Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I've got a "Gratitude Attitude"

This past week the kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders had their Thanksgiving concert. One of the songs was called "Gratitude Attitude". At a point in the song the kids were able to come up to the mic and shout out what they were grateful for. Many mentioned family, friends, living in the US, etc... The one that was my favorite though was a former student of mine. Knowing the kid as I do, I was praying that something acceptable would come out of his mouth when he came up to the mic. He's had a tough life...abusive father, mother who was beaten numerous times in front of him, learning disability, moving frequently between Marion and Wichita and last year his father committed suicide. He's been talking about his father a lot recently, and his mother wasn't quite sure what would come out of his mouth when he got his chance. We were all relieved when out of his mouth popped "I'm thankful for bananas!" :)

I too am thankful for bananas. I'm thankful for so much more though.

I'm thankful for loving parents who take care of me and have raised me in a wonderful home.
I'm thankful for my sister Heidi, and the loving close friendship we share.
I'm thankful for my dear brother-in-law, Tim, who always makes me smile.
I'm thankful for my nephew Gustav, and his continued good health and constant learning.
I'm thankful for my extended families on both sides, and the fact that we are so close to each other and enjoy spending time with each other.
I'm thankful for a talented surgeon, a benign tumor, and continued recovery.
I'm thankful for a new diagnosis of celiac, and the possibilities of fewer migraines in my future!
I'm thankful for my many friends. They span the globe and have many interests, but I love spending time with each of them.
I'm thankful for a stable job in this unstable economic time.

I am blessed.

Tomorrow is a day devoted to counting our blessings. Mine are more numerous than what I can list here. The following Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent. While I have many of my Christmas gifts already purchased and waiting to be wrapped, I know that there are many who will not be able to give gifts.

I happened to see this clip through another friend's blog.

I've written about my hatred of Santa on here before. I won't bore you again. I feel that the clip speaks for itself, and America's consumerism. As I was watching this clip though, my mind kept coming back to how fortunate I am. The church I attend here in Marion usually participates in Marion's version of the Angel Tree. This year our town is in crisis. In a town of 1800 the closings of businesses and layoffs in others has been felt drastically. Our food bank is nearly empty. Parents aren't concerned with giving their children presents for Christmas this year, they need food to put in their children's mouths. Instead of collecting presents for the children in Marion this year, we are all asked to donate to the food pantry.

While I am trying to stretch my dollars as far as they will go these days, I am no-where near where many families are. I don't have to worry about where my next meal will come from, whether there will be anything to put in my mouth. My stomach does not groan with hunger pains.

Tomorrow I will be feasting with my loved ones. I am confident that the table will be packed with dishes, and that no one will be leaving hungry. We'll have seconds, thirds, and leftovers to take home. We'll laugh at each other, and with each other! :) We'll nap, we'll play. We will show our love for each other.

I'm still trying to figure out what all I can do to help those around me. So far I've got a shopping trip planned for purchasing items that food stamps won't cover (toiletries like deoderant, shampoo, etc...) and canned items. It isn't much, but it is a way I can contribute.

Happy Thanksgiving dear friends and family. May you enjoy the time with your loved ones tomorrow and over the weekend, and be thinking of those around you!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Gluten Free Lifestyle, Here I Come!

It's been a crash course. I'm glad I had some time off to recover from surgery, and also fill my brain with all the dos and don'ts. I've also visited the nearest health food store (thank you Prairie Harvest!) and Dillon's several times, and stocked up on gluten free baking mixes, flour mixes, and various other items for this new undertaking.

This past week I've tested out 2 mixes. I made Chebe cinnamon rolls, and Chebe pizza crust. So far my favorite bread mix is still from Pamela's products. Chebe (pronounced Cheebee) is a company from Brazil, and the main ingredient is manioc flour (from the yucca plant). The cinnamon roll mix was ok, but nothing fantastic. The problem for me lies in the fact that I come from a family of good bakers and I've been spoiled with good food. For anyone else, the cinnamon rolls would be ok, but not for me. I'm still searching... And it may just be something that I can't make from a mix and will have to figure out a flour blend for myself. The taste was ok, although not quite right...and the texture was what really got to me. As long as I call them something else in my mind, I can eat them...but I have to trick myself! :) I think the pizza crust will be ok. I haven't actually eaten any of it yet, instead I made 4 little personal sized crusts that I can quickly prepare and eat at different times. The crust mix had italian spices mixed in and smelled wonderful. If not, Pamela's Products will come to the rescue again!

