Nonchalant (nnsh-länt) adj. Seeming to be coolly unconcerned or indifferent

This has always been one of my favorite words. Ever since I first read it in a Sweet Valley High book when I was 11.  It just sounded so elegant and french. I’ve been dropping it into conversation ever since.
It perfectly describes how I’ve been acting over the past 3 years. At the time it didn’t feel like I was being nonchalant. But looking back, my lack of 100% compliance and diligence with the “diet” was equal to being indifferent. The treatment for this disease is all or nothing and it makes nonchalant a dirty word.
As I have said many times already and will continue to say til my last breath, it’s a journey. Everyone’s journey is different and nobody else can tell you the path to take. We can only show you the road we have travelled and the twists and turns that made us stumble. Maybe then you can adjust your own path to be a little easier to traverse.
I can’t be nonchalant about my health and what I put into my mouth anymore. I can’t go to a restaurant with a gluten free menu and assume that all is safe as I have done in the past. I can’t just buy every product with a gluten free label and believe that I will not face an internal attack. It is my responsibility to verify and triple check anything that I consume. It’s my job to call that restaurant and speak to a manager to verify how they avoid cross-contamination in their kitchen. I have to alert my waiter to the fact that I need to eat gluten free. I must e-mail every company whose uncertified gluten free products I buy and investigate what type of manufacturing practices they follow. We must be just as vigilant about the possibility of cross-contamination as we are about the gluten free ingredients.
And we must have a voice. I have always been a shy person. Pre-diagnosis (and when I was cheating) I had severe social anxiety issues. I could not even face going to my son’s school orientations without having a panic attack and trying to figure out how to get out of it. It was crippling. I know it was due to gluten because the difference in me is remarkable. So, it was very hard for me to learn to ask questions and speak up.
There is so much ignorance out there about Celiac disease and what gluten free really means. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to eat out somewhere with a gluten free menu where the server had never even heard of gluten free. In fact, yesterday I was at a place where I asked the line cook about the gluten free choices and he said he didn’t know what I was talking about. All the while I am staring at the HUGE gluten free sign hanging right behind him. It made me so angry. And I had to realize that it wasn’t his fault. It was the fault of the owners and managers for not properly training their staff. It was the fault of a cooperation making such a bold statement and not having the social responsibility to back it up.
So, it’s our responsibility to educate everyone. If you are afraid to speak up and ask questions then you are keeping this disease locked away in a secret closet and nobody will ever see its ugliness. People need to see it. They need to know how dangerous gluten is to a Celiac. They need to understand that it goes beyond ingredients and they need education about safe food handling. If doctors can’t even diagnosis us then we certainly can’t expect a waiter to know anything about our disease. Teach them. Speak up and speak kindly and with patience. Show others that we are a passionate and caring community. Leave a big tip so that they will remember that going the extra step will benefit them as well.
It’s Celiac Awareness month. Make others aware! Tell your story. Contact at least one company and ask them about their manufacturing process. Put a bug in someone’s ear. Call a local restaurant and ask the manager about a gluten free menu and if they don’t have one tell them why they should. Be an activist. Don’t be nonchalant. It kills.

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