It was a familiar scene: me sitting patiently in a chair, pen poised and notepad in hand, while yet another baffled doctor grimaced as he read through my chart…which by the way has now spilled over into two folders. He looked up at me and said the words I knew in my heart were coming, “I think it’s corn.”
Now I know what you’re thinking, allergic to corn?? That’s not so bad. No more popcorn during movies, no more corn syrup-filled beverages, and you can kiss Mexican food good-bye…but that won’t be TOO difficult. And yes, I agree. There are far worse things in life, and really who LOVES corn anyway?? At least this is what I told myself as I gathered my lab slips and nutritionist information, scheduled a follow-up appointment and headed out the door. The sun was shining and the courtyard was filled with patients heading to and from various appointments. I smiled at each person I passed, and even chatted with a few from the older crowd, before settling on a bench with my “it’s all going to be OK” iced coffee. Thanks to the wonders of technology I no longer had to wait until I got home to see what this diagnosis would mean. I took out my phone, googled “corn intolerance diet”…and it started to sink in. Sure, no popcorn, corn tortillas, high-fructose corn syrup, etc…but the list kept going. Things like baking powder, powdered sugar, xanthan gum, vanilla extract, vinegar, pickles, citric acid, toothpaste(!)…at that point I had to relocate to the shade, convinced that the sun glare on my screen must be at fault for making me misread the page. No, no. I had read correctly: corn is in EVERYTHING. Thank you, corn subsidies. But I did what I knew I had to do: I stood up, gave myself an internal pep talk (Something along the lines of “Katie, today is the first day of the rest of your life! You’re lucky really! Most people don’t know when a day is the 1stday of the rest of their life until they look back on it…but you know right now and it’s only 9 AM. June 17th…go live it up!”), and then did the only logical thing: headed straight for Whole Foods.
Now the problem is I’ve had this same conversation with myself before. First it was gluten (July 11th), then it was dairy (April 8th), then it was soy/eggs (May 6th), now corn. So you can see why my brain was not convinced by the First Day of the Rest of your life argument. It’s been deceived before. But still I made my way through Whole Foods, gathering some comfort foods which are still allowed (i.e. BACON!), and headed home, where I would once again have to empty the cabinets- giving away all the foods which had once been so carefully selected for their use of corn instead of wheat.
The thing is I’ve realized as I’ve gone through this routine again and again…and again and again…that although I wouldn’t call it easy, it certainly has gotten easier each time. Granted, the food selection gets smaller and smaller…but I’m comforted by the knowledge that I’ve done this before and that there really will be life post-(insert allergen here). It may not look quite the same, and it may be a bit more complicated, but it will certainly be healthier and happier…so what more do you need?
So today begins my journey into the gluten-free, casein-free, soy-free, corn-free, and sort-of-egg-free chapter of my life. I’ve decided to share the steps of my journey this time, in hopes that it might help someone less fortunate (or really more fortunate I guess if you think about it) who hasn’t had to face this before and is standing where I stood in July 2011: sobbing in my kitchen next to a trash can filled with gluten-filled food, convinced that life as I knew it was over. Well, those of you standing there: cry for a few more minutes, then dry your tears. Because you’re right: life as you know it IS over. No more sickness, no more exhaustion, no more brain fog…life is about to get so much better J