Whole30: Day 1: I made mayo & it tastes like mayo!

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Day 1 went way better than expected! I woke up and immediately worried about the day. My main concern? How in the world I was going to wake up without my sugar and dairy infused coffee….

I am pleased to admit that I didn’t cheat at all! I forced myself to eat three (yummy) meals and think outside of the box for a snack while dinner cooked. My meals are below (I was too hungry at snack time to take pictures).

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Meal 1: Three fried eggs in olive oil with strawberries and blueberries. Coffee with pre-blended almond milk and coconut milk. Water with lemon.
Meal 2: Baby spinach and arugula salad with tomatoes, broccoli, almonds, and tuna. Dressing was olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper.

Meal 3: Grass-fed sirloin beef roast with roasted sweet potatoes and carrots (tossed with olive oil, thyme and rosemary).
Snack: Strawberries and fresh almond butter (I was dying for a PB&J.)

Lessons learned:
1. I hate pre-blended coconut milk and almond milk…. I never truly woke up.
2. I read the right portion of eggs is the number you can hold in one hand. I can hold three. I cannot eat three.
3. Almond butter is amazing!
4. You really need to plan ahead. I was attempting to make ranch dressing; however, I didn’t fully read the recipe. I had to MAKE mayo first. Yes, you read that right.
5. My homemade mayo actually tastes like mayo!! Who knew I was capable of making such a thing!?!

Overall feelings: No real change yet, but I am more excited for tomorrow than I was about day 1!!

Whole30: Skepticism

2 Mar

Tomorrow I will kick off my run at Whole30, a nutritional reset to remove sugar, dairy, grains, legumes and alcohol from my diet. Frankly, I cannot believe I have the guts to even think about doing this, but here it goes!

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After seeing a friend’s Facebook post raving how great she felt after completing her thirty days, I just knew I had to try it too. I went straight to Amazon.com and ordered my copy of It Starts With Food. Equipped with the book, it Starts With Food Cookbook and Paleo for Beginners, I settled in for some very interesting reading.

Whole30 claims to significantly improve diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, acne, eczema, psoriasis, chronic fatigue, asthma, sinus infections, allergies, migraines, acid reflux, Crohn’s, celiac disease, IBS, bipolar disorder, depression, Lyme disease, endometriosis, PCOS, autism, fibromyalgia, ADHD, hyperthyroidism, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.

There are four food “rules”. If a food violates even one rule, it must be eliminated.
1: Promotes a healthy psychological response.
2. Promotes a healthy hormonal response.
3. Supports a healthy gut.
4. Supports immune function and minimize inflammation.

To say I am a skeptic doesn’t even begin to summarize my feelings…. I suffer from ten out of the above list; however, one illness is at the top of my list. Recently, my Crohn’s Disease was classified as being in remission. But before you say a loud cheer for me, I have to admit that it has not been all it’s cracked up to be. Through the amazing medical care I am under, I was able to test negatively for active Crohn’s. However, quite a few of my symptoms will just not go away!! It has been two months since my classification, you would think remission would be amazing by now. This leads me to wonder if it is what I fill my plate with. Could the last “step” of living with inactive Crohn’s be to change my relationship with food?

To say I’m willing to work on my food relationship is an understatement. I am not convinced it will work, but I am willing to try!

My girlfriend and I headed to The Fresh Market this evening to prepare for tomorrow’s kick-off. Do you think we loaded our grocery carts with enough to get through a week? :)

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We each purchased one “illegal” item to indulge in tonight. Oops…

Cheers to thirty days for a lasting lifestyle change and healing.

Unknown strength to change.

10 Nov

Habits, according to Merriam-Webster, are acquired modes of behavior that have become nearly or completely involuntary.  Some can be deemed good habits, some bad.  Some easy to break, some ingrained in us forever.  Each one of our now intrinsic routines can be mapped back to both positive and negative experiences in our past, each experience shaping our behavior, our outlook.  Time passing only further solidifies our actions, and our justifications for our mindset.  Just like Webster said, these actions essentially move beyond our control, we act without conviction or thought.

