In retrospect, Micheline now recognizes the progression of celiac disease symptoms over her adult life. Yet it wasn’t until her health began to decline significantly – with bouts of frequent and severe abdominal pain, bloating, skin rashes and irritable bowel – that these unexplained symptoms raised alarm bells.
During an agonizing episode in which Micheline was admitted to hospital, doctors did further testing including a gastroscope. Across a country, friends held their breath and fingers were crossed as we anxiously awaited the biopsy results. I finally received ‘the’ call. “Celiac, it’s just celiac,” announced Micheline. “Not cancer, not anything else … JUST celiac!!!”
For Micheline this would be a (gluten-free) cake walk. Why? Because she knew that celiac disease was manageable; celiac was livable.
In the days and weeks that followed, I flooded her inbox with gluten-free recipes, products and links to all the best and most reputable sites along, of course, with a subscription to Allergic Living magazine.
It took me a long time to adjust to the food allergy rollercoaster ride. There have been times when I sure wished there was an emergency brake to pull to get off.
But not Micheline, she got on, threw her hands into the air, screamed with laughter and continues to enjoy the ride. This Mother’s Day, I’d like to thank Micheline for teaching me that there is so much to be grateful for in a peanut-free, egg-free, soy-free and gluten-free life! It is still a very good life. At the end of the day, as she knows better than anyone, it’s all about perspective.
Update from the writer, Michelle Nel:
Not long after this article was published, my dear friend Micheline was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time, ironically, three years to the day of her original diagnosis. Mission text support was re-implemented. We would message as she driven to appointments and during treatments.
On the good days, we would tease and talk, on the low days, I would send love and listen. With ferocity, grace and dignity, Micheline battled this second diagnosis, and was able to kick cancer to the curb yet again.
One of the most poignant moments of my life was getting to visit Micheline on the West Coast; a meeting neither of us had been able to count on. But she had made it, she was in recovery, and there were no emoticons or descriptions grand enough to express how I felt. After getting off the plane with my daughter, I scanned the crowd outside the Victoria, B.C. airport terminal. I saw her, she saw me. We clutched each other and wept.
As another Mother’s Day approaches, I wish Micheline love, peace and the strength to overcome any and all obstacles that come her way. And may the same hold true for the mothers and friends whom you cherish.
Michelle Nel is the author of two food allergy books for children. Visit her Facebook page here.
Related: What is celiac disease?
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