Adventures in Gluten (and Sugar) Freedom from a southern blogger chick!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

August the First: A year in review

Welcome to my new blog. I'm calling it "Gluten Free in Georgia (and Florida)" because I split my year between homes in Tampa, Florida, (which you've heard of) and Milledgeville, Georgia, (which you probably haven't). I am a college professor (that's Dr. Gluten Free in Georgia (and Florida) thank you), and actually. I am a wife. I am a mother of a disabled adult. And now, I'm coping with a gluten intolerance. Since blogging seems to help some people, I thought I'd give it a chance. I hope to post tips on dining and eating, restaurant suggestions (and comments) and recipes, plus other web discussions. And it will have a southern spin, since it seems most of the GF focus out there is in on the west coast!


On August 3, 2007, I am celebrating A Happy New Year. You see, it was one year ago that day that I began a journey that now makes sense. Back then, it sure didn't.

First, about me: I'm Ginger, and I'm 50 years old. I'm married to Randy (my love, my soul mate, the man of my dreams), and my son is Jeffrey (my prince, my love light, the best thing I ever did). Randy and I have been married since Nov. 12, 2005, and Jeffrey was born on July 10, 1982. The two incidents are related only in that one led me to Tampa (Randy) and one led me to what I call gluten freedom (Jeffrey). That, and they both love me unconditionally.

This first part is going to take a while, and sadly, even though I'm a professor of journalism, a food writer, and a feature reporter, I can't do a Reader's Digest version of anything (I digress a lot, don't I Diva?)

Flashback: High school: I am bulimic. I had been on drill team and a baton twirler, but I loved to eat. When I got money from babysitting or jobs, I ate. At home I dieted, out of the house...well, at one point I was taking SIX Correctal tablets a day. Get the picture? I later abused Lasix (diruetics) along with laxatives. I still gained weight. By 1977, I weighed pretty much what I weigh today. I was obese. I also had ulcers. BIG PEPTIC ULCERS. I had all the tests.

May, 1980. I get married. I get fatter than ever.

June, 1982. I am pregnant with Jeffrey, still obese, and my doctor discovers a rampant case of gestational diabetes. Jeffrey is seven weeks (at least) premature but weighs 7 lb. 12 oz, and he is confirmed with autism at age 8; are the two connected? Who knows. What I do know NOW is that gestational diabetes doesn't go away like the say it does -- and mine comes back in 1991, full blown. Like the typical 31-year-old woman, I "play with it" and though I take the pills regularly, I never really tackled it full on. Oh sure, I got my A1c blood test down to respectable levels, but I have never lost the weight. Today, I weigh within 10 pounds of what I did 25 years ago when I got pregnant with Jeffrey. Heck, I weigh within 15 pounds of what I weighed the day I graduated from Georgia State University in 1977 (August 20).

1999-early 2000: A rheumatologist diagnosis me with Fibromyalgia. She tells me it's hard to know what else I have since, because of the diabetes, I have so many other markers. I know this: I am prone to exhaustion, depression, bone spurs, and arthritis.

2001: I'm a diabetic who has her gall bladder out and ends up with IBS (Google it if you don't know what I mean). Then I have my appendix out. Then I get something called gastroparesis (which means, sometimes I don't digest food very well). My entire digestive tract is an enigma. Sometimes too much, sometimes not enough. No balance. I never know which monster I will face. I exercise, I get my A1c down, but I am still obese. I stll have reflux (ulcers) And my GI system, well, forgive my language, but it's majorly f'ed up.

2003: I end my 23-year first marriage. I fall in love with my long-time friend, Randy. Life is good. No ex husbands will be harmed in the making of this blog.

August 3, 2006: I have surgery on my left shoulder to remove a bone spur. I wake up in such intense pain I beg them to put me back to sleep. The shoulder nerve block has worn off in recovery, and I am screaming. FOUR doses of pain meds later, and I begin retching. Then, to quote Robin Williams, it's "two exits, no waiting." A traumatic bowel/gastric experience, to say the least, coupled with "Holy mother of God" pain. And I'm still in the recovery room. The next months are a blur. I am in constant pain, and I sleep all the time. I sleepwalk though my classes daily begging people to forgive me (I got good evaluations, for some reason. Maybe I woke up to teach some days).

