Gluten-Free Love Story: My 'Anam Cara'


This Gluten Free Love Story was lovingly submitted by Irish Heart

Honeymoon. Galway Bay, Ireland. My husband and I began the silly tradition of drawing a heart with our initials in the sand of any beach we walk on. (Once, I surprised him by spray painting it in red on the icy snow for Valentine’s Day — which I deemed very clever — until the cat walked through it while it was still drying. Thank goodness the hubs — and the cat — both have senses of humor.)

From the moment we met, my big sweet Irishman promised he would always take care of me. When I was inexplicably ill and in excruciating pain every day for 3 years (Nov. 2007-Nov. 2010), going from doctor to doctor and finding no answers, my man (economical of words, but long on patience, unconditional love and support) put this up on the fridge for me to see every morning: “You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it” (Margaret Thatcher).

At first, I thought: “Really? smarmy quotes? Are you freakin’ kidding me? Yeah, that’s what I need, some #&%$! patronizing quotation.” I almost ripped it down. I thought…I don’t want to hear THAT! I cannot fight anymore!!

And yet, I did. Why? Because I would look in those gorgeous blue eyes of his every day and vow “I am going to get my life back! For him. For us.”

We had only been married 10 years when this “thing” really knocked me down. This is not the first marriage for either of us–but as we like to say,” It’s the last”! We both recall him saying to me when we first started dating (rather ominously, as it turns out) ” I think you have an autoimmune issue” as I began to develop more and more health problems. Shortly after we married, I was diagnosed with painful OA, “IBS”, GERD and worsening migraines.

Right around our first anniversary, I had a surgical breast biopsy and removal of a mass. Then, I needed two shoulder surgeries and I suffered a terrible early menopause and major complications requiring a total hysterectomy. I had never been able to carry to term and sadly, had no children, despite infertility treatments years before. He was used to being the patient “nurse” when I needed him to help me recover, yet I never let this crappy health stop me from doing things.

And he never became irritated or frustrated with me. Not once.

But, as I went seriously downhill, right after my beloved Dad died (likely from unDxed celiac) we saw that this was clearly more than just OA, GI tract issues and the dreaded (and ultimately, incorrect) fibromyalgia label that never really made any sense to us when we heard it back in 2004. When I broke out in burning nerve pain, parasthesia, and ataxia, we did not know what was happening to me. My weight plummeted 90 lbs. Then, I lost muscle mass, most of my hair and I could not eat. I sobbed from the pain. I looked like a balding little old lady and I stopped looking in mirrors. The light was gone from my eyes. Yet, he said I was still beautiful.

My husband made me drink concoctions of water, salt and sugar to keep my electrolytes balanced. We tried everything from juicing foods to ridiculous elimination diets to try and nourish me and keep food in–to no avail. I was so ill nearly every single day. I was going out of my mind with cognitive dysfunction, insomnia and anxiety. I have never been anxious in my life! He would just reassure me that I was going to be okay and we’d figure this out. I searched on the internet for answers, but doctors misdiagnosed me repeatedly, offering drugs that only made me sicker.

True love is propping a very weak and nearly faint spouse up on the toilet while holding the wastebasket for her, too– for whatever comes out the other way. He has picked me up off the bathroom floor when I was so spent from bouts in there and held cold compresses on my head to soothe the migraines. I had so many tests done through the years and his smiling face was always the first thing I saw when I came out of anesthesia. He has done it all– dressed me, massaged me when I could stand it, and bathed me.

One day, as I tearfully struggled to get dressed, he came in to help me put my bra on. As he fumbled with it, he quipped ” Babe, I know how to get this thing OFF, but….” We both burst out laughing.

That poor guy watched more repeats of” That 70’s Show”, “Scrubs”, “MASH”, “Cheers”,” Frasier”, and ” Seinfeld” as I flooded myself with comedies, thinking it would help my psyche. That’s how we survived–Humor!

The sad part is we essentially lost 3 years of our lives. As I deteriorated right before his eyes, he begged doctors to “Just give me my wife back” and I thought my heart would crack. He did not believe them when they said I was “just stressed out and needed to do volunteer work”. He and I both knew this was organic, not psychological.

He is 10 years older than I am and when he retired, we planned on traveling, taking photographs and writing articles. Everything came to a screeching halt. One day, I tearfully told him he should divorce me; I would understand. I felt I was ruining his life and I didn’t want him saddled with a sick wife. I was an energetic, vivacious crazy -fun thing when he met me. My big sweetheart said quietly and firmly, “Don’t ever say such a thing like that again! You’re my girl and my best friend. I’m not going anywhere. We’ll get through this together. ” I could cry at the sweetness of that memory.

