Check out my blog at my new address:
See you there!
Check out my blog at my new address:
See you there!
So last Sunday I was hungry for a snack. A sweet snack. I opened the pantry door and rummaged around inside, searching for something to satisfy my craving. Then I spotted the box of Bisquick. They have a gluten-free version now in case you didn’t know. I could make biscuits.
But that wouldn’t satisfy the sweetness I was looking for. Strawberry shortcake would do the trick. But alas, no strawberries. When my daughter heard the disappointment in my voice, she suggested that I use a bag of frozen mixed berries that was taking up space in the freezer instead. Great idea! I baked the biscuits according to the recipe right on the back of the box. The recipe said it would make 10 biscuits. I decided to make them bigger and make only 9 biscuits. If I was going to make a sweet treat, I wanted more than a mouthful.
After 15 minutes they were done. I took them out of the oven and let them cool. Every time I bake something, I always want to taste it first before I serve it to anyone else. So…. when they cooled I tried one. Delicious! The wonderful aroma wafted down the hall which brought my daughter to the kitchen asking if she could try one. “Sure, go ahead,” I said. Noticing that I needed to start getting dinner prepared I decided we would have our mixed berry shortcake for dessert.
After dinner my daughter began to render down the frozen berries on the stovetop and added some sugar.
I set about whipping the cream.
Once finished, I sliced up some biscuits, put the fruit mixture on top, added some whipped cream and topped it off with more of the hot fruit mixture. It was heavenly!!! My husband came in search of his before I even called him.
I find myself doing this a lot lately. If I want a snack I end up baking something. I do more baking now than I’ve ever done. Have I mentioned that I’ve put on some poundage since I began my gluten-free baking adventure? Some people are under the impression that if you are eating gluten free you will lose weight. Well that hasn’t happened to me. I love to bake and I love to eat it. Remember I mentioned that I lost a lot of weight due to the fact that I couldn’t keep food down for a year. After my first cancer surgery, my surgeon’s advice to me was GO HOME AND GAIN SOME WEIGHT. Well I heeded his words and did gain some but perhaps a little too much. Now my doctors are telling me the opposite, suggesting that I lose at least 10 pounds. That’s going to be mighty hard to do unless I give up baking.
Unitl next time…
Yes… I’ll be the first to admit it. My health was deteriorating slowly beginning in 2003. Well, that’s when I first noticed it.
In 2005 I was vomiting practically every day. I was so tired and weak I don’t know how I was able to hold down a full-time job. I’d throw up in the bathroom at work. No one knew it though. More times than I’d care to remember, I would pull my car over to the side of the road on my way to work or home and throw up. In the fall of 2005 my twins headed off to separate colleges. I was barely able to help them on each of their move in days. I couldn’t carry much because I didn’t have the strength. Making the trek from the car, across the campus, and up the stairs to their rooms was impossible for me to do. I had to keep stopping to take a rest. I was more of a hindrance than anything else. Finally, I sat in the dorm room and watched everyone else move stuff in. Here they were, my daughter in August and my son in September, so nervous about moving off to a different state, making new friends, and doing well in their studies. I didn’t want them to have to worry about me.
In my mind I kept thinking that my family and friends didn’t know how sick I was. On the phone one night with my mother I told her that maybe I did have cancer and the doctors weren’t telling me. I realize that was a silly notion. Of course they would tell me. If they knew.
Due to the constant vomiting, I lost 40 pounds. A woman I worked with asked me what my secret was for losing so much weight because she wanted to do it too. She had to be kidding. My clothes were just hanging off of me. I felt like hell and was desperately trying to keep food down. I decided to just eat soft things like, jello, pudding, soup, and scrambled eggs. Well, that didn’t help. I threw that up too. And most of it contained gluten.
As I mentioned in a previous post, my hematologist ordered 8-week iron intravenous treatments for me several times during the year due to my severe anemia. One particular evening I had finished my eighth week of treatments but I wasn’t feeling any boost of energy at all from this last round. I was barely able to drive myself home. I would close my eyes at red lights to rest because I was always so, so tired. When I arrived home I literally crawled in to the living room and lay there. My husband was already home from work and preparing dinner in the kitchen. I announced from the floor that I was home. He looked down at me and asked if I was all right. No… I’m not kidding you. He really asked me that. You see – when people view you as a strong person they assume you never need help. I’ve been through some tough times in my life and managed to survive it all somehow. So, I picked myself up off the floor, told him how tired I was and plopped down in a kitchen chair. I really didn’t even want to eat because I already knew within half an hour I’d be throwing it all back up.
