I have this weird thing about blogging: I only like to write when I feel moved to do so. For various reasons, I haven’t felt the need. I’ve been busy and blah blah blah…everyone is busy. Or everyone at least thinks they’re the busiest person in the world. Have you ever noticed that it’s become like a contest…who is the busiest bee in all of the hives? It’s strange the way that Americans wear busyness as a badge of honor. Anywho, I’ve had some more weird health stuff going on, and I told myself that I wouldn’t blog until I had some clear answers or some important things to share. Well, here it is, many moons later and I still have no clue what is going on with my massively stupid body and have nothing important to say. Lucky you. So today, I opened my computer and thought, “maybe I’ll write.” We’ll see if this actually makes it to “published” status.

If you haven’t been to The Ballad before, take a looksie around. I begin talking about beginning my battle with SIBO and other things here, you can check out some yummy recipes right hurrrr, why I chose the Fast Tract Diet here, my elemental diet days here, my issues with Ovarian cancer and SIBO and all things health right cheeeer, a SIBO guide section of stuff I found interesting and helpful here, and if you’re just here for the pretty pics and travel diaries, check out that stuff here.

What has been going on in the life of Katie, you ask? I just know you are waiting withblog1 breath that is bated, riiiiiight? I kinda can’t believe I haven’t written since like, winter. Of last year. What a terrible blogger! And here we are smack dab in the middle of fall. That blogging spirit really did not move me at all, apparently. I had just experienced gene testing the last time we spoke (yes yes, I spoke to you through the written word – das how I roll) and was super fascinated with its results. If you can afford to get this done and have it read by a professional, I highly recommend it. It was like a road map to why I’m such a friggin’ mess at such a young age. My genetic code pointed to everything from gut disorders (heh. ya think?) to a predisposition to Ovarian cancer to high anxiety and depression. My fabulous ND and I began treating my mutant-y mutations and I also got a highly informative amino acids tests (another I highly recommend), which helped me to comprehend what my genetic mutations are supposed to do, versus what they are actually doing.

I continued to do my usual thing…follow the Fast Tract Diet (which I HIGHLY recommend for SIBO and don’t know why doctors don’t know more about it), take herbal antibiotics every now and then, and do little mini elementals to help stave off a SIBO relapse. It all seemed to be working rather well. Then, while Joe was on a work trip to Guam and I was home alone, I was struck down by some kind of mutant death virus. A crazy high fever, headaches, body aches, and the worst – AND I DO MEAN THE WORRRRRRST- sore throat I have ever experienced in my life. Unfortunately, right before I got sick, I had decided to do a massive spring cleaning of our entire place. And I don’t clean like a normal person. I pull errrrrythang out tha drawers, cabinets, closets and set to work throwing things out, making piles of stuff to donate, and scrubbing any little anything in my path as I go along. So the house was torn to shreds and looked like an army of methed-out angry toddlers had stormed the place when I woke up sick as a damn dog. It was quite unsettling to have to stumble feverishly through my piles of crap on the way to the kitchen. The fevers lasted about 4 days and the sore throat lasted TEN DAYYYYYYS. Terrible. It felt like it was never going to end! I must confess to you now that I am the biggest baby about sore throats that you will ever meet in your life. I would rather slide down a banister of rusty nails naked and land in large puddle of rubbing alcohol than have a sore throat.

I might also be the tiniest bit dramatic. But I like for real hate sore throats.

I tried to clean here and there while sick, because I just couldn’t stand leaving the crazy mess. It stressed me out just knowing it was there, lurking. After about 8 days of dragon throat (I felt like I could breathe fire it was so raw and red and sad and terrible and pitiful…again, Idonotlikesorethroats!) I went to my ND and had her do a strep culture. She obliged and a few days later I found out I had a strain of Strep B. Fine then. She gave me antibiotics (Zpak) which I am loathe to take because of my messed-up tum tum, but I was desperate to feel better at that point. So I downed those bad boys and began to turn around.

blog2But wait!!! Ya know those infomercials that always have the “but wait!” at the end so they can lower the price or add on a weird extra prize that they act like is a mini ipad but in actuality it’s a plastic back scratcher? I often use the phrase in common conversations dramatically like that and no one ever gets it. It’s hard to be me sometimes. Even though I started feeling better, I never seemed to fully recover from that gnarly illness. I am in the habit of taking my temperature regularly because of my thyroid issues, and I noticed that every day, I had a low-grade fever. It was small and nearly imperceptible, but it was always there. It ranged from about 99.5-100.5. Because of said thyroid issues, I am usually around 97.0-97.2 so this was quite high for me. I continued to take notice of it but since I felt so much better, I wasn’t too concerned.

Then, I started noticing a really heavy-handed fatigue coming over me, most especially during exercise. My runs became painfully hard, and I was barely slogging through 3 milers blog6without wanting to just give up and die right in the middle of my running path (nope, not dramatic at all!) For years I’ve run about 40 miles a week…I slowly began knocking the mileage back, back, back because of how tired it made me. I went from 40 to only 15 in a matter of a few weeks. As is usually the case though, I adjusted. I pushed through because running is important to me. The weird fevers and fatigue sort of became my new normal. I of course knew they weren’t actually normal, but they weren’t severe enough to reallllllly hold me back in my daily life. Much. However, my ND and I set out to try and figure out what was causing them.

I had a plethora of blood tests to try and rule out things like Lupus and Lyme disease and EBV…but it’s difficult because many of these tests can produce less-than-accurate results. I learned I was having adrenal problems again (low cortisol via blood tests) and went back on adrenal support, but even though adrenal issues can cause fatigue, it was unlikely it was the cause of the persistent fevers. I had stool tests and the MEGA-MOMMA-OF -ALL -LYME tests (Igenex) just to be certain that it wasn’t Lyme. Everything came back fairly normal.

As this was happening, I was still living my life as best I could. I began teaching at the University of Hawai’i again,
blog3which is seriously just something I LOVE. I taught Undergraduate Women’s Studies over the summer and then was asked to teach Graduate-level Social Work for the fall. I must admit that I was a wee bit nervous to teach graduate school. I really LOVE undergraduates. I love the ages of 18-22 and find the kids to be so open, so eager to learn, so excited about their futures…I didn’t know what to expect of teaching the little baby social workers. However, it’s been fabulous and really solidified the notion that I believe I was born to teach. We get into some really heavy topics for both disciplines…things like addiction, rape, domestic violence, racism, trauma, and I love to find creative ways to challenge my students and to keep the classroom a fun and safe place. I think all of my goofiness and creative powerpoints (read: a lot of cat gifs) really
blog5seem to help. What else? My birthday came and went and I’m now 30 *cough cough years old. I love birthdays. I love the idea of celebrating someone’s life for that day and the start of a new year, despite getting older. Ask me again if I love birthdays when I turn 40, though. 😛 My niece

blog8

graduated from high school and came to visit her aunts in Hawai’i (way to REALLY make me feel old!) and we had a BLAST playing around my island. I have the coolest niece in the whole world, guys. She’s hilarious and smart and a super talented artist. It is so fun watching her grow into an full-blown adult! I was enjoying teaching and life so much that I began to almost ignore the fatigue and fevers. I mean, WHATEVER, at this point, right? But I did notice that after teaching a class, I was exhausted. I bike to school and back, and just getting on that bicycle and making it home was the most ridiculous chore. I had to keep digging to figure things out.

There was a little niggling voice in the back of my mind, though I dared not speak itblog4 aloud. CANCER. Was it back? I know fevers to be a definite sign of a re-occurrence and I’d also been suffering from bloating again. It’s very easy to tell SIBO bloating from other bloating, btw. SIBO bloating tends to be smaller in the morning and grows throughout the day, as your food sits in your intestines because of a pitiful digestive system that doesn’t know how to do it’s FRIGGIN’ job (like how hard is it to just digest food, right?) But this was the sort of smaller bloat that was just always there, just hanging around like an annoying little sibling. Even though I feel like I handled my initial cancer diagnosis like a BOSS, I must confess (again) that I am overly fearful of it returning. It’s like this dark scary monster troll that’s waiting under the bridge for me. But alas, I had Ultrasounds and a CT and while I had many large polyps on my remaining little ovary (fondly named Kanye West), it was just representative of PCOS, which I’ve had all of my life. Phew. Double phew.

After all of the tests, one tiny thing came back…I was low in T3. I have Hashimoto’s, a thyroid autoimmune, and take natural thyroid supplements daily for it. But low T3 can certainly cause some sluggishness, so my ND decided to prescribe some in addition to the Naturethroid I already take. I started poppin’ those bad boys, not really expecting much to change. After a few weeks, however, I started to notice that my runs were a little bit better. I wasn’t having the massive afternoon crash as much. I could actually manage to squeak out 5-6 miles at a time without breaking it up into 3 separate runs. I was thrilled to have more energy, even though the freakish slight fevers persisted.

blog7At this point, I unilaterally decided that I don’t give a FUCK anymore, y’all. Yeah. I said it. I didn’t even use a * in the word fuck. I just went for it. The fatigue had been more limiting than almost anything else, in terms of really slowing my life down. I even had to say no to an amazing hiking trip to Canada with my husband and nephews because I was so exhausted all of the time that I feared I would slow them down or frustrate them. And if any of you know me at all, you know that I don’t turn down travel. Like ever. I just decided to stop fretting over all of it. I’m not a healthy girl. I may not ever be. I know I’ll never be the picture of health that I once was. But I’ve gotta LIVE. Over the past few years, I’ve turned down countless parties, trips, birthdays, time with family and friends, cocktail hours, events, athletic stuff…and I just don’t wanna do it anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I think for the most part I’ve been pretty damn chill with all of my health issues, and haven’t let them completely control my life…but I finally decided to go even further than that. I’m actively moving them further down on the list. Life is short, and I wanna enjoy myself.

That of course doesn’t mean that I’m having pizza every meal (oh that I could!) or sprayingblog9 champagne bottles all over a crowd in a club (though that does sound fun), but it means that if one of my girls needs a cocktail night, it’s happening. If my husband wants to celebrate Valentine’s Day, we’re going out for a schmancy meal. Traveling is one of the most important things to me and I’m not waiting until I’m “all better” to do it. I might not ever be all better. In fact, chances are that I won’t. This is it. This is the stage: acceptance. I finally made it, guys! It only took 2 years! I’ve always been a late bloomer (I swear I played with Barbies until well into my teenage years) what can I say?

After I decided this, I was so much happier. I was even better. Less stressed, less fatigued. I started running and exercising even more. I started having pizza Fridays with Joe again (gluten free, of course, with my very own kickASS recipe on this page, if you’re interested). If I craved chocolate, I had it. I’ve been hiking and beaching and day drankin’ with friends. I think this is partly why I haven’t blog10been blogging…I’ve been busy actually living! 🙂 And no, before anyone attacks me, I’m not telling you all that you must make this same decision. You have to be where YOU are, and that’s ok. This is where I am. And when things were really terrible (back when the fatigue or SIBO was at its worst or right after surgery), I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t give up the f*cks. The point is, I think I was waiting until my health was perfect. I finally realized that it is pretty damn good, comparatively, and that I need to enjoy it and stop making it the center of my universe.

So, when Joe announced that he had another work trip to Guam coming up I said, “I’mblog11 going with ya!!!! I wanna see Guam!” I have 2 close friends from Hawai’i that live there and since his company pays for the hotel and food, it seemed too good to pass up! So, off to Guam we went! We stayed at an AMAZING hotel (Dusit Thani) which hand-to-God was the nicest place I’ve ever stayed. I felt like a damn movie star at that hotel. I wanted to live there. The staff is incredibly attentive and even surprised us with a little cake in our room the first night! Sweeping ocean views,
an amazing pool, and the best brunch I have had, maybe ever. Even the friggin’ gym had cold towels in a fridge, soaked with lavender oil for your enjoyment after a nice workout (I’m so fancy, Can’t you taste this gollllld, Remember my name, ’bout to blow…ok sorry, I had a weird Iggy Azalea moment there inspired by decadent lavender-soaked gym towels). This was the first vacation I have had in ages where I relaxed. Usually, I am just running around, trying to see all of the things. This time, the trip was to hang with my friends and have some pampering. I read, I blog13laid by the pool, I ate delicious food, I swam in the ocean, and I went to the spa not once, not twice, but THREE times. Because, vacation Katie. Btw, if you’re ever on Guam, hit up The Westin Guam Spa for an experience you’ll LOVE. I had a body wrap, facial, and two amazing Thai/Swedish massages. It was so good I just kept returning! They will take CARE of you. Best of all, they were all Filipina, so we got to speak a little Tagalog and talk about the Philippines! 🙂

blog16
It was so wonderful to catch up with my friends, Faye and Kristin, and to see their lives on Guam. We met 8 years ago in Hawai’i, and I feel like we picked right up, like no time has passed at all. We shopped, we ate, we drank, we beached, and we gabbed. We even cooked! 😛 Sorta.

