Friday, June 22, 2012

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Red Wine Cake

I have been trying to turn "normal" recipes into Paleo and/or GAPS friendly recipes. Red Wine cake is a typical German cake that my mom used to make all the time and I did as well when I was still eating grains. Here is my Paleo/GAPSish version

what you need:
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter or coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 3/4 cups coconut flour
  • 1/4cup ground hazelnuts
  • 1.5 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder or baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
what you do:
Mix all ingredients in an Omniblend or other high  powered blender or with an electric mixer. Grease a loaf pan, pour batter in, and bake in 350 degree pre-heated oven for 30 to 40 minutes.

Guten Appetit!

    Mojo Update 06.11.2012

    As I mentioned in my last update about Mojo, we were hoping that he was back in remission. Unfortunately we noticed two small lumps in his throat about 10 days ago. At that point they were roughly the size of an almond and we also noticed a slightly bigger lump in his right, rear leg. I took him back to see Dr. Johnson at bluepearl last week Monday and he got a round of L-spar and one round of Vincristine. Dr. Johnson said to keep checking him and after two days let her know whether the swelling had gone down. She also said that she would like to try oral meds next depending on his response to the chemo. It would be the same tablets he got every so often during the 6-month chemo treatment (Cyclophosphamide I think), but they would calculate his dose based on weight, divide that by 30, and we would give him that dose every day for 30 days.

    By Wednesday there was no change in the swelling which I let Dr. J know. She said since she couldn't do another round of chemo anyhow we could wait until today since we already had an appointment set up. The only reason to bring him in earlier would be if he started having trouble breathing.

    Yesterday morning when I checked his neck I noticed that the lumps had gotten bigger. At that point they were roughly walnut sized, versus almond sized, and I felt four or five of them versus just two. Before going to bed last night I noticed that one of the "toes" on his left rear leg was swollen. This morning when I got up it was about the same and by the time I got to bluepearl it looked like this.
    It's "just" edema and doesn't seem to cause him any pain or discomfort, but it hurts me to just look at it.

    Dr. Johnson did an exam during the appointment and agreed that the lumps were getting bigger and that there are now more than before. We discussed treatment options going forward and she decided to give him a round of Doxorubicin today. While he was getting his chemo I ran over to Costco and found this.

    How cool is that? Costco has grain free dog treats! Of course I had to buy them and took one in with me when I went back to get him. He liked them - no surprise there.

    Dr. Johnson also gave him an injection of Prednisone and said to bring him back next week for a CBC. That is also when we will start the Cyclophosphamid. She already called it in, the pharmacy called me, got mine and Mojo's info, and will send it out today.

    Yesterday I had a good cry about all of this and I looked rough this morning. I think Dr. J must have noticed because she said to Mojo that his "mom looks worried", which I think was a nice way of saying that I look like crap. LOL 

    Anyway, I told her to tell me what she is thinking because I am going back and forth between being too negative and being too hopeful. She said that she will always be honest with me and at this point she is still hopeful. She said she is "pissed and discouraged" but has hope. According to her, if there are 100 chemo drugs, 98 of them will work so we still have options. Although they don't normally do maintenance chemo, she said Mojo may just need a little something ongoing to keep him in remission. In addition, she said as long as he looks as good as he does and is eating and "happy Mojo", which he still is, she is not worried, even with the swollen lymph nodes. It's when the swelling causes pain or discomfort that she starts to be concerned. This is one reason she wants to get she edema in his leg down because it means his lymph system is compromised and that WILL cause discomfort eventually.

    Sooooooo...more prayer, more waiting, more hoping. I am actually thinking about starting another fast tomorrow, maybe 7 days this time, for my own health reasons, but would also want to use that time to really pray for him. If there is any truth to the power of prayer and fasting, then I want to give it a shot. I can't bear the thought of losing this little boy or seeing him suffer. He is so precious and sweet and special. This is him last night hoping I will drop some food while cooking. What a cute face! :)

    Fermented Sweet Vidalia Onion Dressing

    what you need:
    • 1 medium vidalia onion (mine weighed 9.25 ounces peeled)
    • 3/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 1/4 cup kombucha
    • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
    • 1 teaspoon sea salt
    • 20 grinds black peppercorns
    • 2 gloves garlic
    • 1 tablespoon gelatin (I used Great Lakes)
    what you do:
    Place all ingredients in blender. I have an Omniblend but any blender will do. Blend until all ingredients are liquified and well blended. Let sit at room temperature for 5 to 6 hours then place in refrigerator. Sweet goodness without using honey or any kind of sweetener. You could use apple cider vinegar in place of Kombucha but you would need to move it to the fridge right away and it would not be fermented.

    Use on salads or as a dip.

    Guten Appetit!

    Pork Cilantro Sliders

    what you need:
    • 20 oz ground pork (or any ground meat/poultry)
    • 2 to 3 small scallions
    • 1/2 to 1 bunch cilantro, stems removed
    • 1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon Celtic sea salt (I love salt so you may want to start with 1/2 teaspoon)
    • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    • 3/4 teaspoon Ancho chili powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
    • 1 jalapeno pepper (optional)
    • 2 egg yolks or 1 whole egg
    • 1 tablespoon coconut flour (optional)
    what you do:
    Chop scallions, cilantro leaves, and jalapeno, if used, in a mini chopper to desired size.

