Diagnosed with gallstones: Changing my diet didn’t help (at first)

3 May

Following my diagnosis in mid-November, I changed my diet pretty drastically. I did a lot of research on the Interwebs and talked with a friend who had also been diagnosed with gallstones. She had met with a surgeon and was considering surgery, but her symptoms went away and never came back. She drank a lot of apple juice, which sounded like a good idea to me.

My symptoms continued to wax and wane. During one of my first days at work, my boss took me out to lunch. I ordered a pasta dish and forgot to ask if it was prepared with butter or olive oil. Given the discomfort I felt afterwards, my guess is that it was prepared with butter. I was able to finish the day at work, but felt frustrated with myself and this new condition that I was living with. I was still confident that I would come out on top, or maybe I was just in denial.

I cancelled Thanksgiving Day plans because of this lunch incident and because I didn’t want to be *that* person who asked: What is this made with (when looking at every dish)? I even had a great idea for a gluten-free dessert, which I ended up making and which wasn’t very tasty. Sigh.

I drank apple cider vinegar and read about liver flushes that you could do by at first fasting, or eating apples, and then drinking olive oil mixed with citrus (typically lemon juice). That didn’t sound appealing, quite honestly. I tried turmeric and milk thistle. I wasn’t eating any red meat or fried foods, and cut back on high-fat dairy, including cream in my coffee.

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Diagnosed with gallstones

6 Apr

This is the first in a series of posts on my recent diagnosis with gallstones. The post below covers my initial diagnosis and related denial about my health.

I had guacamole last month for the first time in a while. When my parents came to visit last Christmas, I had a few bites of chocolate, tried two of my mom’s french fries at dinner one night and also had some of the goat cheese in my salad one day. Avocado, chocolate, fried foods and cheese – these things are forbidden items in my diet these days, thanks to a diagnosis of gallstones, several bad attacks last November and a short hospital stay in mid-December.

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Nip/Tuck, discovered with Glee

27 Jan

Nip/Tuck, the TV series

Slightly more than one decade after its debut, I am finally watching “Nip/Tuck,” the FX show about two plastic surgeons in Miami. I’m not really sure why it took me so long or why I wasn’t interested in 2003, but it was worth the wait. Oh, Ryan Murphy – you’re a devil-ish little genius. And I love love the cameos and bigger roles for actors and actresses that end up in “Glee,” too.

Principal Figgins was in the episodes I watched last night, and Coach Beiste had a small cameo. Jessalyn Gilsig, who played Will Schuester’s first wife, Terri, on “Glee” has a meaty role and appeared in five seasons. Her character is a tough one to like, not unlike her role on “Glee” but a lot nastier, in a constant way.

 

I also have newfound respect for Bradley Cooper, who plays an egomaniacal young actor on the fictitious “Hearts and Scalpels.” He seems like he had so much fun with this silly role, and I’d love to see him do something similar. His scenes on the show have been among the funniest I’ve watched in the series.

The guest stars on the series are a never-ending surprise, too: Alec Baldwin, Famke Janssen, Vanessa Redgrave, Jill Clayburgh, Sharon Gless, Rosie O’Donnell, Oliver Platt and the actress who played an NYU reporter in the “Seinfeld” episode that led to Jerry and George being outed (though they were never “in”).  One disclaimer, if you’re not familiar with Murphy’s work, the show is not for the faint of heart. I look away often during the surgery scenes; the show won several awards for outstanding makeup (both prosthetic and non).

 

Distractions at the movies

20 Jan

I’m amazed that no one has yet created a popcorn container for the movies that doesn’t make any noise. You know what I’m talking about – you’re at the moviePopcorns, watching an intense scene or trying to pay attention to cerebral dialogue, and the person in front of you grabs the paper bag of popcorn, crinkles it, grabs some popcorn, puts it down (hit repeat, repeatedly).  I know that I’m easily distracted, but I’m pretty sure that lots of people would applaud this invention.

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Strong female characters, swimmers: Olivia Pope, Stella Gibson and (well) me

19 Nov

Kerry Washington swims in Scandal

I got into “Scandal” earlier this year. I’d held off … most likely because I find smart and even sometimes soap opera-y TV shows to be quite addictive, and I was trying to limit my viewing.