 


There is just nothing in the world like good girlfriends, I tell ya. Women have this bond that men will just never understand. Some pics of our fun times:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Guam is an interesting place, lemme tell ya. It is often described as a mix between Hawai’i and Texas, and I have to say, that description is surprisingly accurate. It is similar to Hawai’i in that it’s tropical (though waaaaay hotter!), but it also has an intensely large military presence, which is where the Texas angle comes in. Everywhere we went we saw military, heard country music, and saw elements of Southern white culture. It makes for a strange little mix. The local Chamorro people were amazingly welcoming, sweet, and so friendly, but the large military population was very intense. As women, I felt like we could hardly go anywhere without being hit on, harassed, and followed. It was OVER-THE-TOP, people. Toxic masculinity abounds on Guam. On one girl’s night in particular, we were walking to a local bar when it started raining, hard. We ducked under the awning of img_1283another bar, and so did a group of men. They were so aggressive with us and intensely macho that we chose to dart out into the POURING (and when I say pouring, I do mean tropical-storm-pouring) rain just to get away from them. Which is why we look like this in this picture. I thought to myself, “How ridiculous that you scared three girls so much that we decided to run into a monsoon just to get away from you. All because you couldn’t understand the word, ‘no.'”

Despite the military pressures, Guam is very lovely, with beautiful clear water and some interesting local attractions. Unfortunately, Joe and I only really got to play together for blog14one full day, but I feel like we did pretty well in that one day. We went to see Two Lover’s Point (or Puntan Dos Amantes) which is essentially the Romeo and Juliet of Guam folklore. Two lovers tied their hair together and leaped to their watery death to escape persecution. The statue was truly most impressive, as were the incredible views. Next, we moseyed on over to see Talofofo Falls, which was blog15a hilarious experience. It has a sort of theme park surrounding it with different “attractions.” Some of those attractions are a super weird, out-of-place ghost house (a haunted house), a little park with pornographic statues, the cave that a man lived in for 28 years (Sgt. Shoichi Yokoi, A Japanese imperial army straggler that hid/lived in a tiny cave, not knowing the war was over… I mean yo, this dude lived in a friggin’ CAVE for 28 YEARS, people!!!), and the “monorail” that takes you around the park (which is essentially a plank with folding chairs nailed to it that travels along a wire and is operated by what appears to be a small lawnmower motor). 😛 I’m telling you, this park has character.  We DIED when we saw the monorail. Best thing ever. The falls were beautiful and we really enjoyed the park. However, my favorite part was most definitely the piggies. 🙂 Can you tell I’m excited? 😛


Sadly, this was our only day to play because on the 5th night on Guam, I came down with horrific food poisoning. Now, in case you don’t know, those with SIBO are more prone to get food poisoning, so it’s a good idea to really try to be as cautious as possible. I came armed with Xifaxin, Neem, and Berberine. I thought I was doing everything right, and honestly, I wasn’t really that worried about food poisoning, because come ON…we weren’t in the jungles of Malaysia, we were in Guam! I had planned a fantastic chill night by myself on the evening that I got sick. I had a bubble bath, had ordered a cheesy chick flick, and ordered a pizza. I was super stoked to just BE and do a little vacation pigging out. Right before my pizza arrived, I started feeling super weird. Clammy and achy and my stomach hurt. I really thought it would pass and figured maybe it was just my body’s way of telling
gallery9me that I needed to lay off the vacation alcohol (I’d been having some fun. I mean my hotel gave out free jello shots, y’all!!! What’s a girl to do?) I had about 1/2 a slice of pizza and then had to stop. I was deathly sick you guys. I puked 9 times in 3 hours. You know how when you get the stomach flu and there are those like 20 minutes right after you barf where you feel better, almost normal for a short while? And you’re SO grateful for those 20 minutes?! Nope. I got like 2 minutes of that in between each up-chucking sess. I had a crazy high fever and felt like I was dying.

Hilariously, and I am not ashamed to tell you all this because you KNOW I keep it real, Iblog17 had (pre-puke explosion) texted Joe (who was out to dinner with coworkers) that tonight was THE night for sexy sexy time. We’d been so busy seeing friends and working while there that we’d barely had any time alone. So I texted him a provocative bubble bath photo and told him that the hotel would be put to good use. And then yeah…flash to him skipping through the door thinking he’s gonna get laid only to hear the disgusting sounds of me puking in the bathroom. Sexy, indeed. Purrrrrrrrrrr.

I was in bed all of the next day (the ONLY sunny day of my trip, btw…thanks Obama!) but made it out on our last day to play around the island. Even though I felt well enough to get out, I couldn’t eat normally for nearly 5 days, and subsisted on crackers and oatmeal in the meantime, losing about 7 lbs in only 5 days.

When I got home, I unfortunately started having quite a bit of digestive trouble again. My SIBO has been in some form of maintainable remission for over a year and a half, but the food poisoning definitely set me back. I tried to give my old tummy a little time to settle img_1469down, but after being back a week and still struggling, I dragged myself to my ND’s office. Good grief, I don’t even know why I call her “ND” as I should just call her Kristin (her name), since we’re basically besties at this point and I’m pretty much paying her monthly mortgage. A slew of stool tests were ordered (always super fun to poop in tiny tubes – welcome to the world of SIBO!) to see if I brought any little friends home with me. But, no parasites to be found! I had to admit to myself  that the food poisoning might have brought my SIBO back in full effect. So once again, I trudged to the Gastro office to blow into tiny tubes for 3 hours.  I knew that if the numbers came back positive, I would just go straight for the elemental all over again. I don’t wanna mess around. Though even typing those words make me want to cry all over my keyboard.

Alas, the number came back very, very low…meaning I am SIBO free! HOW?!?!?! I have no fucking clue. But I don’t currrrr because I’ll take it! I made the nurse snapchat a Happy-No-SIBO dance, and I’m pretty sure she thought I was bonkers. I suppose that’s not a far off assessment, to be fair.


I suppose all of this hard work has actually lead to some healing. I am still having a little bit of bloating and digestive distress, so I will continue on my new regimen of Chinese herbs, which is a new thing I’m trying. My ND decided that since I don’t respond to herbals OR antibiotics, I might be able to keep bacteria at bay with Chinese herbs, specifically tailored to some of my issues (in my case in particular, something called Raise Qi ).

Once I got food poisoning, several people in my SIBO group asked if I would stop traveling.blog19 My answer: HELL NAH! Traveling is one of my all-time favorite things in the world. If I have to puke every time I do it, so be it. 😛 Not only is it one of the best teachers (of the world and about yourself), but it’s something Joe and I both love to do. Anytime we start to struggle as a couple, we take a trip and it’s like this lovely blog20little reset button. We remember why we’re us. We relax and play and enjoy each other and come back home more refreshed and in love. So no, I will not be stopping. Traveling also gives me great perspective on any trials or illnesses I have. It shows me how small I am in the world, and how small my problems are in comparison. I don’t say that to shame others that are struggling with sickness or grieving their old life (that is totally a part of the healing process) I am just speaking about what helps me, and that involves keeping a wider perspective.

Just because my test was negative and I no longer give allll of the f*cks, doesn’t mean my health journey is over. I still have things to figure out and work to do, and I’m happy to keep plugging along. I’m also happy you’re plugging along with me. Maybe it’s time for you to give less f*cks too? 😛 Let’s start a hashtag: #igivenomorefucksaboutsibo

So, das about it! I have GOT to do better than this. I promise to be a better blogger. Oh who am I kidding? I’m always gonna struggle to keep this thing up, but I promise not to stop, how’s that? Before I leave you, I want to mention that many times, people try to friend me via facebook because they follow the blog. I so appreciate you wasnapcodenting to know me more and better, but I try to keep facebook to friends and family only. However, you are welcome to follow my travels and antics and cooking and cat videos and silliness on instagram (katiemcaldwell) or snapchat (katiemariecqld) where I talk about errrrythang. I f*cking LOVE snapchat.

So, here’s to health and wellness and stool tests and blowing in tubes and travel and love and always, always, ALWAYS kickin’ some SIBO ass. 😛

gallery5

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

I know, I know. Bad blogger! It’s been awhile. I’ve been a busy Katie. It’s been an interesting few months. The last we spoke, I was deep into cancer mode and my consequent hormonal insanity (what? it’s a thing) while also trying to figure out how to navigate others’ reactions to this newfound diagnosis. Now, it’s 2016 people, and I’m ready to leave cancer Katie behind. She was kinda a drag, anyway.

blog1
I feel like I have so much to say to you! Yes, YOU. Just you. Not anyone else. (Ok I’m going to go ahead and admit that I’ve had a few gluten-free beers on the beach with my little sis and then decided to sit down and write this. This usually means I think I am HILARIOUSLY funny and no one else does, soooo…just a warning that this will be unabashedly and monstrously hysterical. To me.) And my beer top said, “Drinking is believing,” which, come on…that shit is like Shakespeare. And oh-so-true.


Joe and I decided to go to our home state of Kentucky for Christmas this year. We try to go every other year. I’d noticed that I was having some tummy issues again before our trip. Nothing huge, but it still concerned me. Like all other people that have ever dealt with SIBO, I am always fearful of a relapse. I feel like at ANY moment those little bacteria dickheads will stage a revolution, blowing me up like a water buffalo. I decided to do a quick elemental fast before going home (read about my original elemental 23 day fast here) ideally hoping to starve some of the disgusting jerks that like to have an orgy inabsorbplus my gut (yes, I went there) reproducing their bastard bacteria babies. I decided this time to do it with Absorbplus AND leftover Vivonex T.E.N. shakes. But first, I have to take a hot minute to make fun of the Absorbplus website, because this picture ————————>

is hilarious. NO ONE is that ridiculously and psychotically happy about those f*cking shakes. And I also love how they include a piece of fruit on it. Fruit you cannot consume while on the elemental. Brilliant marketing, ya’ll. But anyway, lemme just admit to you that I struggled hard this time around. I’m not quite sure why. It’s not like the first time I did the elemental was a breeze or anything, but I didn’t struggle like this. I did it for 4 days and thought I would die of hunger. And anger. I was so RAGE-Y (are these bacteria anger-producing?)


