All I can Do is Smile


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CT results, why Trader Joe’s is my life force, and the life-long lesson of letting things go

Isn’t it remarkable how a simple test result can pivot your entire mood?

I mean, certainly, waiting for a CT result is by no means simple, but hearing the words “no evidence of disease” changes, well, everything.

I didn’t realize how much anxiety I was carrying. I knew I was on edge, but it wasn’t apparent just HOW MUCH I was worried. It feels like an enormous weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

That feeling is fleeting, because there’s always another test coming, but right now I’m basking in the glory of the results. A moment in the sunshine until the work continues.

Guess this means I’ll be sticking to keto a little longer…


Speaking of which: I reached a breaking point last week with keto.

Actually, let me back up.

I reached a breaking point in life about a month ago, when we were preparing for a house swap with Kenji’s parents. We renovated our condo with a new master bathroom and painted the entire house. All within a a few weeks of the move. If that wasn’t enough to get on with, our kitchen sink overflowed with gray water from our upstairs neighbor’s plumbing “fix” and we had to rip out and replace our flooring while in the midst of the other renovations.

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And thus, brought on so. many. panic attacks.

Those close to me know I have a hard time asking for help or delegating (#becausecontrol; something I’m working on in 2018), so I acknowledge that much of my stress was self-made.

I told myself that once we got past the move, I’d be fine.

Except.

We immediately started kitchen renovations at our new place.

And were woefully unprepared for what having no kitchen (namely, the sink) meant.

Which brings me back to my original statement. Last week, I was angry at the work it takes to stick with keto. I even started telling myself that if the CT scan didn’t show any difference, I was going to blow up this diet idea and eat all the goddamn ice cream I could get my hands on.

If it hadn’t been for my incredible mother-in-law — who has been feeding us each night — I might have gone off the keto rails.

The truth is, it’s not about keto. Well, not entirely. It’s really about allowing a hundred little tiny annoyances pile up, instead of just letting that shit go. Instead, every new small annoyance turned into an immediate rage maker. (IKEA file cabinet, I’m looking at you.)

Keto has been a source of stress since the beginning. So, OF COURSE adding other stressors is going to make things worse. I mean, DUH.

We’re still another week away before we have a functioning kitchen. And as I was planning my week, which typically includes a meal plan, I couldn’t continue with “fuck it” as the answer to our food needs.

Which is how a trip to Trader Joe’s saved my sanity. We made a haul out of their frozen foods and refrigerated goodies. (Pork belly, rack of lamb, scallops & mushroom, creme fraîche, paté, chunks of coconut…)

I guess the whole point of this story is simply to remember that you can ask for help. One of the biggest reasons I often don’t is because I feel like I’m being a burden. But my people love me (and your people love you) and they want to help, more often than not.

Another lesson in all of this is to recognize the source of stress, and if you can do something about it, change it. And if you can’t, change your attitude.

No kitchen = no sink = doing dishes SUCKS = find easy-to-prepare foods. Instead of just saying “We’ll figure it out” and being mad when that doesn’t work out so well.

Also, the kitchen is starting to look like a kitchen! So that makes me happy.

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Sidebar: I’d like to add, that I know this is SO #firstworldproblems. I’m lucky and grateful for these problems. But sometimes, we need to vent and self-reflect.

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Life after with cancer

I know I’ve been all-keto-all-the-time the past few months (when you make a big change like that, it has a way of taking over every facet of your life). Still, as we come to the end of another year of life with cancer, I’m finding some time to reflect on how far we’ve come.

I have fond childhood memories of the holidays. So much so, that Kenji tolerates my decorating for the season, despite the fact we aren’t religious. To me, the holiday season is less about the birth of a certain individual, and more about the magic and wonder of the season. It’s about being together as a family, reading stories, playing games and laughing.

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That’s a sweet Okidata 126 printer right there. It came with my first computer, a Commodore 64 (green screen and all)!

Intermingled with these recollections are adult memories of recent years passed.

Two years ago, life turned on a dime. Kenji and I went from trying to expand our family to trying to save our family.

Last December, we celebrated the hard fought battle be believed we had won.

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Playing Cards Against Humanity (Olivia’s reaction in the lower right corner to one of the cards) was the highlight of the evening, in my opinion.

This December, we have much to celebrate and be grateful for, not least of which is my health at the moment, but it’s tinged with a bit of sorrow.

It’s a weird place to be in… one of limbo where your health isn’t guaranteed, but you still have to keep living your normal, everyday life. Back to our regularly scheduled program, right?

Just as suddenly as everything begins, it ends. The chemo is over. Your hair grows back. You start working again. Your cyclical routine of doctor’s appointments, cat scans, lab work, and infusions is no longer. A new routine of grocery shopping, exercise, and activities emerges and fills your life.

But, in the back of my mind, there always exists that “what if?” If I linger there too long, the feeling of despair and fear overwhelms me. It’s not something I can completely ignore, but I’ve done a lot of work the past year and a half to be able to live simultaneously for today and with a precarious future in mind.

Every single day is work. And every single day, you have to be believe it’s worth it.

