Wheat and Dairy: my untitled saga with the foods I love and hate all at the same time.

file_000From the time I was a small child, I have fond memories of wheat and dairy.  My mom has a picture of me at the age of 2 digging into a white cannister of sour cream with my bare hands while wearing a sour cream filled grin. I have flashes of running into the kitchen at my grandma Barbara’s house at the age of 6 and eagerly jumping up down as she sliced a sliver of cheese from a ball of mozzarella she kept in the fridge. As I grew older I discovered the amazing dream of cream cheese smeared over toasted everything bagels, of American cheese melted and gooey in a grilled sourdough sandwich with tomato soup on the side, of mexican cheese melted in between flour tortillas on a flat-iron skillet, and the surprise leftover cheese on the paper that wrapped my animal style burgers at In and Out. For years, I’d come home in the evening from a long day at work or school, and pour myself a tall glass of ice-cold milk. When I was pregnant with my first and second sons, I’d down the entire glass in my left hand while still holding the gallon jug in my right and then pour one more before finally resting the jug back on the refrigerator shelf. And don’t forget Kraft Mac and Cheese. I was just excited about Mac and Cheese night as my own children, and enjoyed once a year making my own homemade version with nutmeg and exotic cheeses.

To me, dairy and wheat were the essential two main food groups. They were the center piece of every great soul food. They were what made food worth eating. Wheat and Dairy were worth singing and dancing for.

Dairy and I had a love affair that lasted 31 glorious years and then slowly crumbled into a final once-and for all break up around January of 2016 before I kicked wheat out as well.  So imagine my despair as I struggled through our slow 5 year break up before finally being ready to call it quits for good that cold, winter day.

At some point in my life, I started having stomach pains. I don’t even remember when they started. I could have had them my whole life, I don’t really know. The sort of pain I struggled with slowly just creeped up on me and annoyed with me with a constant dull aching in my belly. Always present. But never strong enough to bring to me to tears or send me rushing off to the doctor.

But I began to recognize that I did always have a belly ache. And I neither liked it nor understood what could be the cause. When I decided to switch doctors back in Fall of 2011, I started to find answers. My doctor was big into finding the sources of illness. So when I went in for an annual checkup and she had me fill out a questionnaire, my belly aches came up. From that and a few other red flags that sparked her interest, she sent me to a lab to get a large amount of blood work done. When it came back she sat me down and shared the good, the bad, and the ugly. And one of the ugliest findings was that I was allergic to cow dairy along with some minor allergies in wheat, shellfish, dust mites, cats, dogs, and cockroaches.  She suggested I cut down the dairy, at the very least milk, and see if my symptoms improved. That and get rid of our cat. But that’s another story.

41 weeks pregnant

I decided I would give up just the milk and see, but there was no way I’d give up cheese or sour cream. I mean that would be like food suicide. But even with that, sure enough, my stomach felt much better, especially in the evenings.  It took just a few months before I began enjoying my almond milk alternative. Now I crave it like I craved milk. And when I was pregnant with my third and fourth child, guzzled almond milk the same way I did cow’s.

But the pain didn’t go away, go away. It lurked. And over the next few years, the ever-present dull-ache seemed eventually to become just as strong as it had been in my milk days. My allergy was getting worse. I learned the hard way overtime, that I could not eat ice cream anymore or else I’d be hunched in a fetal position crying on the floor in pain. But even when I was good, I just couldn’t escape the pain completely.

And then one day in December, I imagined what my body would feel like if I didn’t ever feel the belly pain again, and the idea of it was so relieving that I actually cried. It was then that I realized, I’d have to make the decision to cut out dairy completely once and for all. No more quesadillas. No more Mac and Cheese. No more alfredo sauce over my spaghetti. I cried again. It’s funny to think about how emotionally attached we can be to certain foods, but it is true.

So I did it. In January of this year, I started a 30-day detox program and not only cut out dairy, but cut out wheat and soy and sugar among all sorts of processed chemicals. I never felt so good in my life. I was sold. Never would I go back to a life of dairy again. But an interesting thing happened to me after the detox. I tried wheat again, thinking I would just stick to a dairy free life. But then I noticed the anxiety I often felt in my chest returned and my belly swelled up. I remembered that blood test a couple of years back. This is what my wheat allergy was doing to me? All those years of anxiety? All those stressful tears? All those years of thinking sit ups were pointless? When I think of all the pain I could have escaped, all the chest pains I could have relieved….no amount of cheese or wheat seemed worth it anymore. I was over it.

But like any break up, there is a transition period. And there are weak points. There are times where you have to stare at yourself in the mirror and remind yourself why you broke up in the first place. I had to start thinking creatively about my foods and begin to find beauty in other flavors. Honestly, the first couple of months, I found little joy in eating. Food became merely something I had to eat to nourish my body.

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singing for celery

It has been 10 months since and it has gotten easier. I have stumbled a couple of times when I haven’t planned and had to resort to eating something with wheat or dairy in it, then reaping the consequence. And yet my belly has healed enough that from time to time, I can enjoy one meal with a small amount of it in it without suffering too much, but nothing more. And I’m okay with it now. I may even start singing for my food again.

 

Like this article? Read more articles about gut health by Theresa at her new blog http://mamaguts.com

 

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Protons, Heart Issues, and Other Woes

Trying to be "Anxious for Nothing."

Trying to be “Anxious for Nothing.”