Every night as he kissed my feverish forehead, I would ask “tomorrow will be better, won’t it?” And he told me it would. I held on to that hope. He took me to countless physical therapy and massage sessions. Because of the brain fog and slow reflexes I experienced, he had to drive me everywhere. He indulged me when I wanted to try yet another doctor, a naturopath, acupuncturists, and biofeedback specialists. We spent a fortune on useless therapies. When none of those worked, I kept researching. He listened patiently when I told him I thought I had Celiac Disease and even when the initial blood panel was (falsely) negative, he felt as strongly as I did that this was what was surely killing me.

He never gave up on me.

When I finally got a Celiac diagnosis (Nov. 1, 2010) , we did not weep; we shouted for joy. It was our answer!!

From that moment, he’s done everything in his power to help me heal. He learned how to make our gluten-free bread, helped me clean out the pantry and the cooking supplies and bought me whatever we needed to start fresh. He willingly does the grocery shopping and knows how to read labels. He went gluten-free voluntarily with me, citing the perils of cross contamination was a concern to him. And because I was so ill and weak upon DX, making separate foods was just too much for me. Giving up his beloved Guinness for me? That’s crazy mad love, baby! 🙂

I feel so bad about all the things we have missed, but he doesn’t care. All he cares about is me getting well. And I am, slowly but steadily. We have finally been able to travel again during the last year and he helped me assemble what we need: a Koolatron cooler for the car, a “portable kitchen” in a bag, with pans, utensils, strainers, disposable cutting boards, etc. Even if I am not entirely 100%, I have vowed I will not lose any more days.

He tells everyone that I saved my own life, but the truth is, I could not have done it without him. Even after diagnosis, the road has not been easy and I have felt discouraged at times, but I push on and we laugh every single day! I have spent two years in rehabilitative physical therapy and he has waited patiently for me during each session. Finally, I got the okay from my doctor to return to the gym (whoohoo!) and he walks on the treadmill beside me, coaches me through the strengthening machines and encourages me all the way. He is my rock and my heartbeat and I know how blessed I am.

On my birthday recently, he gave me the Celtic symbol for courage and perseverance and I wear it around my neck. I will beat this thing–for him. He says I am courageous for fighting for answers but no, HE is the courageous one for sticking with me when things got really, really bad. He is my “Anam Cara”, a Celtic phrase meaning “my friend of the soul –one who always beholds your light and beauty and accepts you for who you truly are.”

He tells me every day: “We got this now, Babe. We’re almost there!” and when we walk on the beach in Florida next month, we’ll draw yet another heart in the sand. Together.

Many thanks to everyone for sending in your Gluten-Free Love Stories so far. While February is officially the “month of love”, I’d like to think that we can celebrate love all year round. So keep those stories coming and I’ll make this a regular series. Click here to submit your gluten-free love story.

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54 thoughts on “Gluten-Free Love Story: My 'Anam Cara'”

  1. I have tears running down my cheeks now. I have an Anam Cara as well. What a beautiful name and a wonderful story to read first thing in the morning. Have a blessed day!

  2. My, my, Irish…..very nicely told! And people, I have met Irish and her wonderful hubby in person and I can see why she is so enamored of him. Not only for the love and support he has given to her but he really does have beautiful blue eyes! ; )

    I also know what it’s like to have a husband like that because I have one of my own. It takes a really special guy to stand behind a wife who becomes so terribly ill. I, too, would not be where I am today without my husband. But we never did think of drawing our initials in the sand……very clever, Irish! LOL!

  3. Irish Heart,
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story with us and for helping me to realize how fortunate I am to have my own “Anam Cara.”
    Thank you also for using your suffering to help so many of us with your advice and optimism both on here, and in other forums, as we journey on our path to healing. You are an inspiration!

  4. “It is easy to be pleasant when life flows by like a song, but the man worth while is the one who will smile when everything goes dead wrong. For the test of the heart is trouble, and it always comes with years, and the smile that is worth the praises of earth is the smile that shines through the tears.”
    Irish Saying

    Jersey Girl

    1. “I believe in the sun when it’s not shining, I believe in love even when I feel it not, I believe in God even when He is silent.”
      Irish Saying


  5. I have been too busy at work and exhausted at home to do much but read these amazing stories and feel the love well up in my soul … thank you all for sharing your stories.

    GD I loved your story yesterday and your lovely wife’s reply … touching.

    And Irish Heart … Tears in my eyes and I simply don’t have the words to tell you …

    All of you sending these stories in … thank you … from the bottom, middle and top of my heart … amazing … simply amazing.


  6. OK… I’m crying. I wanna hug you both. *HUGZ* Wow. What a beautiful, beautiful story. Thank you so much for sharing your story, IrishHeart.

    I have to ask now… Is your username IrishHeart because your Irishman is your heart?

