Together Forever and Living Gluten-free

“For better, for worse, in sickness and in health.” We both said, “I do,” but neither of us knew that 20 years later, how important those words would mean to us both.

Between Jeff and myself, I was the one that was sick all the time. G.I. problems, skin issues, joint pains, chronic infections (bladder, throat, sinus), emotional fluctuations, migraines, pregnancy difficulties, it seemed that I was always at a different doctor’s office with a different problem than the last. It was right before my 40th birthday that I figured out that gluten was my poison, with the help of a holistic health coach I had been seeing. My physical response after eliminating gluten was almost immediate. I can honestly say, I was so happy to know what my poison was, so I treated my gluten intolerance diagnosis as a “blessing, not a curse.”

Jeff supported me from the very beginning of my gluten-free journey. At restaurants, he was my advocate, and at home, he was my gluten-free food tester. He encouraged me to teach others about how to adapt a healthy gluten-free life by teaching at a local night school. He supported me to get a holistic health coaching certification and to write my book, 3 Steps to Gluten-Free Living. He never criticized or discouraged me from helping others on their gluten-free journey.

I will never forget when Jeff got his celiac diagnosis. We were sitting on our back porch going over plans for my book publishing when the call came in from his doctor. He put the call on the speakerphone, and we both heard the nurse say, “your blood results came back, and you are positive for celiac.” To say we were blown away by those words is an understatement. He had only gotten tested, due to my constant badgering about celiac being a hereditary disease. His brother was diagnosed with celiac within months of me going gluten-free five years earlier.

His gluten-free journey started much different than mine. Where I chose to eliminate my poison and could feel the benefits immediately, he had his favorite foods “taken” from him, and he wasn’t prepared for that. Looking back, his path was much harder than mine emotionally. Because he didn’t have the physical pains I had from eating gluten, it took him much longer to understand and stay compliant to a gluten-free diet. Understanding how to navigate outside the home and preventing cross-contamination are difficult for an executive traveling around the world. Especially in countries where he didn’t speak the same language. However, he never left the house to go to work, or a business trip, without something safe to eat, thanks to me.

We are fortunate to be on this journey together. We’ve learned in marriage, illnesses and diseases can bring you closer together or drive you farther apart. We’ve chosen not to allow something like this drive us apart. In 2016 we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. Once again we turned to each other and recited the same vowels we said before, “in sickness and in health,” but this time it meant so much more to us.

Melinda Arcara a.k.a. Gluten-Free Bebe is a writer who helps people become gluten-free. She grew up in a very close and loving Slovak/Ukrainian family, where traditional Eastern European foods like pierogis, nut rolls, breads, and baked goods were always homemade by her Slovak mother. Food was culturally a huge part of my everyday life. Transitioning to a gluten-free lifestyle was indeed a challenge! Melinda's book,  3 Steps to Gluten-Free Living, serves as a guide book for others who find themselves in this life-changing situation. Keep in touch with Melinda by following her Instagram!