As I bring my Celiac Series to a close, I thought featuring Pam Bugler’s story, one of trials and triumph, would be the perfect way to wrap it up. Pam’s love for cooking is an amazingly effective way to spread awareness for Celiac Disease. See what she’s doing to make a difference in our world!
Pam’s story, like most, begins with pain and confusion. She tells me, “I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in August of 2012. My diagnosis came slowly. I was having small patches of skin on my face, specifically around my eyebrows; I went to a dermatologist, and they just diagnosed it as ‘dry skin.’ They took a biopsy, and it came back clear. During this time, I went in for a well woman exam, and when my bloodwork came back, it showed I was chronic anemic, and the doctor prescribed me iron twice per day since my iron was so low. After 2 months, it was worse, and I was referred to a Cancer/Hematologist. I went through a battery of tests: endoscopy, colonoscopy, blood tests, a number of tests for cancer, all coming back clear. I then started having considerable lower intestine issues, major weight loss, and my hair starting falling out – I was literally exhausted. I had rashes around my joints and my joint pain was at a level that some days was unbearable. I had no appetite and, at this point, had lost a total of 28 pounds. I went from a healthy 132 pounds to 104 pounds and feeling like I could not function.”
Pam’s diagnosis took 9 grueling months, and by the time she figured out she had Celiac Disease, “[she] ended up cutting [her] hair short because [she] had lost so much. [She] was literally a skeleton.”
Wow, how many of us have been there? I knew there were varying degrees of symptoms that came with CD, but I did not know how many could bombard you at once. Pam, and I’m sure several other Celiacs, were just trying to survive and feel “normal” pre-diagnosis. Pam notes that diagnosing CD takes a mental toll as well. She says, “My thinking was irrational. I was depressed and hard to get along with. I felt like I was going crazy. I couldn’t explain what I was feeling or how I felt like my body was changing and no one could tell me why. It was rough.”
Once Pam learned she needed to begin a gluten-free diet, her perspective changed. In her cooking, she emphasized trying “[to keep] that same taste in all [her] favorite foods and not eat all the same foods over and over again.” I admit, I am guilty of prepping the same 5 meals, but I don’t have the passion for cooking Pam does.
Pam has turned cooking gluten-free into a platform for raising awareness for Celiac Disease. She tells me, “I will be teaching two cooking classes, with a focus on Celiac and dairy allergies, at a local arts organization for kids with food allergies. I am extremely excited for this opportunity. [In addition], I am currently working with the SBA to open a food truck [that offers] organic foods, farm-to-table, [that will also be] gluten-free and dairy-free.”
Am I too young for that class? Either way, you can count on me tracking that food truck down next time I’m in town! I love watching people approach a challenge like living with CD with so much positivity and empathy. While Celiac Disease itself may be cured in the next decade, we still need to raise awareness to help the 97% of undiagnosed Celiacs thrive rather than survive. Educating others through classes and food trucks is an incredible way to introduce Celiac Disease to the world. The cherry on top is that Pam is able to share delicious gluten-free food!
Pam states, “I want to share my story. I want to help others understand, and I want to educate others. I want people to know that eating GF/DF can be just as delicious. I think there is this misconception that it’s like eating cardboard or not as good. I want to change that.”
Thank you so much, Pam, for helping me wrap up my Celiac Series with such an awesome story! To celebrate Celiac Awareness Month, I am teaming up with Munk Pack for a gluten-free protein giveaway! They are so good, and I can guarantee that you will finish your two 6-packs of cookies faster than you thought possible. Check out the description in my Instagram post @KellyOkunGolf to see how to enter – it is quick and easy!
I hope this Celiac Series was fun, educational, and relatable. CD has so many side effects, and like Beyond Celiac, I believe that the more we can share about our experiences, the further we can reach into the 97% of undiagnosed Celiacs. All it takes is seeing you have one symptom in common with anyone’s celiac story to prompt a simple blood test.