As I enter a new phase of my life, I move past my soul-searching mindset to self-identification.  I don’t mean identifying who I am as an individual.  I mean understanding the base of my soul, the base of my heart, to identify the very foundation of how I react and more importantly, the why.  Self realization is a funny beast though.  Without the help from someone other than myself, I’m not sure I even posses the ability to consciously library my habits, both good and bad.  I’m not sure if anyone has the ability to do this on their own…

I am lucky to have an open and honest support group around me.  Not only do they point out my strengths, but they also deliver my weaknesses to my attention.  Thankfully, the serving platter is usually delicately etched.  However, even on the most carefully planned approach, self-identification doesn’t always come with a sugar-coating making the pill easier to swallow.  I think we have all felt that gut-wrenching bottomless pit of guilt that can quickly move right into our hearts when we realize our faults, especially when we come to find we have hurt someone we hold dear.  However, if we take the opportunity to show our weakness to ourselves, really unveil it, and not only catalog it but work to understand its origin, we can morph our bad behavior into new and positive reactions.  After all, we cannot change anyone other than ourselves.

I recently found myself in a situation that allowed me to play the other side of the exchange, and though I cannot claim my actions as smooth or graceful, I was truly blessed to see and feel both sides of the issue.  In finding the courage to initiate and follow through on a hard conversation, I found the courage to practice a new approach myself!

As a child who grew up in a deceptive and unsound environment, my inherent gut-reaction is to shut down, crawl into myself and walk away.  As much as I am uncomfortable saying this, it was not instilled within me to stand up tall, take a deep breath and face a situation head-on. Although I have had moments of brilliance in my past, it has not been my normal response to stressful or unstable situations.  The instinctive walls to my heart would have been immediately built and my true emotions barricaded.

This time, something was different.  After the walls were already built and my arms were already crossed, somehow the walls crumbled away and I opened my arms up with trust.  Trust that an apology was sincere.  Trust that we would never again find ourselves in the same situation.  Still at a loss for what was so different, I look back on this moment in awe of myself.  Where did this strength come from, what made me so courageous?  How did I let go of the pain and distrust so easily?  How did I change my actions and reactions so quickly and easily?  How do I have so much faith in my decision to open my arms instead of crossing them even tighter and turning away?

I am not sure I’ll ever truly understand this moment.  However, I am somehow more at peace with myself over letting go of past pain – realizing that I was not in the same environment as I was in my past.  I have faith it was the right way to move forward, and I am thankful for whoever or whatever gave me the strength to change my own ways.

The beginning of Fall 2013 – Season of Self-Reflection;

25 Sep

As I swap out my flip-flops and rhinestone encrusted starfish earrings for tweed chucks and lightweight scarves, I am finally ready to admit that fall is here!! And with the change of season, comes the inevitable kick-off to my season of self-reflection…;

Change.  The concept has recently been weighing on me, and today, I finally found the words to say what has been on my mind.  Change is always upon us, around us, within us.  Some changes we have asked for.  Some changes are welcomed and exciting.  New beginnings.  Some change comes as a pleasant surprise, allowing us to embrace it easily.  While other change is difficult, painful, unavoidable.  Change can be scary to those of us who are type-A people, who haven’t planned for it and are not ready for it.  Regardless of the type of change we are facing today, tomorrow or have faced yesterday we can learn from it;

As fall opens up to us, I open my heart and soul for inspection.  “What have I been through over the last year” usually turns into “what have I been through over my life time”.   This year is no different.  So here I am, staring down the barrel of my life’s events, good, bad and indifferent.  And I am seeing a lot of twists and turns over the journey so far…;

I realize that not all responsibility for change rests on my shoulders.  I also realize that a great deal of growing, learning and reflection has ultimately happened due to the changes in my life.  While we may be painfully falling down in the trenches of life, I have realized that there is always an opportunity to learn from it.  I have also realized that sometimes we are merely an instrument in a life lesson – sometimes our own, sometimes in someone else’s.  I am pleased as I reflect on the last year of my life (with the other 28 years in shadow) and can say that I have been learning and growing along my journey and through the stories of others;

I am not done with my season of reflection; this is only the beginning and the leaves have yet to fall..;

Letting Go: May’s Motto

1 May

Happy May Day!  How did you celebrate?  Did you dance around the maypole?  Construct crowns out of flowers?  Or play hookie in honor of the once honored holiday?  I spent a good bit of the day in self-reflection, a tradition of mine as I near my birthday.  I have had an incredible urge to lighten the load on my shoulders recently, and today seemed like the perfect day to finally talk about it.

