Grateful [I’m Still Breathing]

She’s still breathing. Hear it? See it?

That subtle, low rumbling in her chest, you can see it rise then lower, rise and lower again. She’s trying to be deliberate, focused on her breaths. Because she is still breathing.

She’s still alive.

I should be grateful.

It was so simple, so fucking easy.

But, then again, there’s lots of money to be had — lots of ignorant, trusting patients to take and take and take from until they have nothing left.

Who cares right now. I have an answer. I got what I wanted. Right?

Pathology report.
Celiac Disease: Positive.

Celiac Disease? I felt like I was dying, wait, I am dying because of gluten?

Something so simple made my body turn itself inside out and hoard masses fat to “keep you alive longer,” she said.

“You should be grateful, really. Most celiacs waste away. Your body went into self-preservation mode.”

I should be grateful that my body stored fat, locked up tight until the battle with malnutrition could be fought and hopefully won.

I should be grateful.

I am, to a degree. I’ve lost eighteen of those hoarded pounds in less than thirty days without gluten, however, accidental “glutening” or cross-contamination seems worse now than it did when I was getting a constant beat-down of it.

Gluten is in everything…

It’s OK, though. This is a new chapter, a new leaf getting it’s turn-over.

I’m alive and I’ll get healthy again.

My liver was three-centimeters enlarged three months ago, and my spleen was almost two-centimeters too big. But I’m told I can make a “semi-full recovery”—no transplants needed — if I avoid gluten like it’s the plague, because for me, it is.

No worries on that one. In the first thirty days, I’ve been “glutened” twice and it’s intestinal murder I’d rather avoid for the rest of my life.

It’s not so bad, really.

I’m saying “No” more. No to my kids who want to go to the pizza place in the mall with the big sign that states:

Although we offer gluten-free options, there is a high risk of contamination…

Erk. I’m good.

“Kids, let’s go to Fresh Kitchen.” Only one out of three pouts, so that’s a win there.

My mind is bouncing all around, I can’t seem to focus on one happy thing right now.

There’s too many things to be happy about.

I’m looking back at my whole life, back when I was a kid and started mysteriously packing on weight—back when my body started having its first bouts with gluten intolerance.

But we didn’t know.

I remember all the assholes that made my life hell for being the chubby girl with bad hair and cheap clothes. That’s what happens, I suppose, being the poor kids in a wealthy area. Add some weight and you stand out like a flamboyant Drag Queen at a Republican Convention.

I look back now and think, Ha! I tried so fucking hard to stay in shape, but was never been able to lose weight. At one point I got fit — I’d simply converted my fat into muscle and only ate lean protein and vegetables—but it was so difficult to maintain.

(Not so shocking now, learning that I’ve been vitamin deficient for over twenty-five years.)

I gave up on trying so hard to be what society, what doctors thought I should be — one-hundred and twenty-five pounds of solid, what?

At one-hundred and forty I look ghostly—hollow, sunken, frail — like death was coming for me.

When I told my dad it’d been Celiac Disease all along, he was so happy. We were happy when we found out, too.

My husband joked: “It’s like, ‘Hallelujah! It’s Celiac Disease! Woohoo!’” and we laugh at how ridiculous it is to be ecstatic about getting diagnosed with something that has no cure, something that kills people all the time—an incurable autoimmune disease.

It’s OK, though. Everything is good right now. We know, and that’s a huge step forward.

It’s been so long since I could say that genuinely…

I am grateful.

I’m Sara Eatherton-Goff, a non-fiction and fiction writer, visual artist, and entrepreneur mom-person currently writing on Medium and other publications. Check out some of my collective works on my website, and join my Creative Community for a weekly update, story share, and more.