Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Hidden Dangers

I came in to the office early this morning and decided to get breakfast. The people whom I normally eat with weren't in yet so I was sitting alone, and a bit bored. I turned the small packet that my teabag had come in over and began reading the ingredients. To my horror I have been drinking licorice root everyday.

Licorice contains a substance called glycyrrhetic acid that can cause a disturbance of the endocrine system and is not allowed in the diet of people with hyperaldosteronism. I have been drinking it every morning for a month, at least.

I am usually pretty good about reading food labels for sources of gluten and for other things that I'd just rather not have in my diet like hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup. But who knew that I needed to read the back of the tea package for unexpected ingredients?

When I got back to my desk I went through my tea box and basket to read the ingredients in all of the teas that I have accumulated. Not only did I find licorice, but I also found gluten and ma haung (a chinese herb that increases blood pressure and heart rate.) I would not have thought that I was poisoning myself with Lipton tea.

Good Grief!

The Perfect Food

My dear friend, Beverly, has an over abundance of chickens, and thus an overabundance of eggs. That is fortunate for me as she is very generous and shares them with me on a regular basis. I am finding that I really like the fresh brown eggs much more than ones that I can buy in the grocery store. And I know that they are better for me because they are free range and organic. I have really been appreciating this.

Back in the mid-1980's I lived in a small town in southwestern Oklahoma. The town had a small grocery store that was more like a convenience store than anything else. The selection was very limited. There were grocery stores available in a college town 15 miles away, and I did use them quite a bit. But I bought eggs, milk and homemade cheese from a neighboring farm. Most of the staples that I used came from an organic food co-op. We bought meat from a butcher in town (the one 15 miles away) and stored it in a meat locker that we rented. Even the honey that I used to cook with came from local bee keepers. All of this didn't come from some Mother Earthish feeling of being supper healthy. The truth is that being in a small town, this was just the cheapest and easiest way to obtain food. I was a stay at home mom at the time, so I kind of enjoyed baking bread and canning vegetables.

The crazy thing is at the time, this was not considered a healthy way to eat. There was too much saturated fat in the butter that I made in mason jars. The vegetables might be contaminated in my kitchen. It was thought that I should be serving meals mostly made of breads and pastas with vegetables. Meats should only be used as condiments, and cooked with processed oils sprayed from cans. Spaghetti topped with processed jarred tomato sauce and seasoned with lots of vegetables and only a half pound of lean ground turkey for the entire recipe, with a salad and some crisp Italian bread on the side was the perfect meal as long as I used a bottled non-fat dressing and didn't offer any Parmesan cheese with it. Pretzels and rice cakes were touted as healthful snacks. I was a bad mom who was ruining the health of her children by cooking with real food. I can't believe that I let them convince me of that. I will admit that I regret some of the meals that I made for my kids. Deep fried taco's and layered lettuce salad were probably under the healthy threshold.

Over the past few years I have been hearing about the benefits of eating organic and whole, unprocessed foods. Recently I have even heard that the USDA has reversed it claims that eggs are unhealthy. New studies are even questioning if saturated fats lead to increased risks of heart disease. Many authorities are openly saying that the Food Pyramid added to the obesity rate in this country  This is what research is telling us.

The message, even though it is easy to find, doesn't seem to be trickling down to practitioners. Last year when I was found to have only insignificantly blocked peripheral arteries, the NP advised me to follow a diet that focused mainly on whole grains, fruits and vegetables. The same happened recently when Dr. R found out that I have only very insignificant blockages of my carotid arteries. He told me that I have the arteries of a 20 year old, but then added "Keep eating a diet that focuses on whole grains and fruits and vegetables, and keep taking the statin." I really like Dr. R, but he wasn't even here in the eighties when this mess was hoisted on the American population. I wonder why even he continues to go along with the tagline. I was a bit frustrated with him. I go next week to retest for the electrolytes that were out of balance. I wonder if I should try to say something about it.