When my kids came home from college for Thanksgiving break, I could tell by the looks on their faces when they saw me that I looked really bad. I was physically and emotionally drained. I’d like to end this post today on a happy note but I can’t. Things got much, much worse.
Until next time…
If you’re in the celiac world maybe you’ve heard of Dr. Peter Green, the Director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University in New York. I can’t even remember who it was that suggested I go to see Dr. Green. It was so long ago. I took their advice and set up an appointment with him. On a beautiful autumn day, just like today, in October of 2004 with my husband driving, we made the trek into New York with my mom along for the ride.
Dr. Green looked at the x-rays of my pelvis and abdomen that I was asked to bring along. He didn’t see anything that would indicate a reason for concern. He re-enforced the need for me to strictly adhere to the gluten-free diet. He set up an appointment for me to return the following week to meet with the nutritionist. Of course this meant that my husband and I had to both take off another day from our jobs. I love to drive but driving in New York is a little unnerving for me.
So… the following week I met with the nutritionist. I found her to be very helpful. She gave me a booklet that reinforced the foods I could eat, as well as foods and ingredients to avoid. However, here at the Celiac Disease Center, I felt that they put a more positive spin on the foods that I could safely eat. One section of the booklet was termed Survival Guide. It was here I discovered I could eat ice cream again. On a previous visit to a nutritionist near home, I was told no more ice cream but to have frozen yogurt instead. I learned to like frozen yogurt but flavor choices were limited. The ability to eat ice cream again was exciting news. I left there that day feeling a bit uplifted about the gluten-free diet. I read excerpts from the booklet aloud to my husband on our drive home. Believe me… I wasn’t jumping for joy after reading this booklet. It was extremely difficult for me to steer clear of so many things I had been eating and loved for years.
There was also a Gluten-Free Shopping Guide section in the booklet that concentrated on essentials for a gluten-free kitchen. It told the reader to purchase such things as a new cutting board and colander, for example, in order to avoid cross contamination. It actually said to take my time and browse in food stores, read labels, and have fun!
Another section of the booklet concentrated on hidden sources of gluten such as in soy sauce, processed cheeses, prepared cake frosting to name a few. I would never have guessed that gluten could be found in so many food products other than baked goods, cookies and pasta. Reading labels was a very important task for me now. One of the buzz words to look for is modified food starch. This could mean it may be derived from wheat. If it says modified corn starch it would be ok because then it was derived from corn and corn is safe for consumption by someone with celiac. Soups and gravies were off limits because they may contain wheat starch as a thickener.
Dr. Green wrote the book “Celiac Disease – A Hidden Epidemic” which I later purchased. It’s packed with all kinds of information regarding symptoms, diagnosis and associated illnesses.
Isn’t if frustrating when you try to tell someone something and they just don’t believe you? Well… it happened to me all the time before I was diagnosed with celiac disease. Then it happened again when I had cancer. Doctors couldn’t find it and kept blowing off the fact that I felt sicker than usual.
Out of the blue In March of 2003, I began to feel sick to my stomach quite often. My general practitioner and the gastroenterologist he sent me to both insisted it was because I was not following my gluten-free diet regularly but I knew this pain and discomfort was something else. I was sure of it. I had a hard time convincing either one of them of that. Occasionally, I started vomiting after eating a meal. Neither doctor seemed concerned but I was concerned.
My doctor ordered some blood work and the results showed I was anemic. And yes… I was chewing ice again. He prescribed iron supplements for me but several months later when follow-up blood work indicated I was still anemic, he gave me the name of a hematologist/oncologist to see at a hospital that was over 30 miles away. She was great and to this day I love having her as a member of my medical team. She put me on iron intravenous for 8 weeks to bring my hemoglobin and other blood counts up. Wow… I never saw that coming. Since oral iron supplements weren’t working she needed to intensify the dose by putting it straight into my veins. Now I have no intention of using medical lingo on you but quite simply I can tell you that the average hemoglobin number is 12. Doctors are happy if you are at that number or higher. I was hovering between 7 and 8.
