It Came Without Ribbons

November and December certainly delivered plenty of surprises this year: those that usually come with the holiday season, and one I never expected...

I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease (CD) mid-December and spent the week pre-Christmas figuring out how to make the peak of the season just as delicious as the previous 34 years' had been. I researched wheat flour alternatives, hoping to create a seamless transition into the gluten-free lifestyle but still enjoy the foods (read treats) I am accustomed to enjoying.

In my endless reading, I learned a lot about other people's struggles with their diagnosis and transition into a gluten-free diet, and part of me feels guilty to admit I haven't had the same experience: I feel wildly fortunate... 

Timing is everything in life, right? The gluten-free lifestyle is ever popular now for reasons as simple as intolerance and everyday health — forgetting CD — so that grocery store shelves are stocked with alternative flours, snacks, and glutenless versions of everyday items like soy sauce and pasta. Restaurants, too, are ever ready to accommodate those with food intolerances and allergies.

My diagnosis took only a month from the onset of symptoms, and I really only felt ill for that month — some people battle symptoms and misdiagnoses for years. Still young and looking forward to a long life, God-willing, I hope to spend what will be the majority of it gluten-free. At the same time, I'm old enough to fully understand the disease and the importance of adhering to the diet for the sake of my health, longevity, and an increased chance of avoiding other autoimmune diseases.

I'm so grateful I not only know how to cook and bake, but enjoy it. It makes perusing recipes or thinking about meal prep easier because I know where/when I have to make substitutions and adjustments, and it's especially useful when reading labels and looking for hidden gluten, too. (This also means that I've had the privilege of making and tasting the "real" versions of the gluten-filled goodies I will now have to recreate.)

Not so bad, in my book. This doesn't mean there won't be frustrating moments, times when I wish I could order my burger on that fresh brioche bun, or trial and error in making the gluten-free versions of all my faves. It does mean, however, that I've been blessed with the knowledge of my disease (at a relatively young age at that), and an easy, drug-free remedy.

In the words of Dr. Seuss in his famed holiday classic, "It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags." Although he was speaking about Christmas itself here, this line truly describes the most valuable, meaningful gifts we are given.