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During a normal summer at camp, I began getting horrible stomach aches and rapidly losing weight. I came home in constant pain and much thinner. The pain became unbearable, like someone taking a knife and twisting it back and fourth every time I decided I was hungry. As the stomachaches got worse, so did my mood and my exhaustion. I would spend days straight on the couch, not able to move or go to school due to the pain. My dad took me to the pediatrician, who told me it was a stomach virus that would pass. We felt a moment of relief hoping that maybe I would lay off of junk food and stick to water, vitamins, and Pepto-Bismol for a week or two. We waited a while but, unfortunately, a virus was not the case. Before I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2005, anyone I met thought I had an eating disorder. I was told I was paranoid, but I could feel people’s eyes on me. I never wanted to wear anything that showed my legs or my arms. I would go out in 90-degree weather in baggy sweatpants and an oversized sweatshirt, not caring if I produced buckets and buckets of sweat. I was so self-conscious about my weight and how others perceived my situation. Being able to hear whispers at school and in public about my stick thin legs and my toothpick arms made the situation worse. The worst part was that I had no idea why I was so thin at the time. Doctor after doctor still had absolutely no clue why I was losing weight so rapidly and sleeping for days. Hearing from various physicians that it was a stomach virus gave us no hope, and we were about to give up. Then we finally found a doctor who diagnosed me with celiac disease.

In the beginning, celiac disease was hard to deal with. It was a relief that I could still sneak in a few of my favorite things, like ice cream and nachos, every now and then, but accepting the fact that pizza was out of the question was a struggle. I promised myself that I would stay strong and not sneak food that would continue to destroy my already severely damaged stomach. My health depended on my diligence, and the only thing I wanted was to feel better.

I gained over 50 pounds after my diagnosis. I realized if I wanted to throw the baggy sweatpants and oversized sweatshirts in the trash, I would have to stick to the gluten-free diet. After a while it became routine for me to order a burger without a bun or a salad without croutons. Now that its 2014, being gluten free isn’t too awful, with many options and yummy alternatives, I’m proud to say I have celiac disease.