Over the past several years, I have quit believing in the food pyramid and gone back to eating real foods. I don't have the opportunity anymore to buy local like I could when I was in Oklahoma, but there is a lot to be said about staying on the perimeter of the grocery store.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Things I Forget

Today was my yearly appointment with Dr. L. This is always a good appointment. I know going in that no surprises will pop up. I knew that I'd used my CPAP every night. I really will not sleep without it. Sleeping without it is actually painful.

Today there actually was a surprise, and not a bad one. I don't qualify yet to get a new machine. I have another year before my insurance company will pay for another one. But I can get a  new headgear every 60 days if I want...I never want. The technology keeps improving and there has been a lot of improvement to make the fit more comfortable. I was shown a new headgear that is so much more comfortable than the one I've been using. It has been ordered for me. I'm hoping to get it tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Thunderstorms moved in around 3 am this morning. I usually enjoy sleeping through a good storm. But I heard several trees falling around the neighborhood. Not too close to me, but still the windows and the floor shook. After listening for the tornado alarms for a half hour, I decided that it would be a good idea to pull the twin mattress into my shower so that I'd be safe if I fell asleep. My shower is a small windowless space inside of another small windowless space. I feel like it is probably the best place to be in a tornado. I got back to sleep sometime around 4:00. When I left for work, there were a lot of branches and leaves all over the place, but it didn't look like we had more than a bad storm. Unfortunately, it was still going strong at 7:00 when I had to leave for work. It made traffic pretty bad.

Atlantans don't do well with storms. A big part of the problem is that the city is built in a forest. When we get storms, we also get downed trees and power lines that block roads. That was pretty much the story this morning.

Add caption
The storms are picking up again, and working in a glass building with trees right up against the windows is not giving me confidence. To my knowledge we've never had one fall and hit a window, but the possibility exists. We actually have a crew of aborists who keep them pretty healthy.

As you can tell, I really don't have much to say right now, but I thought I should post something.  That's not actually correct, I do have a couple of things that I'd like to write about. I have even tried a couple of times, but when I re-read the posts, it doesn't really express what I'm trying to get at. I'm sure that something soon will make my ideas bubble up and form a coherent thought. That post can wait until then.

Friday, October 10, 2014

What My Father Taught Me

Jesus loves the little children.
All the children in the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
They are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

I'm so glad that my Father taught me that. I'd like to add:

Jesus loves the little children.
All the children of the world.
Gay and lesbian, trans and bi,
They are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

We are not here to curse the darkness, we are here to shine the light.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Sign Marking My Parking Slot

This is the sign that is marking my parking slot. I sure hope that this isn't a sign of what my landlords think of me...

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Religious Intolerance

I have a few people whom I've been following for quite some time and I am considering not following them anymore. It's not because I find their blogs uninteresting or poorly written. It's because they seem that it is fine to direct religious intolerance toward Christians. These few people are quick to point out their tolerance for alternative lifestyles and say that differences should be tolerated. But out of that same mouth pours, or rather off that same pen flows the most vicious and vile hate speech toward Christians and our traditions. And the ironic thing is these few people will go on tirades about why Christmas is wrong and how much the hate the holiday, but last Christmas the posted pictures of their trees and decorations. Wrote about the lovely holiday meal they had with their friends and families, and then turn right back around and condemn Christians for celebrating. They assume that every Christian is a right wing conservative tea partyier, And that assumption is very far from the truth.

The truth is that they think that they are right and justified in their attack. They don't see that if they interjected any other belief system, including atheism and agnosticism, and most assuredly Islam they would be called out for their intolerance and hateful speech, as well they should be. If I likened those barbarians running around kidnapping people and cutting off their heads to the picture of what Islam is, someone would rightfully point out that these are radical fringes and not representative of the religion. And that it is wrong to make generalizations regarding any group. But I see no one calling these ladies out for using that kind of attitude and speech toward Christians.

