Sunday, October 25, 2009
I remember distinctly the first time I donned a pink ribbon in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness: October of 1992. I was a new professor at Northeast Louisiana University, and I went to the Southern Living Showcase in Monroe with a colleague. Someone gave me a pink ribbon, and I made a vow to wear it every day thoughout the month of October.
I remember having to explain it a lot -- this wasn't long after we first donned red ribbons in honor and memory of those with HIV/Aids. It didn't take long to add other colors to ribbons -- there's a whole site devoted to the ribbon colors!
All this brings me to the idea of Celiac Awareness Month, which ends at the end of this week. Of course, for those with celiac disease, the month ends, but the disease does not. And our constant struggle to keep our food gluten-free and cross-contamination free is a constant vigil.
Someone said last week that I sometimes come on a little too strong with my gluten-free issues. Good. I want people to know that it is a SERIOUS CONCERN for many people, and it cannot and should not be taken lightly.
I know I took the idea lightly until I realized what it meant.
But I gotta ask -- if this disease is believed to affect 1 in 133 people (I don't even know what the new number is) and gluten intolerance affects even more, HOW can we raise the awareness of this need in society to the level where it will no longer be looked at as merely a dietary choice, but a health and wellness necessity?
I have 10 thoughts:
1. When people ask you why you don't eat (pick your poison) buns, pasta, bread, etc., develop a talking point: I have celiac disease, and ingesting wheat destroys my intestines is a good one. No, you don't want to gross out your dinner companions, but Be FACTUAL.
2. When you hear about a gluten-free product/company/developer who is doing great things for our community, sing their praises in any way you can! People will sing the praises of a new Mocha Latte somewhere, so why can't we crow about a great soft gluten-free sandwich bread or a delicious battered fish? Honestly, these are products ANYONE in the family would like.
3. We must continue to try to raise awareness with mainstream producers that we appreciate their gluten-free products. I know my Christmas is going to feel a lot like Yules of Old this year because of one cereal producer. When they do good, let them know you noticed. When they fall short -- tell them so. For instance, the folks at Outback Steak House don't really like me much, because I never miss a chance to remind them they should be like the Outback on Crossville Road in Roswell, Georgia. I mean, if they can serve a gluten-free blooming onion, why WON'T YOU DO IT IN ALL STORES. (Yes, Julie, I did it again.)
4. And that said, we must not abandon our trusted gluten-free mainstream products. They're been here, struggling to establish themselves in our world. And we love them and should continue to support them.
5. For goodness sake, don't make light of the importance of celiac disease by dismissing it or dumbing it down -- we don't have a "wheat allergy," and it really IS NOT all right to try to arrange a gluten-free meal when we're expected to dine. I'm sorry if I seem like a zealot, but don't expect me to slink away and eat a salad (or fruit, or sliced veggies) while the rest of the folks are having chicken wings, or pizza, or a whole gourmet meal. I'm sorry, if your event serves food, and you expect me to attend, make sure I can eat without standing out.
6. That said, praise those who make your dining needs easier. We used to have a catering director at Georgia College who, once she found out I was gluten-free, ALWAYS made sure I had a delicious meal (or even snacks) available at gluten-filled events. I miss you, Linda Book.
7. We need a genuine Tipping Point in the gluten-free world, one that calls it like it is. This is not a fad. This is not for weight loss. This is no place to cheat. Why can't we have someone important say that with authority? I'm sorry, but I don't need celebrities being gluten-free for a fad or a cleanse or to get in a bikini.
8. The social media sites, like Twitter and Facebook, are a terrific source for support. So are sites like Delphi Celiac Forum and Celiac.com. The Examiner sites (like this great one from my friend Jennifer D. Harris, JGF for short) have great information. Seek them out. Support them. While you're at it, if you've got a local support group, join it and support it. Here are two of my favorites: Middle Georgia GIG and the Atlanta Metro Celiacs. I'm smack dab in the middle of them and enjoy them both, though I rarely get to a meeting.
9. Love a gluten-free blogger. There's a list on the side of this blog of ones I frequent, all of them, like this blog, started because of a need for gluten-free information and a need to communicate about celiac disease and gluten intolerance. I don't blog for money (thought I do earn a small amount from BlogHer for its incredible sponsorship). I don't blog to get free stuff, though I do get samples from companies). I don't blog to be famous (goodness knows, I'm not famous). But I do this because I think every bit of new information shared is valuable, as long as it's factual. And I gotta say, i've made some tremendous friends in the gluten-free blogging world, and I've even gotten some new "adopted" gluten-free family members. Like Steve, And Kate. And Melanie. And JGF. And Ginger North. And Carrie. All their blogs are listed on my blog roll.
