Twenty years ago, Beth Rueter Goad’s doctor told her she was dying, but he didn’t know why.
The doctor told the Seymour resident she could be dead in six months, so he sent Goad to every specialist they could think of at IU Health, Louisville and other places.
In 2002, she had acquired West Nile Virus, and that’s when her major allergies started to emerge.
“My hair was falling out, and I was having hives all around my neck and bad G.I. problems, like with food poisoning,” Goad said. “I’ve had food poisoning before, but this was worse.”
She said the specialists didn’t know what to do for her and they were very frustrated, so she asked her local doctor what she should do next.
“He told me there was a new doctor in town, Dr. (Steven) Windley, and thought I should maybe try to see him,” Goad said.
Windley is a specialist in family practice with advanced training in integrative medicine, which blends scientifically proven practices with the best of conventional medicine. He attended Indiana University School of Medicine and completed his residency at Ball Memorial Hospital and is currently on the staff at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour.
“Dr. Windley found out I was eating myself to death and eating foods I was allergic to every day,” Goad said. “It took him awhile to figure out what all was going on, but he got it figured out a little bit at a time.”
She said he diagnosed her gluten sensitivity because she was having brain fog and working in a high-pressure job at the time.
“After I went about two weeks without the gluten, which is how you diagnose it, my brain fog went away and my mind was clear,” Goad said. “Dr. Windley told me I was still not as healthy as he thought I could’ve been, and I was in my 40s at that time and should’ve been in better shape, but I was so sick.”
Windley told her 50% of people who have issues with gluten also have soy allergies, which Goad discovered she did have. Goad is mostly allergic to soy/soy lecithin, gluten, peanuts, dairy and nitrates/sulfites.
“Twenty years ago, I really couldn’t eat away from home safely, but even though it’s a lot better now, it still leaves a lot to be desired,” she said.
The only allergy issue she had before 2002 was lactose intolerance, and looking back, she said her bad symptoms began when she was 10, but Goad thought it was normal.
“When I went to college, I found out it wasn’t normal and I was sick a lot,” she said. “When I started nursing school, I thought I was dying of cancer or something, so I went to the doctor and he did an assessment and told me if I stopped drinking milk, I’d be fine.”
Goad said everything people eat that they’re allergic to, even if they don’t have bad reactions to it, affects their immune system, and her immune system got slammed.
“I have to take extra precautions with everything because I can catch things really easily, so there are a lot of side effects to food allergies that people don’t think about,” she said.
Goad said she owns a place at Sanibel Island, Florida, and the reason she stays there a lot is because the restaurants are required by the statute to have a chef.
“A lot of cooks will help you and will understand the allergies, but a chef really does,” she said. “Sometimes, a chef will like that and make it a challenge to come up with something great that you can eat.”
Goad, 67, and her husband, Jay Goad, married at Tween Waters Island Resort in Captiva, Florida, on Feb. 4, and she said the chef there does a great job.
“I usually have steamed chicken, steamed broccoli and a baked potato, but the chef there made me things with sauces and breading that was really good,” she said.
A week after their wedding, Goad and her husband went out to a restaurant that normally would’ve been fine, but that night was one of the worst she’d ever experienced.
“At this other place, I gave the waiter my allergy card to see what I could have, and he told me, ‘Can’t you see I’m busy? What’s wrong with you?’” she said. “I’m usually not the weepy type, but I had to get up and go outside and just lost it.”
Goad was wondering if she would ever be able to go out to eat without being afraid, and for years, she couldn’t enjoy her food because she was afraid something bad was going to happen. She hated to go out to eat.
She said things are better now, and one place she believes gets it right is Rails Craft Brew & Eatery in Seymour, where the couple had another wedding reception for Indiana family and friends about a month ago.
Goad and her husband each have two children with spouses. Her children are Dr. Kris Williams and Alissa Proctor. Beth and Jay have eight grandsons between them, and the boys were part of their wedding.
Goad said her daughter-in-law, Stacey Williams, is super helpful and will always make food she can eat when they have get-togethers, and she appreciates that so much.
“My husband has been great and doesn’t get freaked out by my food allergies,” she said. “At our wedding reception, our wedding cake was free of soy, gluten and dairy, and it was delicious.”
Goad said all helpful restaurants love her food allergy card, but some places treat her like she is picky.
“I’ll eat anything that doesn’t kill me, and it’s hurtful when people make fun of this disability,” she said. “Having a food allergy is a disability, and at IU, they had me file for disability because I was in administration and had to go to a lot of lunches with people and dignitaries.”
Currently, she teaches adjunct for Texas Tech University online in the health and sciences department and could teach adjunct at Indiana University, but hasn’t yet since she retired a year ago in September.
Goad said people with food allergies or those who might be the one preparing food should know how important it is to read the ingredient labels every time because ingredients and labels can change without warning.
“I do most of my grocery shopping online through Walmart or Amazon, and the reason is you can read the ingredient list yourself for everything, and when you have a lot of allergies, it’s pretty handy,” she said.
Goad suggests people call a new restaurant a couple of days ahead of time to let the chef know about any food allergies and don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and talk to a manager or the chef before ordering when eating out.