    Mix all ingredients really well. Form sliders (small burgers - roughly 2 oz each), fry in cast iron skillet or whatever you prefer, until cooked all the way through. That's it.

    I ate them with some left over cabbage I had sauteed in tallow and homemade sauerkraut. However, I bet they would go great with with Cuban Style "Rice" or on Grain-Free Hamburger Buns. You could also make them smaller, stick a toothpick in them, and serve as an appetizer with some kind of sauce.

    Guten Appetit!

    This post is shared on Monday Mania.

    Friday, June 8, 2012

    Follow-Up Appointment with Dr. D June 2012

    Several things have been going on since I last talked to Dr. D in May. I finished Albenza, the 4th anti-parasitic medication on my treatment plan, and started Alinia on 5/23. I was a bit worried about starting it since she said it could cause vomiting, diarrhea, heart racing and more. I did not have any of those symptoms and actually felt quite good the day I started it. The next day however, I felt like crap. I felt wiped out, tired, and out of it mentally. This went on for a few days as well as night sweats, going back to waking up at night, feeling utterly frustrated, angry, and irritable, and just feeling lousy overall.

    I also had blood drawn on 5/23 to check my thyroid levels. My FT3 was actually higher than last time I had blood drawn in March, although I was on less Cytomel. Since muscle testing in April had revealed that I am somewhat blocking on the Cytomel but testing really good on Naturethroid, I decided to take the plunge, go up from 1 grain NT to 2 grains, and reduce Cytomel from 68.75 mcg to 12.5 mcg. It scares me a little since I don't want my RT3 issues to come back, which basically means going hypoT, but I can't deal with all the heart racing from T3 either. It also would be nice to stop taking the beta blocker. In addition, Dr. D said that a lot of her patients are able to reduce thyroid meds as the bacterial and parasite load goes down. Once they heal completely many of them are able to go off thyroid meds completely, even if they have been on them most of their lives, or they take a much smaller dose. That's awesome!

    When I told Dr. D about all the new or returning symptoms she said she believes it's all from Alinia. Not side effects, but die off. Apparently all of her patients who take Alinia have a hard time during the first round. If they have to take it again it's not near as bad. I had seen some improvements in mood and energy before starting Alinia and she believes I will feel even better than when I am done with it.

    We also discussed my elevated blood sugar. It was 89 in March and 101 in May. I have been checking it here at home since the May blood test and my fasting is running between 100 to 105. Not good! She said it could be an indication of an active infection, most likely bacterial. I hadn't gotten the Diabenil yet which she mentioned during our last phone consult so she said to go ahead and get it and start taking it as suggested on the bottle. I got it in the mail yesterday.

    I mentioned the white spots on my lower legs which I started getting in 2007. I told her they look like idiopathic guttate hypomellanosis to me and asked if this is typical in chronically ill people. She said not all of her patients have them but many do. She said it's common with parasite/fungal infections, can also be related to blood sugar dysregulation, and that it does improve as the patient heals. That's promising.

    The cardiologist I went to see for the stress EKG finally sent the results to her and it said the following:
    "A fixed defect was noted in the anterior wall and apical segment which is most likely secondary to soft tissue attenuation, although cannot rule out prior myocardial infarction."

    She said the cardiologist recommended a cardiac CT but since the chest pain is gone now she would like to hold off since CTs have such high radiation. Right before the chest pain started I woke up one night with horrible stabbing pains around my heart. It was awful and very painful, but then it just stopped and I went back to sleep. As it was happening I was scared and wondered if I was having a heart attack. However, because it stopped so quickly and I went right back to sleep, I figured it couldn't have been. Now I am wondering if it was.

    Last but not least I have been dealing with quite a bit of nausea. I have considered many different causes but still haven't completely figured it out. I think 5-HTP may have something to do with it but I am not sure yet. Of course it would be hard for her to know what is is from, especially since the nausea started before I started taking Alinia. She recommended a homeopathic from Nestmann called Frangula. So far I have not been able to find it online.

    Saturday, June 2, 2012

    Thyme/Rosemary Stuffed Chicken with Herb Butter

    what you need:
    • 1 chicken (ideally pasture raised aka the real cage free)
    • 2 - 3 sprigs thyme
    • 2 - 3 sprigs rosemary
    • 1 medium onion
    • salt, pepper, paprika to taste
    • tallow or other fat of choice
    what you do:
    If you are using a pasture raised chicken let it sit in a salt brine for 5 to 6 hours before baking. Here's a guide to "brining" poultry (just don't use regular table salt - I used Celtic sea salt). The chicken will be more tender that way. Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Melt some tallow in a cast iron skillet or other skillet/dish large enough to hold the entire chicken. Wash and rinse the chicken, dry, and place in the skillet. Brush chicken with melted tallow or whatever fat you used.

    Season with spices then stuff vegetables and herbs inside chicken cavity. I also like to throw some onion and herbs in the skillet next to the chicken. It makes for some tasty grease when the chicken is done. Place chicken in skillet breast down (makes the juices "flow" down to the breast making it more tender).

