection was removed, I moped around the house like a depressed druggie. I cried over the Instagram photos of foods that I couldn't eat. I growled at my mom, who I will honestly describe as the most loving and positive person I've ever met. I acted like the world as I knew it was ending.

This was me…without the smile
I suppose if you consider my "world" as being healed from wisdom teeth surgery, I would be right. But, the world is much bigger than that, much bigger than my fitness level or even than my pre-and-post-celiac identities.

And, as I devoured a chocolate sweet potato smoothie and dove into my latest book, the truth of that statement finally hit me. My doctor took me off antibiotics and on a medicinal mouthwash, saving my mouth and my tummy. Even with one bad tooth, three healed without a hitch. And while I won't win a bodybuilding contest anytime soon, my sneakers and swimsuit aren't dusty just yet!

I found the "sweet" in "bittersweet!"
Beginnings generally hurt because they require an ending. To start a new job, one must have left an old one or the unemployed stage of life. To experience new kisses, lips must be stained with phrases like, "It's not you, it's me." And, for me to gain a healthy mouth and a healthy body, I have to feel the pain of a sick one.

And, as I dream of post-healing plates of food and post-summer strength, I, for once, don't mind.

*Also found at Runningwithspoon's link party!*

What do you think of new beginnings? Was celiac a new beginning for you? Comment below!


  1. A new beginning? Yes, in some ways. I'm spending more time in the kitchen these days, searching for the holy grail of a really good pizza crust. And some mix of gluten free flours that will produce a good sandwich bread similar to the whole wheat my wife has made for herself for years. I used to be able to enjoy a slice of that from time to time, but of course can't any more. My latest try was a loaf of "Timtana" bread from a mix from a company called Montana Gluten Free Processors. ("Timtana" is their trade name for a dark flour made from timothy seed; timothy is a grass which is usually grown for animal feed.) It's fairly good, but it won't replace whole wheat.

    It's okay-- I like to cook and bake, but the baking without gluten is certainly a new beginning. I've got a lump of pizza dough in the refrigerator now that's based on the recipes on the Gluten Free on a Shoestring website. I've never used whey protein isolate or modified tapioca starch or pectin in a yeast dough before. (Actually, I didn't use the modified tapioca starch-- thought I'd ordered some, but it turned out I hadn't-- so I substituted some plain tapioca starch and psyllium husk powder.)

    I've been learning about all sorts of things I'd either never heard of or had never paid any attention to. I guess that's some of what new beginnings are about. But I used to look forward to a trip or a cruise with anticipation; now the more applicable word is "apprehension". Another sort of "new beginning", but not a much fun.

  2. I feel ya on the bread and pizza! A never stopping adventure of huge porportions! I wish you luck on the pizza - hope it turns out delicious! I also feel ya on the apprehension - amazing how celiac can change your perspective on surprises! :)

    1. The pizza turned out well. Some in the past have had gummy crust; some have had edges that might break a tooth they were so crispy and hard; some had odd off-flavors. This had none of those problems. It still wasn't as good as a really good wheat crust, but it was better than many I've eaten at restaurants and from carry-outs. Gluten free doesn't have to be awful.

      Hope your infection is clearing up. Doesn't sound like fun at all.

    2. So glad to hear that your pizza was a success! Even though it wasn't perfect, my first real good gluten free pizza dough success was a life changer! Still searching for the perfect one, but I have hope now! Thanks for the healing vibes! It's definitely a lot better, but still has a way to go - slow and steady wins the race! :)

    3. Another change: I just opened a post on the website, an article entitled "Anti-tissue Transglutaminase Antibody Levels Indicate Severity of Villous Abnormalities in Celiac Disease". I think that would have been Greek to me a year ago. In the article they talk about Marsh levels, which I still haven't learned enough about, but in general it was understandable, at least at a surface level.

    4. Haha! I love it! Yep that title would scare me off before I even opened the PDF, but I'm glad you could understand it! :)

  3. Girl, I have been gluten, wheat, dairy, sugar, soy, nut, fruit free for 12 years and egg free for about 1.5 years. It's rough tough stuff but at the same time, once you get into the groove of it all, it gets far easier!

    1. Congratulations! That is a big dietary mountain that you've climbed and conquered! Thanks for the motivation and inspiration! :D

  4. Great post, Casey. I especially loved your paragraph close to the end about why beginnings hurt—you're so right! You've been through some journey...but someday I'm sure you'll be able to look back on it all and think, "Wow, look what I was going through." Key word: was. You'll survive this new beginning and any others that come your way!

    P.S. Chocolate sweet potato smoothies sound delicious!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for the praise and motivation! Nothing like a good Internet friend to get my motivational motor revving! ;)

      PS: yes, it was beyond delicious! :D

  5. It’s great to know that you’ve been trying to see the brighter side of life, amidst the pain and the frustrations that you’ve been feeling. Always remember that those bad times have an end, and you'll have all the best of what you want in due time. Anyway, I hope you’ve been completely healed after your wisdom teeth extraction. I hope you haven't had any dental problems since then. Have a great day!

    Victor Peterson

    1. Thanks so much Victor! Luckily, basically all of the symptoms have disappeared. My sister is just about to get her's out in a few days, though, so fingers are crossed! :D


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