Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Cancer Sucks

“Cancer Sucks!” Throughout the last months of her life, my sister Sherry had the small pin attached to the collar of her sweater. Little did I know when she received the button from GYNCA (Gynecological Cancer Association), a non-profit organization that helps women battling female-related cancers, just how true that little statement was.

Before Sherry’s illness, I had had little experience of what cancer patients go through on a daily basis. Sure, I had seen people who had lost hair because of chemotherapy. I had noticed some with limbs swollen from lymphedema. I had watched from afar as acquaintances lost or gained weight, side-effects of the therapies or medications used to fight the disease.

But walking down the path beside someone you love is something entirely different. I learned first-hand just how incredibly badly cancer sucks. Without going into specifics, I can tell you that her losing battle with the disease was horrible and heart-rending. A cure for cancer can’t come soon enough.

How does this relate to celiac disease? According to an article in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, “the risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma and small-intestinal cancers [is] increased significantly” in celiac disease patients (“Incidence of Malignancies in Diagnosed Celiac Patients: A Population-based Estimate”). The risk of cancer, estimated “at about 1.5 times higher” than that of the non-celiac population, is still not even in the ballpark when compared to many other health risks. (Take smoking, for example.)

As small as the cancer risk may be, however, why would anyone with celiac disease tempt fate by choosing to eat gluten, even if you are asymptomatic? The battle to maintain a gluten-free diet isn’t easy for most of us, but I’m here to say that it’s far easier than the battle to overcome cancer.

(Note: If you read Celiyak, you may have noticed that I have taken a break from writing in recent months, because of the precious time I was spending with my sister. Celiac disease definitely takes a back seat to cancer. Moving forward, I plan to record my observations about celiac disease more frequently.)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Muddy water

Check out the list of allergens at the end of the ingredients--and then note the
GLUTEN FREE message on the bottom left of the label. Sheesh!

If navigating the waters of celiac disease weren’t difficult enough already, along comes a salad dressing bottle with a label that makes me question the meaning of life. (Okay, perhaps it wasn’t all that significant. But the label, which was glued to a bottle of Key Foods Creamy Caesar Dressing, did make me throw up my hands in frustration while my naked salad waited shamefully for a decision.)

There are times when, even though I think I’m doing everything right regarding my gluten-free diet, I still become sick. And sometimes I stay sick for days, analyzing every bite I’ve taken, experimenting to find the right combination of foods that will heal and nourish me (and allow me to carry on with my busy life with adequate energy--and without the constant need to rubberneck for the nearest restroom).

The confusing label on that bottle of dressing is a fitting symbol for the struggle that people with celiac disease live with every day. Too often the water is completely muddy when it comes to the next bite of food that we should or should not put in our mouths, making mealtime a frustrating experience.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Bacon bummer

Can't touch this!
In recent travels I have twice encountered a new trend in hotel breakfast buffets. Hotels are using slices of bread—for crying out loud!--to absorb the grease from the sausages and bacon offered their guests. It’s a good idea, I guess, unless the guests happen to have celiac disease.

In both cases I felt a brief sense of grief and loss, as I realized that one of the few foods on the morning buffet that I could eat was no longer an option for me. (No way can folks with celiac disease partake of the ubiquitous waffles, cereals, toast or muffins.) But then I gathered my courage and explained the problem to the breakfast attendants, both of whom kindly offered to fix sausages for me without the “grease absorbers.”

The lesson: Don’t be shy to educate hotel managers and breakfast attendants about such issues. Being an educator is a role that those of us with celiac disease must take on—whether we want it or not--if we hope to improve our chances of eating safely while on the road.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Breakfast in the Big City

Chicago is home to Millennium Park--and Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe.

I have made two trips to beautiful Chicago in the past month: on the first trip I accompanied Doug to a conference in the bustling downtown area, and on the second trip we attended the wedding of the daughter of a close friend in the lovely little suburb of Wheaton.

My first cinnamon roll
in six years!
Besides enjoying several of Chicago’s recreational and cultural offerings, I was pleased to find that Chicago is onto gluten-free dining. Such restaurants as Morton’s The Steakhouse (65 E. Wacker Pl.) and Volare (201 E. Grand) in Chicago and Ivy (120 N. Hale) in Wheaton offered some especially nice gluten-free options. But my happiest discoveries were two outstanding breakfast restaurants.

The Egg Harbor Cafe rooster.
In fact, I ate at Wildberry Pancakes and CafĂ© (130 E. Randolph St.), a breakfast restaurant located directly across from Millenium Park, three times while we were at the conference. While at the wedding, I ate at Egg Harbor Cafe (208 S. Hale St.) twice. Wildberry’s GF Pancakes were the best I’ve encountered since I’ve had celiac disease. I ate them every day—so quickly, in fact, that unfortunately I didn’t take the time to take a photo. You’ll just have to trust me on this.

(We actually tried to eat at Wildberry one other time on the weekend but the wait was 1½ hours for brunch, and we didn’t have the time—so keep that in mind if you plan to eat there. On weekdays, we were seated immediately.)

At Egg Harbor Cafe, I also had some mighty tasty pancakes on the first day, but on the second day I had the first cinnamon roll I’ve had in four years. And oh, boy, was it ever the bomb! If I ever have the chance to return to Wheaton, you can bet that I will visit Egg Harbor again!

In addition to Wildberry’s downtown location, there are two other locations: 1783 N. Milwaukee Ave, Libertyville, IL and 1383 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL. Egg Harbor, happily, has 18 restaurants in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Georgia. You can look them up at www.eggharborcafe.com.