Losing the Game of Body Poker

My aging body has upped the ante lately, and this is one pot that I may not be able to win. I like this metaphor because, some days, it really does feel like a high-stakes game of poker. I get the feeling that this time my body may not be bluffing.

I am hobbling around with a nasty infection in my foot, gobbling antibiotics like candy and praying this disgusting thing resolves itself sometime soon. I try to stay off the foot as much as possible, which has given me a new appreciation for the importance of being able to walk. Meanwhile, my nightmares are populated with scenes of losing the foot, dying during surgery, being relegated to life in a wheelchair, being fitted with a prosthesis.

I thank God that I have been blessed with a wonderful wife who puts up with me even in bad times. She runs around taking care of everything while I try not to act like a cripple (which I have not done very successfully).

I have lost trust in my new Kaiser doctor, as she diagnosed athlete’s foot when I first came in to the office with this problem. I tried to tell her that I’ve had plenty of athlete’s foot and this definitely is not it. She disagreed and prescribed some ointment that, of course, did nothing to help a bacterial problem. Two weeks later, I show up in her office again to demand answers. My foot looks like a picture in a medical textbook. I remember seeing a photo that looked just like this back in the days when I worked for a drug company. I recall being grossed out then, and now it is me! I cannot shake this dread feeling that I am going to end up in the hospital and that this will all come to a bad end.

As if that weren’t enough, the doctor looked at my blood tests and diagnosed me with celiac disease. This means I am now on a gluten-free diet. Okay, stop for a minute and imagine a vegan on a gluten-free diet. This is a disaster!

As it turns out, nearly all my vegan convenience food (Boca burgers, veggie dogs, bean burritos, “deli slices”) are full of wheat gluten. This pretty much limits my protein sources to tofu and beans.

I really don’t know that I can hack it. Sure, if you look around online, you can find gluten-free vegan recipes. I even found one for scrumptious looking cupcakes with chocolate ganache frosting. But the recipe requires me to start by roasting some beets!! Um, I don’t cook and I don’t plan to start now. This is not going to work for me.

So what are the alternatives? I can stick to mostly vegetables, supplementing them with tofu and canned beans. Or I can abandon veganism entirely and revert to my ovo-lacto vegetarian ways. As tempting as the latter course of action may be, I will start by trying the former. Like everything else in life, I will have to figure it out as I go along.

Now if only this damned foot would heal!

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3 thoughts on “Losing the Game of Body Poker

  1. From what you wrote, it sounds like you had one (or more) of the serologic tests for celiac disease performed (i.e tissue transglutaminase (tTG), anti-gliadin antibody, and anti-endomysial antibody). Those are good tests in context but can give false-positive results. It’s probably not what you want to hear because of the expense, but upper endoscopy with duodenal biopsy could help in that it could either confirm the serologic impression or bolster the case for a false positive serologic result. You could also do further (expensive) blood testing to see if you have one or both of the HLA types (DQ2 and/or DQ8) associated with most cases of celiac disease.

    • So here’s my question: I’ve been gluten-free for about a month now and have experienced little or no abatement of the symptoms that caused the doctor to suspect celiac disease. Is this a possible indication of false positive, or does it take many months for symptoms to begin to alleviate? Thanks for your very helpful comment.

      • I’m afraid I can’t answer your question with certainty as I’m not really a clinical celiac disease expert, but I’ve read that most people begin to experience some improvement in symptoms within a few days or weeks of gluten restriction as long as there is not gluten contamination from others’ meals in your home (or restaurants you visit) rendering your diet not really gluten-free. Mucosal healing takes a lot longer. If you continue not to have any improvement in symptoms, it could mean either that something other than celiac disease is causing the symptoms or that you have refractory celiac disease. Celiac disease is surprisingly complicated, and I think you should consider seeking referral to a gastroenterologist to try to sort out your issues if you feel that your primary care physician is in over her head.

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