But what plagued me was my lethargy. I was depressed. My arm wasn't healing. I lost 23 pounds in a month and subsisted on peanut butter for a month and a half. They had to reopen my arm and reoperate because it had massive scar tissue. More PT (Paul Higgs, you are the best! Like a screen door in a hurricane...) THEN: Pneumonia and massive antibiotics, more depression over losing a job in Tampa (RAT BASTARDS) then a breast cancer scare. By this time, early May, I am in SIGNIFICANT. gastric distress. And I ache all over. I am taking mega doses of acet...Tylenol, you know, and Advil. And XANAX. I'm in therapy. And I'm still hurting. I have to stop clogging (which I LOVE for exercise) because my heel hurts so much). My knees are swollen. My joints ache. Suddenly I have a cavity in my tooth, and one chips!

My doctor, Catherine Roberts (a saint among women) says I'm one of the smartest people about their own bodies she treats. If I called her and said I had the fleeting huganupsis, she would know I did. I have NEVER been wrong. I knew I had appendicits and a blown gall bladder before the tests came back. And I call her phone and say, I have bronchitis and an ear infection, and I do. I'm my own medical detective, and I'm 98 percent right. I KNEW it was connected to something in my immune system, to the IBS/GP, and that surgery. It's clear it's diet related, as is most of my malady.

After a thoughtful conversation with another of my doctors (and a not so thoughtful dismissal from another, whom I'm about to part company with after 12 years) I begin to examine what and when the distress happens, and I see it is with the following: BREAD. PASTA. CRACKERS. PITAS. Because I'm on a seriously low-sugar diet, I don't eat cakes and stuff, but a brownie sent me over the edge one day, too. (I told my friend Janet I used that as an excuse for a brownie binge...stupid, I know, but see part I for the denial thing).

On May 1, after said thoughtful discussion with doctor, I stop the bread but still eat pasta. A lot of pasta. Gastric DISASTER. A week later, on May 7, I give up pasta. And since May, I have worked all traces of gluten out of my diet. No slight breading, no soy sauce, no cream of mushroom soup, NADA. I have checked all my pills, etc. I have purged my pantry in Tampa and head to Georgia soon to do the same. I no longer knowingly eat gluten.

I'm gluten-free in Georgia (and Florida). And I'm lots better. The mega joint pain is gone and my heel has barely hurt at all. My knee is fine. And my skin has cleared up. I still like a good nap (and sleeping late) but I'm not physically exhausted. While I'm still on Lexapro, I don't take the Xanax much at all.

Yes, I still have IBS occasionally, but now it's more of the GP than anything else. I eat a lot of fresh fruit, veggies, and the like. And finally, I'm ready to experiment with GF products so I can craft a diet to finally lose some damn weight!

So if you've been through this, you're thinking what I have colloquially discovered: the surgery "woke up" the gluten problem (I won't say I have Celiac Disease, but I have all the symptoms). No, I'm not having the tests -- after all, since the only cure is to give up gluten, and that has helped, why should I?

So August 3 begins a new year for me. I'm putting that hell-hole year of last behind me, and I'm going to heal my body, God willing. And I'm going to write about it. Join me if you will -- and help me if you can. Pray for me if that's in your focus. It's a jungle out there!

much love for your patience,
Ginger, GF in GF


The Petersons said...

I am so excited that you have a blog. I have no advice on the gluten-free thing, but I am VERY proud of've taken a very healty step in your life and I am sure you are feeling much better now! If I run across and GF stuff, I'll send it your way!

The Bouceks said...

What Joy said!!
I'm counting on you for regular updates.
I'll be back on track next week. I'm in a sea of moving hell over here.

Karen said...

Oh, man. I'm always the last to know. Well, give me some time to read and catch up. In the meantime, I AM THINKING OF YOU.