    Chicken Bootie
    Cover chicken and bake at 250 degrees for 2 to 3 hours. Increase oven temp to 400 degrees and bake another 30 minutes uncovered or until temperature of thighs is 170 degrees and breast 160 degrees. You will end up with a flavorful, juicy, tender chicken with crispy skin.

    Herb Butter
    what you need:
    • 1 stick (1/4 lb) butter (I used Kerrygold salted)
    • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried garlic
    • 1 small shallot
    what you do:
    Let butter sit at room temperature until soft or heat on low heat just until it softens. You don't want the butter to be liquid because the herbs and spices will just sink to the bottom rather than mix with the butter.

    Cut shallot into small pieces and press through a garlic press. Mix all ingredients and place in refrigerator until it reaches desired consistency. I like my butter room temperature. 

    I served the chicken with pureed zucchini.

    Guten Appetit! 

    This post is shared on Monday Mania, Fat Tuesday, and Allergy Free Wednesday.

    Tuesday, May 29, 2012

    Chronic Lyme and Weight Gain

    First I want to point out that there is a difference between early stage Lyme and late stage Lyme, also referred to as chronic Lyme. Every so often when people find out I have chronic Lyme they say, "I had bitten by a tick, took a 10-day course of antibiotics and I am fine." Believe me, if a 10-day course of antibiotics could cure me I would have taken them already!

    Also, if I had taken antibiotics right away I may be fine, too, but I didn't. I don't know exactly how long I have had Lyme disease, but easily 10 years or longer. That's a big difference to just being bitten the first time and then taking antibiotics immediately.

    In addition, I would question their definition of "fine". Usually the same people also quite often complain of headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, feeling more tired than usual, not being as limber, and other ailments, and they are usually overweight. I don't consider any of those ailments or being overweight as fine. In addition, I don't want to feel "fine" I want to feel GREAT. I want to wake up in the morning ready to start the day, feeling joyful, with energy to exercise, go to work, hang out with friends, and enjoy life. The way I used to.

    OK, I will get off my soap box now and instead talk about what I had intended to talk about. Many people with chronic Lyme disease lose weight involuntarily and can even get dangerously thin. However, from what I have read, and from what my doctor has told me, the majority of people actually gain weight. Below are some possible reasons explaining why:

    Adrenal Insufficiency
    Stress of any kind, whether emotional or physical, taxes the adrenals. Stressed adrenals produce too much cortisol and eventually won't be able to produce enough cortisol. This leads to thyroid as well as other issues that can cause weight gain. This is obviously a very short explanation but there are many articles on the interwebs about adrenal insufficiency so it makes no sense for me to go into more detail here. The key is that a prolonged infection, such as chronic Lyme, is major stress on the body and will tax your adrenals.

    This means that your body is not making enough thyroid hormone OR you do have enough thyroid hormone but it is not getting to where it needs to go. The former, as mentioned above, can be caused by adrenal insufficiency. The latter is called a functional deficiency because your blood tests will look normal but it just shows the level of hormones floating around in your blood. All bacteria (not just Borrelia burgdorferi - the Lyme bacteria), parasites, fungi, and viruses release toxins. These toxins can occupy thyroid receptors blocking the actual thyroid hormone from getting to them and the cells, where they need to be. Hypothyroidism leads to weight gain among many other horrible symptoms.

    Reverse T3 Syndrome
    Your body makes a thyroid hormone called T4, among others, which it then converts to the active thyroid hormone T3. This is the hormone that actually controls your metabolism. There is also a hormone called reverse T3 (RT3). During prolonged infection, such as chronic Lyme, the body may convert too much T4 to RT3 instead of T3. If the ratio between RT3 and T3 is too low you will gain weight as this is pretty much the same as hypothyroidism. There are other causes for RT3 issues, but chronic infection is one of them.

    Many people with chronic Lyme, or other chronic illnesses for that matter, have parasitic overgrowth. When they eat a meal the parasites get all the good nutrition from their food and the body is left with crap. Although you may be getting an adequate amount of calories, your body thinks it is starving because it is not getting any of the nutrients. We all know what happens when we go on a restricted calorie diet, or at least we all should know by now. Your body goes into starvation mode and down regulates its metabolism. Now, with a lowered metabolism, your body is not burning as many calories as before but you are still eating the same amount of calories as before which leads to weight gain. In addition, this also causes increased hunger and in some cases people over eat further compounding the problem of the lowered metabolism.

    Insulin Resistance
    Chronic infection causes insulin resistance. What this means is that the insulin your body is producing is not capable of getting glucose to the cells. More and more insulin is secreted and stored in your fat cells - sort of. This is the extremely abbreviated version. You can read more about insulin resistance here or do a Google search. Just don't believe the lies that you need more grains and/or fiber to fight insulin resistance. That's bologna!

    I don't know that much about biotoxins yet, but have been reading more and came across an interesting article by Dr. James Shaller. In it he says the following:

    "Lyme biotoxins disrupt the fat cell system and if not removed cause a type of obesity highly resistant to diet and exercise. The critical Leptin hormone increases and creates a type of bloating, puffiness or abdominal distention that is demoralizing to those trying to have a healthy weight"

    I don't think I can add anything to this. To read the entire article click here.

    This post was shared on Monday Mania and Freaky Friday.

