Monday, March 13, 2017

Vegan for the un-vegan

For the past several years my eyes have been opened to the world of veganism. Much to my family's dismay, my cooking has slowly evolved from Pioneer Woman (Hello chicken fried steak!) to Oh She Glows (Hello Buddah Bowls!). Meat and dairy take up little space in my fridge (read: Josh) and my veggie and fruit drawers are packed full.

People are curious but skeptical of my strange diet, constantly asking, "So what do you even eat." My response, "Everything!" Seriously, you can make any dish meatless and dairy free. It can take a bit more effort but the end result is always fabulous (unless you just botch the recipe, like I often do). With the internet at your finger tips and wise vegan friends, there are limitless options and recipes.

I wanted to share some of my favorite vegan recipes that are true crowd pleasers. So, if you are looking to dip your tongues into some meat/dairy-less options, give these a try. I promise they will be yummy in your tummy!

Go a head a give it a whirl. Vegan food is much more than salad and fruit. Since focusing on plant-based foods I eat things with more favors and variety than ever before! Plus, any lifestyle that includes french fries is a winner in my book. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Update on me: Part 2

Read Part 1 before proceeding to see where I've been over the past two years!

During those 2 years it was easy to forget that I had cancer. (Well, we assumed I had a small tumor somewhere because my Tg number wasn't "0", but we just didn't know where). One thing that I always saw as a negative in myself is that I'm very absorbed in my immediate surroundings. My mind is focused on what is right in front of me: My day-to-day responsibilities, work, husband, caring for a newborn. I always saw it as a weakness. I'm a terrible long-distance friend (if I don't see you regularly it's hard to think about you) and I easily forget past events/conversations/people (who has time to mull over the past when I've got laundry to do!). I'm too focused on the now.

But what I've always seen as a weakness actually worked to my advantage. I honestly rarely thought about the disease and just lived my life. I was only consumed with worry and anxiousness on the days I went for my monthly blood draws. But once I got the results, I went on my merry way. Completely peaceful and unaware of what was going on inside my body.

But after those blissful two years, my time was up. Last October my Tg number skyrocketed to 20 and my doctor said, "No more." He was concerned that the cancer had grown and we needed to investigate immediately. Ultrasounds of my neck revealed nothing suspicious so we proceeded with a radioactive iodine scan and a CT scan of my head and neck.

I was scared. Really scared. All of the peace that was with me over the past years flew out the window and "worst case scenario" was in the forefront of my mind. It's funny how Satan can make you feel like you've learned nothing through all your trials; that you're back at square one.

At the end of October, after two weeks of a low-iodine diet, I took a small dose of radioactive iodine and was scanned head to toe. Nothing suspicious lit up, so we proceeded with a CT scan just to cover our bases. Let's cross all the T's and dot every I there is! And in December I received the best Christmas gift possible; my doctor confirmed that there was absolutely no cancer. Despite my elevated Tg numbers, there was no evidence of the disease in my body.

Talk about a dance party! Such a weight, that I didn't know existed, was lifted off my shoulders. After years of assuming I was living with cancer (stable cancer, but cancer nonetheless) I officially got the answer that I am healthy.

So where does that leave me now? I still get my blood checked regularly. And on March 13th I have a follow-up CT scan to insure, again, that there is no cancer growth. My fingers are crossed that after we get clean results we can move these appointments further and further apart. I can't wait for the day when my doctor says, "See you next year!"

Monday, March 6, 2017

Update on me: Part 1

It has been almost 3 years since I've posted about my health. When I started writing about this journey I realized there was way too much to put in just one post so I split the post in two.  It has been quite a ride, so stay with me. 

Last you heard, I finished my round of radioactive iodine treatment in April of 2014 and, besides a few "spots" (I like spots instead of cancer - less scary.) in my neck, my scan came back clear. My doctors felt the radioactive poison left in my body would continue to shrink those "spots". So while they weren't an immediate concern, my thyroid levels were still monitored every month.

When it comes to thyroid levels, things get pretty confusing. They check these levels by a simple blood draw and look specifically at the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) and Thyroglobulin (Tg) levels. My TSH is measured to make sure it stays low. A normal TSH is .34-5.60uIU/mL. I need my levels less than .10 to keep the cancer growth suppressed. My thyroid medication is adjusted according to this number.

Tg is what the doctors use to gauge my cancer growth. It is a hormone produced only by normal and cancerous thyroid cells; since I no longer have a thyroid, the only cells that could be producing this are most likely cancerous. In a perfect world, my Tg levels would be 0.

In May of 2014, right after radiation, my Tg level was 29. Due to the radiation still in my body, that number continued to shrink for almost two years. In July 2016 it had shrunk to 7.0. Still not normal (remember, my normal is 0), but as long as that number was shrinking or stable my doctor was happy to be "actively monitoring" me. We weren't being too aggressive because I got pregnant with Lincoln, then nursed him for 12+ months. To pursue further testing would mean radiation exposure and that meant weaning, which I wasn't quite ready to do. My doctor was willing to work with our situation but I knew all along that if my numbers increased we would have to take things seriously.

During the time I was in the "active monitoring" stage I made some life style changes. I changed household and personal cleaning products to more natural, safe alternatives. I started limiting/avoiding all animal and dairy products, as science has proven that a plant-based diet is far healthier, especially when it comes to cancer and inflammatory diseases. Kris Carr became my health idol. I recommend her book to anyone interested in a holistic approach to health.

I feel that with the interventions of my doctors in 2014 and my life style changes, I was able to keep my cancer at bay for over 2 years. In those 2 years I was able to get pregnant with Lincoln and nurse him for over 12 months. I am so proud of that and thankful I was allotted that time.

But in October of 2016 that time was up.

Tune in tomorrow to get the rest of the story. Spoiler: It's good news!