Previously, when I relied solely on Vivonex T.E.N., I really wasn’t ever hungry. I mean I wanted to eat, but I didn’t feel like I was starving. Absorbplus for some reason (while it tastes much better than the pure fartiness of Vivonex) just doesn’t fill me up in the same way. I had intense headaches and hated every single second of those 5 days. It might not help that I’m still dealing with some hormonal stuff, however. I’m sure you couldn’t tell by how dramatic I’m being. As soon as I finished those 5 days I was happy as a f*cking clam to eat again. I went to Kentucky and was SO proud of myself. I stayed gluten free EVENblog2 over Christmas. I didn’t even think it was possible in the South (especially a tiny coal-mining town where everything is fried and delicious and horrible for you). I made my own food for Christmas with my sisters, even making my own gf pizza and having gf Rice Krispies delivered via Amazon to make Krispy treats with. I resisted beer and opted for enough bourbon while I was home to kill a derby horse (Kentuckians LOVE their bourbon…AND derby horses) and managed to run nearly every day while home.

blog3
It’s always fun to be home…the accents, the familiarity, the fact that I can go to the local coffee shop downtown and run into 12 people that I know or that know my family (i.e….”You must be a ‘Young’ because you look JUST like yo daddy!”) 🙂 Seeing my cousins and high school buddies and running around my hometown fills me chock-full of memories and nostalgia. Hanging with my sisters – drinking booze and opening presents and playing cards. Hanging with my nieces and nephews – playing games, singing karaoke (Joe and I got our niece a karaoke machine and she and I sang Taylor Swift all the livelong night. It was glorious) and stuffing our faces. It’s super wonderful and makes me miss everyone and lament being so far away. But, it’s intense too. It’s crazy and busy as we rush from one family to the other. Iblog4 felt like I was always rushing through a lunch or breakfast, just to finish and then run out to meet the next person. And we get so busy that Joe and I hardly see each other over the holidays that we do spend in Kentucky. It’s also just strange being home, as it reminds me of where I come from and how different I am now. I LOVE my home, please don’t misunderstand, but I simply don’t belong there anymore and it leaves me feeling almost…sad. Or lonely. And that loneliness is never more palpable than being home at Christmas. I love Christmas so much. It’s my Mom’s fault. She was like Mrs. Claus. I’ve seriously never met another human being that loves Christmas more. But ever since she passed away, Christmas at home has never been the same. I’ll always love it, because she taught me to. And I love it because loving it is a way to honor her and makes me feel closer to her; however, it makes me miss her so badly that it aches. It aches the way that blog5fresh grief aches. I always go for a run out to her grave when I’m home. This year I decided to bring Christmas decorations and place them there for her. I picked up two armfuls of decorations and ran with one bag under each arm. I looked ridiculous and I jingled and jangled all of the way there, because some of the decorations had bells. I laughed at myself and how ridiculous I looked/sounded. She would have loved it. I sang carols to her. I cried. I tried to imagine what she would say or think of my life and my choices…choices so very different from hers. I love being home, but there is a sadness there that will I suppose will always be present. ‘Cause you never get over missin’ your Mama.


But even with all of the craziness and sadness, we had a great visit home. It’s bittersweet, because we love seeing friends and family but we hate saying goodbye. Anyway, here is a little slideshow of some of the rest of our trip.  🙂

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After a fun and busy visit, we went to Nashville to see my Granny (aka…the mostblog24 amazing woman I’ve ever known) and stay in a nice hotel for a night before getting on a plane again for 10 hours. I was awoken in the middle of the night by a phone call with a recorded voice telling me to hold – that my flight had been cancelled due to “weather.” Weather?!?! It had been crazy warm the entire time we were home. No snow, nothing. I looked outside…dry as a bone. WTF? TWO HOURS later (at 2am, mind you, after I’d about lost my damn mind listening to the recorded voice tell me it will only be “20 minutes” and had about drop-kicked Joe every time he fell asleep because dammit I was NOT going to be the only one kept awake with this ridiculous robot woman) a person comes on to tell me that the flight is cancelled due to weather in Texas. We cannot get out to Honolulu for FIVE more days,

blog25

Maggie’s Cat purrrthday

and we will get absolutely zero compensation nor a hotel stipend during that time. Well, ok. Thanks a lot American Airlines. Class act. So the next day, we sheepishly packed up and headed back to Kentucky for New Year’s! Wasn’t what we’d planned, but we had fun anyway. I got to hang with my sisters and niece some more and actually spend myblog31 sister Maggie’s birthday with her (she’s a New year’s baby!) I don’t think I’ve been able to do that since I was a kid! Naturally the theme was Cats. Because cats. It was, however, the first New year’s that Joe and I have ever spent apart. Which was kinda sad considering how much I love New Year’s, but we both wanted to be with our respective families that night, so we caught up and “kissed” via face time. Ah, technology. You are a wonderful, weird thing.


I am sad to admit that even though I was a SIBO friggin’ ROCKSTAR the first part ofblog26 the trip, after we got stranded there, I fell off
the SIBO horse. Into a pile of gluten. And chocolate. And booze. And every other thing terrible for me. I caved and it was bad. I felt gross and bloated and SHOULD have felt ashamed. But I cannot lie. I totally enjoyed it.


When I got home, I decided enough was enough. I needed to get my SHIT TOGETHER. My LIFE together.

blog27

Last IV session!

 


I’ve been diligently going to my natural chemo sessions, and am happy to report that I’m finished!!!! I am SO happy to be done with those. Not only were they quite boring most of the time (sitting for 3 hours twice a week at the doctor’s office), but they made me heachache-y and tired. Still, hard to complain when so many others on my ovarian cancer forums are going through the brutality of REAL chemo. I also made a few friends sitting in the doctor’s office…people who are going through breast or kidney cancer or getting IV treatments for MS. Great

blog28

Celebrating with friends that I’m cancer free!

 

women, and having company makes the 3 hours fly by! It also helps to keep my issues in perspective, which as you know (because I talk about it ad nauseam) is a really important component of this health process for me. But the really exciting super good news is that I learned that I am officially in remission!!! [TRUMPETS SOUNDING, beer glasses clinking, Katie doing a happy dance] Shortest bout of cancer EVAR, ya’ll! I was strangely super stoked to hear those words. I mean it’s obviously good news, but since I never really reacted to having cancer in the first place, it kind of shocked me that I reacted so much to being told it was gone. It’s a funny thing…I think I am more freaked out and frightened about it coming back than I was about having it in the first place. The fear of a reoccurrence is oddly palpable. But hey – I’m cancer free and ready to move on. It’s time. Also, as I mentioned last post, I sent my Debbie Dammit Doll out on her very first adventure! She went with lots of prizes and gifts from Hawai’i nei to another women struggling with cancer. I hope she’s now on her way to brighten someone else’s day! Go Debbie, go!

blog29


So, what have I been up to? As mentioned above, I’ve been trying to get my friggin’ shit together. This last year has been so dedicated to healing and getting well and figuring things out health-wise, that I sort of lost myself. I tried not to, but it happened anyway. blog30Between SIBO and the slew of other health issues that accompanied it (h pylori, hashimotos, hiatal hernia, illeocecal valve dysfunction, hormonal and adrenal issues, and finally ovarian cancer) I felt like a damn disaster of a person. At 36 years old. I came to the realization that I’ve been sort of living with a low-grade depression. Not SUPER down, but not ever really happy either. My oldest sister, who ALWAYS speaks the truth (both awesome and annoying depending on your mood – love ya, sis!) sort of called me out on this last month. She pointed out that I wasn’t myself…that I wasn’t volunteering as much, that I seemed distant, that I wasn’t invested in work. It hurt to hear, because it immediately felt like a criticism or an accusation. But once I took a step back, I understood; she cares about me, she is worried. And honestly, for good reason. I began to think about it. I hadn’t played guitar in 10 months (something I used to do nearly every day). I hadn’t read an entire book (other than books about my health conditions) all year, and I’m

blog32

The old Katie. :/

 

normally an extremely avid reader. I’ve been avoiding the outdoors other than running, or occasionally biking to health-related appointments, which is supremely rare for me. I love the ocean, I love to hike, I love just sitting in the park in my hammock reading a good book, but had barely done it all year. It wasn’t that I was actively hiding out, it occurred to me – it was that there was no desire to do these things. It was a profound lack of motivation, which told me that I had been ignoring feeling down and had been leaning into this general sort of malaise. And anyone that knows me knows that I very much despise laziness and apathy. But here I was, feeling apathetic about almost everything. I had stopped doing all of the things that made me, me.


Wow – I’m just jumping right in here, folks! Nope, haven’t written in months so lets talk in depth about my depression! (If this is your first time reading, this is pretty much par for the course. I don’t mess around). I started to analyze WHY I was feeling this way. What was really going on? I don’t want to be this person. I missed being who I was, but I certainly wasn’t feeling motivated to change it. I decided that perhaps it might have something to do with my health issues, and not just psychologically or hormonally speaking. I had gene testing done this last year through 23&me, but never had the results analyzed. I decided to finally take the results to my ND to see if anything would be uncovered. As it so happens, there were just more rocks we hadn’t yet managed to look under. It turns out I have an MTHFR mutation (which my husband also has), a blog33CBS up regulation, and a MAO mutation. To water this down to the most basic of info, this affects my body’s ability to properly methylate and use folic acid or folate. That only means something to but a few of you, but trust me…it matters. I was also insanely low in Vitamin D, despite spending quite a lot of time in the sun, running and biking. These new results certainly don’t redefine my whole health puzzle, but they definitely influence it. For example, once my husband was diagnosed with MTHFR and started getting treatment for it, I REALLY noticed a change in him. He seemed more engaged with me and with work, less apathetic and more connected to his feelings, and more motivated to do things. He started becoming the dude I fell in love with. And after living with a man that is prone to depression, it was wonderful to witness. If I didn’t see Joe’s transition, I don’t know that I would have invested so much in learning about my own genetic mutations. These mutations are INCREDIBLY confusing, however. I feel like you have to be a damn rocket scientist to figure them out. I learned that my combo of mutations makes me prone to gut distress (Nah, REALLY?) and to depression (ding, ding, ding!) both of which run in my family heavily. It’s also greatly related to thyroid issues, which of course I also struggle with. So here we are again, finding yet another “root” cause to my SIBO. It seems like there’s a new one about every 2 months or so. What will we uncover next? Yellow fever? Elephantiasis?


So, I used the New Year as an excuse to get back to Katie. As I mentioned, I love New Year’s. I love goal-setting and resolution making. I love the idea of a fresh start andblog34 the excitement of ringing in the new year with bells and whistles and kisses. When we got back from our trip to  Kentucky, I picked up my dusty, out-of-tune guitar. I clumsily strummed it and sang. I only made it a few songs before my fingers hurt, and my rhythm was terrible, but I did it. I’ve played every single day since. I agreed to teach Gender and Violence for the University of Hawai’i over the summer. I took on a temporary (but totally awesome!) gig as a writer and social worker for Making Media That Matters with Hawai’i Women in Filmmaking (PUHlease support blog35us by liking us on Facebook!) – a group dedicated to using film as a means for teenage girls to express themselves and the issues that they deal with. It’s been SUPER fun so far. I met with my boss for my other job and asked for more hours. He agreed as we are moving into the Legislative season here in Honolulu (it’s a political org) and it’s been keeping me hoppin’! I submitted a story that was accepted for another local magazine, and I’ve made a concerted effort to get to the beach more and be outside in nature more.


So basically, I’m trying. It’s still sort of an effort some days, but I will admit that I DO feel better when I get out and do what I need to do and what makes me happy. My guitar-playing blisters are back and I’ve learned 3 new songs. I’m loving my new job and excited to start planning my syllabus for the summer for UH. I’ve missed teaching. My ND and I are addressing the mutations (I feel like an alien when I refer to myself as havingblog36 “mutations”) and I will start “treatment” (i.e. a lot of methylated vitamins) for that very soon. I hope this improves my mood and motivation. Plus, I’m still dealing with residual hormonal issues from the surgery, so there’s that. But that’s been significantly better, thank God. I’m sure Joe and everyone else in my life thanks God, also. 😛

What a crazy-ass rollercoaster of a year 2015 was. While I really hated a whole damn lot of it, I certainly also learned a lot about myself. And I’ve had a lot of fun with you guys and with this blog. It’s nice to know I’m not alone and it’s nice to connect with strangers over small intestines and ovaries. 😛


To add insult to SIBO injury, my poor little sis was diagnosed with SIBO a few weeks ago. I had a sneaking suspicion she had it, but I felt SO terrible when she told me it was official. This means that all 4 of us (my 3 sisters and I) have gut issues and disorders. Thanks, parents. 😛 It sucks to watch her struggle and go through all of the stages I went through blog37last year. It’s also hard not to play doctor. I’ve read so much and learned and researched sooo much that I think I’m some kind of SIBO savant (I’m not), but I have to hold my tongue and let her handle it her own way. We’re alike in so many ways (this is how alike we are – this picture was NOT staged to be the same. Here we are getting our Master’s degrees from the SAME school in the SAME thing, social work, and these pics were taken one year apart. YEAH. :P) I forget sometimes that we’re going to react differently; she’s not me and I’m not her. And hey – if we’ve learned ONE thing, it’s that no one reacts to SIBO in a predictable or similar way right? I try not to send her stuff I know she won’t read, but it’s harrrrrd. It’s so tempting!  I’m er, obviously not so good at that whole holding back thing I’m afraid. But I’m working on it. (Sorry sis!) Several people have said, “Oh she’s so lucky to have you to help guide her through this!” and it makes me want to laugh, because I think that’s the last thing she wants.

