My name is Pranav Chugh, I am 17 years old and I was diagnosed with celiac disease on April 9th, 2004 at the age of 6. Because I was so young, many of my recollections of this time period are somewhat hazy. What I do remember is this: my diagnosis of celiac disease changed my life for the better. Before it was discovered that I had celiac disease, I distinctly remember being extremely sick and behind in my child development. I didn't speak until I was three years old, and even when I did, I had a speech impediment and couldn't say certain words correctly such as "mirror." On top of this, I was much smaller in height and weight than the average child of my age. Within the few months before my diagnosis, the symptoms escalated in both intensity and frequency, leaving me feeling weak and lifeless. After three days straight of feeling sick and going home from school early, conveniently right after lunch every time, my mother took me to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia to get tested for multiple possible diseases. Once it was all said and done, it was concluded that I, in fact, had celiac disease, a concept that I would not fully understand for another couple of years.
Immediately after my family and I learned that I had celiac disease, my life started to change for the better. Once I started the gluten-free diet, the symptoms that I had been endlessly dealing with for years suddenly disappeared. I began to gain weight and grow at a rapid pace once my body was provided the essential nutrients that I so needed. Since the day that I was diagnosed, I have never purposefully strayed from my diet, although I have accidentally consumed food that has unknowingly come into contact with gluten on a few occasions. Although the physical relief that I was feeling was amazing, there was still another reason why I am so glad that I was diagnosed with this.
My sister, Priyanka, who's seven years older than me, was diagnosed with celiac disease about a month after I was. The only reason that she was tested in the first place is because I had been diagnosed with it and it was recommended that all family members get tested as well. Priyanka is asymptomatic, meaning that she wouldn't have any side effects from eating gluten. If I wasn't tested first, she may not have been diagnosed for years and years. I thank my lucky stars every day that not only I, but my sister, were diagnosed, for it allowed us to live happy, and hopefully lengthy, lives.
I feel that it is imperative to share my story with all who are willing to listen because I believe that everyone needs to be tested for this disease, especially if they are experiencing any recurring stomach symptoms or have a family history of celiac disease. Through my experiences of talking about the disease, I have realized that many people who I've talked to would rather live without a diagnosis than have to succumb to the gluten-free diet. They think that it is just too hard to live a gluten-free life and don't want to go through the hassle, an argument that I have had with many of my distant family members.
But the truth of the matter is, now more than ever, it is easier to assimilate to the diet because of all of the options that are out there. I distinctly remember when I was just starting on the gluten-free diet that my options were very limited and most of the food tasted disgusting. I'm so happy to see the advances that have been made in the celiac disease community to make it possible for people like me to eat all these different kinds of foods. I am willing to share my story in the hopes that it will inspire others to take care of themselves and take every precaution necessary to ensure a healthy lifestyle.