Tuesday, April 18, 2017

More Cleanup . . .

I'm on vacation for two weeks even though I had two weeks of unexpected leave with both the kidney stone and then my torn retina.  I really, really needed this time, however, and my boss was agreeable.  One of my besties is here for a couple of weeks taking her vacation, too, so that's great!  For the past couple of days we've been hanging out at home. watching various television shows, and going through my cookbooks.

As I continue on my new food journey, I wanted to look at the cookbooks I kept in the last purge.  Gotta tell you - a nice stack of books just went to my local Little Free Library.  I'm looking at recipes with a new eye now.  I did find some wonderful ones to try - lots of little sticky flags on various pages  :-)

I also decided that I needed to deal with my spice cabinet - it escaped the last go-round with the food cabinets.  So - I pulled everything out.  I have no earthly idea how all this stuff fit in that little cabinet . . .

As with the food cupboards, I found a lot of stuff that was expired, and, unfortunately, a lot of stuff that had salt in it!  Spice mixes often have salt - something that had never occurred to me before.

And I guess that stuff does actually wear out/expire . . . These are red pepper flakes.  I don't use them, but have them on hand.

The one on the left I'm sure was my mom's . . . (she's been gone 13 years next month).  The one on the right doesn't expire until 2018.  Quite a color difference!

I went through every bottle and jar - these made the cut because they don't have salt in them - but they have some possibly questionable ingredients in them for someone watching their oxalate.  Again, I don't have to watch my oxalate as closely as most other people who make kidney stones.  Salt is the biggie for me.  I'll be talking to my Health Coach about these.  Crossing my fingers that they will still be OK for me to use!

I have a question for you cooks out there - if a jar of spice has never been opened (i.e., it's still sealed under the lid), is the expiration date still a true expiration date?  

All of these are old - the Dill Weed has a 2006 expiration date and the Cinnamon Sticks don't even have an expiration date - but all of them are still sealed.  Thoughts?

Similar question for extracts - do they really expire/go bad??

Yes - that's a glass bottle with a metal lid.  You know that was my mom's.  :-)  They all have been opened, but they all still smell OK.

So - yeah, the spice cupboard is now set up for success!  The top shelf has all the questionable ingredients that I will be asking about in Jill Harris's Kidney Stone Prevention Course

Looks kinda empty, doesn't it?  I had a lot of spice blends, and, as mentioned, they nearly all had salt/sodium in them.  I'm doing well with limiting my salt.  I'm struggling, however, to get enough calcium and enough potassium in each day.  I'm certainly better than I was, but I'm still learning this new balancing act - and getting enough calcium has proved the most problematic because when I drink too much milk (Lactaid) or too much calcium-enriched orange juice, I have intestinal distress and have to run for the bathroom.  I'm sparing you the details.  You can imagine . . .

I can hardly wait for my course to start tomorrow!!  I know I'm going to learn so much every week - I already have a list of questions!  :-)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

No Autotune Here . . .

Masterful musicians . . .

Happy Saturday  :-)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Setting Myself up for Success . . .

Kind of a wild story, all this kidney stone stuff, huh?  Many thanks for your messages of support  :-)  They mean a lot!

I spent a good part of my weekend working on my cupboards, fridge, and freezer.

I had a 29-year supply of tea - a lot of which was past its "best by" date.  I decided to pretty much let it all go.  There's no point to keeping it in the house when I know I won't be drinking it.

There were a lot of things that have a LOT of salt in them.  I also had a lot of other stuff that was also past its prime.  Often by five or six years . . .  three trash bags went out, and the bags in this photo will go to my cleaning lady if she wants them.  If she doesn't, I will take them to the local food pantry on Monday.

The cupboards are cleaned out, and cleaned up.

There are a few things that once they're gone I won't get again.  There's a lot of room in there now, because most of the stuff that you would keep in cabinets usually has a lot of salt in it.

That's my pantry cupboard.  The brown bags on the bottom are Irish whole wheat flour from King Arthur.  I got them to make Wheaten Bread, which is common in Northern Ireland and which is the best bread ever.  Although whole grains are higher in oxalate, I figure since I'm baking it myself, I should be able to have it once in awhile (particularly if I drink a glass of milk with it).  Besides which, that stuff was spendy  :-D  in the front is my 100% Whole Wheat pasta that I really like - believe it or not, I think I get to go back to regular pasta )although I can tell you that it doesn't taste nearly as good without salt . . .) again because the whole grain is higher in oxalate.

Here's my fridge.  Yes, I really do have an entire freezer shelf devoted to icing devices for multiple part of my body  :-D  I am, however, going to move them down to the bottom shelf!

I think this was a good way for me to really start getting things in order in my kitchen.  It's now imperative that I cook more.

