Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sometimes a rock is just a rock

I had my appointment yesterday for the MRI followup.

And, without futher adieu, everything is fine.  My doctor said that other than the calcified tumor, there was nothing else that showed up in the MRI (well, hopefully, they did find a brain, but that's a whole 'nuther blog post).  She told me to come back in a year or two so she could make sure that the tumor was indeed not growing (calcified tumors *rarely* grow).  Oh, and she also said there wasn't any tissue swelling around the tumor (a *very* good thing, indeed), so she didn't see any reason why I would need surgery.  Additionally, the tumor was not negatively affecting anything.

Good news all the way around!  Thank You, Lord!
The cool thing in all of this is that for the vast majority of the time while we were waiting these past several weeks, I didn't really give "it" that much thought.  Periodically, a thought or two would swirl around my grey matter; but it just wasn't a big looming thing in my life.  THAT's the Peace of Our Lord, and it's a wonderful, precious gift!

I also told Tex that there was a part of me that was just a bit dissapointed that nothing showed up on the MRI (other than the rock rolling around in my head.  OK, it doesn't really roll; it's located in one specific spot).  To explain, just like the other MRIs that I have had (most of those being in my early to late 20s), nothing showed up to explain the "why" of the seizures.  My doctor did said that it was possible that the tumor had been there all these years and just now decided to manifest itself . . . but the tone of her voice indicated that while it was possible, it most likely was not actuality.  I tend to agree with such a scenario not being reality.

So.  Where did the seizures come from in the first place?  Why did I start having seizures?  Who knows?  I'll probably never know for sure.  That's actually part of the mystery of most seizure disorders in the first place.  Seizures happen.  Sometimes an explanation can be given; often times, however, there simply are no answers.  There ya go.

In related "news", I've been following the GARD eating program for 8 weeks + 4 days.  One of the most noticeable effects that I have noticed is that the dizziness has drastically decreased!  This is awesome!  There is still *some* dizziness; but it is occasional and not nearly as severe.  I began noticing the difference about 3 weeks into following GARD.

Currently, I have been seizure-free for 13 weeks + 5 days.  I checked the seizure history on my calendar; and the longest seizure-free time period just within the past 14 months has been 16 weeks + 5 days.  The longest seizure-free time period within the past 3.5 years has been 19 weeks + 1 day.  My hope is that the 13+ weeks that I currently have under my seizure-free belt will continue to add more and more days, with those days turning into weeks, months and even many, many years.

Onward and upward!

My thanks to all of y'all who have been praying for me and who have been covering me with your love and support.  I so very much appreciate it!

Thanks for reading!
Be blessed,

p.s.  I told my doctor about GARD and also told her that if I remained seizure-free for a year, then I was going to assume that GARD was working for me; but if I do have a seizure before next October, I will come back in to see her and re-evaluate things.  What I didn't say (but what I know that she clearly heard) was that as long as GARD was working for me, then there was absolutely no way that I would even consider anti-seizure meds.  Her laugh told me that she had heard everything I said; both what I had verbalized and what I implied but left unsaid.  I was prepared to be more direct regarding my stance against anti-seizure meds; but she's a smart cookie, has a good memory and caught on very well with what exactly I was relating to her.   

I really like this doctor.  She disagrees with my stance regarding anti-seizure meds (but unless a doctor is a naturopath, I imagine they would disagree with me) . . . BUT, she doesn't talk condescendingly to me regarding my views and she respects them.  I like that.  So VERY much!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Dairy-free Sausage / Potato / Kale Soup

About a year ago, one of our nieces sent me a recipe link and asked me if I could modify it to being dairy-free.  And, so I did.  And, it seemed to be a hit.  That's always a plus, doncha know.  Always.

A few days ago, I posted on Facebook about a one-woman cooking marathon day I was holding; and one of the dishes I mentioned was the Sausage / Potato / Kale soup (dairy-free).  I've since received a couple of requests for the recipe; and so I decided to share it here in Swirlings.

A few notable mentions, before I post the recipe . . .

I am a hands-on, go-with-the flow kinda cook.  I don't always follow the recipe; not even ones that I've created myself or ones that I've modified from other people's recipes.  I improvise.  I go with the flow.  Truth be known, I pretty-much do whatever I want when I'm cooking.  Baking?  That's a different story; I *usually* follow the recipe . . . well as closely as possible anyway.  Ha!