Over the past few months I have struggled to understand my difficulty in bouncing back from this winter’s health complications which have left me in a funk.  This is grossly out of character for me as I could sleep off a morning attack and pull myself together in less than 8 hours to dance the night away with my friends in college.  Now, I am still picking up the pieces and adjusting to new medication, sleeping habits and food limitations.  OK, Litz, stop. right. there!  Did I seriously just compare my almost 29-year-old self to my 19-year-old college self?  At least I’m laughing at myself over that one…

It wasn’t until recently that I realized I was trying to bounce back to the person I once was, sometimes many years ago.  While focusing on finding remission, I lost sight of the rest of myself.  I forgot to allow myself to mature and change.  I forgot to embrace who I am today – live in the moment.  I found myself held back by who I was in the past, and I never saw it happen.

Don’t get the wrong idea, it is not as if I am some crazy hoarder, buried alive by every piece of trash from my past (I may have watched a few too many episodes of Hoarders recently).  I simply forgot to take out the trash spiritually.  Oh, and it wasn’t a wasted effort either.  I am, for the most part, in remission! THANK GOD!  Now, if I could just get through the trigger experimental phase, I just might be able to find it completely… and dare I say it… stay there!?

Issue: Known.  Cause: Found.  Solution: On the way.

It is time to let go.  Let go of who I was to make room for who I am, who I can be.  Let go of the hurt in my life and allow the positive to replace it.  Let go of what has been for what could be.  What do you need to let go of?  My list is long, I have my work cut out for me, but I am excited for this new Journey to Find Litz.

Biologics for Crohnologics: Meet Humira

1 Feb

Trial and error. Guinea pig. Game of darts. Playing blindfolded. Pincushion. Russian roulette…. All incredibly unfair statements, but this is how treating a Crohn’s flare honestly makes me feel. Let the record know, I have an amazing doctor, and I am great hands with him.. but the reality is.. Crohn’s has a mind of its own, making it difficult to keep up with – not just for the patient, but for the doctors as well. Every patient’s illness is different, with different symptoms in different locations, which progresses at different rates on a path of its own. Also let the record show, there is no cure for this illness – so managing systems is the only thing a doctor can do you for you. There is no fixing, solving or curing going on. Just alleviating symptoms, in order or medical priority – which of course, also seems to change as a patient’s illness morphs – on its on schedule…

So.. it has become evident that my existing treatment, Remicade, has reached is expiration date. An expiration date that came way earlier than hoped… just shy of one full year. Apparently, I developed antibodies that “block” the medication from being absorbed correctly, or doing the job correctly. (I’m not in the medical field, and sometimes, I will use my own language because that is what I understand, so hang in there with me here…) Anyway, it stopped working….

My doctor had wanted to try one last “blast” of the Remicade, but after seeing me 5 minutes before the infusion, and the level of pain I was in – I decided to decline the final IV. My doctor and nurses all supported this decision and immediately went to work on plan B… Plan B, that wasn’t there a year ago for me (from my understanding). Thankfully, the year on Remicade bought me a little time for the market to introduce more options for my case. Let me specify more FDA-approved options. Don’t you dare hop on Google and search treatment for Crohn’s to prove me an idiot here – don’t forget, everyone’s illness is different so this is not prescriptive like the flu where everyone gets the same treatment regime. I’ll take a win where I can get it.

So, meet, Humira. Humira is another biologic drug, which means it targets specific parts of an overactive immune system to reduce inflammation. This one in an injection versus an IV like Remicade. This one became a good option for me (not originally ideal) because of the joint pain I have in addition to the “traditional” Crohn’s flares, fistulas and fissures. I also found out that most Crohns patients are required to start with Remicade (I do not know why).

