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Board Member Enjoys Active, Gluten-Free Lifestyle


This month, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) is very pleased to honor Michael Danke as the Awareness Advocate of the Month.  Professionally, Michael works in the IBM Market Intelligence group.  In his free time, Michael serves as a volunteer extraordinaire working to raise awareness of celiac disease in every facet of his life.   To meet Michael Danke is to see passion in action!

And, action truly is the name of Michael Danke’s game! He is living proof that having celiac disease and maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle does not have to hamper your passion for an active sports life. After being diagnosed, Michael’s recovery has included a major return to athletics. In fact, he lists his interests as celiac awareness, running, bicycling, triathlons, swimming, and adventure racing.  He trains faithfully, demonstrating that discipline and attention to personal health needs pay off.  

Michael generously donates his time and shares his experience as a member of the NFCA Business Advisory Board. His sound business sense accompanied by his extraordinary talent in matters related to technology has helped NFCA significantly as we move forward toward our mission. Specifically, Michael has selflessly given of his time to assist the Foundation in the best to use the NFCA website, www.beyondceliac.org, to spread the word about celiac disease and to help people gain a prompt diagnosis.  We so appreciate being one of Michael’s special “consulting clients”!

Like so many others, Michael came to be diagnosed after a long period of trial and error. 

Maintaining a hectic work schedule and training vigorously as a runner, Michael knew that he was anemic.  In fact, he told his doctor that he had been anemic all of his life. Disturbed, his doctor ordered test after test trying to determine the cause.  Michael reports, “Every time I went to the doctor, she ordered blood work for iron.  Iron pills didn’t do a thing for me.  After a while, I started joking that I was anemic because they kept drawing so much blood.”

Eventually, a recommended trip to a gastroenterologist and an endoscopy revealed that Michael had celiac disease. Naturally, he first turned to the Internet for information and quickly found to his dismay that he was in for a life without bread, beer and pizza. Again, like many others, Michael found that “It’s not easy to overcome 30 years of ingrained food habits.”

The next jolt came when he learned that he had osteoporosis. But, things improved on the gluten-free diet.  Danke reports, “After six weeks, I stopped getting sick all the time and I had more energy.” His life has been action-packed ever since!

You can read Michael's personal story here.  

After being diagnosed, Michael’s recovery has included a major return to athletics. In fact, he lists his interests as celiac awareness, running, bicycling, triathlons, swimming, and adventure racing.  He trains faithfully demonstrating that discipline pays off.

In May 2007, Michael served as the race director for the first-ever Celiac Awareness 5K Run and Walk held in Houston and hosted by the Houston Road Runners.  This event was the perfect chance for Michael to combine his two passions, running and raising awareness of celiac disease.  While raising awareness in any way is good, Michael believes that a race is a good approach. "Most people have never heard of it, but it's one of those quirky conditions that's prevalent. A race seems like a way to get the word out to a broader group," he said.

Michael Danke at the Houston Area Road Runners Race with Stacy Holden, the overall female winner and a celiac! Race volunteer Colleen Chamberlain looks on.

Demonstrating that there is a very active life after being diagnosed, Michael competed in the MS 150 bike race from Houston to Austin in April 2007.  It seems that his chosen moniker of Iron Celiac is just right!

When asked if there is any way in which celiac disease has changed his life for the better, Danke was quick to reply in the affirmative.  It’s no surprise that it is about running and training.

“Oh yes. Friends used to call me 'superfit' because I was thin and ran marathons. What they didn't know was that since junior high I've wanted to do the Ironman in Hawaii, but one marathon a year was literally all my body could survive. After I was diagnosed, I thought my training year was miserable. My whole perspective changed when I crossed the finish line, because I realized I had enough "in the tank" to go the Ironman distance. In a sense, my diagnosis made the impossible, possible. How much of a gift is that? I've been truly blessed by my diagnosis and thank God for every opportunity to race and help inform others about Celiac. I'm currently training for the Ironman Wisconsin in September.”

To follow Michael’s progress as he works toward this major life goal, check out his blog at  
http://ironceliac.blogspot.com. While this blog relays his experiences in endurance training for the Iron Man competition, Michael also is using it as another means of getting out the word about celiac disease and the gluten-free lifestyle.  Celiacs who are training for a race or who are working on endurance training will read about managing a gluten-free diet while maintaining this disciplined training program.   

We wish Michael the best of luck as he continues to train for the “big race”. Even more, we thank him for his tireless efforts on behalf of the celiac community in his hometown and far beyond. Michael is an exemplary Awareness Advocate!