Specific to this recipe: 
  • Sometimes I thinly slice the potatoes just like the directions lead; other times I usually dice or rough chop the potatoes.  Do y'all know how much time it takes to thinly-slice potatoes without a mandoline?  My goodness!
  • The recipe calls for Italian Sausage.  Several months ago, I stopped using sausage (any kind) (in / with / for anything) and switched to ground pork (I then dress up the pork with sage, basil and/or other herbs).  Did y'all know that most sausages contains corn syrup?!  And - if you know me, then you know that I do not intentionally eat nor prepare food using containing corn syrup.  There ya go.
  • I usually (always) use 2 pounds of meat (not just a measley 1 - 1.5 pounds).
  • It's much quicker for me to use scissors and cut up the kale than it is for me to tear the kale into pieces with my hands.  Just another time saver that I like to employ.
  • And just this very moment, as I was pasting the recipe into this blog post, I realized that I did not add the red pepper flakes into the soup from a few days ago.  'Tis a sadness, to be sure; I like red pepper flakes.
OK - on with the recipe:

Dairy-Free Sausage, Potato & Kale Soup
by Sharmie

2 bunches Kale (more, if desired)

12 whole Red Potatoes, sliced thin (peeling left on)

1 whole Onion, chopped

1-1/2 pound Italian Sausage

1/2 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (more to taste)

2-3 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth

Fresh or Dried Oregano

Black (or white) Pepper To Taste (my preference for this recipe is white pepper)

4-6 additional red potatoes (Quartered. Your choice as to whether to peel them or not)

2-4 additional cups low sodium chicken broth

Preparation InstructionsClean the kale; tear into bit-size pieces. Set it aside.

In a medium pot, boil sliced potatoes until tender. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, pour 2 cups additional chicken stock into a blender. In an additional medium pot, boil the quartered potatoes until tender. Drain and add to blender. Set aside to cool a bit (without blending, yet).
Brown the sausage in the same manner that you would brown ground beef. Drain the fat.

Stir in red pepper flakes, oregano and 2 cups chicken broth. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Adjust seasonings as desired.

Blend together the chicken stock and quartered potatoes in the blender, increasing the speed incrementally. Add more chicken stock as necessary. The puree should be a consistency between liquid and paste; more thick than thin.

Add sliced potatoes to soup mixture.

Slowly add potato / chicken stock mixture from blender into soup mixture. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add kale to soup mixture. Simmer for about 5 minutes; then serve.

I hope y'all enjoy this recipe.  If you have any questions or comments, please let me know, here in Swirlings.  If you like this recipe, please share this blog post to your Facebook world.

Thanks for reading!
Be blessed,

p.s. -
The above recipe was modified from a recipe on the Pioneer Woman’s website.  The original recipe calls for over 6 cups of combined whole milk, half & half and heavy cream.  In my recipe above, all 3 of those ingredients have been replaced with potatoes and chicken stock (in addition to the potatoes and chicken stock called for in the original recipe).

If you would like the original recipe that contains dairy, click HERE.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Facing Fear and Moving Forward

This is one of those blog posts that has been swirling around in my grey matter for several months now.  Sometimes a blog post inspiration will hit and I can immediately sit down and type it out right then and there (or as close to then and as close to there as possible).  Other times, a blog post will only initially show me glimpses of itself and then simmer among my thoughts for a while before it is truly ready to see the light of day.  Fiddle, just between you and me, I've had some writings simmering for a few years.  Yep.  They're simply not ready until they're ready.  There ya go.

Something else about today's blog post; and of which is very rare for me:  I still don't have the title for it.  Usually, I know the title before I even type the first word of the blog entry; today is not such a time.  Let's hope that I have a title for this little gathering of words before I need to post it; I'd hate for it to wander aimlessly through the web of world wideness without a name for itself.

Happily, I don't dwell in too many fears, or rather, the fears do not dwell in me.  I'm a big believer in giving fears over to Our Lord and letting His Peace reside where the fears were trying to bully their way in.  Life works better for me that way.  Did you know that the Bible is replete with passages telling us not to fear (regardless of the reason for the fear)?  Absolutely replete.   Fear not!  Do not be afraid!  Again and again, His Word commands us to not fear. 

