The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness estimates that as many as one in 133 Americans has celiac disease. Unfortunately, 83 percent of people who have this terrible disease are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed—suffering through years of pain and misunderstanding. Award-winning actress Jennifer Esposito was one of those 83 percent, receiving an accurate diagnosis only after decades of mysterious illnesses and myriad misdiagnoses.
Now Jennifer shares her riveting personal journey—from her earliest memories of her childhood in Brooklyn to her years as a young actress, all the while suffering from unexplained, devastating ailments. Jennifer’s struggle to finally receive an accurate diagnosis is one that anyone who has a chronic disease will share. But this is more than a story of suffering. It is the story of one woman’s valiant journey to take charge of her health and rebuild her life.
Not only will you learn from Jennifer’s personal story, the book also guides you through early diagnosis, sharing the steps that helped Jennifer heal. Plus, you’ll find recipes she uses at home, along with recipes for some of the delicious treats she offers at her own gluten-free bakery, Jennifer’s Way, in New York.
For anyone struggling with a chronic illness, Jennifer’s Way is proof that you can find an answer to what is wrong with you, that you shouldn’t stop until you find it, and that you can learn how to truly live again.
I don’t have Celiac disease, but I know the look that Jennifer Esposito describes: that look you get from friends, from family, or from medical professionals when you describe symptoms that can’t be seen to the naked eye, or when you describe symptoms that seem to make no sense together. When you see that look on another person’s face, you can practically hear the word, “hypochrondriac” going through their mind.
It made reading this book even more painful to realize that she had been going through this for YEARS, getting sicker and sicker, and yet being told it was all in her head, and plied with even more drugs for depression and anxiety. (By the way, did you know that depression and anxiety can be symptoms of Celiac? I sure didn’t.)
And to know that finally receiving a diagnosis wasn’t the magic bullet I thought it would be? That she thought it would be? I honestly had no idea how devastating this disease could be. I had no idea just HOW dangerous gluten can be to Celiacs: as Jennifer says repeatedly through the book, even 1/8 teaspoon of gluten can be enough to make someone with Celiac extremely ill. Eating something cut with a knife that touched food with gluten, or even using beauty products with gluten in them, can result in weeks of illness. It reminds me of anaphylactic peanut allergies. Even pet food must be gluten free. It makes my head spin just to think about it.
As a fan of the CBS show Blue Bloods, I was dismayed at the time of Esposito’s departure from the show when it was revealed that the network had refused to work with her to keep her on the show in a way that could keep her healthy. To learn now from the book that they wouldn’t even provide someone to make food that would be safe for her to eat? That’s unconscionable, in my opinion. Of course, there are always three sides to every story, as my mom always says (yours, mine, and the truth), but CBS really doesn’t come across in a very positive light, that’s for certain.
If you’re dealing with Celiac, or possible Celiac, I really recommend this book very highly. But even if you’ve never had a health issue in your life, it’s still a valuable read. One thing I’ve had drilled into my mind due to events in my own life over the past month (which I’ll post about another time) is that you can never feel another person’s pain, and just because you can’t see the effects of an illness, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. You’ve got to – pardon the pun – go with your gut when it comes to your health, and as individuals we need to spend a whole lot less time judging everyone’s else’s health.
In addition to Jennifer’s own story, the second part of the book contains valuable information about Celiac, and a section of Jennifer’s own safe recipes.
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Rating: 4/5 stars