10. Finally, anyone up for a challenge this week? Spread the word. Can you wear light green on Thursday this week for Celiac Awareness Month? I am going to do it, and I hope you will too. Whether it's a green ribbon or a green shirt or tie, this is your chance to make a statement for Celiac Disease Awareness. And maybe you can help one person who's going through what YOU went through before your found the gluten-free diet.
Much love, and let's spread the word! And spread the gluten-free love!
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
First, before I get to my official post: Last weekend's Atlanta Gluten-Free Vendor Fair, sponsored by the Atlanta Metro Celiacs and coordinated by that goddess of gluten-free living, Jennifer D. Harris, was a huge success. Check out my academically posed post on this at my school blog!
Quick: Make a list of all the people you know personally who've faced breast cancer.
I list both my grandmothers Josephine Redente and Katie Rudeseal, my sister Betty Swanson, my friend Gail Wilder, my friend Barbara Monnett, my friend Carol (who is going through treatment right now), my friend Amy H., my friend Don's ex-wife Gayle Davis, my friend Meldra Panchetti and Royanne Eakins, and my friend Jake Goldstein -- the list could get so long as I think about it. I also think about my dear dissertation committee member Barbara Shoemake, whom we lost in 1998 at the age of 34 to the ravages of the disease, and Leigh Swinger, one of my first friends in Milledgeville who died four years ago this month.
And I think of people like me who've had breast cancer scares along the years and who have thankfully escaped.
We all agree: Cancer sucks. And this is the month we can and should try to do something about it.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, MyBlogSpark has joined forces with the non-profit community on mySpace called Pink Together to create awareness and raise funds for breast cancer research and support. It costs you nothing to participate, but by doing so, you can help lift up someone fighting breast cancer or remember someone who has lost the valiant battle against this horrible disease. It's easy to do, too.
During this month, in additionto donating $2 million to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, General Mills
will also donate $1, up to $20,000, each time a comment of encouragement is posted, a virtual flower bouquet is sent, or a story is shared on
PinkTogether.comthrough October 31st.
I added a flower to the bouquet of a beautiful young woman named Linsi, whose touching story really would resonate with many of my students. Here's her story:
The first thing you notice about Linsey is her smile. It’s the kind of smile that lights up a room. From the first minute you meet Linsey, you know this soft-spoken, thoughtful young woman is destined for great things. Her battle with breast cancer may have given her an insight on life that is beyond mature for such a young woman, but it’s done nothing to dampen her youthful joy. At the age of 23, Linsey was forced to make a decision no young woman should have to make. After a biopsy reveled she had breast cancer, Linsey chose to have a mastectomy of her left breast.Less then a year later, Linsey choose to have a precautionary mastectomy of her right breast, bringing her odds of ever having cancer again down to three percent.“In some ways, it feels as though breast cancer never happened to me. I have been able to move forward with my life. Still, the scars that remain from my surgeries are proof of what I've been through.”It was a struggle for Linsey to deal with something so serious at a time when others her age were studying and hanging out with their friends. That struggle was made even more difficult by the fact that there were no other young people she could turn to.“What I think about is how isolated I feel in being a 26-year-old breast cancer survivor. I've often read that women ages 40 and under are considered ‘young’ breast cancer patients. What does it mean to be 23 with breast cancer?”Until she found Pink Together, Linsey felt like she was alone in her fight, but now she has found a community of young women who understand what it means to be a breast cancer survivor.Linsey believes it's important for there to be more breast cancer awareness resources and educational tools that target young women. She fears that most women her age simply don’t realize they could be at risk.“I never fully understood that I was at risk, and for a while I ignored the lump I felt in my breast because I assumed it was nothing.”As the youngest ever Pink Together Survivor Ambassador, Linsey hopes her story will inspire young women across the country to become more active in the fight against breast cancer.
Through MyBlogSpark, I received a Inspiring Hope breast cancer awareness gift bag that I am donating to Zeta Tau Alpha at Georgia College & State University to use as part of their Breast Cancer Awareness Month Activities. All of the gift basket items are from ShopKomen.com, where 25 percent of the merchandise purchase price benefits Susan G. Komen for the Cure® in the fight against breast cancer. I'm also donating the reader's prize to Zeta Tau Alpha to help spread awareness among college woman that breast cancer does not discriminate by age, sex, or race.
Most of all, I hope all of my readers who are fighting breast cancer in any way will go to the Pink Together site and post their story, so they may serve as an inspiration to others.
Much love to all of you,