Describe your life prior to diagnosis:
Before developing celiac disease, I LOVED gluten. Bagels, breads, cake, pasta, pizza, subs, you name it. I was an athlete, equestrian and busy pre-vet student!
How did you come to know (or suspect) that you have celiac disease?
I started becoming sick every time I ate. I was in and out of the hospital and going through many invasive and non-invasive tests and diet trials. After months with no results or improvements and because of the severity of my symptoms, I took myself off gluten. (Note: it is not recommended to cut out gluten before getting tested for celiac disease. Doing so can cause incorrect test results. Learn more about testing.) My great uncle has celiac disease so I figured, why not?
My symptoms subsided. After being gluten-free and feeling better, they finally believed me and decided to test me. Obviously I had weak positives and little evidence of celiac disease because I hadn’t eaten gluten for months! That’s the goal! I then found a gastroenterologist who specializes in celiac disease who confirmed, without doubt, that I had celiac disease. I was genetically tested, antibody tested, and confirmed with endoscopy to have celiac disease.
How long did it take for you to get diagnosed since your first symptoms and what challenges did you face along the way?
Almost a year. Many doctors along the way, like nurses and primary care physicians, did not understand the fundamentals of celiac disease. If they had, I could have been diagnosed and on the road to recovery months sooner.
Describe your experience with living with celiac disease:
While I do miss gluten, I have adapted to gluten-free cooking and eating pretty well. My biggest obstacles are the invisible ones. Not being able to eat gluten, even down to cross-contact levels, has a huge impact on me socially. I can’t safely eat out or drink with friends and family. I can’t travel freely. I can’t be spontaneous. Everything has to be planned.
My only saving grace has been the acquisition of my service dog from Nosey Dog Detection Partners. My dog is able to detect gluten, down to a few parts per million, in my food, drinks, cosmetic items and more. She is truly a life saver.
Is there anything else you’d like to add to your story?
I am currently a third-year veterinary student on the beautiful Caribbean island of Saint Kitts. I am able to travel, have independence, and attend school to achieve my goals of becoming a veterinarian while safely managing celiac disease because of my gluten detection dog! My experiences are shared on my Instagram: @the_celiac_vet_student