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.)