Speaking of commands, I firmly believe that every command that Our Lord gives us has a two-fold purpose:  the first is obviously to glorify and honor Him.  The second purpose is to protect us.  Every command carries a blanket of protection for us; either physical protection, emotional protection, spiritual protection or a combination of any any or all of these types of coverings.

And yet, even knowing this, even firmly believing it down to my bones, I still have a few fears that seem to taunt me.  The thing about fears is that if we allow them to hang around, then they also become huge obstacles in our lives.

And, that's why I'm writing about two specific fears today . . . I no longer want such univited guests in my life.  So, I'm going to bring them out of the inner recesses of my thoughts and expose them - here, where anyone who wishes to read about them may.  Fears love secrecy; it's one of their most potent weapons that they wield.  Take away the secrecy and fears tend to wither and blow away.

Y'all may remember reading in my most previous blog post that I have had more than a few seizures while taking a shower (or soon after getting out of the shower).  In fact and without exaggeration, not only have these "shower seizures"  caused more than one serious injury to myself, it has also cost Tex and me more than a couple of thousand dollars repairing damages to the bathroom because of such stupid seizures (of course, *all* seizures are stupid in my opinion; these, especially so).  I'll elaborate if you want me to; but you'll have to specifically ask.

So, without realizing it, somewhere along the line I developed a fear of taking showers.  Most of my showers are taken while I'm the only person at home.  And, almost. every. single. time. . . . thoughts of shower seizures enter my grey matter at some point during the shower.  Sometimes I wait till Tex gets home to take my shower; but that's not really very feasible for myriad reasons; one of them being that often in the evenings, we are on a time schedule for one thing or another.  For those of y'all who are now saying to yourself, "So, take your shower first thing in the morning" - that's not really a possibility neither . . . for whatever reason, taking a shower "first thing" after I wake up is usually a guarantee of a seizure.  There ya go.

Most of the time, this goofy fear is simply a nuisance.  Yes, I really would like to be able to attend to my personal hygiene without having to think and pray myself through the process every time.  I truly don't like that seizures take up so much of my thoughts and attention.  But other times, the fear is a bit more looming.  No, I'm not huddled up cowering in a corner because of this; but still, being skittish about taking a shower can be quite intrusive . . . not to mention just a big dumb nuisance.

The other fear that I want to tell y'all about today deals with, of all things . . . seizures.  Yep.  Them, again.  This time, in regards to how they affect my business.

Back in July, I wrote this post about some of the after-effects of having a seizure.  It can take a few days to physically heal from a seizure; longer, if there are serious injuries.  It can then take a few more days to be able to come out of the mental funk that I find myself in post-seizure.  Remembering that what's going on is a direct result of the seizure and reminding myself and doing what I can to get past it is all well and good . . . and, I'd like to take a moment right here to say absolutely God bless my wonderful husband, for he does everything he can to help me get through the "post-seizure" stage.  I deeply love and cherish that man; for myriad upon myriad reasons.

. . . Even remembering and knowing and doing everything I can to recover as quickly as possible after a seizure, it still can take more time than I'd like and it still can temporarily bring my world to a bit of a halt.

Therein lies the fear regarding seizures and my business.  How will I be able to meet deadlines if I'm trying to recover from a seizure?  That has been pervading my thoughts for a couple of years now; and I truly believe it is one of the reasons why I have been so slow to actually fully bring my business out of hiatus.  There ya go.  I've written it and have brought that ugly, ugly fear to the light of day.  And now, I'm truly fighting to not delete what I have just written; for I don't really want y'all to know how much I have struggled with this.  I also don't want to lose credibility and I don't want to appear unprofessional.

I want y'all to think that I have it all together.  But.  Those seizures . . . those stupid seizures . . .  they interfere and muck up things.

BUT!  There are people out there being very successful in their businesses while dealing with various illnesses, disorders or diseases.  So, why not me?  Yes, why not me?!!   Most definitely!

I have a seizure history.  Hopefully the last seizure I had will be the last seizure I'll ever have.  That is always my hope and my prayer; especially given the recent developments during the past few months and coupled with the new information I have learned.

But these fears - about taking showers and about running my business . . . they're all about "what ifs".  I don't want to live my life based in fear of "what ifs".  I want to live my life, living it in the here and the now. 

Today, at this very moment, I am seizure-free.  In fact, as of right now, I have been seizure-free for 12 weeks and 2 days.  WooHoo!  THAT's what I want to focus on; not on the ick and yuck of "what-if"-based fears.