This is one of the trainer pens they sent me (plus the actual first injection injection training with my infusion nurses)… Kinda like an epipen…

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Steps are pretty easy… ice your leg/abdomen for roughly 20 mins, take off grey #1 cap, keep flush on skin, do not move pen, take off maroon #2 cap, plunge maroon button, keep flush on your skin for at least 10 seconds, check the little mushroom key-hole. Once window is yellow and line stops moving, remove, (do not wipe blood as you’ll remove medicine), add band-aid and ice for rest of day to keep welts and allergic reactions (expected) down.

So, I packed up my cooler with 4 of these suckers and headed off to my infusion center last Friday. (You are not allowed to give yourself your first round as they apparently need to legally give you training and also monitor you for major reactions during your first shots.) I thought I was ready for an easy 10 minute visit… yea right…

My faithful infusion nurse gave me the first one after icing down my legs… oh my Lord, I was not ready for that. Now, being a Crohn’s patient, I’m used to needles, sticks, bad sticks, giving blood, IVs, bad IVs, giving myself B12 shots… yea, nothing was going to prepare me for 10 seconds of this. I know, you are thinking – Litz, its’s TEN SECONDS, MOVE ON. It was like being stung by a hive full of bees and not being able to run away from it. Then, I had to give MYSELF THREE MORE OF THESE THINGS! I’m really not one to show too much emotion in public, and being a Crohn’s patient, we generally have a fairly high tolerance for pain… but these actually took my breath away. My poor nurse wanted me to slow down, but I just wanted to PLOW through these and get them over and done with…. But at least they were done and KNOCK ON WOOD, I’ll never have to do 4 injections again!! :) Since I did have some welts they needed to watch me for breathing issues for a little while, so I did win a consolation prize of some hot tea and more ice – score.

HINT TO ANYONE STARTING HUMIRA: My nurses advised me to NEVER inject in the abdomen as it will be even worse there.

Image(Top Left: My first delivery of Humira, yes it comes to you house and lives in your fridge, Top Right: My cooler packed with first 4x shots/pens, Bottom Left: Icing down the reaction, Bottom Right: hot tea consolation prize).

I don’t know yet if this will work for me, I heard it can take up to 3 months to work (lord help me if it seriously takes that long…), but I’m trying to stay optimistic that this will help me find remission. I will take shots every other week until I find out, though! Now that the first 4x are done (THANK GOD), I go down to 2x (once), and then the plan is to give myself 1x shot every other week. I’m told these will get easier – here is is to hoping!

But I’m not off the hook tomorrow completely, it is still a shot day for me :( Its B12 day for me. This is an easy one, and one I’ve been doing for over a year now. All set up and ready to go for the morning – love these ones! Helps with energy, so maybe it’ll be a good Friday! :)

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Worse than Hallelujah – honestly…

15 Jan

It’s no surprise that I’ve found myself at a loss of words lately. After my trip to the ER two nights ago, I am again, left with an overwhelming sense of uncertainty in my life. Yes, it was a productive trip in that a new, additional diagnosis was made – which honestly comes with little to no comfort behind it. Although the news was not terminal, that I had zero support system beside me to reach out and hold my hand through it left me my own yet again to push through it “realistically”. Fuck. I am so exhausted of “being realistic”, “being the champ”, “being the inspiration”, “being the strongest person you know.” Let’s be clear here. I’m no one’s champ. I’m not strong now. And if I were an inspiration, it would be for what you should NOT to do, or feel or say…

My latest trip to the ER stared… Well truth be told, it was several weeks in the making, as my doctor deflected my repeated cries for help with honestly valid answers such as “it’s side effects of the extremely high dosage of prednisone”, “we tapered you too fast”, “you are going through withdrawal” etc. I can’t fault him. I was going through so much. This amazing man who I look up to (who is usually sarcastic to get you through the really hard days) has transitioned his care-taking strategy with me by now taking me by the hands and hugged me on more than one occasion over the last few months while I simply cry and break down at every single appointment for no reason at all.  Sure, it was obvious that the prednisone really was affecting me negatively. So I get his linkage and can’t even say he was deflecting my cries for help. He did encouraged me to use the pain management available to me. Telling me not to be worried about looking like an addict, I clearly needed it. But then when the call came in to him that I was bleeding, it was clear that the pills were to blame for slowing down my system a little too much… I just couldn’t win!

