The Strength of the Weak

I made the mistake of scheduling two doctors’ appointments on the same day. It happened because I had to go back for a follow up with my gynecologist for the lichen schlerosus. I scheduled that for after work, but didn’t realize at the time that I also had a mid-day appointment with my oncologist. I figured it would all be fine, although my oncologist is notoriously (and ridiculously) late every appointment. As it turns out, both doctors were really behind schedule and I spent 3 hours and 20 minutes just sitting — either in a waiting room or the exam room.

Both appointments, I am happy to say, went well.  First, my labs, tumor markers, vitals and physical exam were all perfect. Second, although they were ready to do a biopsy, with all equipment neatly laid out in the exam room, my lichen schlerosus has really cleared up (almost gone). I credit the frankincense, as I saw more improvements when I started using that than I did with the steroid cream.

*****

In other news, I am very excited (truly!) to start using estriol cream. Since the lichen sclerosus seems to be connected with low hormone levels, I was checking with my dear friend, Dr. Lisa, from Nowhere to Run. She indicated that she was using the estriol cream and recommended it for me.  I checked with a local doctor who specializes in treating hormone imbalances and he recommended it, saying it was low risk compared to taking other estrogens. My naturalist thought it was a great idea also.

I checked with my oncologist and, surprisingly, she said she thought it would be just fine to use. (I fully expected a “no” on this one, so it gave me a lot of comfort on the safety side when she said yes.)  My gynecologist was open to gathering more information, which he did, and today his office called to say my Rx was called in.

To give you a little background, estriol is highly recommended by Suzanne Somers (she swears by it in terms of safety, health restoration, and vitality). One of her doctors, Jonathan Wright, has done a lot of work and research on estriol.  It is the weakest of the three estrogens and was previously thought to be of no use to the medical community.  They are finding, however, that “it’s weakness is it’s strength” in that you get the benefits of an estrogen (relief of menopausal symptoms, improvements in vaginal dryness/atrophy, cardio health, bone density improvements, etc.), without the increased risk of hormone-dependent cancers.  It’s even been linked to improvements with MS.  Check out the above link for more information, if you are interested.

I’m so excited to be off work tomorrow so I can drive to the compounding center to pick up my estriol!

IMDb: The Strength of the Weak (1915)

Risk Factor

My employer has a website, powered by WebMD, that you can perform a health assessment, take various health challenges, and find recipes and other health information. In fact, they give employees a $150 check for taking the health assessment and performing 2 activities towards a healthier lifestyle. This includes things like smoking cessation, weight loss, exercise, eating so many fruits and vegetables a day for a period of time, and meeting with a health coach.

I had forgotten about the $150 until today so I logged on to my account to indicate that I completed my health challenges. While there, I read “Michele’s Condition Risk Report” for breast cancer and thought their six tips were worth sharing:

  1. Drink wisely.  Alcohol is a major risk factor for breast cancer. Even having one drink a day consistently can increase your risks slightly; drinking more than that can raise your risks substantially.  (Check. I might drink 1-2 a month; and rarely more than 1-2 drinks.)
  2. Get screened. Having a breast exam once a year by a health case professional will ensure that any changes to your breasts are detected early. It went on to specify mammograms, but I’m really on the fence there. I wouldn’t say don’t get them, but I’m not convinced they help — and they may actually cause harm. (But I can still say “check” on this one since I do have the site of my former breasts examined on a regular basis by several doctors.)
  3. Adopt an exercise habit. Moderate exercise reduces your risk. (Um. Check? Not sure if 30 minutes on the treadmill workstation at work counts as moderate… I was doing yoga for a while and need to get back to that.  I’ll give myself a 1/4 point here.)
  4. Stick to a healthy weight. Extra pounds have been linked to higher rates of breast cancer. (Ok, only a 1/2 point on this one. While I’m certainly not horribly overweight, the summer has not been kind to me. Five pounds gained on vacation back in June are refusing to depart, and then there’s the additional 5 I wanted to lose. But still working on this.)
  5. Eat plants. A diet rich in the antioxidants and fiber found in veggies and fruits may lower your risk of cancer. This was my favorite!!  I was so happy to see this on the list.  I thought the word “may” watered it down a bit, but I was still excited!  (BIG check on this one!)
  6. Stay positive. Finding ways to manage stress will boost your immune system, increase your well-being, and may ward off cancer. (While some days are easier than others, I think I’ll give myself a check on this one also!)