It certainly didn't hurt to clean all this stuff out and wipe down all the shelves.  Kind of like a mini-spring cleaning  :-)  I think I'm ready!  If you have any low-sodium recipes that actually taste good, please share  :-D

Feeling the need for some true singers and amazing harmonies today . . .

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A Week of Doctors, Part IV

We're finally on to Thursday and Friday now.

I spoke with Jill Harris on Thursday morning and made what was an easy decision.  I will be participating in her 6-Week Kidney Stone Prevention Course.  I will be able to learn a great deal about how to successfully (hopefully) manage my new dietary requirements.  If you scroll down the page at that link, you'll see that each week captures a different topic.  The course is limited to 12 people each time and it's very affordable.

In addition, I've also chosen to do some personal coaching with Jill.  I'm doing this because my numbers in a few areas were a little scary.  In fact, she was actually surprised that the urologist hadn't put me on medication immediately.

Apparently the amount of salt I used to consume has been causing my body to leach calcium out of my bones and pour it into my urine so my kidneys can do what they need to do.  I don't understand all the chemistry behind this - and (for once) I don't need to.  For now, I just need to focus on upping my water and lessening my sodium.  I'm thinking that you're probably thinking that this really doesn't seem all that hard - but there are more pieces of the puzzle for me.

While I'm upping my water and lowering my salt, I also have to find ways to up my calcium and potassium, as well as limit my protein and sugar.  Thankfully for me, one thing that I don't need to concentrate on initially is my intake of foods high in oxalate.  That's the lowest item on the list for me.  I'm choosing foods that are lower in oxalate when I can, but again, it's more about water and salt.

 And . . . because I'm trying to help my bladder out at the same time, I've been advised to drink only water. No coffee (no problem - I don't drink it).  No tea (I'll miss it). No spicy foods (again not a problem, I've never been big on super spice).  I am drinking Lactaid milk, however, it's one of the best ways for me to up my calcium - many other dairy products (like cheese) have a lot of sodium in them.  I'm not counting it toward my daily liquid intake - it's all about the calcium.

Jill is wonderful, and if you've happened to find my blog because you were searching on kidney stones, I would encourage you to check her out.  She coaches people all over the country, so you don't have to be local to work with her.

Alrighty then.  I'm hanging in and I'm learning.  It's going to be interesting, that's for sure  :-)

Friday - I had my annual physical with my primary care doc.  My labs came back today and they don't show anything that I wasn't expecting.  My lipid numbers (cholesterol, triglycerides, etc.) are not great.  I'm not surprised, but the changes I'm making with the kidney stone diet will take care of those, as well.

I'm doctored out.


So, that's the rest of the story.  I think you can probably see now why I broke it into four pieces.  There was just too much to capture in one post.

Here's to a great day  :-)

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Week of Doctors, Part III

So - we're still on last Wednesday, and I'm finally seeing my urologist!  Yay!

My stone was 80% calcium oxalate and 20% calcium phosphate.  He told me that calcium oxalate is the most common type of stone.  The results of the 24-hour urine collection tests told him why I made a stone, and he was then able to tell me the areas where I need to make changes to hopefully avoid making another.

For me, the short story is this: "Drink More Water, Eat Less Salt."

The rest of the story, is that I have changes to make and they won't be one-time things.

Here's the deal:  because I've made one stone, I am 40% to 50% more likely to make another.  Dude.  I'm serious.  In order for me to avoid making another stone, the changes I make have to be for the rest of my life.  As I was listening to him give me the test results and explain my treatment plan, I knew that I was going to need help to be successful. 

You can get a little background on my own research and thoughts from my March 12th post. I had continued my own research, and it led me to the University of Chicago, where Dr. Fredric Coe has published what amounts to an online book about kidney stone prevention. 

If you do any research at all into kidney stones, you discover that one person says one thing, and another says the opposite, and they all talk about oxalate in some form or another.  It's extremely confusing.  Since I have such great doctors, I decided to stick with them and work with their guidelines.

My urologist knew of Dr. Coe, and the diet he gave me pretty much came from Dr. Coe.  There is a nurse educator who works with Dr. Coe.  Her name is Jill Harris.  Everything I was reading on both the UofC website and her own website, was telling me that she would likely be a great person to help me on this journey.  She is a private health coach who devotes her entire coaching practice exclusively to the prevention of kidney stones.  Who knew?  I asked my urologist if he would have any objection to my working with someone like Jill to help me be successful.

He was thrilled!

I don't have to take any meds (at this time (and hopefully never)).  It's more water, less salt, and some dietary changes.  That doesn't sound too crazy or difficult until you look closer.

I must drink between three and four liters of water a day.  You guys, that's a lot of water.  Yesterday was the first day I made it to 3 liters.

And sodium - which is in Every. F-ing. Thing. - has to be limited to 1,000 milligrams a day. 