I leave you with one of my favorite "Fear not!" Scriptures:

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand

                                                       (Isaiah 41:10)

I'd love to hear from you.  Are you struggling with a certain fear in your life?  My encouragement to you is to let it go!  Get rid of that stumbling block; it has no value to you whatsoever.

Thanks for reading!
Y'all be blessed,

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Hot Showers and Cheese

Are you intrigued yet?  Wondering what the connection is between hot showers and cheese?  Wondering if I'm making cheesy messes while washing my hair?

Believe it or not, there is a connection between the two; well, at least for me.

OK, raise your hand if you love taking long hot showers.  Did your hand go up?  Mine did.

Now, raise your other hand (because since I haven't said to put your "first" hand down, it should still be raised) . . . raise your other hand if you love cheese.  Yep, I just raised my other hand.  BTW, do you know how challenging it is to type with both hands raised in the air?

Back to the showers (figuratively, not literally).

I am one of those people whose face is purple after getting out of the shower.  I love hot showers.  LOVE them.  After a long day, a grimy chore, a long workout, or anytime in the winter, is there anything better than staying in a steaming hot shower for 5 extra minutes?

For the past 13 years, since the seizures (boo, hiss) stopped being nocturnal and started occuring during my waking hours, most of those seizures have occurred in the early morning hours.  Retrospectively, so many of those early morning seizures have taken place after my morning shower.

Somewhat quasi-recently, probably within the past 5-6 years, I started periodically having seizures in the shower.  Yep,  actually in the shower . . . while showering.

During the past 3.5 years, the very vast majority of the seizures have happened while I was taking a shower.  The most recent one (back in July, when I "broke" my face) . . . that seizure happened very soon after getting out of the shower.

This has been quite a puzzle for me . . . why do the seizures occur during the shower?  For the longest time I thought it was a weird anomaly about me (btw, aren't *all* anomalies weird?  I'm ok with the redundancy; I hope you are as well).

I recently learned that while not the norm among people who have seizures, neither is it completely rare.  There *are* other people who experience seizures while taking a shower (or bath).

The reason? 

I'm glad you asked!

Elevated histamine levels.

Histamine levels rise not only because of allergies (which, if you're talking about plant and pollen type allergies, I'm not aware that I have any), but histamine levels can also rise due to heat.  Hot showers are a good source of heat.  There ya go.

(This also explains why I don't just dislike extremely hot temperatures, but why I also feel, well, icky, if I stay outside too long in the summertime).

So.  Those long hot showers that I loved taking?  They're a seizure trigger.  Go figure.  Because I prefer to be seizure-free and because having a seizure while taking a shower is not really the funnest activity I can think to do, I now take lukewarm showers (and I still come out looking purple, btw - that was bonus information). 

There's nothing really luxurious about taking a lukewarm shower.  It kinda takes the joy out of the whole experience.  And, now that the weather is turning a bit chilly, I imagine it's going to be interesting (and a bit, uhm, brisk) to forgo that steamy water raining down on me.  BUT.  I'd much rather take luke-warm showers and be seizure-free than throw common sense to the wind and risk a seizure because I wanted 5 minutes of a hot shower. 

But, what does that have to do with cheese? 

Absolutely nothing.

But.  There still is a connection between hot showers and cheese; at least for me.

The similarity?


Yep, they both are seizure triggers.  They're both also something with which I've had quite the love affair for oh so many years.  Decades, in fact.

Man, I love cheese.  I don't think I've met a cheese that I haven't absolutely over-the-moon enjoyed (except for cottage cheese).  Cheese for snacks, cheese as ingredients in cooking and baking.  Cheese, cheese, cheese.  I imagine that if I had been born in Wisconsin, I would have eventually become the state's cheese mascot.

But, alas.

Cheese, like hot showers, are known seizure triggues.  On the GARD eating program (of which I've now been following for 6 weeks and 4 days), dairy is one of the restrictions; specifically because of the casein.  Cheese is loaded with casein.  In fact, in Latin, "casein" is "caseus", which means, of all things . . . cheese.  There ya go.

But, again . . . I prefer being seizure-free.  So, if giving up one of the most perfect foods ever discovered is the price to pay, I'll gladly pay it.  Well, most of the time, it will be gladly.  I must admit to having a bit of a cheese craving for the past couple of weeks.  Oh well, this too shall pass.