2017 has been one hell of a roller coaster — for the whole world, not just my little speck of dust in the universe. If I’ve learned anything from this past year, it’s that the roller coaster isn’t stopping anytime soon. So, we better just learn to enjoy the ride, right?

2018, we’re coming for you.


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The science of why I’m doing this

In case you missed it, I published a page with cold, hard facts around why I’m doing this crazy thing.

Check it out:
https://cancerisagdbitch.wordpress.com/science-sht/

And, because we have time, here’s a photo of a dogs wearing hats, courtesy of r/dogswearinghats and u/DyneDenethor, who posts photos of these three regularly.

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Praise be to strawberries

Back in college, I had a “Do It Yourself Genius Kit,” which was a collection of 4 tiny books (seriously, like 1.5″ wide by 2″ high) with a different random fact on each page. For instance, Napoleon was afraid of cats, and blondes have thicker hair than brunettes. Stuff like that.

You can tell that some of it has stuck with me.

I thought of another fact while I was grocery shopping: lemons have more sugar than strawberries.

Thanks to the age of smart phones, I have determined this is not true! (Napoleon is a maybe, and blondes have more, although not necessarily thicker, hair.)

But! Strawberries are significantly less sugar than “regular” fruit.

You bet your sweet ass I picked up a clam shell of strawberries. I don’t even care that they’re going to taste like nothing since they’re out of season. Also picked up some heavy whipping cream. You see where I’m going with this? A keto-friendly dessert that doesn’t break the carb-bank and keeps my sugar monster at bay.

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Oh strawberries, I’m going to eat you up so good. Strawberry shortcake! (Without the cake.)


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Keto Life: The First 30 Days

Technically, it’s been 38 days, but who’s counting? Certainly not me. Most definitely not me.

We’ve hit the one-month mark and I’m not dead! Or miserable!

Well, except when we watch the Great British Bake-Off, which is essentially TORTURE, and I want to eat all the things, and I remember how wonderful bread and pastries were….

*deep breath* We should probably stop doing this to ourselves, but the people are the show are just SO FUCKING BRITISH — which is to say, they’re simply lovely, and nice, and say stereotypical British-type things like “I’m dead chuffed,” and “Bollocks,” and “Bang on.”

Note to self: must find new fluffy British show to watch. Any recommendations out there? (Francie, I’m looking at you.)

Moving along, we have hit our first milestone: 30 days. As you well know from my week-by-week updates, there has been a TON of learning that occurred this past month.

Here are the top 3 things I would have told Day 1 me:

  1. Cook the same, but make it low-carb
    If you already eat whole foods, don’t worry so much about following someone else’s meal plans. Take your favorite (and easiest) recipes and make them low-carb. Supplement with keto-friendly recipes as needed.
  2. Remember net carbs are different than total carbs
    Many vegetables I was initially avoiding have far fewer carbohydrates than I thought. Spinach is your friend. So are avocados. Calorie counting apps can only tell you so much, and can sometimes be misleading! (I’m looking at you, FitnessPal.)
  3. Drink enough water. Seriously. Like it’s going out of style.
    I read this advice over and over again, but it wasn’t until I had massive cramping in my calves each morning that I finally understood this to be true. There I go learning the hard way, again. Start drinking water EARLY in the day so you don’t have to cram it all in at bedtime and then have to get up to pee every 3 hours, all night.

Do I still want to shove my face into anything sugary or dough-like? Yes, but less than I used to. The sugar monster who lives inside of me has quieted a bit. The desire to just chuck this whole thing out the window, and consume an entire box of oreos with milk and a side of pudding (because go big or go home, right?) has lessened. So that’s something.

Onward, ho!


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Keto Life: Week 3 (and then some)

Let’s start with some administrative items: November’s blood work & oncologist call occurred without incident. All blood marker levels are within in the normal range — my CA-125 was slightly elevated, but my HE-4 was down a significant amount. (No, I cannot thank the diet for that yet since the tests were done about 4 days after starting keto.) I’ll do another round of blood tests and a CT at the beginning of January.


Last week & weekend, I traveled up to Northern California for my BFF’s birthday. Any fears about staying keto-friendly while I was up there were quickly abated by her texts and emails — with food questions & answers, as well as menus for the restaurants at which we’d be eating.

Sidebar: SHOUT OUT TO YOU, HILARY. YOU FUCKING ROCK SO HARD.

Despite the preparations made, it was still hard, and I fell out of ketosis while I was there. I made simple “mistakes” that messed with my net carb intake — namely, a cappucino (damn you again, milk) and too many nuts as snacks.

I laugh because I thought to myself, “I’ve SO got this.” #smug

I have SO NOT got this.

*shrug*

It’s becoming annoyingly clear that measuring and tracking everything I eat is going to be required longer than 2 weeks. (COME ON. I just want this to be EASY. But yeah, we’ve already talked about the easy way and the right way, right?) Even more annoyingly, I’ve recently realized my food tracker does not differentiate between total carbs and net carbs.

