The Juicer!

Here she is!

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It’s only been two days of juicing but, today I have not had my green juice yet and I can feel it! Today is green smoothie day but, I think I’ll have to find a way to juice and smoothie. Though, it takes a LOT of produce!

Today is stormy, cold, and I am feeling more pain and fatigue as a result. Perhaps it could be the Humira too? But, I’d like to think the juice would help the fatigue. On a related note, I have a black whisker that grows in on my chin randomly (very feminine, I know). This morning I tried to rip it out with tweezers but between my neck and hands it wasn’t happening. However, I am happy to report that after a hot shower I got the little sucker! RAD! I WIN!! It’s all in the little things!

Stay warm!

Exhale and Wait

My hair has felt really disgusting lately- very brittle and thin. And though I wouldn’t dare, I keep dreaming of cutting it all off. I woke up this morning, drank a big cup of green juice, coffee, and ate a small bowl of oatmeal. It was a cold morning so my joints complained and begged for a hot shower. Some days I wish I could just stay in the hot shower all day.

After showering, while drying my hair, I decided my hair needed attention. It’s a big day and I wanted my hair to feel better. Ironically, to make it feel better I have to burn it with a hair dryer and curling iron and use a smoothing finishing spray. The brittle and thin still exists but is camouflaged nicely. I put on a pretty blouse and jeans and climbed into my soft canvas shoes.

My husband, being the supportive and amazing man he is, insisted on accompanying me during his lunch hour to get the dreaded shot. Reading through the massive amount of materials Humira sends, talking to Humira and Curascript nurses, and reading online definitely creates anxiety. Side effects are constantly in your face- mild to dangerous infections, cancer risks, death, painful injections, and etc. (the commercials seem to haunt me!). This is all definitely not rad.

Today, I woke up less afraid and more anxious to have it behind me. I put in my mind that there is no way the injection is as awful as some have expressed. And thankfully it wasn’t! Though I shook and teared up as the shot was injected, it was surprisingly not bad. I had a flu shot years ago (when I believed in them) that was significantly worse. With the initial dose of methotrexate and each increase I shook and teared up as I swallowed the pills. But, like all things (including my hair) you just get used to the idea of weekly poisonings that oddly help. Thankfully, this will only be bi-weekly!

Thanks for all the support many of you have given me! It has been awesome!

Now, onto another waiting game…

Humira Injection Tomorrow

On November 14th, I waited all day. Daylight past, I grew worried, and with no audible car or knock at my door Humira appeared in a giant styrofoam box on my doorstep. The next day, I went to my rheumatologist’s office to learn from a nurse how to inject myself with the pre-filled syringes. I asked for the pens but apparently the syringes were prescribed (?). At that moment I decided it would be best for a nurse to do my injections for awhile. There is just something too weird for me about injecting myself. I had a perfect kitty that became diabetic that I gave insulin. Though that was not fun either. Rather, it was awful.

I also decided to wait until visiting relatives who came the week of thanksgiving were gone to try it. While I’m not horribly worried about side effects, it would be awful with visitors. Thanksgiving is a time to feast with loved ones not trying new meds! We definitely had lots of love and feasted until we nearly exploded! YUM!

Tomorrow is the big day. I’m not scared of needles or pain but, I am scared. Perhaps I’m fearful of it causing me harm, having to relying on something else, or being disappointed?

One day at a time.

Health, in my hands!

I didn’t realize it had been 22 days since my last post! Time escapes me lately. Though I have not been completely idle, I suppose I was in a bit of trance. Spending time at home has allowed me to see the lack of attention it has received. Our extra rooms were storage facilities for clutter, walls barren as if we just moved in, and kitchen/pantry organized to make cooking more complicated. Yep, I overdid it… multiple times and paid for it (sometimes heavily). But, each time I convinced myself it was worth it and did it again. Some days my brain is excellent at overcoming pain for positive results. It’s important to mention I enjoy home more and feel less anxiety. Less anxiety is rad!