So how did you score?

IMDb: Risk Factor (2015)

The Toxic Avenger

My naturalist often talks to me about xenoestrogens. I understood these to be “fake” estrogens that mimic the real estrogen that your body makes.  Much of the xenoestrogen that your body picks up is from processed and hormone-laden foods, as well as from the environment. I found this list of xenoestrogens to avoid. It’s one of the most comprehensive lists I have seen and it’s probably impossible to avoid these things 100%. In fact, I’m not sure I agree with everything on the list.

However, there are many easy steps you can take to minimize your exposure, like switch from plastic to glass storage containers, never microwave food in plastic, use quality / natural cosmetics, soaps, etc. Don’t use chemical air fresheners. Look for quality, organic, healthy alternatives for anything that goes on your skin.

It’s really important to reduce your exposure as much as possible. I do my best and when I learn something new, I try to implement. For example, I read an article a few weeks ago about Tide laundry detergent and all the bad chemicals in it (and most laundry detergents).  It never really occurred to me to look at what’s in in, because I have been a loyal Tide user pretty much my entire life. I remember my mom trying an alternate brand back when I was a youngster and both my Dad and I broke out in a rash, so it’s been Tide forever.

Now that I know I’m exposing myself to toxins, it’s time to try something different… Enter Molly’s Suds! Their mission statement: “Our company uses the purest of ingredients to formulate products without carcinogens or known human toxins. We strive to be good stewards of the Earth and give back to our community and those in need.”  Definitely check out their story. It’s inspiring, and a it bit scary.

I ordered their laundry detergent and started using it this past week. It’s great knowing that I am not absorbing chemical residue from my clothing, and that my family is safe from toxins on their clothes as well. But as a side benefit, my clothes just seem softer and my towels fluffier. I’m not sure if it’s just my imagination, but I’m pretty excited just the same!

In case you are wondering why it’s so important to avoid xenoestrogens, read this article. It gives a great description of xenoestrogens and how they contribute to breast cancer, as well as other cancers. The article also talks about why it’s so important to try to be at a healthy weight. Personally, I know my risks went up when my weight went up, and I paid no attention to what I ate (non-organic, processed crap), or what I put on my skin. I didn’t think about the quality of the water I drank or the risk of taking any kind of prescription medication, including birth control and antibiotics. I used all sorts of toxic cleaning solutions, deodorants with chemicals, and sunscreens that heated chemicals into my skin. To paraphrase Maya Angelou: I know better now, so I do better.

Be mindful of what goes into your body.

IMDb: The Toxic Avenger (1984)

 

Forever, Darling

Despite asking for a copy of my CT scan report, I never did receive it. I thought about calling the imaging facility a few times but, unfortunately, I never thought of it at a time they were actually open. My paranoid brain said “there must be something wrong… why didn’t they want me to see it?”  My more rational brain said “no news is good news… surely if something was wrong, they would have called by now.” And since my blood work was perfect — everything in normal range — that led me to believe all was ok. It has been 7 years since I had my partial nephrectomy (8/13/2008) but I still hold my breath a little waiting for the results.

