Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Update on my health situation

Wow, I haven't written over here in a long time. Sorry about that. Kinda fell off the wagon and that sucker is LONG gone.

To catch you guys up to speed, you may want to read this blog. Because of that situation, I'm having to make some changes to my way of life. It's not a diet, although I'm sure I'll refer to it as "my diet" more times than not. It's technically a "cleanse" but because a lot of people don't understand what that means, lemme explain a little bit about what it means.

A "cleanse," by definition is a method used to rid your body of toxins and impurifications. These can be caused by many things, but at the top of the list are allergies, medication, bad diet or infection/illness. It's also commonly called a "detox," but since many people relate that term with drug or alcohol abuse, for the sake of clarification, I'll stick with "cleanse."

When I went to my chiropractor (technically, a "kinesiologist") after my surgery, he explained that the most likely cause for my ovarian cysts was excess estrogen. With one ovary removed, it should even out, but that will take some time. An estrogen cleanse will help hasten the process and get my body functioning correctly again after years and years of not working right. 

PLEASE keep in mind, I am *NOT* a doctor, nor do I know your personal health situation, so please do NOT begin a cleanse or any other specialized diet such as this without first consulting your health care provider. 

This particular cleanse is what my doctor suggested for me to help balance out my hormones after my oophorectomy. It's also used for people with PMS, hormone-related symptoms, menopause and even men with prostate conditions.

With the exception of the supplements, the "modified elimination diet" is pretty much what I should be eating all the time. It's absent of unhealthy fats, additives, caffeine and processed foods, which are all things that cause us impurifications to begin with. Technically, this shouldn't be such a HUGE problem to follow, but when you've lived your life in the "Foods to Avoid" column, it's going to be quite the adjustment. It's also a diet that's extremely difficult to follow if you spent much time traveling (which I do). For that reason, I will not be starting the cleanse until April when I return from a trip to L.A. 

That point, I begin what I've termed "Shark Week."

That's the first phase of the cleanse. It involves shakes made with an herbal supplement called "Estrium". Each day for seven days, I consume nothing but these shakes and one type of green vegetable (changing veggies each day). During this time, I can have nothing but water, that vegetable and these shakes. And when I say water, I mean a LOT of it. For my weight, I'm required to drink at least sixteen 8oz glasses per day. That's a minimum. Ideally, I should drink about 24 glasses, which means at least one glass an hour. This water is what will help flush the toxins from my body.

If I make it through the first week (and that's a BIG "if"), then I continue on to two months of "Step 2," which is the "modification elimination diet" I mentioned earlier. I will continue to drink the shakes, but I'm now allowed to eat foods from an approved list. I also must add a wheatgrass supplement called "Dynamic Greens" and "EPA/DHA 720," an Omega-3 supplement. The modification elimination diet is listed below:

NOT allowed: 
  • oranges
  • corn/corn based products
  • wheat, barley, soy, rye and any/all products containing gluten
  • peanuts/peanut butter
  • beef, pork, sausage, processed meats/byproducts, eggs and shellfish
  • most dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, ice cream and "non-dairy" creamers
  • margarine, shortening, hydrogenated oils, mayonnaise & other processed oils
  • soda, alcohol, coffee, tea or any other caffeinated beverage
  • chocolate, ketchup, mustard, relish, soy sauce, bbq sauce and other condiments
  • white/brown refined sugar, honey, syrup (maple, corn, etc), candy and any other desserts made with those sweeteners
That being said, I am allowed to have the following:
  • unsweetened fresh, frozen or canned fruits or fruit juices (with the exception of oranges)
  • fresh, raw, steamed, juiced or grilled vegetables (except corn)
  • rice, quinoa, tapioca, buckwheat
  • breads made of rice, oat, buckwheat, millet, potato flour
  • all beans, peas and lentils
  • almonds, cashews, walnuts and sesame seeds
  • all canned (water-packed), frozen or fresh fish, chicken, turkey, wild game and lamb
  • milk substitutes (rice milk, almond milk, etc)
  • cold-pressed olive, flax, canola, sunflower, safflower and sesame oils
  • filtered/distilled water, herbal teas, selzter or mineral water
  • all spices and vinegar
  • fruit sweetener, blackstrap molasses and stevia
When those two months are up, I may begin to slowly introduce the foods from the "No-no" list back into my diet one at a time, with the exception of the fats & oils, sugars, soda and all corn syrups. I must also avoid processed & manufactured food as well as artificial sweeteners, flavors, additives and preservatives.
This may kill me.