I’m feeling pretty down today. So much going on it seems, but hoping for some perspective and hope as I know I can get this way, and God always sees me through.

Owen discovered yesterday that the hopeful outcome of radiation therapy as the final step in ridding him of his cancer, now seems rather grim. The radiologist looked at his scans and determined that the location of Owen’s tumor is in such a delicate place in Owen’s heart, especially after the heart itself has been so ravaged by the surgery and the chemotherapy, that he feels radiation would only damage it further. It is his professional opinion that the positive benefits on the cancer do not outweigh the negative effects it would have on Owen’s heart.

“You only get one heart, Owen,” he said.

So he is recommending Proton therapy instead, a newer form of treatment similar to radiation but using some sort of protons instead (hence the name) and supposedly much more gentle. So while that doesn’t sound bad, here is the stressful part. There is a good chance our insurance won’t cover it. And without insurance, my research shows it will cost roughly $30,000. This is money we do not have.

Furthermore, given the scans look good on the CT (We havent’ had a more accurate PET scan yet), it makes me wonder if it is even worth it. Yet, all the research I’ve done, which has included looking at medical journals written within the last year on Thymoma shows that for stage 3 B2 Thymoma, radiation combined with chemotherapy yielded much more success when preventing reoccurrence. Without that double treatment, likelihood of reoccurrence for Owen’s type and stage was very high. But in the end, does it even matter if it’s Proton therapy instead? Where’s the research on proton therapy for Owen? In other words, if the proven radiation therapy is not realistic for Owen, is it worth $30,000 of money we don’t have to pay for another treatment where there is no record or research done on its effectiveness for Owen’s type of cancer and stage in the first place?

So what to do?

Owen is most frustrated by the location of the Proton therapy location. It is in La Jolla, which is a good 40 minutes from our home with typical traffic. He is expected to go every. single. day. For 6 weeks. That is 40 minutes there, about an hour while there, and then 40 minutes back. That is basically 3 hours everyday that cuts out of his work time. And we’d have to find a sitter every morning to take the kids to school in order to get him there on time. At this point, chemotherapy was easier on his work schedule. So he is not happy. Neither am I.

My prayer is that God be guiding all of this. I don’t want Owen to beat cancer only to die of a heart attack. So if radiation is too dangerous than I don’t want it either. Chemotherapy has already ravaged his heart. He is getting palpitations everyday and has been enduring pain in his heart ever since his last chemotherapy treatment 3-4 weeks ago. He is still dealing with other negative effects on his body including tinitus in his ears, tingling and numbness in his fingertips and limbs, and general weakness.

I don’t want his heart issues to worsen. But I don’t want him to get a likely reoccurance of thymoma either. The survival rate for that is much worse. Over the last year, Owen and I have grown so much closer. I am more in love with him than ever and so the fear of losing him, is all the more heart-breaking to me. I want my husband to be with me for the rest of my life. And I want the time we have together to be healthy. Anything that disrupts that or threatens that fills me with anxiety.

If God does not allow proton therapy to be something the insurance pays for, I sure hope he is allowing that because he is telling us he’s got this and that Owen will not be getting a reoccurrence and so we don’t need more treatment. Please pray we have ears to hear God’s voice in this and not our own fears or itching ears.

Finally, after all of this–I am having health issues. And right now, all of our health/medical money is going toward helping Owen. And my issues just seem to be blown off by the traditional Medical establishment. As I seek alternative treatments, I recognize my dire need for a Naturopath, but that will come out of pocket since my insurance won’t cover a Naturopath. Until we get Owen settled though, I am trying to treat myself for my health issues with diet changes, supplements, etc. And I’m just praying that God bring me relief. I don’t want to get too into it until I know for sure if I am right. But I’ve struggled with a sensitive gut for years and finally found some relief when I cut down my dairy significantly. But now it seems that I’m developing more food sensitivities and my hearing issues aren’t improving that much. And on top of that, I had a tubal ligation a year ago when my daughter was born (4th c-section) and I’m starting to develop some issues that I believe may be complications and side effects to that. I’m just praying that God be guiding me through my journey through this process, show grace to me as I seek to treat myself and help provide me the answers needed to heal. I am going to be 36 years old and want the second half of my life to be healthy as well, not burdened by pain and aching all the time in my belly. I’m crying right now just thinking about it.

Lord, please bring me and my husband relief!

In the end, despite the outcome, I am reminded of a song  Alanis Morisette wrote years ago that made such an impact on me. I will post the lyrics down below.

That I would be good, by Alanis Morisette

That I would be good even if I did nothing
That I would be good even if I got the thumbs down
That I would be good if I got and stayed sick
That I would be good even if I gained ten pounds
That I would be fine even if I went bankrupt
That I would be good if I lost my hair and my youth
That I would be great if I was no longer queen
That I would be grand if I was not all knowing
That I would be loved even when I numb myself
That I would be good even when I am overwhelmed
That I would be loved even when I was fuming
That I would be good even if I was clingy
That I would be good even if I lost sanity
That I would be good whether with or without you
So please pray that God guide is in the direction he will have us go, heal us on his own or lead us toward the doctors and treatments that can heal us, and that if he does, or if he doesn’t–that we both be good regardless. I want to be joyous and kind and encouraging and inspiring and giving always. I want to emanate God’s love no matter the ailment or suffering I have in my own life.