Wright Words: I’m still not dying, but I do have celiac disease

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 25 2014 5:00 a.m. MST

Jason Wright was recently diagnosed with celiac disease.

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A year ago in this column, I described my relief at getting a clean bill of health from my doctor. My mother insisted I was hitting the age where an annual physical was mandatory, and she threatened that if I didn’t schedule a checkup, she’d cut me off from inheriting her extensive thimble collection.

I agreed. After all, I’d worked hard to lose weight — 46 pounds to be exact — and it made sense to undergo the 500-month inspection.

The doctor checked all right gauges, rotated the tires and told me I wasn’t dying. “You’re just skinny,” she said, before finishing with a well-intentioned lecture about getting more sleep.

Six months later, I began feeling occasional lightheadedness and experienced several fainting spells. I was eating well, perhaps better than at anytime in my life, but noticed I was losing a few more pounds without trying and experiencing stomach pain. November, December and this January were rollercoaster months of feeling good for a few days and lousy for about the same.

Friends and family crafted all kinds of loving barbs. “Jason, you’re paler than a ski slope.”

Or, my favorite, “Dude, you’re so white, you make Casper the Friendly Ghost look like he’s been tanning.”

Message received.

I returned to the doctor’s office on a Friday afternoon and met the physician who’d taken over for my previous doc, who is now working somewhere in the Midwest. I caught him up on the latest and he was curious, cautious and concerned.

The doctor offered one possible theory — Crohn’s disease — before ordering several tests and saying my results and their explanations would probably be posted on my secure, online account within a week.

Two days later, on a Sunday night, sometime during the third quarter of the Super Bowl, my phone rang.

"Hello, Mr. Wright?” The doctor’s voice was somber, subdued and serious. “Do you have a few minutes to talk about your test results?"

There are two things that go through your mind when your doctor calls you on Super Bowl Sunday night and asks in hushed tones if you have a few minutes. First, "Does my wife know where is my life insurance file is?" And second, "What might my best friend reveal during my eulogy?"

I stood from my chair and walked into another room. The doctor spoke slowly, methodically and apologized for calling at such an odd time. I braced myself for all sorts of possibilities from cooties to Crohn’s to cancer.

Isn't it ironic that the five longest minutes of my life convinced me I didn't have that many minutes left?

In time, the doctor explained I was anemic and that he would put me on iron. He also said my profile resembled someone malnourished, a man who might struggle to get three healthy meals a day.

I responded that the only time I struggle to get a meal is if I keep my head bowed too long after we bless the food. It’s amazing how quickly my kids can get from “Amen!” to “I’m done, may I be excused?”

The doctor said he would refer me to one of the areas best gastroenterologists. This digestion tract specialist would launch a camera down my throat, peek around my stomach, take a biopsy and see what sorts of treasures might be discovered.

“So,” I finally asked, “what does your Scooby sense suggest they’ll find?”

He paused. “Are you familiar with celiac disease?”

“No,” I said, “but it sounds contagious.”

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