I guess I’ve been on an unintended hiatus. I don’t know how it happened and I don’t know that I’m ready to be here, but here I am, for today
It was around 2008 or 2009 that I started developing a cough. It was a random cough. There were times it was worse than others. There were times it was so bad that I choked and gagged. Those moments were jarring because I couldn’t breathe.
At the “mildest” of moments, I didn’t even know I was coughing. I simply had no idea I was doing it. What was worse was the “dirty” looks I would get. The “Are you sick?” “What’s wrong with you?” questions followed much later by just “Go to the Doctor!”
Oddly, I didn’t feel sick….not even close. The “hacking cough” wasn’t alleviated by chewing gum or sucking on cough drops. In fact, not only didn’t they help, I sometimes wondered if they made it worse. My frustration level was rising. The cough I had initially attributed to seasonal allergies wouldn’t go away! It was there even in the Winter…The Winter!
During a physical with my Doctor we went over my health history and family history. I lost my Mom way too young. She was too young to die and I was too young to be motherless – some of which I’ve already written about previously.
During the course of our conversation, The MD and I mutually decided I should have an endoscopy. For those that don’t know what that is, it’s when a Gastroenterologist takes a medically designed camera inside you and down your GI tract. It wasn’t something I was looking forward to, but we agreed it was for peace of mind.
I had the procedure in October 2012. But I so was nervous about the results that I ended up waiting nearly 10 months to follow up with the Specialist. Yes, 10 months (August 2013)
When I finally did go in, that was one of the most intense evaluation sessions I’ve ever sat through.
At that point, I found out I had Acid Reflux (AR). I believe it’s also commonly known as GERD. To be honest, when he initially presented his findings to me, I was totally disgusted. I honestly didn’t believe him. I couldn’t believe Reflux was possible because I felt no symptoms. I felt perfectly healthy. I really was questioning his opinion and findings. I really grilled him, I wasn’t ready to give up and give in to something that just didn’t seem to fit….
But, then…the more he spoke – the more questions I asked and insight he gave me – something “clicked.” And not in a good way….
The more he addressed really detailed, technical stuff about Acid Reflux: how it works, what it does, why my body was doing what it was and what ALL this might mean in the bigger LONG term picture…..Acid Reflux if left unchecked, un-managed and ignored for too long can lead to cancer.
What he was describing to me took me back to 1983. In his description of my condition, he was talking about my mother in reverse. I don’t have her records to refer back to, but her demise (stomach cancer) was (essentially) esophageal cancer. Esophageal Cancer is cancer of the esophagus, the GI tract. The GI tract leads to the stomach.
All these years later, I had wondered how this could have happened to her, with seemingly little warning. Seemingly because we didn’t know what we didn’t know. We didn’t know what to watch for. We didn’t understand what could be trigger points or aggravators.
Here I was, listening to the Dr tell me what my Mom didn’t have the chance understand or learn about.
Pair all that together with my gut instinct (pun intended) and that’s good enough.
Now that the appointment with the Specialist was over, I had a small supply of “sample” medication to see me on my way.
I’m not really a fan of prescriptions or meds in general. I found out why, FAST. I took the medicine I received for 2 days and starting on day 3, I knew something was wrong!! I woke up feeling lousy. And only got to feeling worse throughout the morning. I still can’t believe I did, but I called my Dr about it. I was told a reaction was rare, and it could be a virus since there was a virus going around. I should stop taking it immediately for 48 hours. If the condition lingered longer than 48 I had a virus, if the conditions stopped, it was a reaction.
24 HOURS LATER I WAS FINE.
For 3-6 months I flip flopped between my General Practitioner, my respiratory specialist (where I found out I had near perfect lung capacity) and even had allergy testing done! (With no significant allergens of concern).
GET THIS: With all that being said. With all the time that had passed…my cough still lingered. It still wouldn’t go away. Seriously!
I went in for my annual physical this past spring. May 2014. We went over everything, all over again. Symptoms hadn’t changed.
Everyone I knew said something was “WRONG” with me (a great thing to hear on an endless basis). I was getting tired of finding no answers. I felt like a dog chasing its tail. That’s not a pretty picture but it accurately portrays where I was.
I had tried nearly everything the 3 Doctors and Allergist had suggested….and that’s when I looked my MD in the eye and said:
I’m tired of trying. I’m tired of meds that aren’t cutting it. I don’t want to bother with them anymore. What else can I do. I want to stop this….there’s got to be a better way!
Let me say this – I have always liked my Doctor. I ask a lot of questions. I challenge her with my doubts about “modern medicine” and she antes up. We have had some great chats!
But this day, this particular conversation was a game changer!
“Well, you might be able to eventually come off the meds, in time, but you’d have to make a major change.”
“Like what?” I replied.
“You’d have to stop eating gluten”
“What do you mean? Why is that?”
“Gluten can be a major contributor of Acid Reflux. In your case, it’s likely aggravating the already high acid levels of your stomach and that’s why you’ve got GI damage.”
“Are you saying if I stop consuming gluten I’ll be able to discontinue the meds?”
“What I’m saying is you need to take the meds AS you are quitting gluten and get your damage healed. Once you’re gluten free we can reevaluate and see if with the combination of taking the meds and lack of gluten, if your body can then maintain that balance on its own.”
The conversation above happened in May. We are now in September.
I finally “initiated” my attempt at being gluten free this summer. It was either May or June. I was not thrilled by the idea BUT, it was an idea I hadn’t taken seriously or even contemplated.
Two weeks into the process – yes, two weeks in, something was different. My coughing was subsiding. By August, my cough was gone. What I didn’t realize was that I was a good part of my way already into a gluten free lifestyle. Flour and flour based products (wheat) are full of gluten (think bread)
I don’t like bread
I don’t often chose to eat bread.
I don’t even care for the bread basket at restaurants.
My biggest hurdle? That’s been baking!
Yes, one of the many reasons I’ve not been on here as much as I intended was this gluten free lifestyle change. Surprisingly, it hasn’t been as difficult as I thought. Maybe that’s because I know where this road will go if I don’t take it and I’ve already seen what can happen! As much as I’d rather not have to deal with checking ingredient labels, it is so nice now that I’m not coughing, clearing my throat (or hacking). But the biggest reality is the (hidden, unseen) internal reaction my body has to gluten. I DON’T WANT to GO back there!
What have I discovered through this process? I can still love my homemade chocolate chip cookies. I just use a combination of AP GF Flour and Coconut Flour. While I’m not really supposed to have chocolate because of GERD, if I need a nice chocolate “fix” I can always make a flour-less chocolate cake.
I don’t generally eat supermarket ice-creams. Have you ever read those ingredient labels? If I want ice-cream, I need to pull out my ice-cream maker.
The biggest culprit in all this though (for me) has been the bread and bread products. I ate two bread based sandwiches a few weeks back (because I didn’t have lettuce around to make a wrap) for lunch and dinner one day and the effects were nearly instant. Within a few hours, I was coughing and I couldn’t stop. It was baffling until we reviewed the day in full.
People reading this may believe gluten allergies or sensitivities aren’t real. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But, where modern medicine and allergy testing couldn’t get it right (and there is no official “test” to determine a gluten intolerance or sensitivity)…I’m glad I gave myself the chance to try!
I am forever grateful for your unending blessings. Whether or not I can see what you are doing in my life, I know you are GOOD. Your strength carries me from day to day. My purpose, my reason for being here is only found through you. Thank you for never giving up on me. Thank you for Shining YOUR light on my path.
I ask you to bless every person who reads this with your Love and Peace that surpasses ALL understanding. Help any who are lost to find you and seek your presence. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.