Next on my to-do agenda is to get back on the wagon. Theblog38  Fast Tract Diet wagon. For those that have never read my blog before, I am a HUGE lover of the Fast Tract Diet for SIBO. To see why I chose it, read my post on it here. I get so frustrated that newbies never know about this diet option, since doctors only ever recommend FODMAPS or SCD (which, let’s face it…if that shit were working for all of us, there would be far fewer people reading this blog right now). I see success stories in the Fast Tract Facebook group every day, so if you’re feeling frustrated by your diet and not getting results, or you’ve been on your diet for months and you’re still a bloated miserable monster, look into the FTD (plus the new app is totally kickass!) Here is the website for the diet with tons of great info for you. **And no, I’m not selling it or getting kickbacks for this ringing endorsement (but ahem, I would glad accept them…I’m lookin’ at you, Norm, for I think I’ve brought you a lot of business there, buddy! :P) In all seriousness though, I actually just really believe in it. However, if whatever diet you are currently on is working for you, by all means continue.**


Ever since that initial food slip-up on vacation, I’ve never REALLY gotten back to it, not entirely. I need to tighten up the diet, make a concerted effort to keep up with my workouts, and treat my body better. I swore I would never take my body for granted again after getting sick (much like a little kid that promises they will appreciate feeling normal if they can JUST get over the stomach flu!) but I totally, like, lied. Just a few months after feeling better I’m slacking off and putting crap in my body. I’m skipping my runs and binge watching high school dramas on Netflix (high school dramas are sort of my thing…my secret tv shame). It wasn’t TOTALLY terrible, but it wasn’tblog39 great. You would think I would have learned from this last year, but I’m clearly dumb as dirt. So…who’s with me? Let’s DO THIS. If you’ve been slacking and you’re ready to recommit or you just need a good kick in the ass because you haven’t really started your SIBO diet yet, let’s do it together!  I swear I wish I had someone to walk around behind me and whisper fear-mongering things in my ear or smack food out of my hand. Someone needs to be my virtual hand-slapper. I’m crawling out of the sugar and gluten quicksand and draggin’ yer ass with me.


Before I forget, I’ve noticed that many people after reading the blog try to find and follow me on facebook. If you’ve tried this and are offended that I haven’t added you, my sincere apologies. For now, I’m trying to keep facebook to people I actually know. Sometimes that includes people that I spent a lot of time talking to in the SIBO groups, but I very rarely add complete strangers. Please don’t be offended by this, I just post a lot of personal stuff on there. However, I’m totally fine with you following me on instagram, if you’re so inclined. I do post pics of yummy FTD/low fodmap recipes on there pretty frequently if you are in need of food help (as well as copious amounts of cat pictures).  🙂 


Click on the little icon below to follow!

 

Instagram


Let’s make 2016 amazing. I’ve dubbed it #theyearofkatie. And it’s going to be, dammit! Make it the #yearofyou, too. 🙂

blog39

Hello, friends.  IF you’re new to the ballad, feel free to peruse. I talk about my experience with the elemental diet here, with SIBO here, and recipes here. Remember how (in my last blog) I talked about the negative impact of positivity? How shoving positive thinking down everyones’ throats can be toxic? Yeah. I’m glad I wrote that, because this post will be anything but positive. Well, that’s not true, because it will be positively whiney.  I excel at whining.  If whining were an Olympic sport, I would be a gold medalist. Case and point: I already wrote this blog post once, and failed to properly save it.  I consequently whined about this for about 30 minutes straight to my husband, who just kept giving me side-eye God love him (he REALLY knows when to keep his mouth shut. It’s a gift).  But whatever. Blogs are like pancakes and your first child, the first one always turns out terribly. 😛


I have a confession to make: I am a hormonal disaster.  As517ce4dcc885d7ac47a5e199ba6d00ea many of you know, I had my left ovary removed (oophorectomy) a few months ago because of a cancerous mass found feeding off of it like a creepy little leech. A cancerous, ovarian leech. Your ovaries greatly regulate your female-ish hormones. When you lose one, ummmm…you have a period of…adjustment. “Adjustment” being a nice way to say “A period of feeling bat-shit crazy.”  I ain’t even gonna lie, kids, it’s been HARD. Because my particular tumor was producing giant amounts of hormone13estrogen, my body had adapted and adjusted. When that estrogen was taken away, my body reacted by turning me into a hormonal pot pie. This usually manifests itself into intense weepiness, with the occasional bout of sadistic angry. It’s very difficult to decipher what is hormonal and what is a true emotion, because it all feels real in the moment.  But regardless, it’s miserable. I’ll give you an example:


We (my husband Joe and I) reuse glass jars.  We use them as tupperware, as drinking glasses, and as storage options. As such, when we finish a jar of say, coconut oil, we have to peel off the label and clean the jar.  This is where it gets tricky (read: hormonal). The jars seem to multiply and reproduce and create little jar babies that stack up beside our kitchen sink. This always irritates me. Joe and I have a system where he is supposed to peel off the label and scrub the remnants off.  I, in turn, wash the jar and put it away.  Joe likes to wait until there are approximately 798 jars precariously stacked by our kitchen sink and THEN decide to clean off 2.  It always irks me. But now, with only Kanye West left (my right ovary), it apparently turns me into a hormonal version of Annie Wilkes.

hormone1
I walk past the sink.  I see the jars. I turn to Joe and ask, “Wh
en do you think you can get to those jars?”  He doesn’t look up from his book. “I don’t know. Sometime.” The rage starts rising up within me. “SOMETIME IS NOT AN ANSWER.” I say through clenched teeth. He looks up and blinks at me. “How about today?” I say in a fake cheerful voice (trying to convince myself to calm the f*ck down). “Maybe. We’ll see?” Joe looks at me with silent fear, calmly waiting to see if I erupt like Vesuvius.  The hormones win…I promptly lose my shit. I get so mad I can feel the sweat creeping in, I can feel the heat rising in my face.  Somewhere in my mind is a little voice saying, “Jars, Katie. This is about jars.” I ignore the stupid f*cking voice. I lash out and list every reason I hate the jars piled up. I list every reason every single f*cking thing on earth has ever made me mad.  I start a fight. I pick up a jar for emphasis and somehow resist the urge to hurl it against the wall. I leave the room in a huff, completely pissed and thoroughly convinced I am vindicated in my pissed-offedness.  20 minutes later, I sheepishly walk into the living room. I sit down next to Joe. I tell him I’m sorry. I cry.  He kindly soothes me and I cry harder. Then I start to laugh, because I know how nuts I sound. He looks a little frightened but then he laughs too. We sit and laugh together for a few minutes at my insanity. hormoneblogThen I start to get mad that he’s laughing so hard. “It’s NOT funny,” I begin to think. My face changes and my eyes narrow and he says, “Are you getting angry that I’m laughing too?” I slowly nod. Then we laugh again.


Obviously, I’m not really this bonkers.  It’s hormonal, it’s biological.  My body has lost an entire body part and is trying to regulate itself and readjust.  It’s a little miserable, but it will get there. But for now, this is my life.


hormone3
Since I believe in total transparency, I’ve been pretty open and forthcoming about my incredibly hormonal ridiculousness.  I talk about it openly on facebook and with my friends.  However, I just HAVE to discuss one thing. The response that has been driving me BATTY, is THIS reaction: “Oh wow. POOR JOE!!!!  How is he handling it?!?!  Is he ok?  I feel so bad for him!”  The immense  outpouring of sympathy for my husband is incredibly irritating.  And no, that’s not the hormones talking, that’s the feminist talking.


Firstly, thank you sooo much for expressing sooo much empathy for my husband as he goes through this incredibly difficult hormonal transition, while also trying to deal with a surprise diagnosis of cancer.  Oh wait, no he’s not. Whoops, I must have forgotten, as you did, that he’s actually NOT the one going through that.  Secondly, I know women are hormonally-challenged crazy bitch monsters, and it’s so immensely sad that men have to deal with us, except that it’s not. Men call us crazy and we women internalize it and refer to ourselves as crazy for reasons far more complex than this blog can go into.  This article actually nails it:

“Because she had a feeling, so she expressed it. Because she had an emotion, so she felt it. Because she had an opinion, so she communicated it. Because she got hurt, so she reacted to it. All of this, apparently, deemed her crazy. A close cousin of the word crazy is the word “hysteria.” Hysteria, which comes from the Greek word for uterus — would you look at that?”


Somehow, no one ever refers to men as “crazy” or “hormonal.”  Men only commit 98% of all violent crimes in the world.  Murders, rapes, trafficking, Johns, domestic violence, stalking, sexual abuse, assault…these are obviously well-thought out choices and the acts of extremely sane and calmhormone4 individuals, right? I mean really?The next time you see some dude in a bar lose his shit because some other guy accidentally bumped into him, or a girl dared to rebuff his drunken advances, or see him chase someone down that cut him off on the highway so he can try to beat the crap out of them…just remember that women are REALLY the crazy ones. Yeah. And no (before you attack me) I’m not trying to pit men against women here, just pointing out the irony of our backwards thinking on this subject.  


And lastly (and this is the real kicker) can we just for a hot minute, remember that my husband several years ago had hormone5thyroid cancer?  (Ok, I realize many of you did not know this but most of my friends and family do).  He had a complete thyroidectomy (removal of the thyroid and parathyroid).  Do you know what the thyroid controls?  Ding, ding, ding! Hormones!  After his surgery, my normally very even-keeled husband was a hormonal wreck.  He was downright mean as shit sometimes.  Do you know how many people expressed sympathy for me during this time? ZERO. Nada.  Not one person made a single remark to that effect.  Not one person ever commented on how hard it must be for ME, to Joe (yes, I asked him).  This is because we still largely view women as the “crazy” ones and express sympathy for the “poor men” that have to deal with us.  Well, I’m saying THAT is crazy. Yes, I’m hormonal.  And yes, my husband has to deal with it. But he can be extra patient and loving with me for a few months, just like I was with him.  He can and is.  So think before you automatically default to calling a woman crazy, simply because she is expressing an emotion or because she is “PMS-ing.”  Men are hugely emotional too, we just allow it more readily and give them permission to express their aggression in ways that we don’t allow women.


Are you still with me?  Hating me yet?  Are all of you changing your minds about me being so “positive” yet? Hahaha…now you see the assholeishness I’ve been referring to all along!  It feels good to unleash the ass!


…That was a very weird sentence.


Anywho, on the cancer front,hormone7 things are going really well.  I think I’m THISCLOSE to being considered in remission. I am just waiting on a few more blood tests to come back normal. I’ve been doing natural chemo sessions twice a week. Natural chemo, in case you’re wondering, is essentially high-dose vitamin C. If you’re interested in learning more about Ovarian cancer and vitamin C, try this article.  The side effects are minimal.  It causes fatigue that can range from mild to intense and usually only lasts a day or so.  It also causes mild headaches and achiness around the injection site.  So, small potatoes compared to Western chemo practices.  It’s a drip process, so each treatment takes about 2-3 hours.  I usually set myself up with blankets, water, a snack, and a book or ipad and settle in.  Last week I had a buddy in the room with me.  She is a breast cancer patient that has elected to treat her cancer naturally.  She was diagnosed at stage IV and has been totally kicking ass.  She looked great (she was 20 years older than me and looked my age…life is unfair) and told me that she was so glad she had gone this (natural) route.  To be clear, I advocate that everyone make their own decisions regarding treatment, so I’m not bashing Western medical approaches, but I do love combining both natural and Western medicine; both have validity and both are important.

My friend Sarah hormone6stopped by to give me this cancer “Dammit Doll” which is like a funny little voodoo doll for cancer patients.  It was super funny and cute, so I brought it to my appointment.  My awesome ND even threw some acupuncture into the doll’s pelvis for me while I got my treatment! Hahaha!  She said, “What if I put in some acupuncture points on the doll? Is that too weird?”  This is why I love her.  I was like, “THAT. IS. AWESOME. Yes, let’s do that and take pictures.” While I was getting treatment, it occurred to me how many women in my ovarian cancer group are sooo much more sick than myself.  I concocted an idea to send Debbie (Debbie Downer the Dammit Doll) to someone in the group with a care package full of fun Hawai’i things.  They in turn, must send it to someone else in the group that needs some hope, love, or extra courage. The group was totally game, which is super fun.  So, lil’ Debbie will be going on the trip of a lifetime!  🙂  


I also had a follow-up MRI this past week and passed withhormone8.jpg flying colors! Whooo hoooo!!!  Shortest bout of cancer EVAR, people. Let’s hope, anyway.  I’ll get monitored monthly for awhile, then every 3 months, then every 6 months.  The good news is, the type of cancer I have is very slow-growing. The bad news is that reoccurrence rates are quite high, so I want to keep on top of it.