    1. The Irish Heart name came about when I joined
      When I first met the hubs, we both mentioned we wished to travel to Ireland sometime. He is all Irish, but I am a mixed bag of ethnicity (Armenian, French Canadian, German and 1/8th Irish)

      As I said, we spent our honeymoon in Ireland and it was a magical, romantic, and moving experience. We saw where our grandparents came from and we both felt a connection with the land. It was the most amazing 17 days of my life. We have returned three more times and wish we could retire there. We love Ireland that much.

      Each time, I have been asked for directions in some remote place (apparently, I look like I belong there 🙂 ) I honestly felt sad and cried as we departed Shannon Airport the first time, feeling like I was leaving “home”. I told hubby I felt like I was leaving a piece of my heart there.

      I thought, if there is only 1/8 of me that is Irish, it must be my heart.

  7. Great quote, great husband, great inspiration! On the one hand, it’s shocking to me that the doctors let you get so sick without figuring this out; on the other hand, I know it took nearly three years for me, too, and for half of that time I’ve worked for a publisher of gluten-free cookbooks and still didn’t think to go get myself tested! (Though apparently three years is still less than the average time to diagnosis according to the U of C: I guess this is the point of awareness: doctors and patients just need a much higher rate of suspicion of celiac than they have, even now, even with the GF trend.

    Awareness babble aside…happy belated Valentine’s Day to you and your husband. 🙂

  8. Wow I thought new guy I just met saying “gluten free is a really healthy way to eat I could embrace if it keeps you well” was sweet…you are soOo just in a different league 🙂

    I also have the courage, strength, wisdom symbol I wear daily. Have held its meaning close for so many things, but till now I didn’t realize how daily those concepts keep me moving even when I may not feel like it. That taking the cake, bread, cracker isn’t taking who I am & what my mission in this life is.

  9. Oh Irishheart, now you and blue eyes have MY heart!!!!
    Pass the tissues!!!! Snifffff.

    I seriously love you! Thank you for sharing and thank you for being you!


    PS I would comment more often, but the math scares me. 😉

    1. I can’t tell you how many times I glance at the “math” and put the wrong answer! Maybe we could have a secret code to login with.

      Nah! We would just forget it.

  10. Let me catch my breath!

    I don’t know how to respond in a way that doesn’t take a thing away from the speechless awe your loving words inspire.


    (Mrs. Dude, sometimes I look at the math to see if it’s even feasible for me to comment. For Irish and Big Blue Eyes I would calculate the distance to the moon and back and divide it by pi!)

  11. What a sweet sweet story! I feel like I’ve gotten to know IrishHeart through her great comments on here all of the time, so it is so fun to be able to read her love story. Thank you IrishHeart for sharing it with us. You’ve got a keeper for sure!

  12. Thank you all so much for your sweet comments!

    So the hubs reads this and says “That’s really sweet of you babe, to give me the credit, but you did all the work”. See what I mean?

    I just want to add: I am so grateful to be a part of the online gluten free community. I have made some wonderful friends ( the silver lining to this disease) and I really appreciate all of you contributing members and bloggers who share so much of yourselves. It makes dealing with this so much easier to have others who “get it”.

  13. IrishHeart,

    You special special woman! You inspire me everyday. I love that you have a rock to lean on.

    To your husband – in a world full of people who choose to bail instead of sticking through the hard times, you are truly a great man.

    Love, health and happiness to you both – always!


    1. Oh Camille, thank you, hon. You inspire me too! 🙂
      We all inspire each other–that’s the coolest part.

      Unfortunately, I have met several whose spouses bailed on them. Friends and family members, too. (I lost a few people myself. They abandoned ship when I was so ill. Phone stopped ringing because my dinner parties stopped or because I was not available to help them in some way, that sort of thing. It’s very painful, but true… and in time, I’ll get past it)

      The best expression I have heard about celiac is “it’s a built-in jerkometer”. 🙂

      Your true friends love you no matter what.

  14. Hey Buddy
    You and hubs are quite some team there. Beautiful story, beautiful people. No wonder he wasn’t giving up.

    Thanks for all your support

    Mindwarp x

  15. **Sniff** Thanks so much for sharing your love story IrishHeart.
    You definitely have an Irish gift for words.
    Geesh, I’ve been catching up on my emails tonight & just read four of these love stories in a row. I’m now a sappy, teary-eyed, mess. Thanks for providing these stories Gluten Dude. It gives me hope that I can find an accepting dude of my own someday…
    Just a side note: About two years after my diagnosis – I went to see a psychic named “Mrs. Rita” (it’s a long story – it’s ok to roll your eyes). She took one look at me and said – you are really worried about your health (I was – though I looked healthy) – but you will have one true love in your life and he will be trying to find a cure for you. I was like, “Uh, say what??” Was not expecting that. Anyway, only time will tell. Stranger things have happened…

    Big hugs to all of you – thanks for the heart-warming stories 🙂

    1. oh Steph …just thinking, but how cool would it be if he was also a chef and he opened a totally dedicated restaurant? sigh…there’s an ideal man. 🙂

      Always believe in possibilities. After all that’s happened in the last few years (and I have some crazy stories besides this one), I believe anything is possible.