    Friday, May 25, 2012

    Coconutty Baconnaise (or Dip)

    I love mayonnaise, I love coconut oil, and I love bacon/bacon grease. So why not combine them??

    what you need:
    • 2 egg yolks
    • 2 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon homemade Kombucha (optional)
    • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted but not too hot
    • 1/2 cup bacon grease, melted but not too hot
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 3/4 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
    what you do:
    Melt coconut oil and bacon grease in a small pot and set aside. Let the oil/grease cool off as much as possible without going solid.

    Place egg yolks in a mason jar or whatever you prefer. Add spices, Kombucha, and lemon juice then gently pour coconut oil, bacon grease, and olive oil into jar.

    Wait a few seconds to let the egg yolks settle at the bottom of the jar. Use an immersion blender gently pulsing on and off at first.

    Once the ingredients start emulsifying you can run the immersion blender continuously until all the ingredients are well blended. For more detailed instructions on using an immersion blender to make mayo click here.

    If you used Kombucha (or any other fermented liquid), let the mayo sit at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours to let it ferment slightly, then move to the refrigerator. Otherwise move to the refrigerator immediately. This mayo will have a consistency somewhere between regular mayo and salad dressing when it is at room temperature, and a more solid consistency in the fridge since both coconut oil and bacon grease are solid below room temp.

    Guten Appetit!

    This post is shared on Monday Mania, Fat Tuesday, Allergy Free Wednesday, and Freaky Friday.

    Tuesday, May 22, 2012

    Tomatillo-Parsley Salad

    I tried tomatillos for the first time a few months ago - I know, shocking - and fell in love them. I bought a few too many the other day and decided to make a salad.

    what you need:
    • 4 to 5 tomatillos (about 14 ounces by weight)
    • 3 sprigs of parsley 
    • 1 green onion, top included
    • 1/2 small to medium onion
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons organic extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon homemade Kombucha (or vinegar works, too)
    • 10 to 15 grinds black peppercorns
    • 3/4 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon Coconut Aminos

    what you do:

    Cut tomatillos into bite sized chunks and place in a bowl. 
    Chop parsley, onion, and green onion in a mini-chopper.
    Add all remaining ingredients to tomatillos.
    Mix everything really well and serve immediately. If you used Kombucha instead of vinegar you can let it sit at room temp for a few hours to get a little healthy fermentation going.
    I ate this salad with left over Slow Cooker Chicken Gizzard and thought it was a good combination.

    Guten Appetit!

    This post is shared at Monday Mania, Fat Tuesday, Allergy Free Wednesday, and Freaky Friday.

    Sunday, May 20, 2012

    Garam-Masala Chicken Thighs

    what you need:
    • 4 chicken thighs, skin on, from pastured hens is best
    • 1 can coconut milk (I like Aroy-D)
    • 1/4 cup organic sesame oil (I used regular but toasted would be good, too)
    • 2 tablespoons garam masala
    • 1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
    • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 2 green onions (tops included), chopped
    • 1/2 medium onion, chopped 
    what you do:
    Chop green onions, garlic, and regular onion in a small chopper (or by hand if you enjoy punishment).
    Transfer chopped vegetables to a glass dish or other container deep enough so chicken thighs will be covered. Add remaining ingredients except thighs and mix well.
    Add chicken thighs coating them well, cover dish, and marinade in refrigerator for 6 to 8 hours (or overnight). When thighs are done marinating, preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and grease a wire rack with fat of choice. Place the wire rack onto the cookie sheet and place thighs on the wire rack.

    Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 45 minutes or until internal temperature of thighs is 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Serve with cauliflower rice and roasted broccoli.

    I did not try them myself since I can't tolerate coconut milk yet, but DH said they were really good.

      Friday, May 18, 2012

      Follow-Up Appointment with Dr. D May 2012

      I just had my one month phone follow-up with Dr. Dahlgren. It was pretty short this time and there are no big changes. I told her some of the good stuff going on like the fact that I have days where I feel joy and happiness without trying so hard, sleeping through the night some nights, and even being able to exercise some days.

      Next I mentioned the not so good stuff like the horribly swollen eye lids I had during the cruise and how red and burning my eyes were. I thought it may have been the climate change, but she thinks it's because I had mold in my room. I can totally see how that's possible in a cabin on a big ship with different people in it every week and horrible humidity. 

      I mentioned that I get a burning sensation like the start of a bladder infection if I don't drink copious amounts of water. She said it's either because I have a low grade infection in the lining of the uterine wall or that it's metals being released. Since it goes away when I increase my water intake there is nothing she wants to do about at the moment.

      Last I pointed out that my blood sugar goes up really fast but takes a long time to come down. Last Saturday, on my birthday, I had a little bit of a vegan cheesecake made with honey, cashews, and zucchini. I wish I had taken my blood sugar that night but didn't. Sunday I was back to eating VLC but ate quite a few calories. Monday morning my blood sugar was 119 which is way too high. She confirmed that this is insulin resistance and is usually due to viruses affecting the pancreas. She said this is something that will clear up as we continue to work on healing the body overall. I asked if there is a supplement I can take in the meantime that would help and she said she really likes Diabenil by Thorne. I am not sure yet whether I am going to get it or not. Chances are I will buy it and next time I go see her and she muscle tests me it will test as blocking. I will go ahead and go back to monitoring my blood sugar for a few days again and if it's not too bad with eating VLC I won't get it. In addition, she had put me on Valtrex back in January due to a high viral load of EBV and some other viruses but then said to go ahead and stop it during a phone consult because I felt that I was depressed on it. I asked her if Valtrex could help and she feels that it could and to go ahead and start back up with 500 mg at night.