Annnnnd that brings me to mah next item on the bitchlist. Since beginning this crazy health year, a lot of shit has been brought to my attention, specifically related to how others react to people that are ill.  As such, this is a list of what NOT to say/do to people that have cancer.  Mmmmmkay?


1). Oh, you have Ovarian cancer?  Wow.  My Mom/Aunt/Sister died of that. It was brutal.
REALLY?  That’s the first thing you want to say to me?  I’m never sure how to react when someone says this and confusingly, it’s a statement I get rather often. There is not an appropriate response. I usually just blink at them until hormone9they feel uncomfortable enough to try and dig a deeper hole…(“I mean…YOU’RE not going to die. Like plenty of women live, my Mom just wasn’t one of them…yeah.”). Sometimes they don’t get the hint and continue rambling about the brutality of that person’s demise.  My Mom died of lung cancer…do you know what is NEVER the first thing I say to someone who tells me they or someone they love has lung cancer?  Yeah.  That.  


2)
Ooooohhhh…you should try ____ diet!  Or ____ herbs!  Or I read an article about 17 years ago that stated you should try to eat ____ !  (Then they look at me proudly, like they’ve just given me the key to ending my cancer diagnosis). 
I have gotten so much unsolicited advice in the last few months that my head could explode.  I now officially understand how my pregnant friends feel.  Don’t get me wrong, I DO know that this usually comes from a very good place. They’re concerned, they care about me, and they want to contribute something or feel like they’re doing something helpful. I DO get it. But I need you all to get that it’s frustrating sometimes.  


I am on a very restricted diet already for my multiplehormone15 digestive issues. Therefore no, I don’t need to go gluten-free or low-sugar (already there!) or try that new alkaline or ketogenic diet or that rare fruit only found in the hills of the Galapagos that is SURE to cure my cancer.  Not only is diet a pretty personal choice, but I can’t go all-raw-vegetarian because my insides would kill me.  So please just stop. I know you mean well, but pleeeeeeaaaase.  I cannot take another message about what I “should” be eating. I’m on top of it. I promise.


3) I came across this article and thought it might be especially helpful for you!
Ok, this one I realize might make me sound like a dick. A few friends have sent me a few articles on cancer.  Peer-reviewed, medical journal articles.  This is fine.  I actually will read them.  However, I think people see the word “cancer” and think to themselves, “Hmmm Katie has cancer…this is surely applicable to her!”  Not always. An article on prostate cancer isn’t going to be much help to me (seriously…that happened).  I have a specific type of cancer that is in fact, quite rare.  I appreciate being thought of, I truly do. But it becomes almost an obligation when so many people are sending you articles…to read them, to thank the person for thinking of you, and to respond adequately.  I alsohormone16 get crazy, non-scholarly, fear-mongering articles for the same reason; they see cancer, they send it to me.  This is even more frustrating, for the same reasons listed above, with the addition of having to explain to a person that’s just trying to help (in a nice, patient way) why the article sounds cray -cray. 😛  So I kindly ask you to just take a beat before sending something to me.  Is it REALLY applicable? Will it actually be useful? Because if not, it just causes more stress.  


There are more, but I won’t drone on complaining (er, more). I realize (having been there myself) that you want to help. It’s hard when someone you know and love or care about is going through something scary or weird that you don’t understand.  But there are better ways.  I am a person that has trouble asking for help.  I am very in tune with my feelings, but I have a tendency to downplay them.  When someone asks, “How are you?” I am going to say, “Fine.”  I feel guilty complaining, I feel guilty unloading on someone else.  I feel guilty talking about my SIBO or cancer or any other health ailment when I know other people have it far, far worse.  I feel silly, I feel like I’m asking for pity.  So, having said that, here are some things you can do that WILL help.  🙂


1) Don’t just ask how I am, REALLY ask specific questions.
Most people will not just blurt out their woes automatically. You have to dig a little.  They have to feel safe talking to you about it and they have to feel like you care enough to dig.  If someone doesn’t dig, I don’t talk, because I assume that means they don’t REALLY want to hear it.  Asking more relevant questions helps, because it goes beyond the canned niceties of “How are you?”


2) Think of ways to help, ask what the person needs, and follow through.
hormone17So many friends have said to me, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do!” to which I always, ALWAYS respond, “No, thank you though!”  It’s a sweet sentiment and I’ve said it myself to others. But it’s often hollow. What helps more is thinking outside of the box.  I have a wonderful friend that always thinks of what would help, logistically.  He asks me if I need a ride to the doctor. He asks if he can go to the grocery for me. He asks if he can pick up meds or bring me takeout. It’s awesome (shout-out Manu!  You da best!). I might still say no, but I’m more like to say, “You know what?  That really WOULD help.  Thank you.”


3) Be there.  Be available. Answer the phone. Stick with plans.
This is the biggest one for me.  Be there.  Just be there.  I rarely reach out, but when I do, reach back.  It’s what John Gottman calls “bids.”  If I call you on a random Tuesday and I don’t normally do so, that’s probably me reaching out.  If you can’t answer, call back when you can.  Send a text, shoot a fb message. My phone call is a “bid” for a personal connection. When you don’t respond in any way, you’re breaking that connection.  And when one is already feeling sad or lost or vulnerable, it can be even more hurtful than normal. The tiniest connection or checking in can help.  It makes one feel loved. If you makehormone18 plans, stick with them (if at all possible…I DO realize that sometimes things come up that we can’t control).  If you want to really help, simply make the other person know that they can turn to you, lean on you. Don’t make them hunt you down. Don’t allow them to call you 7 times without returning their call. That’s not how you treat someone you care about.  And it’s incredibly isolating for the person reaching out.  And hey – this doesn’t just go for friends…it stands with family (and a personal thank you and mahalo to my Aunt Sandy and my Aunt Cathy for reaching out AND back with kindness and love!) and lovers, also.  This article talks about relationship bids and how important it is that they’re met.  


What’s been shocking to me throughout all of this health stuff is who HAS shown up.  I remember my Mother talking about this when she was really ill. She was sort of perplexed by the response she got.  She had friends and coworkers that never checked on her, never stopped by, never called her when she was ill…some of these people were the ones she thought would be MOST there for her.  Then there are the surprises…the people you may not consider close friends or family that shock you by checking on you, sending you kind notes and texts and messages.  Those people are gifts.  Revel in them.  Lean on THEM, if you have to.  I have a friend that I’ve known for…damn, almost 20 years.  We were never CLOSE, really. We went to high school together and I always really liked her, but we just weren’t super tight.  We became closer friends, if that’s possible, on facebook.  We formed a real connection and she has been such a sweet source of kindness to me (shout out Jennifer Teague!!!  :P). She somehow remembers my appointments and treatments, texts me, and sends me encouraging messages.  It does NOT go unnoticed, Jennifer.  It’s those short little “check-ins” that take about 3 minutes that seriously mean a lot.  So if you’re searching for how to support someone in your life better, I hope this bitchfest blog helps you a little.


4) Apologize, and be better.
If, like me, you’re a disaster of a human being sometimes and you f*ck up and realize you’ve been a terrible self-absorbed ass of a friend, apologize.  Sincerely apologize.  Suck it up, call the person you’ve wrongly or unintentionally ignored, and tell them so.  And then make an effort to do better.hormone19 Because honestly, unless an apology comes with a change in behavior, it’s worthless.  It’s lip service.  For some reason, it’s very difficult for some people to admit when they’re wrong. Don’t be one of those people. We’re all wrong sometimes.  Hell, I’m wrong about 70% of the time, about everything. But at least I’ve learned to recognize it and apologize for it.  It took me about 33 years to learn that. You should learn it faster, because it will greatly improve your life and relationships.  And I’m historically a very slow learner.  😛


Obviously, these things can be applied to other difficult illnesses or stressors in life.  Maybe you’re really sick with Lyme, or SIBO, or going through a really intense bout of depression.  Maybe you’re grieving over the loss of a loved one or mending a broken heart…the same principles still apply.  It’s been a difficult health year, but I know that in so many respects I’ve been super fortunate. And I am oh-so-thankful for the help and love I’ve received from certain people in my life.  More thankful than I can ever express.  


Onto a SIBO report!  Several people recently have asked what I’m doing to keep my SIBO at bay.  This is important, because once you’ve beaten back the SIBO dragon, you wanna keep that little bastard away.  I’m coming up on 6.5 months SIBO free. So, because the rest of this blog has been about lists, I’ll just list what I do to help keep those festering, disgusting bacteria away.


1)
Diet:
I try to adhere (with some failings here and there) to the Fasthormone11 Tract Diet about 80% of the time.  I generally allow about 2-3 “cheats” a week now and handle that without trouble.  If I cheat more than that, I start to develop symptoms like bloating, a rash (from gluten), or potty problems. While I am able to tolerate soooo much more food than I used to, I know I need to be cautious about diet for a long time to come, maybe even forever.  (Sorry, I know you were hoping for something else!)


2)
A “maintenance” dose of herbals one week a month:
This is something my ND and I conjured up and it seems to be working so far. Every 3 weeks or so, I take Neem, Oregano (ADP), and Berberine for 1 week. This is just to stave off any bacterial overgrowth happening.  You can’t stay on these pills for long lengths of time, so intermittently  taking them has a strong effect.


3) Exercise:
 
hormone12I know, I know…you don’t feel good and don’t want to and you are tired of me harping on about it.  But do it anyway, if possible.  Exercise not only helps motility, it improves mood and circulation and a whole myriad of things that are wonderful for SIBO.  Even after my surgery, I was walking up to 6 miles a day. If you can only do a short walk, do that walk.  If you can run only 1 mile, enjoy that mile. Light yoga, weights, biking, swimming, whatever tickles your fancy. Just MOVE.


4) Acupuncture to stimulate the Illeocecal Valve:
I’ve kinnnda been slacking on this lately because of the vitamin c treatments. I’m already at the doctor like 6 hours a week, but once I finish my treatments, I will resume this. My ND thinks I have some IC Valve dysfunction, so I believe this can be really helpful.  She (and I) still do some ICV massage (as detailed on my SIBO Guide page under “videos”) as well.


5) Supplements:

As detailed also on my SIBO Guide page, I am still taking my supplements daily for maintenance and healing.  I’ve recently added a “Happy Hormone” supplement to help curtail my raging nuttiness, but I haven’t been on it long enough to review it yet.


6) Still digging deep to understand my body and the connection of SIBO to other things:
I firmly believe that SIBO is NOT the issue, for pretty much everyone. SIBO is a symptom of something else going wrong. It’s the effect, not the cause.  It’s super important to isolate what the cause(s) are for your individual case.  I am still researching and learning about the mind/body/gut connection.  I did genetic testing and have spent a lot of timehormone14 doing blood tests, stool tests, and endless hours reading about this stuff. To be fair, you don’t have to go THAT overboard (I am an all-or-nothing kinda lady) but working with a good doc to learn why you got SIBO in the first place is key, key KEY! So many seem to think that if they get rid of SIBO, all will be well.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  It will ONLY if you have discovered the underlying culprit.  And if you remain dedicated and diligent in treating it and other issues.  Not what you wanted to hear? I know. But honesty is the name of the game on this blog. So uncover your ears and open your eyes and get to work.  😛


Don’t you just LOVE how I boss you around? Sorry about that. I get on my little bloggy high horse sometimes.  But I hope something I’ve written about today has resonated with you and helped in some small way.  We’re all a work in progress, most especially this girl, and I am super grateful to you guys for doing the work WITH me.  It feels a little less lonely. Tomorrow is a Monday, so chin up, set your jaw in a stubborn fashion, and get to work getting better and healthier. You can do it, and do it with sass and attitude.  ❤

hormone20
The one that’s been “there” for me the most. 🙂

 

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Nope, I didn’t decide to get cancer and disappear on you. I know it seemed I like I dropped the c-bomb and then abandoned my bloggy ship, but really I’ve just had a lot going on. I did recently update the Recipe Page with several new goodies, so if you haven’t moseyed on over thurrrr yet, ya should. I spend quite a bit of time and effort trying to find recipes that are easy, yummy, made with few ingredients, and SIBO-friendly. So get yer ass over there and get to cookin’!  If you’re stopping by my blog to learn about SIBO, try my SIBO Guide for tons of info that I’ve found helpful (as well as a list of doctors that might be in your area).