I hate to say it but it was a bit of an inconvenience to travel 72 miles round trip to the hospital and back once a week to have my veins poked and prodded in order to set up the intravenous treatment. I had to arrive at work late or leave my job early to get to the hospital. I received my intravenous in the chemotherapy treatment room. In the beginning I was a bit uncomfortable in there. Looking around at all the people sitting in chairs receiving their chemo was depressing. Some wore hats, others wigs, and others simply didn’t care to cover their bald heads. Some of their treatments took up to eight hours. Most had a family member or friend with them so they didn’t have to be alone. Other patients that were in really bad shape lay in beds to receive their treatments. Seeing all this humbled me. Who was I to complain about the trip back and forth to the hospital? My iron treatment lasted about 30 to 45 minutes and then I was done.
By the eighth week of treatment I felt like I had a little more energy and my hemoglobin was at 12. My hematologist asked that I come back in 3 months for follow-up blood work. In August of 2004 my hemoglobin was at 8 once again. She was determined to find the reason for my continuous loss of iron. I loved her for that. She suggested we do a bone marrow test. I can honestly say that was one of the most painful experiences of my life. I cried through the entire procedure. I didn’t love her then. She told me my bones were so soft she had to go deeper than she planned on. They were soft due to a lack of calcium. I didn’t receive anesthesia for this procedure and it seemed to go on forever as she plunged some sharp instrument hard into one of the bones in my lower back/hip area. The nurse who was in the room with us grabbed my hand and I held on to her tight. She kept assuring me it would be over soon.
The biopsy came back negative for bone cancer. I was certainly glad to hear that news. However, I was very depressed we still didn’t know what was wrong with me. I was at the lowest place in my life that I had ever been. I felt like I was just existing and often times I didn’t even feel like getting out of bed in the morning. I felt bad that my kids had to see me like this. I consider myself to be a strong person and I’ve been told by others that I’m a strong person so somehow I just pressed on. My parents were strong people too in tough times so I guess it’s in our genes. I still continued to hold down a job, take care of my family and the household. I was determined not to let this get me down. Whatever it was.
IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY TODAY! The air conditioner is off and I’ve opened all the windows in the house. The breeze blowing in as I sit here at my desk is delightful. I try to enjoy the little things that life has to offer but sometimes I forget to do that. I think most of us do. We get so wrapped up in our daily lives we don’t have time to feel the breeze on our face.
When this happens I force myself to think back three years ago when I was on my chemotherapy treatments. I didn’t enjoy life at all then. I sat and watched my favorite TV shows at night. I couldn’t even get into the story line because I realized the stupid show didn’t even matter. It wasn’t real. It was just a bunch of people acting out a story. Why were the actors on sitcoms throwing out one-liners, trying to make people laugh? How could they joke around when I felt so awful? If they lost all their hair and had painful mouth sores that prevented them from eating, they wouldn’t be laughing. The commercials bothered me too. I didn’t care to hear how one mop was better than another. I used to be a clean freak. My house was always spotless. What did that matter now? I didn’t care about cleaning my house.
As I sit here enjoying the soft, cool breeze on my skin I think how lucky I am to be alive. Even though my stamina is not at the level it was before undergoing surgery and chemo, that’s ok. I can live with that. I don’t plan on running any marathons. There is still so much more I want to do, and can do. I enjoy experimenting with gluten-free flours and developing new recipes. Sharing my recipes for muffins, cakes, and other desserts with you on this blog is my intent. I bake and serve them to non-celiacs at family parties and get-togethers. I want the end result to taste REAL, as I call it, and not gluten free.
I look forward to being around when my kids start having kids. A lot of women I know who are grandmas say how wonderful it is. I sure don’t want to miss that. Taking my dog with me on a 30-minute walk a couple of days a week is fun. I don’t do it in the summer but now that the days are getting cooler, I can begin again. I’m still a clean freak but not to the extent I was before.
I used to despise my surgical scars. Now I look at them as reminders that I survived a trip to hell and back. Twice! When I hear people complaining about trivial things I smile to myself. If you can’t fit a four-poster-bed into your master bedroom, it really doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t.
Did you ever wonder what kinds of things can happen to your body if you are vitamin deficient? WELL TO BE HONEST WITH YOU, I NEVER WONDERED. I did, however, suffer through some of the painful effects.
In an article written by Jefferson Adams on www.celiac.com dated 6/5/2015, he states that serious complications associated with malabsorption can occur if a person is living with undiagnosed celiac disease or if they have been diagnosed but are not eating gluten free. Chronic gluten-related inflammation and damage impairs absorption of nutrients, and likely causes malabsorption of oral medications. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K and B vitamins which diminish the absorption of iron, calcium, and folic acid.
