There is no GIFs post this week, because hell no, so instead I'm taking the opportunity to write about lemons and health and whatnot. If you're looking for the video of Brian finally fulfilling the terms of the Bolden/Morgan lemon bet, click here. Below is me eating a lemon for entirely different reasons.
I have an odd way of stumbling into life-changing events.
My first "real" writing job came when I responded to a thread on The Wolverine's message board announcing they were looking for an intern, despite my only qualification being a couple years of blogging on a site I created on blogspot. They hired me, for some reason, and from that point forward writing about sports went from hobby to potential profession.
I landed my job here eight months after graduation. I'd done nothing to find another job, instead writing on the blog I'd created while at The Wolverine and hoping someone would notice. In the span of a few short weeks, Tim Sullivan got hired by The Wolverine, TomVH got hired by ESPN, and I found myself in the Michigan Stadium press box covering a weather-shortened game against Western Michigan.
In the interim, I'd been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which appeared to explain many of the myriad health problems I'd experienced since the latter half of high school. Eventually, I'd write about dealing with CFS as I spent the better part of a year working from my bed in my parents' house. I did my best to write about it positively and within the framework of sports, because facing the realities of having a debilitating illness with no proven cause or cure is scary and depressing, as is the prospect of openly discussing it with a rather large audience.
Writing how I actually felt—depressed and scared, mostly, of the reality of my situation and whether it would get better and whether I could keep this job and whether I should date anyone and whether it would ever be safe to have children because the best my CFS specialist could tell me was "use a condom and it should be fine"—was not something I could face head on, and I was genuinely distracted from that pain by Michigan's wonderful basketball team, so I chose to focus on that latter bit.
I began to feel better enough this summer that I once again began the process of moving out of my childhood home, this time to a townhouse in Ypsilanti with my brother and one of his co-workers; my brother does an amazing job of providing support, and I still would be living close enough to home to keep that support system intact and available. At some point, I needed to begin real life, whatever that is, and trying to do that from my parents' house wasn't very easy, as you can probably imagine.
As I prepared for the move, I saw my physician for a routine checkup in July. Outside of my immediate family and closest friends, I trust this physician—who from the outset had been wary of my CFS specialist, who is as much a researcher as a doctor, which has its positives and its considerable negatives—more than anybody I know. Two hours after I'd left the doctor's office, I got a call from him. It was after 6 pm. The office had closed at 5.
He'd been going back through my medical records, and noticed that six years ago something in those records indicated a potential gluten allergy, and in the whirlwind of doctor's visits that led to my CFS diagnosis this had slipped through the cracks. I immediately began to research gluten allergies, and what I found explained so much: symptoms I'd stupidly attributed to "well, I have an illness about which little is known, so this probably just that," rather serious symptoms at that, were listed with eye-opening accuracy to my real-life symptoms on any site or forum I visited.
I cut gluten out of my diet immediately, even before undergoing testing for celiac disease—celiac tests are notoriously unreliable and don't cover the full spectrum of gluten allergies, so the best way to find out if I had a gluten issue was to see if my symptoms improved while going entirely gluten-free. They did. Confirming our suspicions, I began feeling more acute symptoms on the (many) occasions when I'd accidentally "gluten" myself—a strong signal that gluten is, indeed, the problem.
This has been life-changing, to say the least. Instead of dealing with an illness with no known cause or cure and little funding for research to change that, I'm dealing with a food allergy, and while the solution involved cutting more foods out of my diet than I ever could've imagined, there was a solution.
This brings me, in a very roundabout way, back to Brian's lemon bet, and strange coincidences. I'd been trying to figure out a way to write about this for the last month or so, once I was pretty certain that gluten, not CFS, was the real problem for me. When Brian didn't initially eat the damn lemon, one of our dedicated commenters, WolverineDevotee, started a Twitter hashtag: #EatALemon. I clicked on it. I never click on hashtags.
When I scrolled down, I eventually stumbled upon a link to a Facebook post by an organization called FARE—Food Allergy Research & Education—containing this video. It's a nine-year-old boy named Luke, inspired by the Ice Bucket Challenge, eating a lemon to raise awareness for life-threatening food allergies:
As you can see in the video at the top of this post, this in turn inspired me to do the same—how could I not after stumbling upon this? In the last couple months, I've just begun to realize the prevalence and danger of food allergies, and how difficult they are to manage.
The stats are here, and they're frightening: around 15 million Americans—and one of every 13 children—have a food allergy of some sort, and while I'm lucky enough that mine hasn't had more severe consequences, many of them can be outright deadly. The consequences for me eating gluten-contaminated food, at this juncture, are migraines and fatigue that last a day or two. The consequences for people like Luke can be far, far worse.
Perhaps the biggest issue is the one I faced. According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, 83% of Americans with celiac disease are either undiagnosed or wrongly diagnosed with another condition, often the type of autoimmune illness with which I was misdiagnosed. The average time to get a correct diagnosis is 6-10 years. I'm about average in that regard, and lucky to be properly diagnosed at all.
So I have this platform, and I'd like to use it for some good. Whether or not you'd like to film yourself eating a lemon and posting it on the internet—it's really not that bad!—I hope you'll consider donating to FARE.
I have an additional request, as well. While I've been lucky enough to have a change in my diagnosis, my father still deals with CFS, a disease for which research is woefully underfunded. I've witnessed my dad act as a guinea pig for experimental treatment for over two decades, and the rollercoaster of symptoms he's had as a result. Simmaron Research is doing what they can to get even the most basic research for CFS funded and underway, and I hope you'll consider giving to them, as well. Any little bit helps.
I'm doing better now, though the early stages of dealing with a previously untreated allergy can be difficult; I'm still doing my best just to not contaminate myself on a daily basis with mixed (though improving) results, even though I've eschewed any attempt at eating out in favor of preparing all my food myself, while making an extraordinary effort to keep my part of the kitchen separate from my roommates'. While my energy and ability to think clearly is improving by the week, I'm still woefully underweight—at 5'10", I've weighed in the 125-to-130-pound range for the last two years—and eating anywhere but in my own home is a major obstacle.
But I know what I must do, and that's an incredible development compared to where I was a few months ago, when my treatment boiled down to get some rest and hope. I'm hoping, by raising whatever awareness I can about my situation and countless others', that more people can make a similar discovery.
*Since I plum forgot to do this in the video: Seth, BiSB, and Bryan Fuller, consider this a formal challenge.