The words of the homeopathic doctor stuck with me and I have made a serious and conscious effort to calm the hell down. Ironically, in what would become my final visit to his office, he inflicted great stress and the flight/fight response. Oh yes, the adrenaline was pumpin’! Yeah…

Lengthy story time!

It started similar to my previous appointment, a ridiculously long wait with a general feeling of uneasiness. Worse, the office heater went kaput! It has been super warm so far this fall however, this happened to be one of the colder days. My joints really don’t like the cold! My anxiousness stemmed from the results, which would be revealed, from my food sensitivity test and a “head to toe physical exam.” I was terrified that I would no longer be able to eat soy products. I’m a big fan of tofu and tempeh and many meals would feel sad without these nutritional and protein rich foods. I was also afraid of gluten intolerance. I LOVE bread and bready things. I was also terrified of the physical portion of my visit. That day was rough for most joints with my feet being the worst. Walking was a crunchy chore. Most of the time, the idea of being touched makes me cringe but, that day I was extra fearful.

Finally, my physical started with an EKG (no joke), a breath test, and some other sort of test which was so poorly explained I didn’t actually know what it was. I’m not even sure the kind young blonde woman who gave the test knew what it was. I laid half naked in a freezing room (no socks even!) on a chiropractor table while these tests were conducted. My husband kept the jokes rolling which balanced my nerves. However, my pain levels were still screeching.

Then I was moved to the doctor’s office where he would, after another long wait, give me a physical. It was freezing and the faucet was still dripping, as it was during my last visit, creating uncomfortable tension. My husband made more jokes. When the moment arrived for my physical I was not briefed or mentally prepared. The doctor started and worked head to toe shouting out different medical terms to his note-taker, the blonde woman who performed my previous tests. He harshly pushed, prodded, bent, and scoured my fragile body. I fought back tears and to my dismay broke down a few times. I am strong dammit! He looked at me with agitation each time and waited for me to compose myself while the blonde woman brought me tissues. Sadly, at no point during this did I feel the urge the beat the hell him. What the hell was he doing? Did he have a clue about RA? Clearly not. At one point, as he scoured my scalp, he shouted to the blonde “hair loss.” Uh yeah, ya think? I’m on CHEMO!!!

When the torture was over, I could not imagine things getting worse. The blonde woman gave me time to redress and later came in to discuss the food sensitivity test. She was nice, but clueless about nutrition and my results. I initially felt great relief when I scanned the paperwork and found soy was a mild intolerance. Gluten was entirely okay but baker’s yeast was not. No bread as I had expected. Then I looked at the 4-day rotation diet.

To give you an idea day 1 I could eat the following: white potato, black eyed peas, carrot, eggplant, green pepper, iceberg lettuce, tomato, banana, date, chick pea, caraway (had to Google it), chammomile, and chili pepper. I consider my husband and I to be very creative in the kitchen however, this was obviously created by someone who had no forethought about creating meals out of these foods.  I imagined just drinking banana and date shakes (without almond/soy milk?) for that day. The other days were either worse or equal and seemed entirely lacking important nutrition! With this diet I would waste away! I was too shocked from the physical to think clearly, respond, or ask questions. My husband was unusually quiet as well.

The doctor reviewed the results from the physical and strutted back into the room with news. “You have a thyroid problem,” he said with a serious tone continuing, “your symptoms are that you have a slightly enlarged thyroid, hair loss, cold extremities, and cold sweating.” If shock would have waned I would have completely lost it. I mean REALLY? Sweat: Fear/Pain/Anxiety inflicted by physical, Hair loss: Methotrexate (AKA CHEMO), Cold extremities: NO HEAT IN THE OFFICE! Never mind the fact that I brought in a full blood panel showing no abnormalities with thyroid. In fact, just the RA Factor showed abnormal which is the whole reason I went to this office in the first place. There was no mention of RA during my visit.