Just kidding.

Okay, not really.

As I said, when the majority of my diet has come from the "do not eat" list, to adjust to this strict of a healthy diet is going to be the toughest thing I've ever done. But if it means getting my body back to a healthy state, then I need to do it. I've been wanting to get back to where I was 2 years ago anyway and this will be one of best ways to get there. I'm going to have setbacks and there are going to be days when I am going to be absolutely insufferable. The majority of the first few weeks, as a matter of fact. I can almost guarantee it.

I know, I know "How will we be able to tell the difference?" 

Trust me. You'll be able to tell. 

The toughest thing for me to adjust to overall will be not having caffeine. I can live (albeit unhappily) without soda, booze and chocolate. I can even do herbal tea without too much complaint, but the lack of caffeine to a caffeine addict is hell on earth. If I 'cheat' or break the rules, I guarantee it will be to stave off a caffeine headache. I'm going to talk to my doctor to see what we can do to help alleviate the withdrawls, but honestly, I don't know how much can really be done. Like any drug, it's going to have to be detoxed. 

In the meantime, I will increase my water intake and do what I can dietarily to get things started moving in the right direction. What this means is that all these wonderful, yummy, tasty, delicious treats you guys have been sending me have to stop. No more chocolate, candy, vodka, Garrett popcorn (I kinda wanna die) and soda. I will, however, happily accept macadamia nuts, almonds and walnuts if you're insistent on sending anything. I immensely appreciate all the wonderful things you've sent me to help cheer me up during my recovery time. I just can't have them anymore.

So that's what's up.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Little Monsters

WARNING: Medically graphic post and probably one that risks an overshare or two. Proceed at your own risk.

I wish this post was talking about the term Lady Gaga uses when referring to her fans, but in this case, it's referring to the monstrous tumor the doctors found in my abdomen yesterday.

I awoke yesterday morning to severe cramps that I thought were menstrual in nature. I had an endometrial ablasion almost six years ago, so I don't have periods any more, but I do, from time to time, get cramps, breast swelling and migraines. So, over the last few weeks when I've had increased cramping, I didn't think anything of it. I figured it was just PMS-related, took a couple of Tylenol and went on with my day. Yesterday, however, was quite different from the cramps I'm used to having. 

I thought perhaps it was bowel related and once I went to the bathroom I'd be fine. I did, but I wasn't fine. If anything, the pain had gotten worse. Now, I'll be the first to admit I'm a pain baby, but rarely do I cry from pain. The cramps I experienced yesterday morning had me doubled-over sobbing. 

I called my friend Wendy, who's also a nurse, and she suggested that if this wasn't normal cramping that I needed to go to the emergency room. So after a quick call to my bestie, she came and picked me up. That forty minute drive to the emergency room was almost too much. The cramps got worse and by the time we pulled up in front of the ER, I had all I could do to walk into the hospital.

My hubby joined Ann Marie and me a few minutes after I got settled into a room and I spent the next several hours being poked, prodded and scanned. My fear was that it was a blood clot due to all the sitting I'd been doing on the plane and in the airports last week, but the doctor quickly dismissed that fear. He first thought I had kidney stones and sent me down for a CT scan to find out for sure. This initial diagnosis scared me immensely. The pain involved with passing a kidney stone aside, I have plans for these kidneys and nowhere in the scheme of those plans was there room for stones. I had a small meltdown and was proverbially bitchslapped from my bestie for worrying about her kidneys instead of myself. I digress. Fortunately, the results from the CT scan came back and my fears were put to rest for the time being.

Then the doctor mentioned something called a teratoma that showed up on my right ovary and coming from a family who has been stricken with numerous types of cancer, I recognized the term -toma immediately. The nurse reassured me that it didn't necessarily mean cancer, that it was more like a cyst. Having known numerous people with ovarian cysts, I wasn't over worried; cysts are pretty common, after all. The doctor then told me that according to the scan, the cyst was 7cm x 7cm. Metric conversions aren't my forté, but I knew that was about 3 inches. In that area of the body, that's a good sized cyst. The doctor told me that he'd consulted with a gynecologist who was on his way over to look at my scan and discuss the findings. 