With Netflix streaming and other online services, it is easy enough to burn through a short season in a long weekend, too. So after burning through “House of Cards” and reading articles about the trend to cover D.C., I started watching “Scandal,” catching up on the first two seasons shortly before the third season kicked off. I was intrigued by the detail that Olivia, played by Kerry Washington, is a swimmer.  She swims laps on occasion to blow off steam and stress, while retaining her stylish ways.

I am no Olivia Pope, but I grew up swimming, was a lifeguard and taught swimming lessons while in high school and part of college. I recently got back into swimming more seriously for two long-distance events, Park to Park, and Swim Across America, a two mile swim, which was a new record and challenge for me. I was part of Team Ben Towne Foundation, raising money for pediatric cancer research.

I really love to swim, even when doing the crawl for two miles in a lake feels like it takes three hours and my arms feel like lead weights. In reality, it took one hour, 21 minutes. And I think it will feel even better next year.

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Midwestern kindness

20 Oct

Tracey, Mary & Cindy

hi mary! it was real nice to see u at the reunion the other night. u were always a nice person to me in high school and still are a nice person now! take care and i hope to see u before the next 10 years pass!

I traveled home, to the Midwest, twice in August. The first time was primarily to visit my parents. Last Christmas, we talked about going on a trip together and couldn’t quite make that work (cruise to Alaska, Montreal). And then we both thought at the same time: Why not come home? I hadn’t been home in several years, since my parents now visit every Christmas.

I was looking forward to the trip. I still have close friends who live in Northwest Indiana (AKA The Region). Band of Horses was playing a show in Chicago and I managed to snag tickets before the show sold out.

My parents always spoil me when I’m home. My dad gives me money when I go out with my friends, and when I leave. My mom offers to do my laundry, which I never really need to have done during these short trips home. They let me sleep in and I take walks around the neighborhood with my mom.

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Don’t move, don’t breathe. Don’t move, don’t breathe.

28 Jul

Medical bracelet

Those commands can be jarring and, of course, constricting. It’s what the technician says when you’re getting a mammogram. If I move, will something else show up on the film? If I breathe, will that appear as something abnormal on the test?

While waiting for my results, I heard the technician in the room next door offer similar instructions to her patient. It was probably the woman in the yellow sweat pants and shoulder-length blonde hair. She’d been accompanied by her boyfriend or husband. I was among a handful of women, all of us white except for a woman rescheduling an appointment, at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance that day.

It had been two years since my last mammogram. Yes, that is a confession and I was raised Catholic. I was overdue, I know. But the last time I went, my visit was so traumatic and I still felt a bit scarred, and anxious. I needed a biopsy, which was incredibly stressful. And research that I’d read (and helped to promote by Dr. Joann Elmore of the Univ. of Washington) about false positive exams and the toll that can take … well, I was living it two years ago.

I felt a heaviness in my left breast in the days leading up to this appointment. That’s the one that has a small titanium rod in it, following the biopsy. Writing that makes me want to sing, of course: I’m bullet-proof, nothing to lose, fire away, fire away. I then started thinking that I might be mentally causing some malignancy by having these negative thoughts. The power of positive thinking, it’s important, experts say.

When I booked an appointment, I had the option of immediate results or waiting for them to be mailed. I grabbed the first option, not wanting to go through what I’d experienced before. If something was up, let’s discuss it and keep moving forward.

The technician was great. We talked about traffic on the way to work. Mine was easy, given that I lived right down the street, and even if there was a slow-moving truck in front of me. She had a drive that took more than one hour. I wore a dress to my appointment, not the best choice given the gown you have to change into. She helped me keep mostly covered up in my exposed state. It was just us girls in the room, any way. Right arm out first, and then left, and then repeat for side views. Don’t move, don’t breathe. I asked her how things looked. She said the slides looked the same as the last time I was there (a positive, I thought).

She asked if I wanted something to drink, water, after the screening was finished. I said that water would be great. I needed to stay in my robe and not change back into my clothes, she said, because the radiologist might want more pictures. The water never arrived. My magazine options were US Magazine and a cancer care and research journal. I stayed away from the latter, remembering how I made myself a little crazy the last time by reviewing my medical chart.

The technician knocked on my door and very formally announced my name. It was the same woman who had helped me the day of my biopsy two years ago. She said my slides looked fine, and I could come back in one year. I told her we’d met before, the last time I was at the center. She looked in my chart and said oh, yes, I see my signature here. Of course she’s seen a million patients. But I remember her helping me get through that difficult day. And I was grateful that she delivered the good news this week, too.

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