Again, this seems like it should be relatively easy - just stop salting your food.  Well, yeah, that's a given.  But I'm not kidding when I tell you that salt is in EVERY PROCESSED FOOD.  I've been a label reader for decades.  If you're not already a label reader, I encourage you to start.  It will be eye-opening for you.

Here's a label . . . This is the nutritional label for Bay's Original English Muffins (something I was eating many days for breakfast):

At first glance, not horrible, but your eyes likely skipped over the sodium because in your everyday life you're probably more concerned with calories, fat, and maybe sugar.  Look again . . .

When you see that one English muffin has 540 milligrams of sodium - and your daily limit is 1,000 - you begin to see how all-of-a-sudden "eat less sodium"  is no longer such a simple change. 

The urologist told me that he'd like to see what I can do on my own in the three months before I have to see him again.  I left his office with a copy of my 24-hour urine collection results, the kidney stone diet, encouragement, a wonky feeling in the pit of my stomach, and the realization that I had no idea what to eat. 

I emailed Jill Harris as soon as I got back to work . . .

(Yes, there's more  ;-) )

Sunday, April 9, 2017

A Week of Doctors, Part II . . .

Alrighty then.  Moving on to Wednesday . . .

If you've been keeping score at home, you'll remember that I had a kidney stone in late February. The past weeks have been a game of hurry up and wait.  I would be lying if I said I hadn't been worried waiting and waiting to find out the full story - I had no idea how long it takes to make a kidney stone, and I was afraid I might be making another while waiting.

You can reread all the stuff leading up to this point if you click over on the "Kidney Stone" tag toward the bottom of the sidebar over on the right.  Specifically, I chronicled some of the testing and questions leading up to my visit to my new urologist on Wednesday in my March 26th post.  I'm going to return to a couple of sections of that post and elaborate.

There was a question about the amount of follow up I've had since the stone and whether that was normal.  I've come to learn that my urologist (the new one) is absolutely amazing.  The follow up and tests that I've had in the past few weeks are what a urologist should do.  Particularly the two back-to-back 24-hour urine collections.  I've heard that some doctors only get one rather than two.  Two is better because it gives you a much more complete picture of what's going on in your body.  So, all the additional tests were not out of line.  At all.

In addition, I had some personal concerns and wondered if they were why more care was being taken with me.  Neither of them had any bearing on the follow up and number of tests I had.  Kidney disease is not the same as kidney stones, and although the ER doc told me as much, when I told the first urologist that my dad had died at the age of 33 from kidney disease, he wrote down that my dad died from heart disease.  (Yes, he really did - just another reason we weren't a good fit.)  Once I heard the same info from a doctor I trust, it really eased my mind (that I heard it again from my primary care doc on Friday, sealed the deal and allowed me to let that fear go).

So - I finished all the tests his physician's assistant had ordered, and I waited - impatiently, I might add - until this week.  Finally, on Wednesday, I got to actually meet with my new urologist!

Oh. My. God.  What a difference.  Let me tell you that he rocks so hard!!  My primary care doc really picked the perfect "stone guy" for me. Instead of hearing, "get another renal ultrasound in six weeks and make another appointment," I finally got some functional information.

I learned that based on the second ultrasound, it appears as though there are no other stones lurking in my kidneys - but I will have to have another CT scan in three months as part of my follow up - he wants to be very sure. I'll also have to have another follow-up 24-hour urine collection in three months (only one this time  :-) ).  When those things are completed, I'll see him for a followup visit.

The differences between my first urologist and my current one are substantial.  I'm grateful to the first one for getting the stone out of me, but he's history.  My new urologist was kind.  And he listened to me.  And he answered all my questions, as well as as sharing what I need to be able to move forward with my life.

I don't say "move forward with my life" lightly.  There is more to share.  It's not horrible news, but it is life-changing.  And yes, I'm going to make you wait - again - because this post is super-long already  ;-)

Oh - and I've pretty much decided on this pattern:  Penne (Ravelry link) as the winner for that Cubs-colored sock yarn.  I really want to make that cousin something - he's had a rough go lately, and he's a major Cub fan - I think this would cheer him up  :-)  My other pattern choice is the Ben Lomond fingerless mitts, which I actually think is a better choice, but the pattern is written for sport weight yarn rather than the fingering weight I want to use.  Anyone out there a wiz at transposing knitting patterns between yarn weights??  :-)

I'm still wanting to cast on something with that Cyborg Craft Room yarn - sadly, the dyer passed away this last year (I got this last April at YarnCon), so there will be no more from her.  It's 250 yards of DK weight.  Any ideas?

Some Sunday morning laid-back Beatles:


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Decisions, Decisions . . .

I've finished off all my lingering projects except for two that are in hibernation.  That means that I need to cast on!  And I have no idea what I want to knit, so I decided to approach this problem by looking at my yarn and thinking about what yarn I might want to use . . .

