Michael Danke Looks Back on Life Before Diagnosis

February 16, 2009

Michael Danke Looks Back on Life Before Diagnosis

I think the weirdest part of being diagnosed was how many seemingly strange events in my past “made sense” to me now.

I think the weirdest part of being diagnosed was how many seemingly strange events in my past “made sense” to me now.

• When I was six, my parents took me in to the hospital. They took tummy x-rays because I always complained how my tummy hurt. The doctors didn’t find anything.

• I was always pale and anemic.

• I could (and did) drink soda pop all day and never gain weight.

• In my opinion at the time, for no reason whatsoever, I threw up in my second triathlon in high school. My dad made me French toast for breakfast that day.

• I always seemed to come down with whatever respiratory infection that was floating around. One year I almost missed my marathon from pneumonia, another year it was my appendix, and a third year it was bronchitis.

• I never liked beer, but I liked wine. (Beer has barely/wheat.)

• I had a self-imposed two breadstick limit at Olive Garden’s all you can eat soup and salad lunch, because three or more made me sick to my stomach. I thought it was the garlic.

• In college, I tried to give blood, sometimes successfully, sometimes not – because I was turned down for anemia. I still got the shirt and cookie, though.

• My wife complained that she never got to be sick by herself, because I’d always catch what she had. Defensively, I said it wasn’t true. Let’s just say this wasn’t the last argument I lost (and to my chagrin, on the facts!)

• I had a cavity that surprised my dentist by its severity. It turns out Celiacs can suffer teeth problems.

• A doctor diagnosed me with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) once. He had the right idea, but the wrong diagnosis. It went away after a bit, so I didn’t think anything of it.

• I always had trouble for the last few miles of any marathon (cramping and worse), despite all my efforts to prolong my endurance. I didn’t realize I basically blasted my gut by loading up on spaghetti the night before – making it difficult for me to consume anything, “on the run.” This was true every year, except one. A week before one marathon, a doctor gave me prednisone (a steroid) and an antibiotic for an infection. I had a great run and thought, “Well, it must have been the steroids making me stronger.” It turns out the steroids were suppressing my immune reaction to the gluten in my pasta dinners.

• I never liked whole grain bread.

• My favorite carbohydrates are potatoes and rice, which are safe for Celiacs.

In retrospect, any one of those more serious symptoms could have warranted a test for Celiac Disease, but through a combination of not cooperating with my doctors and my doctors not knowing about how common Celiac Disease is, we missed it for about three decades. I would encourage anyone with my symptoms to have the simple blood test done.