A lot has been happenin’ in my world!  First, the most fun and exciting thing, my husband Joe and I just recently got back from a trip to Taiwan!!!  Before I started talking about my intestines, this was mostly a life/travel blog.  So of course I have to talk about my trip at least a little bit!  Living in Hawai’i makes travel a little more difficult.  Hawai’i is quite literally 
the most isolated land
mass on earth.  That makes it both time consuming to travel (can’t just jump in a car or on a plane and easily be somewhere in a few hours) and expensive. But Joe and I both LOVE to travel, so we’ve made it a priority.  This is our 4thmoleblog country in the past year. Traveling is the greatest thing we have in common. For those of you that don’t know my husband, he is the stereotypical engineer: introspective, quiet, intelligent, and logical.  I, on the other hand, am talkative, goofy, friendly, and emotional. AND wildly intelligent also, OBVI. We don’t have a ton in common as far as interests.  But as long as we’ve been together (12 years Nov. 1st!), we’ve traveled well together.  It always manages to solidify us as a couple.  It renews us somehow.  And after a hard health year, it was just what we needed.


Taiwan is a super interesting little country.  I think it may be one of the most unique places we’ve ever traveled.  Our plan was to partake in a LOT of outdoor activities: a 2-3 day mountain trek, biking (Taiwan is amazing and safe for bikers…there is literally a bike trail that goes around the ENTIRE country!) and possibly getting scuba certified.  But alas, the karmic gods dropped the hammer on us, once again.  It seems every time we go to Asia, the typhoons have a field day.  As soon as we landed, we heard that a typhoon was moving up through the country from the Philippines.  We had decided to move along the East side of the island, because it is more rural and mountainous and most unlike Hawai’i…but when we heard of the crazy

moleblog1

Sitting in the rain, pissed.

weather fast approaching, we had to rethink our options.  We headed to a little cafe in the pouring rain, got coffee, and sat down to discuss what we should do.  We were bummed.  I suggested we chuck the entire trip.  I looked up flights to Singapore and they were cheap and it was sunny.  We ALMOST did it.  But Joe talked me into rerouting our trip back through Taipei and traveling along the West side of the island instead.  The West side is far more populated and not quite what we had in mind, and this meant that most of our outdoor excursions were not going to happen.  It took us about a half day to get over it and let our original plan go. We hopped on a train and tried to chase the sun.  It still worked out pretty well.  🙂


I’m having a difficult time summarizing our time in Taiwan succinctly, so I am abandoning succinct. 😛  We arrived in Taipei at 6am, hopped on a bus, and went on the great hotel search.  I had blindly booked a hotel (not knowing anything about this GIGANTIC city of 7 million), and we had some moleblog2trouble finding it. We had both only brought backpacks for the trip, which turned out to be brilliant because of all of the traveling we did while there. We had a funny introduction to this country. Being typical spoiled American assholes, we stopped several cabs to see if they could take us to our hotel.  I only had the hotel name in English (brilliant, right?) so none of the cab drivers could read it.  This is the first time that I’ve not prepared properly for traveling.  I usually spend at least a few weeks learning phrases and words in whatever languagemoleblog3 is prominent for that country, but with all of the crazy health stuff happening beforehand, I just…didn’t.  I knew “hello”, “thank you”, and “how much?” in Mandarin. That doesn’t get you very far with a cab driver. We were given a map in Chinese by a policeman, but trying to read the Chinese characters and match them up to the street signs was downright hilarious.  I felt like we were on the Amazing Race.  And we would have lost.


We were really cracking up at our idiocy.  I finally managed to convey, through wild charades, what street we were searching for to a Taiwanese shop worker.  She took me by the hand and walked me all of the way to the street. The Taiwanese are EXTREMELY kind and helpful.  They will seriously bend over backwards to assist you. It’s lovely.  We threw our packs in our room and went out to explore Taipei.


moleblog4The city is, like I mentioned, huge.  It’s a whirlwind of activity.  Scooters are the main form of transportation and on the bigger streets, you can barely talk because of the loud hum of scooters buzzing about.  We “city hiked” (as Joe calls it) for hours, just taking in our surroundings.  We often don’t have a master plan when we visit somewhere new.  We kind of let fate guide us.moleblog5 We saw some AMAZING temples and an older Taiwanese man painted a sign for us to use in prayer.  It says, “Love.”  🙂  As it so happens, good ole fate guided us to “Modern Toilet” a restaurant where you eat out of giant toilet bowls.  It was the perfect introduction to this weird little Asian country.  We got a BIG kick out of it, and it seemed appropriate, given all of my digestive issues this year.  You could only find this kind of awesome strangeness in Asia.

moleblog6


The next day, a very kind friend that lives in Taipei, Allen, offered to drive us to a little town called Jiufen.  It’s built right into the side of a mountain,moleblog8 overlooking the ocean. It’s GORGEOUS. We booked an adorable B&B there with sweeping ocean views. Jiufen has a great market on Old Street that we spent hours wandering through. We ate about every 5 feet.  Eating in Taiwan was kind of hilarious. Because nothing was ever in English, and because we don’t read a bit of Mandarin, we would often

moleblog7

The only thing we understood. Hahaha

end up just pointing to something on a menu and saying, “this” not knowing what the hell we were going to receive.  We just hoped for beef or chicken, but never really knew.  That was kind of difficult for me.  I will try just about ANYTHING, but I at least like to know what I’m shoving in my mouth. However, when it’s your only option, it’s your only option!  The SIBO diet was OUT the window, completely.  There was really no choice.  When I could, I pointed to someone’s rice nearby and tried hard to stick to rice andmoleblog9 meat (something pretty easy to come by in Asia, thankfully). My ND had instructed me to bring Berberine on the trip to take every day, as it is an anti-microbial, to help combat possible food poisoning or traveler’s diarrhea. After the crazy nasty parasite I picked up in the Philippines, I was a little worried about getting sick,but we both did great! In other fun SIBO news, I reintroduced eggs while on my trip, basically out of necessity.  I kept accidentally ordering dishes with eggs.  I’m happy to report that it went great!  Eggs came up off-the-charts high for me on an allergy test about 10 months ago, so I totally cut them out of my diet this year.  But I was hoping to try them again soon, because an eggless life is surprisingly more difficult than one would think!  They’re in everything!  It’s the little (egg) things, ya know?  


moleblog10Later that day we hopped on a train to Shifen, a little town with big personality. We ate even more there (seriously…sooo much food), and let a lantern go in honor of our relationship. Chinese Lanterns can represent many things: a wish, a blessing, or the letting go of something.  I loved it.  The lanterns are huge and look so magical as they float up through the sky.  We had fun painting ours and on one side wrote “Two drifters, off to see the world…” and on the opposite side continued, “…there’s such a lot ofmoleblog11 world to see” – from the song Moonriver (our song) and then on the other side we wrote, “If we ever leave a legacy, it’s that we loved each other well” – also from a song (Indigo Girls) and then “Loving Kindness Compassion” and “May God bless our union as well as our individuality” on the last side.  We let it fly up into the air until it was a tiny spec, taking all of our hopes and prayers with it.


moleblog12We went back to Jiufen that night and wandered around Old Street some more, which at night was all lit up with beautiful red lanterns.  We had tea at a beautiful old tea house, overlooking the gorgeous scenery.  All day long we kept talking about how lucky and privileged we are to be ablemoleblog13 to see so many different places and cultures.  I believe traveling is one of the greatest teachers. It puts our ego in check, showing us how small we really are in the world, and it brings perspective to the trials and tribulations we think are SO big in our own lives, as we see how others live, how others suffer, and how others muster up incredible resilience in the face of great adversity.

 

moleblog14

Rice fields!!!

The next day we headed by train (Taiwan makes it SUPER easy to get around with their kickass train system) to Jiaoxi, to hit up some hot springs.  We passed through beautiful scenery along the coast of rice fields and mountains. We made a quick stop in Dali to see the jade temples (temples errrrrywhere! They’re so ornate and
amazing! And unlike the temples of China, they are perfectly preserved) where an old Taiwanese woman taught me moleblog16how to properly show benevolence and say a prayer.  By the time we arrived in Jiaoxi, it was pouring rain and we were soaked and tired and grumpy. We came across a beautiful hotel that had hot springs on site and even had the hot springs pumped right into your very own bath! I told the clerk, “Please give me the biggest tub in the place” and BOY did she comply!  😛  This was our big moleblog17“splurge” as far as hotels go, which is funny because this amazing 5-star hotel was only around $69 a night – the price of a 2 star, kinda crappy hotel in the states.  We LOVED the hot springs!  They had both fully nude (separated by gender of course) and co-ed.  That night we tried out the co-ed and stayed in as long as we could stand it.


moleblog18
The next day we were in a pickle (that may be the first time I’ve ever used that utterly ridiculous phrase).  This is the day that we realized the typhoon moleblog19was DEFINITELY coming for us, and we needed to make some decisions. We spent the morning eating delicious Taiwanese pastries and getting “pedicures” courtesy of little creepy fish that eat away the dead skin on your feet while trying to make decisions about the rest of our trip. We decided to hop on another train and head to the famed Taroko Gorge, which was supposed to be beautiful.  We wanted to do at least ONE outdoor

moleblog20

Fish nibbling on your feet tickles!

thing on our list, even if it poured rain the entire time. Several hours later we exited the train and got to hike through the gorge. Lucky for us, the weather held out just long enough to enjoy the gorgeous scenery! I’ve never seen water that color before, it was breathtaking.  To make it back to the visitor’s center in time (where we had left our packs) I had to run the 2 mile trail back.  Joe was like, “good luck!” – he is NOT a runner, so it was up to me.  I made it there just as they were about to lock the doors and they cheered me on as they saw me rounding the corner in a dead sprint. 🙂

moleblog21


Since we were re-routing back through Taipei to go down the other side of the island, we decided to stop back in Jiaoxi to stay at the same amazing hotel. This time, we went for the all-nude hot springs.  My experience was totally normal, in fact it was mostly empty.  But Joe…ohhhhh Joe.  He stripped down and walked out in what God gave him and came face-to-face with 4 other men that were…wearing swim trunks.  He turned right back around. Hahahahahaha! Don’t have any pictures of that one, but I sure wish I had a pic of his face when we first walked out.  


The next day was mainly a travel day, as we rode trains all of the way down to Chinghua, and a bus to a little town (little for Taiwan, anyway) called moleblog22Lukang. We wanted something small and quirky, and Lukang delivered.  I’d booked a B&B online and the proprietress was AMAZING.  She was talkative and hilarious and told us tons of stories about the history of the town, as well as drawing us a very detailed map of the street food vendors and indicating which had the best buns, noodles, and desserts.  We loved her.  The B&B was crazy immaculate and adorable.  We decided to stay for two full days to explore the area.