      While I was there in April, which you can read about here, here, and here, she said I can go ahead and make an appointment with Dr. Klinghardt for July. She feels if I can tolerate Alinia, the next anti-parasitic which I am supposed to start next week, that I will be ready to see Dr. Klinghardt next. When I called the other day to make the appointments Ron told me that he has either one appointment for September or two appointments in one week for December. I asked Dr. D which she prefers and she said to go ahead and come in September and I am really excited and glad she feels one appointment is enough. Dr. K charges quite a bit for an hour appointment and the appointments in December were at noon on Monday and Friday. Due to the time difference between WA and TN and available flights, I would have had to fly in on Sunday and stay until Saturday. Plus I am eager to go see him and see what he has to say about my health issues.

      She would like me to get my thyroid checked because she recommended some changes in my thyroid medication. I do have a lab slip but have not made those changes yet. The plan was to reduce Cytomel a bit and increase Naturethroid from 1 grain to 2 grain, but I did not want to make this change before going on vacation. I really don't want to make this change now either because I don't want RT3 issues to return, but it would certainly help with the heart racing.

      Last but not least I mentioned that I finally have the stress EKG scheduled for next week but that I was concerned about starting Alinia and doing a stress EKG. Since I also have not had chest pain in 4 to 5 weeks I asked if it's still necessary. Unfortunately she feels it is. I was hoping she would say I can skip it since this will also go against my deductible. As for Alinia she said to just start it after the stress EKG. Bummer! I was hoping I could get out of it for financial reasons AND because I have no desire to sit around a doctor's office for 3 to 4 hours first thing in the morning, walk on a treadmill, and be injected with some crap all WITHOUT CAFFEINE!!

      Tuesday, May 15, 2012

      In Remission?

      Mojo seems to be feeling ok, is eating good, is playing with Pepper, and is having normal bowel movements. I think! Saturday he was still posturing but Sunday, for the first time in almost 3 weeks, he was not posturing at all. He went out, had a bowel movement, and came back in. We were thrilled but didn't want to get too excited.

      Yesterday I took him back to Blue Pearl Vet for our appointment with Dr. Johnson. I gave her an update and since he stopped posturing she said she wanted to hold off on the round of Doxorubicin she had originally planned on giving him. She feels that Mojo not posturing anymore is a sign that the lymph nodes on his lumbar spine are shrinking. I asked her about doing an ultrasound to confirm but she didn't think it was necessary. Instead, she said to just keep an eye on him and to take things 24 hours at a time. If anything at all changes, not just Mojo going back to posturing, she wants me to let her know and bring him in immediately.

      So now we are still hoping and praying that he is back in remission and more so, will STAY in remission. I am watching him like a hawk and am way too worried about him. Basically, I keep wondering whether anything he is doing or not doing is normal. I wonder if he's too quiet, too excited, eating too much, eating too little, sleeping too much, panting for no reason, pooping too much or too get the picture. It's pretty stressful to say the least.

      Here's a picture of my boy earlier today with Pepper curled up between his legs.

      Thursday, May 10, 2012

      Mojo Update

      We got back from our trip Sunday afternoon and it was strange being home with just Pepper and not Mojo. Unfortunately our vet is not open on Sundays - they just come in to check on the boarded dogs so I couldn't pick Mojo up until Monday morning. It was SO good to see him and more so, to see him happy, excited, and "smiling".

      I had set up an appointment with Dr. Johnson that morning at 9:30 and stopped at home briefly before heading over there. Bob and I let Mojo out in the backyard and he was posturing again after having a bowel movement. This went on for a few minutes and he walked all the way from the back of the yard back to the house while posturing.

      We drove to Blue Pearl to meet with Dr. Johnson who was pleased with how good Mojo looked. She was thinking about just seeing how things go until I told her that Mojo is still posturing without producing a bowel movement. So they did another ultra sound and there were still swollen lymph nodes on his lumbar spine. Because these lymph nodes had not responded to the chemo, they kept him for a round of vincristine while I went to Costco to get a few things and Bob went to work. Half an hour later I picked him up and took him home. We had another appointment set up for the following Monday but Dr. Johnson said to keep an eye on him and if anything seems off, to let her know immediately. She said normally when dogs go out of remission they present the same way they presented when they were first diagnosed. For Mojo that was "just" swollen lymph nodes but obviously this time he presented differently since it all started with constipation.

      Since then he sometimes goes out an has a bowel movement without a problem and other times he is still posturing and nothing happens. He also hasn't been that interested in his food which is unusual. However, he seems happy and is playful and energetic. I sent an email to Dr. Johnson with an update and she said she would like to see him today since she is going out of town for the weekend. So I went back to Blue Pearl this morning and Dr. Johnson and I took Mojo to a fenced area in the back. Luckily he did what I have been describing and she said that's definitely not normal. Dr. Holste, the vet who did the ultrasound and chemo two weeks ago, happened to come out and Dr. J asked her to take a look as well. Dr. H is an internist and she did feel that the posturing could be caused by the lymph nodes.

