This year for my birthday I received an incredible gift. An airplane ticket and registration to a conference! This may sound strange to someone who doesn’t know me very well. No, this is not work-related, and no I am not tagging along because my spouse has to go. This conference that I am voluntarily flying out-of-state to go to is all about the one thing that my life inevitably revolves around now; Celiac Disease. And I couldn’t be more excited! I think some people who have Celiac Disease or other gluten sensitivities get sick of hearing and talking about gluten, and side effects, and blood tests and cross contamination. I rarely do. If you ask me anything about gluten, watch out, and expect to get an earful and probably a few emails and maybe a follow-up phone call too. Like the poor Safeway pharmacist that asked me a simple question about gluten today. She will get a follow-up visit from me on Monday complete with informational print outs and website addresses as well my email and phone number.
Gluten-free is my thing now. And I am so glad. And grateful. The doctors finally figured out what was wrong and I am healing. I so desperately want others that are sensitive to gluten to heal like I am healing. I’ve realized those of us that have Celiac Disease are lucky. How in the hell can someone with a disease be lucky you might ask? The answer is we have a disease that has a treatment. And not only a treatment, but one that is possible for most people.
I’m not saying it’s a breeze to be 100% gluten-free, and sometimes frankly it is so difficult I wonder how I am going to keep it up, but it is doable. It’s like in the preview I just saw for Soul Surfer, the movie about the courageous teenage surfer that loses her arm. Her dad warns her that surfing with only one arm is not going to be easy and she responds, “I don’t need easy; I just need possible.” I didn’t get easy in my life, but I did get possible, and for that I am eternally grateful.
And so on May 14th, I will be in Universal City in California, celebrating my gluten-free life with others at the Celiac Disease Foundation Annual Conference. I will be a sponge soaking up as much as possible about the newest medical research, I will be sampling certified gluten-free goodies produced in gluten-free facilities, I will be learning ways to be an advocate for celiac disease and perhaps the best part is I will be meeting others like me that are attempting to navigate this crazy gluten-filled world we live in, in a gluten-free way.
There are many other gluten intolerance or celiac groups that put on incredible conferences as well. Here are a few of them:
Canadian Celiac Association National Conference May 13-15, Ottawa, Canada
International Coeliac Disease Symposium June 20-22 in Oslo, Norway
Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) Conference July 1-2 in Orlando, FL. (Next year this will be in DENVER!!)
Celiac Sprue Association (CSA) Conference September 15-18 in San Diego, CA