So at 7:30 this morning, I got to confirm what I was already hoping for — the results were excellent! The images showed “an almost perfect picture of what kidneys should look like”. Not even a kidney stone in sight! In fact the report talks mostly about all the things that aren’t there… no alveolar infiltrates in the lungs. No hepatic, splenic, renal, adrenal or pancreatic masses (the best news, of course!). No gallstones. No pathologically enlarged para-aortic lymph nodes (whatever that means). No intestinal obstructer, appendicitis, or diverticulitis. The only things of note: multiple small cysts in the right ovary (no surprise there) and “fatty infiltration of the liver”. I suspect the latter is related to my former diet and hope to see improvements in that over time. It was certainly nothing the doctor was worried about. And with my cholesterol and triglycerides in great shape, I’m not worried either.

More good news from the doctor:  He thinks this was my last CT scan.  He said I can do an MRI (with blood work and chest x-ray) next year and then switch to just ultrasounds after that. Yea! No more radiation!  I asked how long he would continue follow ups on me and he said “forever”. (Ok, he didn’t say “darling”, but I liked the title anyway!) I take comfort in having him check each year, but I thought at maybe 10 years or so, he would cut me loose!

*****

I haven’t posted any recipes lately, so here are a few new ones:

Crispy Quinoa Cakes from Oh She Glows – These were quite tasty and I loved the texture. Instead of over a salad, we ate these as wraps — whole wheat tortillas, fresh spinach and tomato, and a bit of organic ranch dressing. I’m sure there are other vegan dressings that can be used instead. I served these with a side of corn on the cob. A nice light summer supper. And the best part, the sweet potato (which my husband detests) was so well hidden, he didn’t even notice. I really need to learn to take pictures, but you can see there on Angela’s site.

Also from Oh She Glows, Falafel with a Twist. I enjoyed the taste of these, although they weren’t quite as yummy as the falafel I order at my favorite Lebanese restaurant. These, I did serve over a salad and I think my boys were a little shocked that this was “it” for dinner. I have to admit I preferred the quinoa cakes over the falafel, which ended up being a little too oily for me, since fried. I think I will try to bake them next time instead.

Not a recipe per se, but a college friend of mine, the 40 year old vegan, (be sure to check out her site for more great recipes!), wrote about using Field Roast sausage to have an old fashioned sausage and peppers sandwich. I had never heard of Field Roast, so I was sure to look for them on my next trip to Wegman’s. I found them in the frozen foods’ case in the healthy section of the store. I purchased Mexican Chipotle, which was great if you like spicy. These had a quite a kick, but we all enjoyed these with a hefty servings of grilled onions and red peppers on a whole grain roll. I also bought the Smoked Apple Sage. Ethan ate one and didn’t seem to mind it; David said it wasn’t as good as the chipotle. But if you were ever a meat eater and are looking for a familiar taste, definitely check these out. This week’s grocery order including the Italian flavored sausage, which I think will be awesome, and their hot dogs. I’ll let you know!

IMDb: Forever, Darling (1956)

Weird Science

A few weeks ago, at my annual gynecologist appointment, I was diagnosed with a skin condition called “lichen sclerosus“. Considering the type of doctor, I’ll let you guess where this and will save the gory details. You can click on the link above if you are interested in more information.  This is not something I had ever heard of (if there’s something weird you can get, you can be sure I will get it), but my doctor explained that it occurs mostly in menopausal women and they surmise that it is due to low hormone levels. (Your hormones are important for SO many things… It’s things like this that make me happy I stopped taking the Femara, which made all my hormone levels about “zero”.)

At my appointment, and given my history, my doctor asked if I wanted him to do a biopsy…?!?!?  Hell, no!!!  I didn’t even have to think about this. Just the shot to numb the area would be unpleasant enough, as he admitted.  For some reason, the concern that it was something cancerous was only fleeting, and he seemed pretty confident that it was not cancer — having seen this before, obviously — so I was not ready to jump into the biopsy game.

So, wonderful man that he is, he agreed to first treat me with a steroidal cream for 4 weeks, and I have to go back to have it checked.  If not better, he will do a biopsy then. Oh yea. The good news is that I am noticing a big difference, so hopefully it’s all better by the time the appointment comes around. I don’t even want to think about a biopsy “there”.