He then posed the question that I have feared to hear most of my life. He started, “Your vegan diet is very restrictive and is seriously lacking protein. This protein loss is causing you thyroid problems.” Uh, WHAT? Again, never mind my blood work which shows perfect protein levels. He continued, “You’re going to have to compromise your diet to be healthy.”

I’ll provide background information. First and foremost I am an animal (reptile, amphibian, bug, and you name it) admirer and lover. I was a vegetarian before I knew the word existed. Three years ago, after nearly being put on a statin for high cholesterol (and witnessing the terrible abuse of dairy animals), I went vegan. It took over two years for my cholesterol to come down. Now that is scary! Since being vegan I have not only lowered my cholesterol naturally, I have also lost weight, improved energy levels, and have smoother skin, nails, and hair. Not only is it morally rewarding but my body has shown it’s happiness.

The doctor went on, “I just need to know how much you’re willing to compromise on your diet.” You can guess my answer. He became very agitated stating that I “was making his job very restricted and difficult.” After this discussion he assigned me about 20 different supplements (derived from foods which my body was supposedly intolerant of) and told me I had to eat all of the time to get better. Oh yes, and protein shakes! LOTS of protein shakes- MADE FROM SOY! It’s important to mention soy was not on my rotation diet because of my mild intolerance. This was just not adding up. Plus, was this for my thyroid or RA? RA seems to have gone out the door. Did he even remember why I was there?

Most of the supplements he assigned contained fish, gelatin, and/or whey. Oi vey! After spending about an hour reviewing and explaining ingredients to the employees and doctor with growing stress levels, you’ll be surprised to hear that I left with vegan supplements in tote. I had psyched myself into thinking this would help me the natural way and had not given up yet. You won’t be surprised to hear that I returned all the supplements and said a permanent goodbye to this clueless man and his nice staff.

Clearly this man failed in nutrition. Sadly, I think if he had knowledge he actually could have helped. Despite this negative experience, food has already helped me and I know it can do more. I am thankful for the initial visit with this doctor because it was just what I needed to remind me that food is a great healer! Also, I am in control to make it happen. I’m also thankful to my beautiful mom and step-dad for their brilliant forward thinking and unending support to get me there. I would be a mess without them!

Aside from my family, I have deep admiration from a complete stranger. Her name is Kris Carr and she has terminal, incurable, and untreatable cancer. She has kept the cancer from growing with food and get this- she is entirely VEGAN! I bought her book Crazy, Sexy, Diet after seeing her amazing story on Oprah years ago. I read it in a short period of time and even borrowed my step-dad’s juicer and was determined to make great changes… until my first juice. My husband and I put it in a wine glasses to make it fancy. As I swallowed my first sips I simultaneously nearly upchucked while saying to my husband “it’s not bad.” I soon gave up. My cucumber, celery, romaine, and apple juice was thick, foamy, and repulsive.

Disease does a funny thing to you though, it makes the irrelevant relevant and the impossible possible. I reread portions of Crazy, Sexy, Diet and purchased Crazy, Sexy, Kitchen. It turns out both books have long sections on inflammation as a root cause for most if not all disease. I had read it before but, now I GET IT! GOT IT! GOOD!

Upping intake of vegetables and fruits (I can always eat more!), eliminating meat and dairy (check) and lowering gluten, sugar, and caffeine are the way to a healthy and well functioning body. Ironically, gluten and sugar showed no reaction on my food test. But, it turns out the food sensitivity test has many critics with many deeming it useless. I’ll leave you to be the judge with your own research.

My honorary father kindly sent money toward my homeopathic doctor visits/supplements of which I instead purchased Omega VRT350 (masticating slow juicer) and a Vitamix (blender) and am taking my health into my own hands. The Omega juicer is amazing and actually makes thin great juice. So far, it’s worth the extra money for a great juicer! And the Vitamix speaks for itself. Wow!