      So we took Mojo back in for another ultrasound and Dr. J asked if I want to come in with them. I was really glad she offered because Mojo is really clingy right now after being left at the vet for 10 days and I hate leaving him. Dr. H did the ultrasound while Dr. J and I were making sure Mojo wasn't jumping off the table. He's such a good boy...didn't really try to turn or jump and just let Dr. H do her thing.

      Unfortunately there are still swollen lymph nodes on his lumbar spine and some of them are bigger than before. That was very disappointing and obviously not what I wanted to hear. After the ultrasound Dr. J explained that the lymph nodes are not obstructing his rectum, but to Mojo it feels like something is "back there". That explains why he does have normal bowel movements every day, but then also is still posturing other times without a bowel movement. Poor baby.

      Since he just had a round of chemo on Monday Dr. J said she couldn't give him another one. She said she would like to start him back on Prednisone, just like last year when we first started the chemo, and he also got a dose of steroids via IV today. Dr. J said to bring him back next week and since we already had an appointment set up for Monday she said that was perfect. She said sometimes it just takes a few extra rounds of chemo for a dog to go into remission and stay in remission. So now all we can do is hope, pray, and wait.

      Tuesday, May 8, 2012

      Western Caribbean Cruise April/May 2012

      I would have loved to have blogged and posted on a daily basis on the ship, but WIFI is expensive (65 cents/minute) and really, really slow. So I journaled in a Word doc instead...shown below.

      04.28.2012 – Saturday - Cocoa Beach, FL

      I was surprised how “good” I felt when I got up earlier today. My right eye lid was slightly swollen but nothing too bad and it went away quickly. Heart rate was around 130 but came down with hydrocortisone and a beta blocker. I had great energy and was in a good mood most of the day.

      04.29.20120 – Sunday - Cocoa Beach, FL/Freedom of the Seas

      Unlike yesterday I woke up this morning with my right eye lid horribly swollen, both eyes were red and burning, and I felt much worse than the day before. Things improved a little bit by the time we left for the pier but overall I was definitely feeling worse again.

      We got to the pier around 10:30 AM and there were people in line already. Since we are now Emerald status with Royal Caribbean we are able to go to the priority check-in which didn’t take long at all. Right at 11 AM they let us on the ship and as usual we were among the first people to get on. It’s awesome being on the ship when there’s hardly anybody there yet

      This is the biggest ship we have been on yet so we went to look at the promenade first.

      Many of the shops and cafés are the same, but this one has more than for example the Mariner of the Seas (our favorite up until now) or the Voyager of the Seas. Around 11:30 AM we went up to lunch at the Windjammer Café (buffet) then we walked around and explored the ship some more.

      At 1 PM we were able to get into our cabin and the balcony is AMAZING. We have never had a cabin at the end of the ship before and this is definitely the way to go. Not only is the balcony much, much bigger, but you can see out to the side and the back. The standard balconies on the side fit 2 chairs and a very small coffee table and beyond that there is not much room. This balcony had 2 regular chairs, a small coffee table, and 2 lounge chairs and there was still plenty of empty space. I put the small coffee table between the two lounge chairs and took the slightly bigger coffee table from the room, which always seems to be in the way, and put it in front of the two sitting chairs.

      We had barely gotten to our room when they brought our suitcases. So by 4 PM, when they did muster, we were completely unpacked and ready to have fun. After muster we went to the sail-away activities on deck 11, then dinner, then to the Welcome Aboard show in the theater. The sunset was amazing.

      04.30.2012 – Monday - Freedom of the Seas – Sea Day

      Although I slept fairly good and almost 8 hours, I woke up with horribly swollen eye lids again and also red and burning eyes. I am not sure what this is about but it’s so annoying. I also don’t have the energy I had just a few days ago and my mood is not as good as before. I had so hoped that I would feel better on this cruise but so far that’s not happening. I decided to cut out the Lyme cocktail today and cut way back on some of the other anti-bacterials thinking that might help. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow. 

      Waking up to this, however, was pretty awesome.

      We spent the day relaxing, watching movies (on this ship they show movies in the theater that normally has the Broadway shows), and just taking it easy. It was a nice relaxing day. It was cloudy and rainy all day long which made it even more fun to hang out inside and just chill.

      05.01.2012 – Tuesday - Freedom of the Seas – Labadee, Haiti

      Cutting back on anti-bacterials did not help….I felt just as miserable this morning as the last two mornings. I have no idea what is going on but it’s pretty frustrating. I am also struggling with all the other crap I have going on, most notably the abdominal distention, fat gain, and muscle loss. Yeah, I’m thin but I hate this distended gut and the layer of fat my body as accumulated. It’s even harder being in Labadee, where women are walking around in bathing suits, sun tanning, and swimming….all things I used to do and enjoy when I felt comfortable about my body. That is one reason I don’t like going out because it just makes it so much more obvious how much crap I am dealing with.