  16. Thank you all for your Love Stories. I was afraid to read them, worried that the stories would make me feel too sad, since I don’t have one myself (not as relates to Celiac). I gave up on love when illness got the better of me, unfortunately. But I love knowing that there are partners and spouses out there who really know what love and commitment are truly about, especially for those of us who unwittingly bring the uninvited guest of Celiac into the relationship. Keep on keeping on, dear ones! I am so thankful that you have found true love.

    1. Hi Denise,

      Hang in there, I totally understand. I also gave up on love when the illness got the better of me too. Sigh…It’s hard to feel sexy when your body is covered in DH – so dating got put on the backburner. I was hesitant to read the stories too – but they’ve been so inspiring. There’s hope – your love story can still happen

  17. How would we ever survive without our fabulous husbands?

    Mine stuck by me when was diagnosed with (in order) PMS, RA, IBS and finally CD. Treating the CD sorted out all of the others and the only treatment I need at the moment is the GF diet – but we had been together 16 years by the time the doctors discovered the underlying problem.

    My Dad said he would run away at the first sign of trouble. How wrong he was (thank goodness). (He’s wrong about a lot of things – but I don’t feel the need to vent right now.)

    Twenty years together, married for the past twelve. I love him to bits.

  18. Good god, my heart could just break!!!
    (I remember coming home from somewhere and Rick was starting dinner-shocking unto itself- and ALL THE SPICE JARS were out of the cupboards and on the counter. He was freaking out because some spice he was going to use had wheat starch in it! I had missed one, and so he read the label, saw the problem and immediately started going through the cupboards again. He was freaking out)

  19. Lol – thx Molly & Irishheart. If a sexy chef or a scientist show-up, I’ll keep you all posted. That would be too cool. We’re supposed to meet in a grocery store (or random shopping center??). Actually, if any decent guy shows up – I’ll keep you posted…

  20. please do!!! I love to hear when a psychic gets it right.

    They are a misunderstood bunch, perhaps, what with all that vague and general language they seem to use ….. 🙂

  21. Haha – Irishheart, finding an accurate one is like winning the lottery I’ve met some interesting people with amazing “abilities” over the years – but it’s hard to find someone who is dead-on about future events.

    Even the good ones are still very human (prone to selfishness, pettiness, greed, etc…) Always best to be skeptical. Though, I did work with a medical intuitive for several years (that was helpful). She worked out of a doctor’s office – so that made me feel better.
    I love to joke about this stuff – but I’ve learned the hard way to be careful. It’s a real kick in the ass 🙂

  22. I confess… I have never been to a psychic.
    If someone has an actual gift for accurately predicting what is to come, I honestly do not think I would even want to meet her.

    I like the mystery of what is to come, I guess. 🙂

  23. I don’t really believe in psychics, but I do have to wonder who would win at the “accurate predictions” game if it were a contest between psychics and physicians…Considering the stories you hear in the celiac disease community, it might be a toss-up! 🙂

  24. I don’t know how I missed this Valentine Celiac Life Story – IH.

    I some how got through, with many tears streaming for you and for all of us that have gone through this struggle. I am so happy you found your soulmate to help you get to where you are today.

    My husband was going with me at the end of my “I don’t know what in the hell is wrong with me” appts. I needed support and someone to hold me back when I was told again it was all in my head.

    Bless your Man and you for so many years of struggling to find the answer.

    And I may just have to schedule a visit to FL next month! Can’t believe I moved before you came!

    Many many hugs – thank you for sharing your story and your heart with us.

    Xoxo Wendy

    1. Thanks, Wendy! I hope you are happy in your new home. Sorry we never got the chance to meet. But who knows what the future may bring?

      There is always that possibility of a “gluten dude and his pals convention” someone mentioned!! 🙂

      Good health and much happiness to you, dear girl! xx

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Who I am. And who I'm not.

Who I am. And who I'm not.

I AM someone who's been gluten-free since 2007 due to a diagnosis of severe celiac disease. I'm someone who can steer you in the right direction when it comes to going gluten-free. And I'm someone who will always give you the naked truth about going gluten free.

I AM NOT someone who embraces this gluten-free craziness. I didn’t find freedom, a better life or any of that other crap when I got diagnosed. With all due respect to Hunter S. Thompson, I found fear and loathing of an unknown world. But if I can share my wisdom, tell my stories and make the transition easier on you, I’ve done my job.

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