Right I'm just tired of their hateful intolerance and I want to distance myself from them.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Occupy Pinktober: Repost of Telling Knots Post Pushing Up Daisies by Tracy Willis

A very special woman, Telling Knots, on her blog Telling Knots is holding her own Pinktober sit-in. She is featuring people who have been touched by metastatic breast cancer. The posts are articulate and speak to the point much better than I can. She has invited her readers to share her posts. Below you will find her first installment to Occupy Pinktober.

Pushing Up Daisies by Tracy Willis

Project Occupy Pinktober begins today. Throughout the month of October 2014, I am bringing guest posts from people who have been touched by metastatic breast cancer. Breast cancer is not pink and fluffy; it is a killer disease. This is not about saving breasts; it’s about saving lives. Thirty percent of everyone who gets breast cancer will develop metastasis. There is no cure. The goal of treatment is merely to prolong life and reduce suffering. We deserve better. Please like and share these posts to spread the word. Thank you, Knot Telling 
A flower in Tracy's gardenGone to meet their maker, out of their misery, travelling a different path, pushing up daisies. Call it what you will but for goodness sake don’t say dead.
Great-great grandmother – dead – age 45.
Great-great aunt – dead – age 47.
Great grandmother – dead – age 50.
Great aunt – dead – age 44.
Grandmother – dead – age 49.
Aunt – dead – age 50.
Mother – dead – age 46.
If you say dead and list the names it looks like the roll call on a war memorial. In fact it’s worse because no epitaph contains so many members of the same family. These women, my family, did not go to war. They were placid, careful, peace-loving citizens quietly going about their lives and striving to raise their families. Children that many of them never saw grow up, get married, or have families of their own.
You see, each of these women developed breast cancer in their late 30’s or early 40’s. Each went through countless surgeries, treatments and indignities. Each thought they’d come through.
No-one made it.
Not one of them survived. . .
Metastatic breast cancer killed them all.
I knew two of these relatives, my aunt and my mother. The rest were long dead before I was a glint in anyone’s eye, before my parents even met each other. Mum and Aunt Jen both developed breast cancer around the age of 40 and they both resolved to survive. They lived in different parts of the country but both had good surgeons, skilled oncologists and attentive nurses. None of that made any difference. They both developed metastatic breast cancer and within months they were both dead. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of them, think of what they went through, wish they’d had that pink cancer – the one everyone survives – so they could still be here with me now. I cannot explain what coming from a family with a near 100% death rate from metastatic breast cancer feels like. A family that doesn’t carry the BRCA genes. I can tell you breast cancer is not a “good” cancer, the “easy” cancer, or the one with “really excellent prospects thanks to more advanced treatments.”  Just over two years ago at the age of 42 I was diagnosed with aggressive HER2+ breast cancer. There was nothing good or easy about it and my chemo regime was almost identical to the one my mother went through in 1994!
So you’ll have to forgive me when I state, point blank, that pink is for Barbie NOT breast cancer and the only similarities between me and Barbie are our fake, nippleless breasts. I hope, want, need, to be the first in my family to buck the metastatic trend because without that hope I’d be lost. Breaking my family’s hearts in the same way mine was broken in 1996 is a thought I can’t begin to entertain. Only time will tell.
Breast cancer remains an unforgiving disease with unforgivable consequences. Those living with metastatic breast cancer, their loved ones and friends spend each day on the edge of the void. For them death is coming and breast cancer’s true colour can only ever be black. Black as the void, as deep and dark and empty as furthest point in any possible universe.
Please stop pink ignorance.
Please start facing reality.
Metastatic breast cancer continues to kill far too many women across the globe.