We biked and walked all around the town for the next few days.  Wemoleblog23 explored quirky little places like the “tiniest street in Taiwan” called “Touching Breast Alley” (ooh la la) because if you stand with your back to each wall you will touch breasts (um, apparently people had bigger breastsmoleblog25 than I several hundred years ago).  😛 Being in a smaller area was interesting because Joe and I garnered a LOT of attention.  In the cities we would sometimes get stared at or have people trying not-so-conspicuously to take our picture, but in Lukang they were blatant about it. Teenage girls would run up to us, all giggles and smiles, and want to take pictures with us. We couldn’t really wander around unnoticed. It was a trip. We saw more incredible temples, many that were crazy old and hauntingly beautiful.  We took a day trip to Changhua to see the famed Changhua Buddha and temple, which was truly impressive and  peaceful. We found ourselves an adorable little cafe/wine bar and spent the afternoon day drankin’ and people watching.

moleblog26


Then it was time to return to Taipei, where we had a lot to do in just a few moleblog27days. FIRST on the list was to try out a cat cafe. I mean duh. For those of you that don’t know, cat cafes originated in Taiwan. A cat cafe is exactly what it sounds like…a cafe with cats. Cat themes, and REAL LIVE cats. They’ve become wildly popular in Japan but when I heard they originated in Taiwan, I HAD to do it.  I mean, I love cats!  And I love coffee! And yeah it’s a wee bit weird to combine the two but it’s also quirky and awesome.  So we did a little research

moleblog28

Loved this grumpy kitty!

to find the best one and off we went. OH MY GOD it did not disappoint. There were 16 cats and 2 dogs in the cafe.  The owners give you “kitty treats” to feed to the kitties and they just play and crawl all around while you sip your latte.  So if you’re weird about animals and food, this isn’t for you.  I will say though, the place was immaculate.  It didn’t smell, it was hair-free, and super clean.  And shockingly, the coffee was super delicious. We had a whale of a time.  Ahem, I mean a CAT of a time.  (Yeah, I went there)


I then decided that since I was in Taiwan and so close to all of these incredible doctors of ancient Chinese medicine, I should really find a way to see one.  I contacted my friend and asked if he knew an herbalist that spoke English.  He sent me the address of one and off we went.  It was a HILARIOUS experience.  I walk in and everyone in the office let out a, “Oooooohhhh” and immediately started whispering.  But they all very kindly greeted me with shouts of “Ni hao!” I think they were just shocked to see a blonde-haired white American in their doctor’s office.  I get called in to meet the doctor and he doesn’t speak a WORD of English, not even hello. Not that I expected him to (I mean, we ARE in a foreign country) but I had to think quickly. Thankfully I had had the foresight to google translate all of my many ailments from English to Chinese characters and had taken screen shots of them on my phone. So I could at least tell him that I had ovarian cancer, SIBO, Hashimoto’s, and PCOS (I left out the others). He would speak to me in Chinese and I would nod my head like I understood like a total moron, then I would speak English and he would do the same. Neither of us understood a single f*cking word the other was saying.  After I showed him the translation for SIBO though, he said, “Ah!  Poo poo!!!!” and pointed to his butt.  I laughed so hard I nearly fell off the chair.  “Hao,” I said (yes), “Poo poo.”  It was the only time we understood each other.  He had his nurse prepare some herbal concoction for me and sent me on my way.  There’s no telling what he gave me.  I think it was of the I-don’t-know-what-the-hell-you’re-saying-so-here’s-some-shit-to-help-now-get-out variety.  😛  The whole thing was certainly an experience and only cost around $7, so it was totally worth it.


moleblog29The rest of the day was spent at Taipei 101 and the famed “snake alley” night market, where you can get a bowl of snake soup.  It was crazy to see all of these restaurants with GIANT snakes sitting out front, with rat cages right next to them for feeding time.  Snake soup is supposed to increase male virility, but Joe was having NONE of it.  Haha!

moleblog30

We decided to get massages (pronounced by locals to us as “massage-eeee!”) because they are so popular and cheap in Taiwan.  We opted for the 40moleblog31 minute leg and foot massage with a 20 minute back massage included.  Let me just say that they do massages differently in Taiwan.  They basically beat the hell outta ya. We groaned and winced and carried on so much that our two masseuses kept exchanging glances like, “Sheesh these Americans are wusses!”

 

moleblog32

My face fortune! 🙂

And suddenly, it was our last full day.  We spent the day exploring more of the city and went to a Taiwanese fortune teller, which I had read was an extremely popular thing to do for locals. We went to the “Street of Fortune Telling” which is a whole underground row of fortune tellers. We were told that this was the only place they would speak English.  They read our palms and faces and I have to say, were pretty dead-on.  The fortune teller NAILED Joe, telling him that he was “science-minded” and “too caught up in his own thoughts” and “not very good at the real talk” when it comes to talking with his family.  She told him he needed to be more honest about his emotions with me and his family. When she read his face, she noted that his ears showed that he was having liver trouble and that he needed to get that checked (fascinating) and that though he would always make a verymoleblog33 strong living financially, he never needed to own his own business or to be number one in his company.  She then turned to me and when she read my face she noted that my bottom lip was much larger than my upper lip. In China, apparently the upper lip represents the male and the lower lip represents the female, so she noted that my personality was quite dominant. Hahahahahahaha.  Ya think? She told me I should be less picky with Joe and be patient with him because he cannot communicate like others.  We both cracked up at this because this is by FAR our biggest struggle.  The whole thing was very fun and interesting.


moleblog37That night we checked out the famed Shilin night market but unfortunately, it was POURING rain.  And I mean monsoon-style. We tried to stick it out but we only lasted a few hours. There was soooo much good food there, though!  I wanted to shop because it seemed like the clothes shopping was cheap and fabulous but it was too difficult with the rain onslaught.  We eventually returned back to our hotel wet and weary.  The next day we reluctantly boarded a plane back to Hawai’i nei.  It wasn’t the trip we had in mind, but it was still amazing and fascinating and fun.  I think we needed some time to just BE. Without doctors and the daily grind. It was refreshing.  Here’s a brief slideshow of some of the rest of our travels, if you’re interested.  🙂

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 
So now that I’ve given you (a probably totally unwanted) play-by-play of my trip, we’ll get into other business.  The last time we chatted (yes, I like to pretend like I’m chatting with each of you individually, over a cup of coffee or glass o’booze, so just go with it…) I had just learned that my biopsy after surgery had come back malignant for Granulosa Cell Carcinoma, aka ovarian cancer. While NO ONE – no matter how zen or chill or optimistic they are – can say they don’t react at all to hearing the dreaded c-word, I honestly thinkmoleblog36 I’ve handled it rather swimmingly. Maybe that’s because I learned that I’m in the earliest stage (stage 1A) or because I sought the opinion of another gyno-oncologist that concurred I don’t need much further treatment (right now), or maybe it’s because I’m a total f*cking moron. But in any case, it hasn’t yet had its desired cancer-y effect (I imagine that cancer is sort of the school bully…wanting you to feel frightened and belittled and powerless). I know how lucky I am, BELIEVE me. Not only did I watch my Mother die at a young age from lung cancer, but I am also a part of a few cancer groups online in an effort to gain some insight into this rare tumor. There are many VERY ill people in those groups, fighting for their lives with bravery and style and sass. I’m pretty quiet in these groups. I feel like the girl that joins weight watchers to lose 5 lbs…errrrbody hates that bitch. 😛


I’ve learned a lot from those two groups, however. Not even so much about cancer (though that too!) but about attitude. I hesitate on how to write about this, because I fear it will come across as belittling or mean, and that is not at ALL my intention. I’ve struggled with how to put it into words without being offensive. I hope most of my readers know that what I’m about to say comes from a place of love and care. But if you don’t know me well or haven’t been following me, please take heart in the fact that I genuinely care about people. I’m a social worker and a bleeding heart. But also, I’m a bit of an ass. How can moleblog39those coexist you might wonder? They do, trust me. What I mean is, I will do anything for anyone. I will bend over backwards to help you and I will do it joyfully and with love. But, I’m also painfully blunt, tactless, and honest (to a fault, even) and will always give ya the real talk. Sometimes this real talky-talk doesn’t sit well with others. Sometimes we fight hard against things we don’t want to hear. Even if we need to hear them. Even if they make make the deliverer an ass. I also say I’m an ass because I’m painfully pessimistic. I’ve somehow managed to snow some of you into thinking I’m an optimist. Mwahahahahaha. Nope. I’m silly and goofy and use humor a lot, because I come from a massively funny family, but I’m totally a pessimistic assface about my own life. It’s truly just a part of who I am. I used to be pretty ashamed of this part of myself, but as I came into my 30s, I began to embrace it. I attribute this greatly to Barbara Ehrenreich’s work on toxic positivity. Have you ever read her work? She’s AMAZING. she’s the cat’s meow or the cat’s pajamas or the cat’s hiss or whatever. She talks about our western obsession (and it is indeed an obsession) with positivity. When people tell us bad news, we chirp something annoying to them about silver linings and find some ridiculously minuscule thing for them to be glad of. When someone gets ill we tell them to “think positive!” Or “stay positive!”moleblog40 When someone goes through something horrific we solemnly and tritely tell them “everything happens for a reason” in a hollow effort to console. But all of these well-meaning endeavors only succeed in silencing the person suffering. It doesn’t enable them the space to grieve, to be upset, to be angry or hurt. It makes them feel guilty for not being “positive” and forces them to try to slap on a fake smile just to please others. I think this is brutally unfair and causes the masking of feelings that lead to isolation and depression. Ehrenreich writes about this even in relation to her own breast cancer experience:


But, despite all the helpful information, the more fellow victims I discovered and read, the greater my sense of isolation grew. No one among the bloggers and book writers seemed to share my sense of outrage over the disease and the available treatments. What causes it and why is it so common, especially in industrialised societies? Why don’t we have treatments that distinguish between different forms of breast cancer or between cancer cells and normal dividing cells? In the mainstream of breast cancer culture, there is very little anger, no mention of possible environmental causes, and few comments about the fact that, in all but the more advanced, metastasised cases, it is the “treatments”, not the disease, that cause the immediate illness and pain. In fact, the overall tone is almost universally upbeat. The Breast Friends website, for example, features a series of inspirational quotes: “Don’t cry over anything that can’t cry over you”; “When life hands out lemons, squeeze out a smile”; “Don’t wait for your ship to come in… swim out to meet it,” and much more of that ilk. In some cases cancer is even touted as a “gift”, deserving of the most heartfelt gratitude.


moleblog35There is sooo much literature that focuses on positivity and cancer. This inevitably, she discusses, sets the patient up for failure. This places the onus and responsibility on the patient, instead of on the fact that a disease is literally attacking their body, and that life is sometimes, all too often, unfair.  They might stay crazy positive throughout and still aren’t able to get well, thereby feeling as if they have failed despite their undying devotion to positivity. This may make them feel guilty, like they are letting down friends and family, or suffering further because they cannot seem to put on a happy face and fight the cancer demon with a smile.  Of course, the other option is that they remain positive and ARE able to successfully heal, and this is the tiny group we’re always shoving down cancer patients’ throats.


Barbara’s work (I like to pretend we’re on a first name basis and that we’d be buddies) discusses how detrimental this guise of positivity can be…so detrimental it can be toxic. **NOTE: I think it’s really important here to distinguish the difference between positivity and a sense of humor.  Many use humor to cope (including myself, obviously) and I think it’s often mistaken as positivity.  I HUGELY promote the use of humor as both a relief from the horrible things we must endure and as a coping mechanism.**  I wrote a large paper in grad school on positive toxicity and women, as I think women are especially susceptible to this concept of toxic positivity. Women are often called emotional, irrational, or moody and because of these labels, I think we feel a real need to gloss over our emotions with a sunshine-y demeanor. Always careful not to seem crass or wildly unhinged, we believe that by presenting a positive front, we may appear more palatable to others. Because women are a lot about presentation, right? We almost have to be, because wemoleblog41 are so harshly judged on presentation. We are also more susceptible because of our desire (as well as the pressure placed upon us) to be perfect. While men too sometimes struggle with issues of perfectionism, I believe the burden of perfectionism falls more heavily on women. We must be the perfect friend, mother, wife, and sister, while also being kind but still with an edge, intelligent but not overly powerful, humble but confident, and strong but not threatening; all while maintaining a slim figure and being endlessly stylish and endlessly young. It’s. EXHAUSTING. Studies show that women still do the majority of child-rearing and housework while also working full time. And on top of all of that shit, we have to be SUNSHINEY too? Um no. Can I get a HELL NAH?!?!


