The Anonymous Widower

The Curse On My Family

Something has dripped through the genes and behaviour in my family, that could well explain, factors that contributed to the early death of my paternal grandfather and my youngest son; George.

I have known six of my relatives well; my father and mother, my father’s mother and my three sons.

I will ignore my mother and grandmother, as both lived to their eighties, which is probably good by any standards.

I shall also ignore my eldest son, as I am not in contact with him.

I believe that my coeliac disease, which must be inherited, came from my father and both my late wife and myself believed that if any of our three children were coeliac, it would have been George. But neither my father or George were ever properly tested.

As a child, I was sickly and I was always being taken to the doctor and I had endless tonics and potions.

It only gradually improved when I got to about ten or so and why it did has never been successfully explained. But I can remember being off-school for large parts of the Spring term several times.

I can remember a couple of times in summers, when I was about eight or so, suddenly giving up playing with friends and going home to watch television or play with my Meccano. I think I just found it too hot or perhaps my eyes didn’t like the sun.

In some ways, I was just following my father’s behaviour, which generally involved tinkering with his car in the garage or working in his print works. He would occasionally sit in the sun to smoke his pipe, but I never ever saw him strip off on a beach say.

From about seven, he always took me to work at the weekend and I enjoyed myself doing real jobs, like setting type, collating paper and pulling proofs.

If it left me with any psychological traits, it was that hard work is good for you!

But it kept me out of the sun.

I got married to C at twenty-one and within four years we had three sons. In some ways this got me out in the sun more and perhaps in my late twenties, when we were living in the Barbican, I started to experience better health. I was probably getting more sun, as in those days, I tended to cycle across to Great Portland Street regularly. But C used to drag me out in the sun.

Over the next thirty years or so, my health often tended to deteriorate in the winter, but I think it is true to say, it improved marginally, when the boys grew up, as we started to take more holidays in the sun.

Then in 1997, when I was fifty, I had a particularly bad winter and a very elderly locum decided I needed a blood test to see if I lacked anything. It was the first time my blood had been tested and I was found to be totally lacking in vitamin B12.

I struggled on, with nurses injecting me with B12 every month or so, until my GP sent me to Addenbrooke’s. After another set of blood tests, they said, I was probably coeliac and this was confirmed by endoscopy.

I certainly felt a lot better on a gluten-free diet.

I was also now able to walk and work in the sun and sunbathe without getting burnt. Although, avoiding the sun was still burned into my behaviour, so I often retreated under an umbrella.

Another change was that whereas before going gluten-free I was always bitten and C never was, after going gluten-free, the reverse was true.

I only remember one bad winter from that period and that was when C had breast cancer in 2003-2004, which I think was a sunless winter. We didn’t have our long winter holiday in the sun and I paid the consequence with plantar faciitis, which some reports claim is linked to vitamin D deficiency.

After she died, my problems to a certain extent returned and my GP actually suggested I wasn’t getting enough sun. So in all weathers, I drove around in my Lotus Elan with the top down, to make sure that I got the sun.

I felt a lot better.

If I look at George, he also had my father’s and my behaviour of avoiding the sun. As he smoked heavily, whilst he wrote his music in the dark, was it any wonder he got the pancreatic cancer that killed him?

The curse on my family is of course coeliac disease, which before diagnosis, seems to make us avoid the sun. My father and George certainly did and I would have done before diagnosis without C’s constant persuasion. Now though as I showed in An Excursion To Lokrum, I have no problems in the sun and rarely use any sun screen.

We’ve had some miserably weather over the last few months in London and I come to the conclusion, that I just haven’t got enough vitamin D.

I’ve also only recently found out, that gluten-free foods are not fortified, as regular ones are. So I don’t get any vitamin D through my food.

May 22, 2016 - Posted by | Food, Health | , ,


  1. I have very recently been diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency, and I am awaiting the relevant prescription from my GP. My B12 is low but apparently not low enough to be treated (NHS have very wide boundaries of normal), ditto thyroid. I am pretty certain that my dad had coeliac; he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis 30 years ago when people weren’t really diagnosing adults with CD. He was given an ileostomy because the UC was affecting absorption of his heart medication. Despite the ileostomy, there were still foods he couldn’t eat without problems, and he was careful to avoid too much bread or pastry etc. He had problems with his stoma blocking on a regular basis over the last few years of his life, and a complete blockage was very involved in his death. I suspect that the blockage was cancer, there is a so much bowel cancer in his line of my family.

    Comment by nosnikrapzil | May 22, 2016 | Reply

  2. Did you know about gluten-free cereals etc. not being enriched with Vitamin D?

    Do you get bitten by mossies?

    Comment by AnonW | May 22, 2016 | Reply

  3. I dont tend to eat cereals; I used to have porridge with gluten free oats, but I then started to react to the gf oats, nowadays I eat fruit and a Schar sweet brioche roll or similar. But I didnt know they are not fortified.

    I don’t often get bitten, But I do eat marmite – even though it claims not to be GF – and that apparently fends them off.

    Comment by nosnikrapzil | May 22, 2016 | Reply

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