I've ordered several books and cookbooks these last weeks. It seems that Bette Hagman is the go-to person for celiac cooking and baking. She's got several cookbooks on the market and is often referred to in other cookbooks. (She hails from Seattle--hey Abbe, do you have a hookup for me? :) ) One of her cookbooks, "The Gluten-Free Gourmet Cooks Comfort Foods", even has a recipe for Swedish Pancakes! I thought that those were only comfort food for my sister and myself! Who knew the whole world considers them comfort food! :)

I'm including the Gluten Free baking mix that she has developed. That way I can access it whenever I travel.

Gluten Free Mix (can be exchanged cup for cup for wheat flour)
2 parts rice flour
2/3 part potato starch
1/3 part tapioca flour

Featherlight Rice Flour Mix (use for more delicate items like cakes, cookies, biscuits)
1 part rice flour
1 part tapioca flour
1 part cornstarch
1 tsp per cup potato flour (3 cups various flours=3 tsp. potato flour)

I'll keep updating all of you as I find new favorite recipes. I think I may have to make Swedish pancakes for supper tonight though!

Monday, November 17, 2008

I'm beat

Today was my first day back to work after surgery. It was a hard day. I went home early, at 2:30 (which is my plan time) and I'll probably continue to do that this week until I get more of my energy back. The sad thing was that I was ready to be back home on the couch by 9:00 this morning.

My body continues to adjust. I'm not sure that I have the correct dosage of thyroid hormone as my skin is really dry--uncomfortably so. My next appointment is the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. My hormones are on a roller coaster while my body adjusts...I'm close to tears much of the day. People being nice to me make my cry, and the thoughtless things people say make me cry. In general, the tears are always ready to fall.

One of the children I have in class brought me a basket filled with candy and cookies....tears. Coworkers asking me how I am....tears. Co-teacher announcing my return in front of the entire school at assembly...tears. Staff thanksgiving dinner (where I could hardly eat anything except olives and carrot sticks)...tears. Coworkers checking on me throughout the day and urging me to go home...tears.

Most of those instances I was able to keep myself in check, wiping away the tears quickly and moving on. The one thing that I can't get over was said to me last week. The tears keep coming for this one because it really felt like my entire situation was trivialized. Whether because of lack of knowledge or a general lack of interest (or tact) I'm not sure, but I was told that I am not really badly gluten intolerant, that I should be able to try different gluten filled food if I want a taste, and that I'm not as sick as other celiacs the person knows. The reasoning behind this was that I don't have to run to the bathroom and vomit everytime I eat gluten. While I care for and respect those that suffer in this manner, or with IBS, I have to say that this comment hurt. Do my 10 years of daily migraines not count as suffering? Does the fact that 2 weeks ago I had major surgery (total thyroidectomy) not count? The gluten poisoned my system and attacked a major part of my body. If I don't stop eating gluten now, what will it attack next?

While I am upset over comments like this, as well as the idea that I have to totally change my diet, I'm also thankful that I've finally found some answers. In the week and half that I haven't eaten gluten, I haven't had a migraine! Have I finally found the answer? If so, I'm willing to eat Gluten free for the rest of my life!

I'm thankful for my friend, Diana. She's helping me sort through all the gluten free garbage out there, and find the good stuff! She's brought me food while I recovered, invited me to lectures (even before I was diagnosed!), loaned me magazines, and just provided me with someone I can talk to about all of this.

I'm thankful for my parents too, as they have volunteered (even Dad, the carb king!) to try different pastas and things while I search for things that are tasty. Mom and Dad came over last night for supper, and I think I may have convinced Dad that gluten free can be tasty too.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

More Lab Results

This has been a full week for me! While I was home recuperating with Mom and Dad I got some other lab results back as well. About one month ago I took at test that was looking for gluten sensitivities. The lab company emailed me back and I test positive for celiac disease.

I've found a lot of research regarding migraines and gluten intolerance, and so originally this was why I wanted to get the testing done. Since then I've found a lot more research that indicates gluten intolerance and thyroid problem are linked. So, it seems that gluten has caused me numerous problems. As troublesome as it is right now, I'm excited about the possibilities of NO MORE MIGRAINES!!!

