We’re fast approaching a big month in the circles of my world. Growing up, May was always the family birthday month. My dad, grandma, uncle, cousins…you name it, they had /have a birthday in May. It also marked the time when school was winding down, baseball was starting up, and we were spending more time outside as the days continued to get longer. As the years have passed, not much has changed. In fact, May has even become more fun-filled as my interests have developed and life has “happened”. In my neck of the woods, flowers are in bloom, lawnmowers are humming again, and you get to see your neighbors after seven months of hibernation. There’s the annual running of the Kentucky Derby, always a big boxing match around Cinco de Mayo, and both of my kids start their seasons (baseball and softball, respectively). On top of all that, I’ll give you three guesses as to what month Cam was born (and the first two guesses don’t count). It’s busy. It’s fun. It’s May.
In the past couple of years, May has taken on a new significance in our family. May is Celiac Awareness Month (abbreviated CAM…coincidence, I think not!). It seems as if every month is some kind of disease awareness and that someone is always wearing a ribbon (green is the color for this particular cause) but obviously, this one has taken a special meaning for us. As one of the 1 in 133 that has celiac disease, Cam has been doing great. He just had a follow up appointment and his antibody levels are now insignificant. He has put on a good four inches and 15-20 pounds since going gluten-free and his instances of “getting glutened” are few and far between (but it still happens). Despite these changes, he still can’t eat at school, restaurants (outside of our staples) are still a challenge, and there’s always a glimmer of doubt in his eyes when someone puts a plate in front of him. It is for these reasons, that we have the green ribbon in May and we do what we can to help raise awareness.
So, during my travels for work, I got to thinking “what can I do to help with raising awareness for his cause”? Obviously, this blog and sharing our story with friends, families, and others in the community is helpful. But what makes that different from every other month? How can I show him (and others with celiac disease) that I understand the challenges that they face? It is with this thinking in mind that I decided to go gluten-free in May. Now, I do not show any signs of celiac or gluten-sensitivity personally, though I can still be a carrier and it could present itself to me later in life. Part of my awareness efforts in May is having a blood test done and checking my own levels.
As I was going over the logistics of taking this on for 31 days, I got excited. I wondered if I would “feel better” throughout the process. I wonder how my body would react; if I would drop any weight or be even more energetic. Dinners would be no change at home. We have full gluten-free meals as a family as to not isolate Cam under his own roof, so 1/3 of my meals were already accounted for. This was going to be a piece of cake (gluten-free, of course). And then, the thoughts of those May activities came to mind. The thought of hot dogs at the ball game. Drinking beers while watching the Cinco de Mayo boxing matches with my friends. The birthday cakes to celebrate all those birthdays. I began to doubt myself.
It was with this indecision in mind that I realized how selfish and weak I really am. This was a choice for me, something that I could change my mind about at any time. For Cam and for millions like him, that choice is non-existent. His body is forcing him into making decisions that I was wavering about taking on for only four weeks. For me, it was going to be a month. For him, it’s for life. I was embarrassed. And with this shame, came a desire to do what I can for him and all in the gluten-free community. So I will proudly let food places know I’m gluten-free. I will blog my progress, spreading the word as much as I can. If you’re buying me a drink, make it hard cider please. And when the time comes to commemorate one of the best days of my life, I’ll be sitting right next to my 14 year old, smiling as we share that piece of gluten-free cake together.