My Rare Disease Part 9: Diagnosis
Human powers of denial surpass those of reason by what seems like an exponential degree. And maybe it wasn’t surprise I felt the next Monday morning after a weekend of torturous purging. Perhaps my confusion at the meaning of “You tested positive for celiac sprue” had more to do with the language used by the nurse on the telephone than the element of surprise at the reality of the situation. Perhaps acceptance is more closely linked to surprise than I had ever thought to acknowledge.
The truth I had to accept was the diagnosis, but the element of surprise would resurface periodically, as I searched for answers to questions I’d been asking myself for quite some time. Why had I followed my boyfriend out west? Why was I so intent on helping someone else pursue his dreams? What was I looking for? And why did everything I attempted seem to fail?
The puzzle pieces of my life were falling into place, and surprise and acceptance converged as I worked to come to terms with my new reality. Celiac disease, I realized, had been pulling the puppet strings behind the scenes of my life, probably forever. In the past I’d looked outward for my life’s direction. Now, a direction had been handed to me in the form of a diagnosis, shifting my perspective by an almost perfect 180 degrees. Control is overrated, I’d once told myself. Now I wondered, thinking again about at all the failures in my career, in my relationships, in my health. I’d been ill, I now knew, and nothing works if it’s broken inside.
Perhaps I’d searched outwardly for fulfillment because, on some subconscious level, I knew I didn’t have the power to dictate my own path. Perhaps I allowed life to pull me along in the hopes that the right path would present itself if I left the door open to possibilities. Or maybe I’d resigned to thinking it was enough to follow someone else’s path, one which seemed so much more certain than my own.
In the end, my own path did find me, in a manner I could scarcely have predicted or even imagined. When I first heard the diagnosis over the telephone, my heart plummeted with the knowledge that life as I knew it was over. The more I dwelled on the circumstances, though, the more I realized that my life made more sense now than it ever had before. Celiac disease, I’d learned in the wake of my diagnosis, was perfectly controllable through a gluten-free diet. Though it wasn’t easy or convenient, it also wasn’t impossible. I already felt better than I had in years. I was stronger and healthier and, for the first time ever, in control of these aspects of my life.
Had I not been diagnosed with celiac disease, I wondered, what kind of a life would I have had? More to the point, Would I have had any life at all? Though I will never truly know the answers to these questions, my experience-based suspicions were enough to help me accept that I did, in fact, have a lifelong disease. Like it or not, the path was finally clear, and my gluten-free journey was about to begin.