      Anyway – on to Labadee. Royal Caribbean has “fenced off” part of Haiti and has made it their “private island”. They have water sports, other activities, a zip line, a small roller coaster, bars, a spa, and more. It’s been a while since we have been here and they have added a lot of new stuff, including some hiking trails. So we hiked around the entire “island” throughout the morning then found a spot in the shade to chill. I went and braved the market – people there hassle you like CRAZY – and found a really cool, and big lizard. I have a wall in my bathroom with just lizards from the different places we have gone to. The one I found was really big and the guy wanted $45 for it. I offered $20, which was probably still too much, and of course he tried to get more. I stuck to my price and when I started walking away he agreed to take $20 for it. I named him Jerome. The lizard not the sales guy.

      After an ok lunch of chicken, pork chops, various salads, and more, we went back to the ship and spent the afternoon relaxing again. It was pretty hot and humid in Labadee so it was nice to get back to a cool room.

      In the evening, before dinner, they had a “Welcome Back” party for Crown and Anchor members. The latter is Royal Caribbean’s loyalty program and since we have cruised with them quite a bit we are now Emerald members. So we get pretty cool coupons, a welcome back gift in our cabin, parties like this with free drinks, and more.

      On all of these cruises they always have hamburgers at lunch and dinner. I have made the mistake of eating them since they have wheat and soy. They taste really good IMO, but they also cause cravings and with a gluten intolerance I need to avoid wheat. So tonight at dinner I saw two of the “chef” looking guys standing in the Windjammer (buffet restaurant) and decided to ask them what it would take to find out the ingredients in the hamburgers. One of the guys (Vinroy) said that he would have to walk all the way downstairs, look on the box, write them down and bring them back to me. He was actually being cute/funny about it and I told him it didn’t have to be today. He then asked if I have food allergies and when I told him that I do and wheat is one of them, he said that the hamburgers have wheat. I figured they did but one could hope.

      I was visibly disappointed so the other guy (Eric) said that they can make me hamburgers from just fresh ground beef when I come in for lunch and dinner. He said to just find them and let them know. YES! It probably seems odd to be excited about getting a chunk of fried ground beef, but I love hamburgers and I can only eat a fraction of what they serve on this ship, so to be able to get hamburgers is pretty exciting to me. In the more formal dining room it is not unusual to get special food prepared since I have allergies, but in the buffet restaurant this is pretty uncommon. Normally they tell me I need to go to the dining room if I have allergies.

      We also got an email from Dr. Johnson – Mojo’s oncologist. She actually drove out to our regular vet’s office earlier today to evaluate Mojo herself. She said that his leg is back to normal size and he seems happy and well. In addition, she said that he is back in remission which was a HUGE relief.

      05.02.2012 – Wednesday – Falmouth, Jamaica

      I think I may have felt even worse today as far as the swollen eye lids, my energy, and my mood are concerned. Actually, my whole body felt “swollen” this morning, I had an almond size “lump” under my left eye, and I was in that horrible numb/angry state. The good thing about the whole body fluid retention is that it lowers my heart rate so that I don’t need a beta blocker. Although, as much as I hate taking this beta blocker, or any medication for that matter, it almost seems better than dealing with all the symptoms I have today. So I decided to cut out just about everything – all the Homeo-Ks, Cordy Chi, Lyme Cocktail, Rizol Gamma, probes, and more – and I also cut back on salt. Maybe this will help. Below is a picture of what my eyes  looked like before going to bed last night and what they looked like this morning. They were actually a tiny but puffy that night, but notice the swelling in my right eye lid the next morning and also how red the whites of my eyes are.

      We took a cruise last year in November with these same ports, minus Labadee. In Falmouth, they have a fairly new gated pier with a bunch of shops. Some of them are owned by Royal Caribbean, others are owned by locals, and all of them are fairly expensive. Last year we got off the ship, walked around, then decided to go into town and buy souvenirs from locals rather than give our money to the cruise line. In addition, we were hoping to find an internet café so we could check emails. Well, that was not enjoyable. Jamaica is by far the worst for hassling people to buy stuff. They literally start following you down the street trying to get you to come look at their store, so we had decided not to get off the ship in Jamaica this time. Plus it was really hot and humid so overall it was not an enjoyable experience. However, this year it was pretty cloudy and didn’t feel too hot, plus they had added more stores at the new pier so we decided to get off.

      We walked around for a bit and found some souvenirs and some candy to bring back for various people. I also found another really cool lizard which I was excited about since I don’t have one from Jamaica yet. After we had what we wanted we went back to the ship and had some lunch. In the afternoon we spent some time in the sun, and then as usual, went to dinner and a show. As promised I got hamburgers both for lunch and dinner. Eric had called a guy named Hopeton to make them for me. They were incredible.

      Here are a few pics of the sunrise, pier, the nice, blue water, and the sunset in Falmouth.

      05.03.2012 – Thursday – Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

      Finally a day of feeling slightly better – my left eye lid isn’t near as swollen as usual, I don’t feel like I am retaining fluid, my face isn’t puffy, I felt more cognitive getting up (before taking hydrocortisone), my eyes are barely red and burning, and that numb/angry feeling was gone. The downside is that my heart rate went up all the way to around 160 when I first got up. Oh well….at least I woke up to this today.
      We got to Grand Cayman around 8 AM I believe but we took our time getting off the ship. In Grand Cayman there is no pier to dock at for a ship this size so they use tenders to take people to shore. Since we didn’t have any short excursions schedule and didn’t plan on staying a long time, we waited for the first rush of people to get off the ship then worked our way down to deck 1. The water looked amazing and so inviting.