I’ve also started using coconut oil and frankincense essential oil to help things along, after reading this article. Quite honestly, I’m inclined to think the frankincense is more responsible for the improvements, rather than the steroid cream.

*****

This past week was my quarterly appointment with my naturalist and she saw some things that could definitely be contributing to the lichen schlerosus, as well as to my sleep issues and my reduced energy levels. Here I was thinking it was all stress related, but “lead” came up as a key issue. As in “get the lead out”. We don’t tend to think of all the lead in our environment (from a variety of sources), or heavy metals in general, but they are there, and they are often the little mysteries of why we don’t feel well.

The lead can contribute to an overgrowth of yeast, which may then also contribute to the lichen sclerosus. So to detox from the lead, I’ll be taking Milk Thistle; to detox the yeast, I’ll be taking a Cancordistat homeopathic remedy. My estrogen levels were indeed low, so I’ll be adding Red Raspberry Blend to my daily regime of herbal hormones. (For the record, I thought this would taste yummy, but bleh…not so much.) I will also take Thyrodine to strengthen my thyroid after my CT scan from a few weeks ago, L-Lysine to help heal my skin, and Red Beet Root for energy. All of these new things are temporary (one month) until I’m back to normal.

As a reminder, if you have any exposure to radiation (airport security, x-rays, etc.), take an epsom salt and baking soda bath (enough salt to “float” in, and for 20 minutes), to help detox your body and protect your thyroid. I neglected to do this after my last CT scan, but I did it as soon as I got home from my naturalist appointment!

Next up… results of the CT scan tomorrow…

*****

IMDb: Weird Science (1985)

Braveheart

I mentioned yesterday that I was in Connecticut for a few days. I was actually quite privileged to have the opportunity to be part of a panel discussion on healthy eating. The panel consisted of a nutritionist, one of my colleagues who eats extremely well (and is quite passionate about the topic), and me. The nutritionist gave guidelines for a healthy diet; my colleague and shared our personal stories on what led us to our respective ways of eating, along with how we try to make it work in busy lives. There was then a question and answer period where we answered prepared questions, as well as questions from the audience.

I am proud to work for a company that supports and encourages healthy behaviors. The event was very well received, with a lot of great questions. It was great to be able to share my story and to possibly inspire people to take control of their health through a healthy diet. Even if only one person walked away and made changes, it will have been worth the trip.

*****

Also while in Connecticut I had the opportunity to meet with two amazing and strong women who are currently dealing with breast cancer. The first woman, someone I had never met before, has a second instance of breast cancer, but a different type. I have not heard of this situation before. The first cancer was ER positive and this time she is triple negative. What’s scary to me is that this lovely woman has done even more research, eaten a clean diet, and tried more alternative treatments than anyone I know. And yet, here she is, still fighting for survival a second time. Unfortunately, many of the alternative doctors reviewed in Suzanne Somers’ book, Knock Out, require quite a sum of money out of pocket, but she’s still looking into them. What a shame to have to remortgage your house and take loans from your 401(k) just to get alternative medical treatment, because insurance won’t cover it.

When I met with her, I was expecting to provide her comfort and advice, and instead, I was the one who benefited. She encouraged me to get back to juicing in a big way, to look into thermography, enzymes, ave ultra, and pectin. (I’ve got some homework to do!) She also strongly encouraged me to do the coffee enemas recommended as part of the Gerson Therapy. She swears by it, viewing this 20 minutes a day as her relaxation time. It’s supposed to help within detoxing your liver, but I don’t know if I’m quite brave enough for that. (You all will be the first to know if I do!  Although maybe TMI?) It’s been a while since I’ve been on the Gerson site, so it may be time to circle back to that. She also recommended Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

The second woman is someone I have known for several years. She is still dealing with the initial shock of her diagnosis and is trying to get a handle on the overwhelming amount of information that you have to take in. She has had a number of tests this past week and we are praying for good news that it’s early and an easy one to treat.

