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Family dinners are fun, until they aren’t. Until it’s time to order dessert and you’re the only one unable to have anything. Until your family members offer you a somber smile, while taking a bite out of whatever they got that smells so good. Until one of them says, “You can have cheesecake, right?”
Tonight, I’m at a family dinner, celebrating my grandmother’s birthday. It’s reached the time I hate, the time where the waiter comes over and lists the desserts. The time where I don’t listen as they drone on and on.
“Mallory, they have the crème brulee! Do you want any?” my mom asks, snapping me out of my thoughts.
I reply, “No, I’m not hungry.”
That’s a lie, but of course; she doesn’t realize. She just shrugs and turns back to my uncle, Steve, who’s ordering all the desserts.
The desserts arrive minutes later. The bread was first to be passed, as all the children took a piece. I shouldn’t call them children, they’re a few years younger than me and one of them starts high school next year. The basket arrives at me and I pass it onward without grabbing any. I hand it over to my mother and wipe my hands on my napkin; for I accidently got hot fudge on my finger while I was passing the basket. The next dessert arrives, and my mom makes a face.
“What? You love their cheesecake?” I ask.
“It has chocolate on it.” She says, way too loudly.
She’s right, it does; it’s drizzled over the beautiful cheesecake. I feel a flare of jealousy as I stare at the desserts that are on the table and the ones still arriving.
I look over at my mom, still with the same look on her face, “So what?”
“I don’t want the chocolate.” She says, not even trying to hide her disgust.
I take a deep breath to keep from letting my mouth run.
It’s just a little bit of chocolate, not that big of a deal. I mean at least you can have it
The next 2 desserts are slices of chocolate cake, and slices of vanilla cake. I don’t care for chocolate, but vanilla calls my name as cheesecake does. The smells at the table are overwhelming and I know they taste as good as they smell. I hear more than see the collective sigh of “woah, that’s good.” I know that if I look around the circular table, I’ll see the faces around me trying desperately to hide their facial responses; and failing miserably. I can’t help but feel a flare of longing and anger at the sight. I know it’s wrong and I should be over it, but I can’t help it. I long for the days where I could still eat whatever I wanted. I long for the taste of the vanilla cake as it melts in my mouth. I long for the melt in your mouth texture of the cheesecake. I anger at how my family still tries to hide how good their food is when they’re with me. I anger at how they still complain when something isn’t quite the way they wanted with their food.
I close my eyes, trying to not have to look at the tasty desserts. Instead, I remind myself how I used to feel and how much I’ve grown these last 5 years.
5 years. That’s the thing I remember as I calm my breathing.
5 years, turning to 6 years in February/March.
I was around 9 or 10 when we went to the doctor and set the date for the testing. The testing where we’d find out if the doctor was right.
5 years where from that moment after the testing where my mom woke me from the med they gave me, telling me that the doctor was right. Telling me I had Celiac Disease.
Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.
I remember the denial and shock I was going through in that moment. Knowing my life was about to change and not knowing whether it would be the thing that would help me feel better or the thing that would bring me even more pain. Not knowing whether I’d get through it.
Now it’s 5 years later, with 5 or 6 months until it’ll be 6 years. There are still days where hope disappears and I think I won’t get better, feel healthy again. But there are also days that hope for better days fuels me. Fuels my desire to not always be sick, with no one understanding. Fuels my desire to share my story and find others like me, who are sick and trying to get better.