Anyway, my amazing dr stopped answering his cell this weekend, so I had to call the oncall DR this Saturday who was quick to simply put me on me on more prednisone. Ok. Great. He promised relief by morning. And guess what! I had relief… For the first time in almost 3 months I enjoyed my morning walk with the dog, I caffeinated up, ate and went to work decorating the craft nook and office walls!

Then the pain started to creep in and creep in some more. Shit.. Called the oncall DR again. He said to get to the ER, he had no advice. And click he was gone… Ok. Now it was time to try everything in my arsenal as the thought of the ER and another hospital admittance scared the living shit out me!  Out came the yoga mat, and some seriously earthy crunchy music. Nope. Ouch. Ballet stretches from my 15 years at the barre… Ouch. Hot bath.. The negative energy just intensified. Added Epsom salts. Stupid idea. Polish off the Dilaudid I had left (only 4mg) with some yummy hot tea, fluffy blanket, pillows and my entire petting zoo with music. Pain just got worse as the minutes ticked by.

Ok now that was all stupid . Now I am loopy and dizzy from drugs, it’s foggy and I need to get to the ER.. My pain has only intensified in the last 3 hours, and I am now in no shape to drive. Thankfully, a local friend agrees to take me with the promise he can drop me off at the door and avoid watching me fall apart inside.  Score.

Just as I expected, they immediately treated me as if I were a drug addict simply looking to score some pain meds for the night – even though I clearly had a bag packed with me ready to be admitted to the hospital.  I took my begging for a bucket to throw up into it, and bleeding out of the IV they started to take blood samples.  Don’t forget, they don’t actually GIVE drug addicts the drugs they so crave… So I was left with a dangling IV starter dripping blood all over me and my bed… awesome. .. I’ll spare you the real image… 3 hours later, a doctor finally comes in who seems to get it.  She states that my inflammation levels are indeed all over the charts as are other markers, so an IV is finally started – drains almost immediately.  Clearly I was dehydrated – couldn’t they have figured that one out by all the water I was asking for?  40MG of Prednisone administered moving me up to my dreaded 60MG (I’ll get into this within a different post).  Finally in comes the Dilaudid and anti-nausea meds.  Neither work.  They inject me 2 more times with Dilaudid… STILL NO RELIEF. You have to be kidding me.  I’m trying to walk around, trying to do stretches, crying… the nurses keep looking at me like I’m an idiot… I’m asking for them for recommendations to make the pain go away – they said to quit moving and lay still.  Oh sweet nurses, you have NO idea what this pain feels like!  Finally around 2am, the DR comes in and suggests a muscle relaxer.  I said OK – whatever you’ve got, I’m happy to try.  RELIEF!  I actually fell asleep sitting up!  It relieved the pressure around my joints enough to actually let the pain pills do their job!

They then checked me for the flu – since I was healthy, they decided the hospital was not a safe place for me (oh yes, then came a long lecture of why in the hell I would subject myself to the hospital during a flu epidemic… excuse me, did we not just go through HOURS worth of pain management trial and error and clearly my pain had risen from a 7.5 to a 15 in a matter of those hours?  Did they not see what had transpired in front of them?  Anyway, we agreed to send me home with all the medication they would have kept me on for a few days in the hospital… only guess what… she didn’t give me the one that was the key to it all… Valium, the muscle relaxer… honestly…

A dramatic taxi ride home (the taxi driver refused to take me to an ATM to get him cash then cussed me out in some language I do not know for not having cash when we got home – mind you after he drove past my house THREE TIMES, I eventually just got out of the taxi and said goodbye and walked home). I was finally home…

Then, onto the radio comes Amy Grant’s, Better than a Hallelujah… you have GOT to be kidding me…

“We pour out of miseries, God just hears a melody, beautiful, the mess we are.  The honest cries of broken hearts are better than a Hallelujah.”… Well… I guess God must just LOVE Crohn’s patients, because we sure are NOT out rejoicing.  We sure do give Him some pretty awesome melodies of miseries… Hope he enjoyed this one… Because I wasn’t enjoying singing this song.

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