Both of these women called me on the same day last week and I was honored (although saddened) to be able to talk to them both. I appreciate your prayers for these brave women.

*****

Today I had the joy of another CT scan as part of my kidney follow ups. Yee haw. For the first time, I had to do oral contrast, in addition to the usual IV contrast. I wasn’t looking forward to this since my prior experience is that oral contrast is yucky and chalky. I was pleasantly surprised that the new and improved contrast is a bit like a thin milk shake. I had the enjoyment of a whopping 32 ounces (one bottle before I arrived, and another when I got there) of moccachino smoothie. The taste was good, but the bloating is not!

I tried to get some information on why my doctor requested the oral contrast, since I never had it before, but I couldn’t get an answer. Guess I’ll have to ask him when I see him next month.  I also had to stop eating 4 hours before — liquids only — so I got to eat lunch at 10:30 a.m. today.  Now I will just hold my breath until I get my results.

As a reminder — ALWAYS ask for a copy of any medical reports. a) It’s your right to know. b) You don’t have to wait for your doctor’s appointment, since it typically shows up in the mail first. c) You have a copy for your records. d) You have the opportunity to review it so you can ask questions!

IMDb: Braveheart (1995)

Time Flies

I can’t believe it’s been 43 days since I last blogged. I hate when life gets too busy to allow time for writing, as it is such a great outlet for me — and I love connecting with all of you. You all bring me such great energy! But even when I’m not physically writing, I’m still writing in my head.

The good news is that most of my busyness has been related to vacation time with family. It’s been a non-stop summer, to be sure, and I’m grateful for the opportunities we have had. The day after school ended we were offto New York City to see Billy Joel in concert at Madison Square Garden. He gave an amazing performance! While in NYC we got to see my stepdaughter for a bit, which was wonderful as well.

The following day we drove over to the NYC pier to get on the Norwegian Gem and we took a cruise to northeast: Halifax, Nova Scotia; Saint John, New Brunswick; and Portland, Maine were our ports of call. It was fun, relaxing, and even educational!

This was followed by a short work week, and the 4th of July celebrations, with a trip to western Pennsylvania to see family and friends. Then another short work week and five days in Minnesota–again to visit family.

All of the travel was great and fun…and a bit exhausting! And of course, it means I’m still digging out at work! I can’t really complain as we were blessed with great experiences and memories and time with loved ones, but now I need to get motivated again. This week had me spending two days in Connecticut for work… and I have to actually work five days in a row!  Whew! It’s been a whirlwind few months!

Speaking of busy… I now enter my busy period of medical stuff… Blood work. Chest X-ray. CT scan. Annual checkup with the dermatologist. Annual checkup with my urologist and my gynecologist. Quarterly appointment with my naturalist. And six month checkup with my oncologist. All within a few weeks. I wish they were a bit more spread out but it’s hard enough to coordinate things as it is, without trying to align things throughout the year. I will be sure to report back as I go.

The summer is flying by and before we know it, it will be time for school to start again. I’m still struggling with the fact that Ethan will be a freshman in high school and really wish time would slow down at least a little. They say time goes by faster as you get older… I must be ancient!  :)

*****

After talking to someone the other day about not really liking kale, I actually found a new recipe that I thought I would try. My neighbor gave me a big bag of home grown kale from their garden and I made The Best Shredded Kale Salad from Oh She Glows. And….It was awesome!! It made about 8 cups and I think I ate 6 cups of it. Ethan and David enjoyed it as well. I will definitely be making this again! The only modification I made was to not include the cranberries. I didn’t miss them, but I think it would be good with them included also. The trick with kale, it seems to me, is to finely chop it, and to let it sit in the dressing a bit to soften up (as I learned with this recipe). Enjoy!

*****

IMDb: Time Flies (1912)