For instance, I went through life with the corners of my mouth always being cracked. It may seem like a minor nuisance but it hurt. I was constantly rubbing vaseline on it at night and using chap stick during the day. Both offered some relief, but neither one cured the problem.
In addition, I suffered with cramps in the calves of my legs. I never knew when a cramp was going to hit. The worst ones came in the middle of the night. The pain was excruciating! I would jump out of bed and walk it out. Easier said than done. Those cramps made me cry and it took a while to ease them away so I could go back to sleep.
The other area of my body that used to cramp up quite often was my toes. One toe would literally wrap itself around another toe and latch on tight. It hurt so badly, and I couldn’t pry them loose. This was extremely painful and I would frantically take my shoe and sock off as fast as I could so I could relax and massage my toes until they undid themselves. Everyone else looking at it thought it was funny. Let me tell you, I WASN’T LAUGHING. The toe curling also happened at night when I was asleep. I would awaken suddenly and jump out of bed and try to walk it out or massage them.
One time I went ice skating at the local park with my sister and brothers. In turn, my mom laced up four pairs of ice skates. No sooner did I get on the ice I got a toe cramp. I hobbled off the ice as fast as I could, unlaced the skates, ripped off my heavy sock and proceeded to massage my toes in the below freezing temperatures crying my head off. When mom saw me she said, “I just laced up your skates and I’m not doing it again!” Through my tears I explained to her what was going on. That was the end of skating for me that night. Not because she wouldn’t lace my skates again but I was afraid of more toe curling. OUCH!!!
For some reason it always involved the third and fourth toes. I can’t even force them to curl up the way they used to, but you get the idea.
Now, of course, we know that celiac disease causes malabsorption of vitamins and minerals. Hence the reason I had all the problems I did. Now that I eat gluten free, and I’m absorbing all my vitamins, I can thankfully report my toes never curl up anymore. I don’t suffer with leg cramps. And… no more cracked corners of my mouth. Check out the article 5 Weird Signs You’re Vitamin Deficient, by Dr. Susan Blum at http://www.blumcenterfor health.com.
I feel like I’ve been a bit of a downer in my previous blogs, talking about the effects that being an undiagnosed celiac had on my body. So…this morning I’d like to share a recipe with you.
If YOUR family is like mine, no one wants to eat bananas when they’ve turned brown and mushy. When that happens, I simply put them in the freezer. Hence you eventually have a situation like this.
I was in the mood to bake this morning so I decided to bake banana muffins. Did you know that the banana is the world’s most popular fruit? When I’m ready to add them to my batter I take one out, defrost it in the microwave and squeeze it out of the peel into my mixing bowl.
Now I’m not a chef nor have I ever set foot inside a culinary institute. I’m simply Susan, who came up with recipes through trial and error because I was so desperate to have some delicious, homemade treats to eat that weren’t dry and crumbly. While I was recuperating in the hospital for a week after my first cancer surgery I watched the Food Network all day long. My mouth watered for all the meals and desserts the chefs whipped up. For three years prior to my cancer surgery I had been so sick and unable to keep food down. But now the thought of cooking and eating again sounded great to me.
After I was released from the hospital and rested for two weeks or so I began my gluten-free baking adventure. My husband bought me a new set of clear glass bowls. Just like the ones they all use on the Food Network. My kids bought me some colorful new measuring tools. Between you and me…I liked to pretend I had my own baking show. When I set all my baking dishes and ingredients out on the counter and shouted, “QUIET ON THE SET,” everyone rolled their eyes and high tailed it out of the kitchen muttering expletives under their breath. I didn’t care. I was having fun.
All kidding aside, you should dedicate certain bowls, baking pans and utensils to be used for gluten-free cooking and baking only. Unless, of course, your household is like mine. We only cook and bake gluten-free now so there’s never the worry of cross contamination with wheat products.
Banana Muffins – recipe makes 1 dozen.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
For a variation, you can add ½ cup of chocolate chips. I prefer the milk chocolate ones myself. Or you can add ½ cup of crushed walnuts. My cousin, who is a professional pastry chef, told me that for a more finished look simply sprinkle some crushed walnuts on top before baking.
ADD BOTH THE CHOCOLATE CHIPS AND THE WALNUTS FOR AN EXTRA TREAT!!!