Sidebar: Total Carbohydrate – Dietary Fiber = Net Carb

This is a big miss by MyFitnessPal, because I’m limiting my net carbs, not my total carbs. For instance, 78g of carrot has 7g total carbs, but 2g of those are fiber, so REALLY, I’m getting 5g of net carbs. Two grams makes a big difference when all you’ve got to work with each day is 25.

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I’ll be exploring other options. (UGH.) Since I already meal plan, I’m thinking I may just create my own tracking system with the nutrients figured out after I grocery shop. This will also allow me to pre-portion everything, and make grabbing food quick and easy — both for myself (my phone reminder to eat is helpful, but it’s not going to make the food for me) and Kenji (who leaves most mornings at 5:30am and doesn’t have time to portion out from larger dishes). (Plus, he makes the coffee each morning and that’s WAAAAY more important than feeding himself.)

Speaking of quick and easy, I found a keto-friendly meal delivery service! (Seriously, where would we be without the internet?!) Our first 6 meals arrive today, and I’m hoping this will help in overall preparations. It’s not inexpensive, so we’ve committed to not eating out as long as we’re getting them.

The experiment continues, as does the search for information and advice. I’m working on a separate post with the science behind this for those of you who are interested. And apologies to friends in person who have to hear me talk about this ALL. THE. TIME. It’s (obviously) one of the main things on my mind right now.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Eat some pumpkin pie, green bean casserole, and mashed potatoes for me. Gobble, gobble.


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Keto Life: Week Two

New week, new lessons learned.

The 2nd week of this experiment has gone far better than Week 1. Probably because I don’t have to withdraw from sugar again. And probably because it’s not as new and scary as it was the first week.

In any case, keeping it simple has paid off in dividends and I’d like to report some GOOD things after last week’s complaints.

  1. Mental clarity
    I’m finding that my concentration is better. It’s hard to describe, but there’s a noticeable difference in my ability to think clearly, ponder, and generally stay alert.
  2. All the energy
    This is a complete 180 from Week 1. Last week, I was dragging ass. This week, I’m kicking it. I haven’t started serious exercise yet, so that energy expenditure remains to be determined, but in general life tasks, I can just go, go, go!

Which leads me to this week’s (and last week’s) problem. I’m struggling with calorie intake. I find that I’m rarely hungry — or rather, that the feeling of hunger has changed. Because there’s so little sugar in my diet, I’m not experiencing the post-meal “crashes” that would accompany my day.

Sidebar: Let’s talk about sugar for a moment. It’s in everything. And I’m not talking about added sugar (which is a whole separate topic). It’s obvious that in sweeter foods (bananas, pineapple, apples, etc.) natural sugars exist. Did you know that sugars exist in carrots, avocados, cinnamon and even spinach? I certainly didn’t.

To combat a calorie deficit, I’ve relied on technology. I’m tracking my calories & macros with MyFitnessPal. I’ve also set a friendly reminder that pops up every 2 hours to remind me to eat, whether or not I want to. That’s been mostly helpful, but I’m realizing quickly that I need to have keto-friendly snacks on hand. It’s not enough to just grab a handful of nuts (because carbs). And I can only eat so many eggs in a single day. (And I fucking love eggs.)

I’m having to change my entire relationship with food. It has be to be less about something I get to enjoy, and more about fuel for my body.

When I (mostly) cut processed sugar out of my diet a year ago, I recognized I was using sweets as a “reward” — something that I’ve worked hard to change. Instead of food rewards, I started using pedicures, massages, and new books. Which worked. Mostly.

Really, though, why do I feel the need to reward my perceived behavior? Why do I need to figuratively pat myself on the back? I think I know the answer. This is hard work. LIFE is hard work. The reward is a reminder that what I’m doing matters. The real reward though, is a healthy body and mind. Why can’t that be enough? Another thing to bring up with my therapist, it would seem.

**sigh**

As you can tell, there’s been a lot of “Why the hell am I doing this?!” My brain is pissed off that I’m changing the neural pathways it is used to. That’s really the hardest work: rewiring my automatic settings and being conscious about the choices I’m making. IT. IS. FUCKING. EXHAUSTING. Because this seeps into everything, not just my food choices. It’s about how I react to situations, it’s about how I work, it’s about how I exercise, it’s about every. damn. thing.

Life is hard work.


This week’s favorite recipes:
Scrambled Eggs (Gordon Ramsay’s way)
Cheese crisps

Cream Cheese Waffles (my own recipe)
Makes 6 waffles
10 oz. cream cheese
5 eggs
1/4 c almond flour
2 TB cinnamon

Blend all ingredients and pour into waffle maker. Do NOT close the waffle maker lid. Let the egg mixture cook for about 30 seconds, and then slowly lower the lid, keeping it from closing all the way until the steam from the mixture subsides. (If you close the lid right away, you will get overflow. The idea is to let the heat of the waffle maker steam the eggs into a more solid form before you let the lid rest downwards). Cook through 2 waffle maker cycles and you’ll get a deliciously crisp outcome. Can be refrigerated or frozen and reheated in a toaster oven.
Macros per serving: 6.1g cards; 26g fat; 10.6g protein