I had my first green juice since my last near hurling experience last night and you know what? It wasn’t bad at all! It turns out if you hate cucumbers (and I really do), you probably shouldn’t juice them! What a concept! We used kale, romaine lettuce, broccoli stems, lemon and granny smith apples. I had another juice for breakfast and lunch. Using the Vitamix I also have had green smoothies with bananna, spinach, romaine, flaxseeds, and a touch of almond milk. That was actually quite delicious and filling!

I’m going to start to lower my gluten intake and will do the same with sugar for my day-to-day diet. Of course, I’ll treat myself occasionally if I wish. My husband’s chocolate chip cookies must happen sometimes. However, I am not ready to push away coffee. Baby steps with all bring success. Will it help? I think so. Other than marrying my husband, being vegan is the best decision I have ever made! I think this will be another great one! But, will ease RA pain? I hope so! Only time will tell!

Any juicers out there? If so, how has it changed your life? How about gluten and sugar?

Thanks for reading this lengthy post! I’ll end with a quote from my great-grandfather, “If you have your health, you have everything.”

Food and Thought

Baked sweet potato fries and a carrot burger? Yes, please! Yes, I said a carrot burger! Though my appetite has not been great because of pain and canker sores, my husband made a very delicious and healing dinner last night! You should try it (recipe here)! I think it might be my new pity party burger!

Though I’ve had a rough week, mentally I’m in New Jersey searching for folks in need of help. I’m devastated for those (people and animals) who are suffering without basic necessities and for those who have lost loved ones. I sincerely wish I could be there physically assisting people and animals who have lost everything. It’s hard to believe the devastation. My heart is with the victims and rescuers. I hope they are staying strong during this difficult time. I sincerely wish I could physically help!

Take care everyone!

That’s Me Now

“Hi, this is Pharmacy Solutions.” Ummm, who? Is this political? If so, no thank you. Wait, Pharmacy? Solutions? I don’t need a solution to CVS or Rite Aid do I? Are they going out of business? Who is this? I’ve received more strange phone calls than ever in the last few days. My vocabulary is growing and I’m back to researching medication. I’m very over it. Pharmacy Solutions is apparently part of Humira. Okay. Humira, the commercial with the coach for RA that is moderate to severe. That’s me now. Weird.

Pens or syringes? Nurse at home, doctor’s office, or over the phone (to show me what I am doing)? Curascript or Caremart? Do you know about the “My Humira” program? I DON’T KNOW! How am I supposed to know? Can I opt out of all of the above?

I have had a rough week. Sunday and Monday were particularly bad and required the very rarely taken pain medication, Vicodin. After one dose Sunday night though, that was it! I was scratching all over but, no hives. I have only taken Vicodin a handful of times before (I generally prefer to tough it out) and can vaguely remember itching the last time. There I was back hanging out with my great friend, Google. I learned through a billion sites that itching is common side effect of codeine. I called my doctor and he passed on through a nurse that it sounded like an allergic reaction and to discontinue use. While Vicodin isn’t amazing, it does take the edge off of the pain. It makes it so that I can focus on things other than the pain which is a very big deal. I have lots of Doctor Who to watch, which requires focus, on my bad days! I’m still waiting to hear back on an alternative medicine…

While I may not know all the answers, I know 20mg of Methotrexate is not cutting it. I am suffering too much and my quality of life needs to improve. I opted for the pen, nurse at the doctor’s office, Curascript, and help through the “My Humira” program. The only missing components are full authorization for Humira, co-pay costs, and delivery. I’m trying to stay optimistic but I must say, it does make me feel a little queasy. Sometimes I don’t feel brave. I feel fearful. I kind of revert back to the feeling of shock and disbelief with each dosage increase or medication change. I miss the days of take this for 10 days and you’ll be better! I know grandma, one day at a time.

On a separate note, despite the pain I carved a pumpkin with my mom last night! Also, I made an awesome Pumpkin Tiramisu (recipe here!) and even put it in a pretty trifle dish! My husband also made a wonderful pumpkin bisque soup (recipe here)! Yum! Lots of laughs, fun, and great food! Now, that’s what life is about! I LOVE my family!