While this will involve an overhaul of my diet and lifestyle, I know I am more fortunate than others. I am a cook and baker, and I understand what goes into food. I will be better able to identify foods that will be problems for me and avoid them. Since I am familiar with the kitchen, I know that I will be able to come up with new ways of creating things I already love. I've discovered a wonderful company "Pamela's Products" that has a wonderful bread mix that can be made into loaves, pizza crust, foccacia, hamburger buns, bagels...etc... Actually everything I've tried from her company is wonderful--cake mixes, cookies, etc... Knowing that, I know that I will still be able to celebrate with my family and friends all the momentous occasions that life is full of. The thing I'm mourning the most right now is beer! I don't drink very often, but I do enjoy the flavors of the areas I visit when I travel. I'm sure I'll be fine though, and find suitable alternatives.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Path report

The tumor was benign!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Recovery at Mom and Dad's

I apologize in advance for any incomplete sentences and misspellings...My eyes are very droopy and I'm ready to rest for awhile. The pain medication they have me on is some good stuff! :)

First, thank you to all of you for your prayers and well wishes. It was evident that there are many people out there who care for me, and I appreciate your love very much.

Monday morning I checked in to Newton Medical Center at 6:00. I was to have an incision on the right side of the neck, as this was where the larger part of the tumor was. The plan was that the larger portion of tumor would be taken out, as well as one lobe of the thyroid. The tumor would be tested to see whether it was malignant. If it did turn out to be malignant, Dr. Cranston planned on going back in later that day, or sometime today to get the rest of the thyroid and tumor. That was the plan, although it was not how the surgery actually went.

He did start on the right side, but once he got in there he found that the left lobe of the thyroid was full of nodules, and that there was no longer any healthy part of the thyroid. Since my thyroid levels have always come back within the "normal" range, or right on the edge of what is acceptable, I am very confused. Even though I have many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism; there have been some drs. that have inferred that it was all in my head. I know differently now. Dr. Cranston said that I had the worst case of thyroiditis that he had ever seen; and that he and the pathologist have spent plenty of time looking at my thyroid under the microscope in wonder. He took the left side of the thyroid as well. This means that I have a larger incision (it goes across the entire front of my neck), and has left me feeling a bit like what I would think the headless horseman to feel--like I could detach my head and carry it at my side. Dr. Cranston said that I would have had to have another surgery at a later date to take the left side of the thyroid, so he took it all at once.

The path report is still not back for the tumor. Dr. Cranston told me originally that we would know one way or another by Monday afternoon. This then turned into Tuesday morning, then Tuesday afternoon, and I was told today when I was being dismissed that he hopes to have it to me by tomorrow morning. The dr. said that he was taking "deeper cuts" of the tumor each time he was sending it off, which is leaving me feeling a bit unsettled. He did say that during the surgery he was able to check my lymph nodes, as well as the parathyroids, and that they seemed "clean". He feels that the tumor will most likely come back benign, but did say that I couldn't hold him to that if it turns out differently.

For those of you who don't know, the thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland in your neck. It is located where the Adam's apple is on a man. The thyroid is in charge of regulating metabolism, and the absorption of calcium, among many other things. Since I no longer have a thyroid, I will need to be on thyroid supplement for the rest of my life (I had already been on it for several years; although I will be switching to Armour now instead of taking the synthetic); as well as taking calcium supplements three times a day.

While there are still unknowns, I am feeling better about some things. One of the things I was most concerned about was whether my vocal chords would be harmed--a big risk for this surgery. This was very disturbing for me, since I am a teacher and make a living using my voice. Vocal music is also a large part of my life, and I was scared that I was going to have to give that up. As I was coming to I overheard a conversation between the surgeon and the anesthesiologist--there was very real concern that they had nicked my vocal chords, and were uncertain about whether I would be able to talk. While I haven't tried singing yet (and most likely won't be attempting that for awhile); I do know that I'm able to speak. It is very uncomfortable at this point, but I know that this will get better. I hope that my singing voice has been left intact as well.

I had very good care at Newton Medical Center, and I'm thankful for the people who took care of me over the past several days. They all took the time to answer questions, give me extra bag baths and hair washing, as well as try to make me comfortable in any way they could.

As well as the pain I feel at the incision area; my throat hurts anytime I swallow or cough. I also seem to be allergic to latex--something I only recently found out. My entire body itches, and I've got rashes in all the areas that had tape or dressings that were latex. I'm hopeful that this will go away in the next few days.

I return to see Dr. Cranston on Friday to see whether he can remove the sutures.

Okay, it's time for me to drift off. Thank you again to all of you!