Several years ago I had 150% of my blood replaced - yes, one and a half times my total volume. A priest gave me Last Rites.
To add insult to injury...it was the result of a botched operation...to repair piles. (And ironically, the PhD dissertation I'd completed several years before had the title "The Inelastic Seismic Response of Reinforced Concrete Piles and Pile Shafts".)
I digress. All that blood kept me alive, but it also gave me a sensitivity to wheat, oat, and barley gluten. No more bread, no more beer. The issue is called celiac disease.
At the time, there wasn't a lot of 'stuff' out there for the gluten-free life. A few bread mixes (some of which were and are delicious), some cake mixes (which have been improved over time), and cookies mixes (also improving).
But it became a life of scanning ingredients, for any sign of wheat and its friends. Did you know that licorice candy typically has wheat? And Milky Way bars? (But not the dark chocolate ones!)
It made going out to eat quite dull. At the time, asking for a gluten-free menu was like asking for a menu in Tagalog.
So much has changed! Even Wal-Mart has a gluten-free shelf, and most restaurants have special gluten-free menus with dishes that are delicious (Olive Garden and Outback stand out here.)
There are websites - www.glutenfreeliving.com and www.livingwithout.com are particularly informative.
The most important thing, though, is that this small part of society that was left on the outside, looking in, has now been invited to the table.
It feels good, and gives me hope for all of us.