If you bake them, please let me know how they turn out.
Have you ever had the urge to chew ice? At times I used to crave it. I couldn’t wait to get myself a cold drink so I could fill the glass with ice. I guzzled down the water, tea or whatever I was drinking and then spent the next glorious minutes chewing up all the ice. My sister and brothers would complain to my mom. “Mom, Susan’s crunching ice again and we can’t hear the TV.” It’s not my fault that we were all huddled together in close proximity to our 19 inch black and white television set so we could see it.
I didn’t know why but I went through that annoying ice-crunching phase for a while and then other times I couldn’t have cared less about chewing ice.
Years later when I was married with kids we would watch TV (a much larger one than the 19”) and again I would go through times that I would crunch on ice like nobody’s business. Now my husband and kids were asking me to stop crunching or go in another room.I have to admit that when I was crunching away, I couldn’t even hear the TV!!! I guess my ice crunching was annoying to others but I just couldn’t stop.
Do you know that later my hematologist/oncologist told me that anemia causes some people to chew on ice? After she told me that I researched it further online. If you go to www.mayoclinic.org and search anemia and ice craving you will find articles about it. Or just google it and other sources will pop up as well.
As far back as I can remember I was anemic. When I was a little girl my pediatrician prescribed a large bottle of iron supplements for me to take four times a year. I guess when I was taking the supplements the urge to chew ice went away. So…if there’s someone sitting near you crunching on ice, you might want to suggest they see a doctor about some blood work. They may be iron deficient.
I’m happy to say that I haven’t chewed on ice for several years now.
Well with some extra time on my hands this Labor Day weekend I was able to put my thoughts together and get some blogging done. I will probably be able to blog every day for a week or so and then it will drop down to once or twice a week.
Did I mention that I was forty-years-old when I was first diagnosed with celiac disease? At the time I was under the impression that it basically just affected my digestive track. That’s where all of MY OBVIOUS SYMPTOMS were. Gluten ingestion can cause diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and abdominal pain just to name a few. I had no idea how it could influence the rest of my body if it went untreated. Although my doctor didn’t focus on anything but my digestive track so maybe she didn’t realize it either?
I did pretty well in school up until the fifth grade. Then I just wasn’t able to retain information. My parents blamed my failing grades on my teacher. They said she was too easy on me. Now let me just say that I went to Catholic elementary school. My teacher was a nun. To those of you who also went to Catholic school, NEED I SAY MORE? The nuns didn’t let any kid get away with anything. In fact, this is the same nun who while walking around the classroom one day, grabbed hold of the hem of my skirt and pulled it to cover my knees as I sat at my desk.
IT WAS REALLY HARD FOR ME TO CONCENTRATE IN CLASS. MY MIND WANDERED.
My parents constantly told me that I had the ability but just wasn’t applying myself. Many nights they helped me with my homework but I had a difficult time memorizing. As hard as I studied, I just couldn’t remember history facts from one day to the next. When it came time to take a test I desperately tried to pull the information from my brain and write it on the paper but I couldn’t. My mind was a blur. Now the professionals have termed it BRAIN FOG.
According to an article written by Patrick Bennett at Allergicliving.com, it’s a symptom of celiac disease for some people. This fuzzy-headedness may also be related to the fatigue that occurs in those living with undiagnosed celiac disease.
As I write this blog I will repeat over and over how important it is to STAY ON A GLUTEN-FREE DIET IF YOU’VE BEEN DIAGNOSED AS HAVING CELIAC DISEASE. Don’t think of it as a diet but rather a life change. I’m not trying to make it sound easy to do. IT’S NOT! That’s why I cheated by eating gluten. There were certain foods I really missed and I didn’t want to give them up.
Don’t just start a gluten-free diet on your own if you do suffer with any of the symptoms I have described so far. It’s preferable to seek out the help of a gastroenterologist who is familiar with celiac disease and get tested. Visit www.celiac.org where you will find a Celiac Disease Symptoms and Conditions Checklist. You can also search for a gastroenterologist who is knowledgeable in the celiac disease arena in your area on this website. Fill out your checklist, print it out and visit the doctor of your choice. Of course, it’s always in your best interest to find a doctor who is in your insurance network.
Brain fog was the least of my worries. Little did I know that as I got older I’d be dealing with some really horrible stuff. Celiac disease affects everyone differently. The longer you ingest it, the more damage it can do. What I share with you will be MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCES ONLY.