A couple of footnotes, please.

A few well-meaning people have suggested to me that since hot showers are seizure triggers that I, instead, take baths.  I'd like to address that, if I may.

Remember, hot water is hot; regardless as to whether it is from a shower or from a tub.  Part of the wonderfulness of a bath is that the water is hot; and while there may be people out there who enjoy sitting in a tub of lukewarm water, I personally do not know of them, and I am definitely not one of them. 

Also, perhaps I can encourage you to look at it from a safety standpoint.  It's dangeous enough to have a seizure in a shower; but if someone has a seizure while sitting in a tub of water, that seems to me to be even more dangerous because the likelihood of drowing increases dramatically.

And now the footnote for cheese.
While there are cheese substitues "out there", they're truly not my cup of tea (although, no, I have never put cheese in my tea).  Being a purist, a health & nutrition researcher, an ingredient label reader and lastly, cheese snob, I would simply rather forgo cheese entirely than to partake of "fake cheeses".  There ya go.

Now.  I could bemoan that I no longer enjoy long hot showers or cheese in all it's goodness.  I could do that, most definitely.  But . . . Why would I want to do that?  It would not serve any good purpose; and in fact, it would get inside my head and eventually infect my heart as well (ungratefulness, bitterness, pity parties - yuck!).  Who wants to intentionally invite that kind of negativity into their lives?  Not me; that's for sure.

Instead, I choose go with "It is what it is."  I choose to roll with it and adapt.  Hopefully, most of the time, I will be rolling and adapting with a cheerful attitude.

Which brings me to something else . . . It's not a matter of "I can't take hot showers" or "I can't eat cheese".  Pretty-much I can do whatever I want.  Pretty-much you can do whatever you want. 

We all make choices; myriad choices every day.

I simply choose to not take hot showers and I choose to not eat cheese.

I cringe when I hear people say, I can't do such and such or I can't eat this or that.  Sure, you can!  Like me, you can do whatever you want.

What you and what I need to decide is what exactly is it that we want?

For instance, if someone is on a particular restrictive diet (for whatever reason), do they want to achieve the results of the diet more than they want to eat whatever specific goodie that might be prohibitive for that particular eating progam - OR - do they want to say, "I don't care about achieving results; I want to eat this, and I want to do it now."  

The same principle applies to other aspects of our lives; not just what we eat or don't eat.  Everything's a choice.

Once a person has established their priorities, it is much easier to make choices.  They are no longer bound by what they are "not allowed" to do; they are, instead, taking control of their life and making choices for their life.  There's a strength that comes from making intentional choices versus living with the mindset of restrictions.

For me, hot showers and cheese are seizure triggers (so are a few other things, if truth be known).  For me, I choose to avoid hot showers and I choose to not eat cheese - because the result I am trying to achieve (seizure-free) is much greater, much more enticing, than anything that any seizure trigger could pretend to offer me.

Thanks for reading!  Here's to making awesome choices!
Y'all be blessed,

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Quick Update on the MRI

Some of y'all have asked me how my appointment went on October 2nd . . . and for that, thank you so much for remembering and for y'all's care and encouragements!  I truly appreciate that.

Due to a family emergency and my going out-of-town last week, I rescheduled the appointment to October 21st.  So, in the meantime, I'm still going on the premise that no news is good news.

When I called to reschedule the appointment, I did ask that if something serious had shown up on the MRI if someone would be calling me instead of waiting for the scheduled appointment date.  It was then that I learned that, for whatever reason, the imaging place that conducted the MRI never sent the results to my doctor.  A bit disconcerting, yes, but I had other things going on at that moment that were definitely more of a priority.  The lady I spoke with said she would call the MRI place immediately and have them fax over the results. 

That was a week ago, today; and since I've not heard anything from my doctor's office, I'm still choosing to go with "no news is good news".

So!  Onward to October 21st.

In the meantime, y'all be blessed.

Thanks for reading,

And for those of y'all that are wondering what in the world I'm talking about, here's a couple of links to catch you up:

"What - Do You Have Rock in Your Head or Something?"

"Midway to MRI Results"

. . . and, of course, you're always welcome to browse through Swirlings' blog archive and read anything that catches your attention (listed in reverse chronological order, in the right hand margin).