I opened the Yarnoire, and these are the things that leaped out at me.
  • 350 Yards of Ewetopia Cashmere Sport in the Indigo colorway - Sport weight
  • 420 Yards of Dragonfly Djinni in the Wrigleyville colorway - Fingering weight
  • 250 Yards of The Cyborg's Craft Room Attack & DK in the We Will Rock Ewe colorway - DK weight
  • 265 Yards of Ewetopia BFL BFF in the Tapestry colorway - DK weight
  • Hearthside Fibers' The New Directions Infinity Scarf kit
I've been trying to figure out something for that Wrigleyville yarn for awhile - I bought for one of my cousins who is a major Cub fan but I haven't round the right manly pattern for him.  I wanted it to be a scarf or a hat.

All the others - I could go any direction with them.

I'm still in Todd Rundgren mode this morning . . .  :-)

Friday, April 7, 2017

A Week of Doctors, Part I . . .

I don't even know where to start this time, so I guess I'll start at the beginning.

Tuesday . . .

As mentioned last time, my retina tore nearly two weeks ago.  On the Sunday evening prior, I had some flashing in my right eye just before I went to bed.  This is usually a precursor to some sort of activity in my eye, but since I've had it before, and it was right as I was getting into bed, I didn't think twice about it.  I got up on that Monday morning and headed in to work, and as I was sitting down at my desk, I caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of my right eye.  Of course, I looked in that direction - and there was a giant, fuzzy caterpillar-like floater with a bunch of Medusa-like snakes/tails flinging themselves hither and yon.

Well crap.

Whenever something like this happens, you have to call your opthamologist and be seen.  So I rang them.  My regular retina guy (whom I like very much) wasn't working that day, but he was working the next, so I asked if I could see him the next morning.  The last time this happened, I was told that I could wait until the next day.  The guy on the phone said he thought I really should be seen that same day, but he made the appointment for me for the next. 

And I kept working.

And about an hour or so later, I realized that there were a LOT of tiny floaters in my eye (along with all the snake tails), and I was having a lot of trouble seeing.

So I put my left hand over my left eye . . . and realized that not only was my right eye a fricking sand storm of floaters, I couldn't really see out of it.  I could see some shapes and colors, but mostly it looked like white static on the telly.  That was it.


I rang the retina guy's office again and told them that I thought I had probably better be seen that day after all and they told me I could be seen in a western suburb of Chicago accessible by the L.  So, a few hours later, I toddled on over and got on the L and then walked over to the office.

I've been through many of these retinal exams before and they are never very fun.  This was no different - until the doctor starting saying things I'd never heard before - things like hemorrhage, and horseshoe tear.  I was cracking jokes attempting to keep myself from freaking out.

There was so much blood in my eye that the doctor couldn't see well enough to do surgery immediately.  I had to sit quietly in the waiting room, with my eyes closed and patched, for what turned out to be two hours. 

Then, when she took another look, she felt that enough of the blood had settled that she could proceed with surgery.  I had emergency laser surgery right then.  Two different procedures.  The first was with a regular laser.  It's not a lot fun, but I kept reminding myself that it wasn't even a patch on kidney stone pain and was able hold still.  She couldn't reach one end of the horseshoe with the regular laser, so she had to use a cryo laser (or, as I call it, a freezy laser).  She was successful in pretty much nailing my retina back together.

I cabbed back to my office to pick up a few things, and then walked to the train.  I didn't get home until 8:30 that night.  It wasn't a very fun day.  I went back in to the city last Tuesday to see my regular retina guy.  He carefully checked everything again and told me that he thought things were going to be fine.  I couldn't drive, and I had to sleep propped up on the sofa - kinda like I had to do when I had shoulder surgery last summer.

After another week off where all I did was sit around and watch old Perry Mason reruns, I went back to work on Monday. 

Which brings us to this most recent Tuesday. 

I went back to my retina guy for him to check my eye again.  Luckily, he said multiple times that my retina looked really good.  I have to see him again in May - they watch this kind of stuff pretty closely.

I still have some floaters, but the haziness seems to be mostly gone.  I'm going to try driving tomorrow.  I was going to try today after work because I needed to go to the store, but I missed my window of opportunity.

So, pretty much feeling exceedingly lucky, and majorly grateful.  My vision will likely return to normal, and these floaters (which are blood) will eventually be reabsorbed by my body.   :-)

That's the update on my eye.  I have lots more to share - but I'll split it up :-)  In the meantime, Todd Rundgren keeps popping up on my Facebook feed.  I don't know why  :-D  specifically his tune, Can We Still Be Friends.  Somehow I missed Todd singing his own work on this one, because I was familiar with the song through a cover that the late Robert Palmer cut (one of my favorite artists).   Both are awesome.  Here's Robert Palmer's version:

And here is Todd's original - different key and a little slower tempo.  I love them both: