Through my struggles with Chronic Lyme Disease, I came to realize the blessings and lessons of this journey. During those difficult days when it was a struggle just to get out of bed, I had no other option, I have children. Then I also discovered my purpose.
The symptoms of Lyme disease had been my companion through childhood, having children, and everyday life now. The moment I get up in the morning, I’m served a buffet of issues: migraines, digestion and gut issues, joint problems, muscle pain, dry eye, nerve pain, arthritis, heart issues, brain fog, insomnia, vertigo, and more. Every day I’d do an assessment, think of what I needed to do in the day, prioritize them all, and decide what I could drop off the list, if at all. I would’ve love to put “nap” at the top of that list daily, but there was usually no time with a busy household.
I wasn’t until the age of 34 that I received the official diagnosis of Chronic Lyme Disease, but not before many misdiagnoses like MS. I had learned to live with so many issues as my normal. All of the sudden the symptoms and issues that I had lived with almost my whole life made sense. I recalled a tick bite at the age of 6 and this revelation helped me to understand what had been going on with my body all these decades.
They always say that Lyme never travels by itself. It brings its buddies in the form of coinfections such as bartonella, babesia, and the like. As such, living with Lyme permeates every aspect of life. My immune system went into overdrive and I became more and more allergic to food leading to a complete overhaul of my diet. Gluten, eggs, and various fruits topped the list of forbidden foods, prompting me to get creative if I ever wanted to eat food that actually tasted good.
Coming from an Italian and Greek background, food had always been a love language. I remember cooking with my Italian Nona or my Greek Mom and now making their recipes for my kids. But now all those recipes needed to be modified, especially because we discovered that some of my kids have Lyme and food allergies too. With the whole family in need of food that was safe to eat, I spent years perfecting gnocchi, pizza, pies, cookies, cake, biscuits and my pride and joy, bread — no more cardboard, tasteless food!
Many days it was hard for me to make all this food from scratch because we have a 7 in our family. I could barely stand from the pain, but I knew that they depended on me. Many days my experiments with substituting ingredients didn’t work, but I learned to use other options instead of eggs and created the perfect flour blend to make gluten free bread that was soft, toasted well and tasted great. In fact, my husband, who doesn’t need to eat gluten free, prefers it.
Eventually, I got the nudge from my heart that I couldn’t keep these recipes to myself. Passing down recipes in the Italian culture is a way to link to the past and honor the past generations, but for these recipes, I knew I needed to share them with my other family — those who suffer with food allergies too. Why make them try to figure it out on their own? It seemed unkind.
This is how the idea for Mama Alana’s Pantry was born. It’s based on my belief that everyone with dietary restrictions should have delicious food. It is a haven for those who are forced to be vigilant about what they eat every day, proving that taste doesn’t need to be sacrificed.
My latest adventure is entering The Greatest Baker Contest. I wasn’t sure how far I’d get in the competition, but making it into the semi-finals is a dream come true. Winners are selected based on votes where tallies are reset to zero with each advancing quarterfinal. Locally, I’ve been interviewed live on CBS and ABC. I was also interviewed for a news article. This experience has only deepened my resolve to strive harder.
Now, if you felt any connection to my Lyme story, I invite you to join me in this exciting time and cast your vote in my favor. Your support is invaluable and truly appreciated. You can vote for me by visiting the link at the top of my website, MamaAlanasPantry.com. The way I see it, your votes are a way to say, “Take that, Lyme!” because even in the midst of health challenges, we can achieve and celebrate some of our biggest triumphs.