      Once we were off the ship we found an internet café, had some coffee/water, and stayed for a while to get caught up on emails. 

      Then we walked around for a bit, took some pictures, and found some of our favorite shops. Around lunch time we returned to the ship and ate lunch at the Windjammer. I got my two hamburgers again which I ate with tons of butter. So good!

      After lunch we went out to the pool, sat in the sun, sat at the “bar” in the pool, and just took it easy again. This has definitely been a relaxing cruise for us which I think we both needed. Nothing new/different in the evening – just dinner and a show as usual.

      Some more pics from Grand Cayman.
      Grand Cayman does not have a pier big enough for these large ships so we had to take a tender.

       Doesn't the water look awesome and inviting.
      Love the shape of this tree. So cool.
      Thought this "string" of clouds looked neat.

      05.04.2012 – Friday – Cozumel, Mexico

      Back to more swollen eye lids and more fluid retention than yesterday, increased redness/burning in my eyes, and less cognitive this morning, but not as bad as the other days.

      This is our favorite port and we have a little routine here. We normally get off the ship, walk the roughly 3 miles to the down town shopping area, sit at “Coffee Bean” for a bit to check emails, have lunch at our favorite restaurant La Mission which we have been going to since 2003, then walk down to Jeanie’s to sit and chill until it’s time to head back to the ship. A few years back when we went to Jeanie’s there were 3 or 4 boys jumping off the little “pier” into the ocean. I thought it looked like a lot of fun and couldn’t help but jump off that pier myself. Since then, this is one of my favorite things to do at Jeanie’s, besides looking at the ocean while relaxing with a cold “agua mineral”.

      I also somehow became friends online with the owner of La Mission and Bob and I have stayed in touch with him. His family owns 2 other restaurants, Parilla Mission and Casa Mission, which we had never tried before. Parilla Mission is more of a taqueria versus a restaurant, and Casa Mission was never open for lunch before. However, now they are so we decided to give it a try. The menu is actually exactly the same as at La Mission, but it has a totally different ambiance. While La Mission has become quite touristy, is in the middle of the down town hussle, and is rather loud, Casa Mission is further away from downtown in a quiet area, is not very busy at all, and has a nice relaxed, and quiet atmosphere. Damian, the owner of these restaurants, met us there to hang out with us and eat with us. He said that his parents still live right there so we asked if that is where he had grown up. He said it is. Turns out that the area that now is the restaurant (see below) used to be their patio when he was a kid. When he and his sister when to college his parents experienced the empty nest syndrome and got lonely. So they decided to open a restaurant and bring people to them. Of course – what else would you do when your kids leave home and you miss them!?

      Anyway, the house is beautiful and so are the grounds surrounding the house. I can imagine that it must have been awesome growing up there except for the heat that is. It was SO friggin’ hot I could barely stand it. When we walked off the ship we knew there was no way that we were going to walk to downtown this time so we took a cab instead. Here are a few pics from Casa Mission...

       ...and Jeanie's.

      After eating lunch with Damian we took a cab to the Mega Mart (sort of like a Walmart) which is right across the street from Jeanie’s and bought some Mexican candies and cookies to bring home to people. Then we sat at Jeanie’s and like I stated above,  I jumped off the pier into the ocean a few times. That water felt so good after walking around in the heat and sitting in hot taxis – all of them have an AC but none of the cab drivers for whatever odd reason use them. (The picture below is actually from 2007 when we were in Cozumel as well.)
      We got back to the ship around 4:30 AM although we weren’t scheduled to leave until 7 PM that night. As usual, we took a shower, went to dinner, then a show, then we watched the movie “Joyful Noise” on the big screen outside. One of the things I absolutely loved on the Princess cruise we took in 2004 is that they had a huge screen outside on the pool deck and they were showing movies at night (Movies Under the Stars). So I was thrilled when I found out that this ship has a big screen on the pool deck doing the same thing. The movie was pretty bad but it was still fun to sit outside in the fresh air at night.
      I am not sure if I ate something I reacted to (like dairy for example), if it’s hormones, or if it’s die off, but for some reason I started having that insane, bottomless pit type hunger sometime in the afternoon. I was also craving sweets in addition to the insane hunger which could definitely be a dairy reaction or hormones. I ate ceviche, guacamole, steamed veggies, and a fried pork chop at Casa Mission, so I am not sure where/how I would have gotten dairy. Of course it doesn’t take much and it could have been cross contamination from the kitchen. I also had much worse fluid retention in my body which is another dairy reaction for me. It took all the restraint I had not to raid the dessert table after dinner, but I knew I would totally regret it if I did.

      05.05.2012 – Saturday – Sea Day

      More fluid retention, feeling worse, basically more of the same. As for the cruise, it was a lazy, relaxing day at sea. Not much to report.

      05.06.2012 – Sunday – Back in FL

      I woke up around 6 AM and we were at the pier in Pt. Canaveral already. Sat on the balcony one more time drinking my coconut oil blended iced coffee, checking emails, and enjoying the beautiful full moon. 

      The trip back was uneventful and I was glad to be home by around 4 PM. It was strange being home with just Pepper and I so wished I could have picked up Mojo right then, but I had to wait until Monday morning.