About Tracy: “I’m 45, married, and Mom to a 21 year old son. By profession I’m a technologist, have always been a career woman and am now rebuilding my career following a HER2+ breast cancer diagnosis aged 42. I’m also rebuilding my stamina and mobility because Herceptin left my knee and ankle joints in very bad shape. I love cats (have seven of them, mainly rescued) and find solace in nature, photography, painting and drawing. I live in the countryside, work for a university and inherited a stubborn streak – probably just as well given family history. I blog about cancer and the trials it brings at www.fecthis.wordpress.com and potter about in www.theasymmetryofmatter.wordpress.com to escape through art.”

Since Cancer...

It's October. Kind of obvious, I'm aware of that. What I think the whole world is aware of is that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. So aware to the point that it has been dubbed Pinktober. It is the month that makers of all things pink drool over, and the dirty little secret is that most survivors dread.

I don't need someone to turn the world pink to make me aware of breast cancer. Believe me I am highly aware of it. And while it no longer fills my every thought, it is never far away. It doesn't take much to call it to the table.

Yesterday was a heavy reminder to me. I have been profoundly changed by my experience with breast cancer. I went to get the carotid ultrasound not thinking much would come out of it except peace of mind. I am probably not wrong. But as I was leaving my doctor stepped out into the hall and asked if I would mind waiting a few minutes, and I was shown to a small conference room that I didn't even know existed. You never want to be invited into the conference room. The last time I had been invited into the conference room, I was told that I had cancer and that it had already spread. As I sat and waited for Dr. R to come in, my heart was racing. I was so panicked that I was nauseated and near tears. All it took to call my experience with breast cancer back was being asked to wait to speak with the doctor. Dr. R only wanted to discuss the blood work from last week. The totally blocked arteries that I was so afraid that I was going to be told about didn't happen. But the panic was real and that is just part of my legacy from breast cancer.

I have been wearing a sleeve and gauntlet for a month and a half now. My lymphedema was getting pretty bad and was beginning to cause constant pain. A lot of people have asked me about it. To be honest, I am tired of explaining that I have a condition that was caused by the treatment for breast cancer, and no, it will never go away. This is just another little piece of the legacy of breast cancer. If lymphedema was the worst that I have to deal with I'd be lucky. The other fall our from from the treatments I received are much more serious. but I never bring that up when I'm explaining the compression stockings. Seeing words like fibrotic changes to cardiac vessels and fibrotic nephropathy written in my chart is more than disturbing. So I just smile and say "Well it will never go away, but it's 10 years later and I'm still here." That usually diffuses the conversation.

I came into work today and found out that the Health and Safety committee had a booth to sign up for the next blood drive and for the mobile mammogram. I spent a couple of hours today talking to women about the importance of getting one. We had 72 slots to fill when I came in. When the benefits fair was over we had filled 57 of them. We have another benefits fair at another building tomorrow. Claire and I will be there signing up women. I think that we are going to end up with a waiting list again this year.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Lab Report

I called Dr. R's office this morning and had them email me the lab report from my physical. It was surprising. My chloride and magnesium were a little down, but not as much as they were in June. My sodium levels were the troubling result. I have been hospitalized with higher sodium levels, it is really down. That had not been mentioned in the phone conversation on Friday. I do not restrict salt in my diet, and I eat an obscene amount of it. My diet today consisted of instant oatmeal with salted butter, home made southwestern beef soup and gluten free cornbread, pumpkin cheesecake, hummus, gluten free bread and grapes, easily 3.5 grams of sodium. And yet here I am, hyponatremic again. The other surprising thing in the results is that I am still anemic. My blood counts have hardly risen since June. My b12 levels were good, but it hasn't caused a rise in red blood cells. I will see Dr. S in November. I am thinking about seeing if I can get in earlier than that. That I've been anemic since March is probably something that I should discuss with my hematologist.

I go for the carotid ultrasound tomorrow morning. I'm glad that I had to call Dr. R's office for the lab results because I was thinking that it was on Wednesday. This merry-go-round keeps cranking out it's carney music and I can't seem to find a way to jump off.