Sunday, 4 September 2011

The One and Crohnly

When I was in the midst of arriving at a diagnosis, the doctors often asked if there was any history of Crohn's Disease of IBD in my family.
I would confidently say, No, my family are relatively healthy, my parents have never had any major health issues to speak of, and certainly no problems relating to 'bums and tums', to put it mildly.
However my Grandmother did. Peggy had Celiac Disease for a lot of her life and ate a gluten-free diet.
This was never particularly unusual for me as this had been the norm in her kitchen, and for as long as I could remember she had this complaint. And complain she did. She baked her own gluten-free bread, which she detested with a passion. She also liked to play the martyr during special occasions and family meals, where she would deny herself so much as a bread roll for hours, at pains to explain in detail what the outcome would be were she to consume so much as a bite, then give in and eat it anyway, spending the rest of the evening predicting how many hours of the next day she would spend on the throne. All during dinner.
I miss my Gran terribly. I adored her.
We lived in a small block of flats for the majority of my youth and she lived in the flat directly above. She was situated in an ideal spot to escape to when my parents just didn't understand me! or they had the cheek to give me a telling off! Each time she would take my side without question - regardless of how ridiculous or immature my argument was. She also gave amazing hugs.
My Grandad passed away about 5 years before I was even a twinkle in my mothers eye. My mum tells me that Peggy never really recovered from her husbands death, and when I made an appearance, I "filled a hole in her heart". She doted on me and my brothers and we spent a lot of time together as she was practically a live-in (upstairs) babysitter. Our favorite activity was doing the entire 'Birdy Song' routine from start to finish. We got that bad-boy down to a fine art.
I like to think there is a link between Peggy and I - it's just a shame the more likely one is our tummy troubles. My Gran passed away when I was around 19. Her health had been deteriorating steadily for months and she was becoming more and more confused and forgetful. It was heartbreaking to watch this once so vibrant and fiercely intelligent and witty woman wither away. I was there when she passed and was utterly devastated.
As she died long before I became ill myself, we never got the chance to talk about it. I now wish i'd paid more attention when she spoke of her health woes. There are a million questions I wish I could ask about what she went through.
Scientists and researchers are constantly looking for a deeper understanding of the connections between Celiac and Crohn's. They have begun to focus on genetic variants that trigger inflammation in the gut. They say a better understanding of the genetic connections will likely pave the way for new treatments for symptoms common to both conditions, such as the aforementioned inflammation.
Researchers in Italy have recently determined that those with Crohn's also have a high prevalence of Celiac Disease, and many patients recently diagnosed with Crohn's have been advised to begin a gluten-free diet at the time of diagnosis. Personally, this is the only diet i've yet to try since my own diagnosis. Probably due to my memories of my Gran producing a rock solid loaf of 'bread' from the oven that tasted like cardboard.
I like to think that wherever she is, Peggy is egging me on to have that extra bread roll. If only so I can spend the rest of the night moaning about it. x

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