When the gyno got there, he confirmed the doctor's diagnosis that it was a ovarian teratoma. He said it was a medium sized cyst that would need to come out, but that it wasn't emergent and unless I wanted to do the procedure today, it could wait a week or two. I expressed my concern about it being cancer, but the doctor reassured me that the chances of it being cancer were less than five percent. This eased my worries a little, but by this point, I was mad at whatever had caused me this pain and I just wanted it out. The gyno understood and explained the procedure would be done laparoscopically and that depending on how involved it was with my right ovary, it too may need to be removed. Given that I had my tubes tied almost fifteen years ago, I didn't care if my lady parts stayed or went. I signed paperwork, the doctor got on the phone with surgery and within an hour, I was being prepped.

By 7 p.m. I was in recovery and the nurses were reminding me to breathe deeply (always a problem for me). Typically, this surgery is done out-patient but because I was having a good deal of pain and one of the incision sites was having some trouble with seepage, they decided to admit me overnight. I spent the night on a Fentanyl pump and the doctor came in to talk to me this morning. 

I had a lot of questions for him because he was gone by the time I came out from under the anesthesia and Hubs isn't the detail-oriented person I am, he didn't ask the questions I would have. I wanted to know if they had to take my ovary, first of all (they did). As an information whore, it was also important to me to know exactly what this thing was called (dermoid teratoma - I'll let you Google that little bit of nastiness on your own). I also wanted to know if there was any way this could've been an ectopic pregnancy gone horribly awry (it wasn't). I wanted to know if there was a chance of it coming back on the other side (there is). I wanted to make sure my tubes were still "tied" (they are). I wanted to know what my recovery period is (two weeks). Most of all, I wanted to know if it is cancerous (doc says no, the biopsy should confirm this). Long story short, this cyst is the most disgusting thing you could possibly imagine but it has been removed. 

(The white and dark colored tissue you see here in the photos
is the cyst that wrapped around my right ovary.)

The doctor said that it was a bit larger than they first thought, explaining that the ovaries are typically the size of an almond and my cyst was the size of an orange and filled with fluid, hair and other organ-type tissues. I was totally grossed out, but he reassured me that this is normal because apparently ovarian tissues are complex in that they draw cells from all parts of the body - hair follicles, sweat glands, bones, teeth, organs like liver and kidneys, etc.This cyst, because it grew from the ovarian cells, also includes many of these cells. Hubs called it an alien and honestly? that's what it feels like this is: some sort of hairy little alien. It's been sent off to pathology and I should know shortly for certain that it's not a malignant tumor. Granted, the doctor has already given his expert opinion and that it's not cancer. But I'm someone who needs proof, so I will wait patiently (ha!) for the results to set my mind at ease.

Until then, I am forced to take it easy and recognize how fortunate I am in all this. If this had happened last week, my family would be frantic here at home while I was recovering at a friend's place in Harlem. My bestie, thankfully, is unemployed right now and was able to drop everything and not only take me to the hospital, but was able to stay with me all day to put my worried mind at ease. Hubs, too, was not only able to take off work and come to the hospital, his bosses had FMLA paperwork drawn up so he can take off the rest of the week to spend with me so I'm not alone. My friend RG came up and tagged in for Ann Marie and Hubs so they could get something to eat (since they hadn't eaten all day) and stayed with me. As it often does, our conversation helped me make sense of the day and the perspective I needed desperately. Even my ex-husband and his mother were there for me. They picked up Midget so she wasn't here alone and scared after school last night. They drove her to school this morning, too, so she wouldn't miss her presentation for National History Day. 

Tonight, Midget and I had the "What if it's cancer?" talk and I think we both feel infinitely better. Since Hubs can be a bit of a tosser and a turner, I decided to sleep on the couch tonight. It's also easier for me to get up and down out here, so this is where I'll sleep. Midget, who is afraid I may need her in the middle of the night, is also camped out here with me. She's asleep on the bean bag and I'm on the sofa.
Even in this narcotic haze, I can appreciate God in all this. His timing is impeccable and He has surrounded me with love. I am so blessed.

**UPDATE** The pathology reports indicate the tumor is benign. It is not cancerous.