Cam was diagnosed with Celiac’s this past September. The official date was somewhere in the middle of the month but for “anniversary” purposes, we like to say that Labor Day is when our lives changed. Our story is not really any different than anyone else’s. My son started having his stomach issues while we were on vacation in June. My wife and I came to the uneducated assumption that he had caught something from the beach house hot tub or, at worse, contracted some type of intestinal virus similar to what my mother-in-law had suffered from the previous two months. And, like good parents, we gave him plenty of fluids and had him eat toast to calm his belly (yes, give us the Parents of the Year award now). Celiac’s never crossed our mind.
Cam’s 12 years old and has always been in the top percentiles on the growth charts. Like any typical pre-teen boy, he kept fast food places on top of their chicken nugget inventory counts and could inhale half of a Papa John’s pizza in about five minutes. Gluten, we now know, was a main component in his diet. He wasn’t putting on any weight but he didn’t look unhealthy. The start of his symptoms were sudden, much more resembling a bug than an a dietary allergy. When things didn’t clear up, we started keeping a food journal but never removed wheat from the equation (thinking more that it could have been a dairy issue or a hormonal change causing a reaction to fried foods). Doctor’s visits and multiple samples initially did not turn up anything that raised a red flag. It wasn’t until after an ill-fated day of eating over the Labor Day weekend (biscuits, buns and rolls..oh my!) that I took things seriously. It was then, at four o’clock in the morning while in the bathroom of our hotel room that Cam, through tears and bouts of pain that doubled him over, looked at me and asked me to help him make the nightmare stop. It ripped my heart out. He’s 12, on the verge of huge life changes, but he’s still my baby boy and something was hurting him..badly. Within a couple of weeks, after elevated tags in his blood tests and an endoscope, that the official diagnosis came.
So, you may ask, why write a blog about it? There are already numerous Celiac’s and gluten free focused blogs that are all great. They range from offering advice to teens & moms to discussing new ways to make classic, gluten-free recipes. My wife, who is a great chef and who my son is blessed to have in the kitchen for him, has taken this change on full steam. She’s “re-teaching” herself to cook and the baking perfectionist in her assures me that she will succeed and be Cam’s greatest asset. Cam, himself, is a smart kid and watching him these past three months has amazed me and proves that he has the maturity beyond his years to get through this difficult first year. So where does that leave me? What can I bring to the gluten-free table in our family? I am writing this blog to learn my purpose. I am nowhere near my wife’s experience in the kitchen but I do have a degree in food microbiology. I thirst to learn about what is going on to help my son’s condition. I want to educate myself and others but do it from a Dad’s perspective. I’m third on the gluten-free totem pole in my family but that doesn’t mean that I can’t use our experiences and my words to help other Dads and parents of teens realize that we are still important to the fragile psyche of our children who are struggling to understand why they are going through this.
Is it also cathartic for me to write? Absolutely. But for my family, my wife and most importantly my son, it is how I can help and understand and make our lives a little easier.