My point is, cancer sucks.  I probably could have just written that, but whatever.  I’m long-winded. My cancer is small and well-contained for now, but I watched my Mother struggle profoundly.  I witnessed round after round of god-awful chemotherapy. I watched her lose her hair and her dignity (her appearance was soooo important to her).  I watched my always-plump, jolly Momma turn painfully frail and thin with hollowed eyes and

moleblog42

My Mommy. 🙂

dark circles.  I watched as the pain pills affected her so terribly she couldn’t tell you what day it was.  I watched her cry as I cleaned her house, because she could barely walk to the bathroom, let alone clean or bend or move about.  I watched her slowly come to terms with her death and how this meant saying goodbye to 4 young daughters that she would never know as true adults. Cancer SUCKS, and pretending it doesn’t isn’t a service, it’s a disservice to those fighting and struggling. And as I am coming up on the 11 year anniversary of my Mom’s death (Nov. 5th), I want to honor her by writing this and putting it out into the universe…I’m sorry.  I’m sorry I didn’t understand all of this when she was ill. I’m sorry I was so self-absorbed and young and stupid that all I concentrated on at the time was how hard her illness and death would be for ME.  I’m sorry I didn’t give her the proper space to grieve, to feel exhausted, to express how truly terrified she was. I feel terrible about that to this day.  I wish I could tell her how sorry I am and how much I regret not allowing her to speak freely about how she was feeling. It’s easier for everyone else if you are ultra-positive, right?  It’s easier for doctors and nurses and friends and family but not so easy or fair for the person that is actually sick.  As my ole buddy and kindred angry spirit Barb writes:


Breast cancer, I can now report, did not make me prettier or stronger, more moleblog43feminine or spiritual. What it gave me, if you want to call this a “gift”, was a very personal, agonising encounter with an ideological force in American culture that I had not been aware of before – one that encourages us to deny reality, submit cheerfully to misfortune and blame only ourselves for our fate.


I highly encourage you to read her book, Bright-sided, or read this paper, Smile, You’ve Got Cancer! or watch (one of many!) her Ted Talk, Smile or Die.

The funny thing is, these groups HAVE given me something in the way of positivity.  They have given me perspective.  This is, by the way, the part that I fear will be offensive.  So please kindly remove your easily-pissed-off hat, and just try to go with me and know that I only mean this in the most loving, “real-talk” kinda way.  It’s really interesting to oscillate between the SIBO groups and the cancer groups.  Sometimes the posts on my facebook feed will be one right after the other, and the difference is almost startling.  SIBO blows, don’t get me wrong. Don’t even get me started on how much it can suck.  It can be isolating, painful, disgusting, embarrassing, and depressing.  I KNOW.  But, it’s not cancer. It’s not death.  It’s not losing your hair and having constant mouth sores and pain so severe you cannot sleep or move (at least for 98% of us SIBO sufferers, anyway). It’s not facing your own mortality. It’s not looking at your children and knowing you’ll never see them grow up or have babies or get married.  A few times I’ve seen people in the SIBO group compare SIBO to cancer and I have to say that I take offense to that.  They’re not comparable. Stop doing that for the love of God.  Please. I almost don’t even care if that one statement offends you.  If that offends you, you have some serious soul-searching to do around empathy and compassion and reality.


I feel the need to say that I know some in the SIBO group are SUPER ill. I am not talking to you…I know your life is beyond difficult right now.  I also think that SIBO is likely not your biggest problem.  Meaning, if you are that ill, it’s possible there is something much larger happening in conjunction with SIBO, or MANY things.  Stay the course, advocate as hard as you can.  You deserve health and happiness.


What I’m trying to express (probably poorly) is that I’ve seen so much resilience and inspiring strength from the cancer groups.  It really puts SIBO and hashimoto’s and even my own cancer into perspective, because these women are SICK, yet they use humor so fiercely and wonderfully to fight their way through this.  And while I don’t want to spread the positivity fever, it does really help me with the attitude I take about my own illnesses.  At the same time, however, I see bits of (toxic) positivity being pushed upon people in the cancer groups on occasion.  I don’t blame them, because I think it’s so pervasive, but I do want to call attention to it.  Moving between the two groups is startling because the SIBO group is far darker. Obviously since I just blathered on about how toxic positivity can be in circumstances of illness I don’t expect everyone in the SIBO group to “suck it up” or pretend to be ok…but I do hope to spread some awareness about perspective.  PUHlease don’t misunderstand…you are allowed to feel your feelings.  You are allowed to be frustrated and pissed off and depressed, but it’s painfully debilitating to live in that depressive space. This isn’t a “buck-em-up” speech, but it is a call to think about how you’ve let SIBO hold you back. And it is simultaneously a call to the cancer group, to not let the happy spin of positivity that’s shoved down your throat by anyone else make you feel like you can’t be who you are and what you feel. Someone ACTUALLY posted the other day that “Sadness is a waste of time.”  Wow.  No. You do not get to tell people that

moleblog44

GROSS. Get outta here with that bullshit.

their feelings are a waste of time.  Ever. Allow yourself to be honest, allow yourself to be true to your feelings and express it to friends and family. You deserve the right to feel how you feel. It honestly kind of seems like the two groups need a good dose of the other sometimes.  I feel kind of honored to get to be in all of them, because as I stated, it really brings interpretation and perspective to my life in a really profound way that I am still figuring out.


I am not immune to either of these issues, by the way, because I am an unperfect person like yourself.  I’m guilty of both allowing myself to wallow in my own depression about SIBO and of chirpily pretending (maybe even to moleblog45myself) that hearing I have cancer doesn’t affect me. I have taken to my bed over SIBO and I also didn’t shed a single tear or have a single panicky moment over my cancer diagnosis.  Both of those seem a little strange.  In one instance, I was throwing a HUGE pity part that seems out of proportion with my illness, and in the other instance I was completely denying myself the right to feel scared and worried and freaked out. Looking back, I feel like an emotionally inept idiot.  


We all have battles.  I will never understand why some are burdened with mountains and others with molehills, but I believe it’s important that we don’t make mountains out of molehills, or molehills out of mountains.  Don’t pretend your SIBO is cancer, and don’t pretend your cancer can be taken away with sheer positive vibes.  😛 I realize that it’s impossible to find perfect balance always, and that at times we will waver back and forth between being too dramatic and not dramatic enough, and that’s ok. I think the most important thing is to be authentic, but also always strive to understand your own privilege  and reality in this world.  ❤


On my own cancer front, I got great news right before my trip (the day that I left) that my endometrial biopsy came back all clear, which was FANTASTIC news.  I start natural chemo this week with my ND, and am hopeful and confident that I will be considered officially in remission soon.  On the SIBO front, I’m doing great…the best I’ve ever been, actually.  I still have some bloating issues with certain things (like wine, for example…which I keep trying to make happen because ohhhhh how I love wine!), but for the most part, the bloating is down, my weight is up, and I’m feeling energized and moleblog46healthy.  I’m able to eat a really wide variety of foods that I still try to keep as low FP (fermentation potential, a la the Fast Tract Diet) as possible most of the time.  After a full year of dealing with health issue after health issue, it’s nice to be able to say that. And bring ON 2016…2015 can SUCK IT. Seriously.  If I could beat 2015 with a bat, I would.


I wish you all health and happiness and recovery!  And until next time, here is a pic of Joe and I on Halloween.  We were snails.  (We are weird).  😛 Aloha to you all!

moleblog47

Let’s not beat around the bush, ok?  My life is absolutely crazy.  

 

cancerblog

Pre-surgery! #byebyeoscar #ovaryfarewelltour

The last time I wrote, I was just about to have surgery to have my left Ovary (Oscar) and Fallopian tube removed, due to a large tumor that was found via ultrasound and MRI (see previous entry here for details on Oscar the Ovary). The surgery went splendidly (not that I remember any of it as I was passed out drooling on the surgical table) and the surgeon assured us it was quite textbook.  I awoke in recovery feeling super sore and groggy, while they pumped me full of happy drugs.  I wasn’t in nearly as much pain as I anticipated, and being that I was massively worried that I was, indeed, a GIANT baby and super wussy about pain, I was relieved.  Joe came in and explained that the Doc had to run into another surgery, but that the surgery went well, though the tumor was much larger than they initially thought. He held up his hands to demonstrate its giant Oscar-y size, and compared it to the size of a “deflated football” (cue Tom Brady pun).  No wonder I was so damn bloated.  Oscar was playing a freaking football game in there.  Asshole.


The surgeon had performed a frozen biopsy during surgery to assess if the

cancerblog1

Post-surgery. All smiles because of glorious pain meds.

mass was cancerous or not.  The biopsy came back benign and Joe and I were both happy and relieved.  The nurses got me sitting up and more alert and ready to head home.  They put me in some giant diaper-looking shorts (yeah…watch out fellas, purrrrrrrrr) and wheeled me down to the car. The first night was actually probably the easiest.  I was totally doped up on Oxy and Percocet, and drifted into a dark, dreamless sleep, wondering why they didn’t send me home with pictures of Oscar.  I mean, it’s not like I wanted to display him in a jar on my mantle…but I wanted to at least see what the bastard looked like.  


The next few days were a little tougher, but all in all, a super easy recovery. Many people warned me that recovery would be super hard, but it was surprisingly very simple.  I’d cooked up a storm the week prior, so I had healthy food just waiting to be heated for me.  Joe took the week off to help take care of me, and we played cards and games and watched ALOT of cancerblog3Netflix.  I had all of these dreams and visions of writing and taking online sign language classes and instead I stayed in bed, propped up on pillows watching Switched at Birth (I have a thing for wholesome family dramas…again, don’t judge me).  The 3rd and 4th days I hobbled around a little more, even going for a walk around the block after dinner.  The worst part was being bed-ridden.  I don’t do so well with that.  I am an active person and being in bed for several days was painfully boring.  The

cancerblog2

My lil sis came over to play games with me. She had her beer, I had mah pain meds. 🙂

pain meds were funny.  For some reason, they really wouldn’t “hit” me until I ate some food. Then…WHAM!  I was high as a little Katie kite.  It was quite fun from what I can recall.  I remember trying to write a blog one night and thinking that I had never been funnier, had never been wittier, and when I read it (soberly) the next day, I died laughing.  And not because of my amazing wit. Because it was like a drunk 7 year old with a learning disability had written it.


By the 5th day I had started to ween myself off pain meds (they’re extremely cancerblog4bad for motility and thus, bad for SIBO…and I did NOT go through all of this shit this year to bring SIBO back in just 5 days). I was still taking them at night, when my pain was at its worst (from moving around all day).  My incisions were gross: 1 on each side and 1 raw, disgusting belly button, and my belly puffy and swollen, but I applied comfrey cream each night and did a castor oil pack for inflammation every day as well.  I also took curcumin, which is supposed to help with tissue regeneration and swelling (good to know if you have any kind of surgical procedure looming!). Anyway, on the 5th night, I had my first venture out into the world again. Joe came home and I was so chatty and irritating he told me that I desperately needed to get out of the house.  He announced we were going to PetSmart. “Sweet!  Let me just pop my pain med real quick!”  We went to PetSmart to pick up litter and kitty food, when…lo and behold, I saw it.  A

cancerblog13

I mean. Best. Thing. EVER.

green, sequined, mermaid kitty costume. “OHHHHHMYGOD!” I exclaimed. “PUHHHLEASE can we get this? PUHLEASE?!?!”  Yes, I was on drugs.  Joe looked doubtful.  “Don’t make me play the surgery card,” I warned. Joe laughed and said, “You’re high and she will hate that.”  To which I replied, “But this green color will really pop against her fur!”  Joe raised his eyebrows.  “Enough Project Runway for you, babe.”  We bought the amazingness and I got many hours of joy out of it.  TOTALLY worth $6.99, kids. Every damn penny.  


I improved more and more every day and walked just a little bit further every day as well.  The first time I walked 2 miles (7 days after surgery) I was so proud!  It’s a funny thing to go from distance running to slowly walking 2 miles.  One thing I noticed right away is that the huge lower bloating was

cancerblog5

Crazy before and after Oscar extraction!

mostly just…GONE. My baby belly had vanished!  It was that F#&$ING Oscar all along (since clearing SIBO, anyway). That rat bastard.  Here I am, taking every supplement known to man and agonizing over which food is causing this swelling and WHY OH WHY is the bloat not gone now that SIBO is gone?!?!?! and all of this time it was a freaking tumor.  Of course.  Because that is just how my life has decided to go.  😛


Two weeks go by and I’m feeling better and better and walking every day. I’m cooking again and healing and feeling super optimistic-and-rosy-sunshin-y that my health woes are slowly starting to sort themselves out.  I’ve worked hard, I’ve remained diligent, and now I will be rewarded with better health, right? Hahahahahaha ohhhhh dear little optimistic idiot…nope!


I go to see my doctor for my two-week post-surgical follow-up.  I feel I should note that I had to wait over 2 hours to see him.  I good-naturedly cancerblog6really didn’t even mind waiting.  I had my book, and I kept telling myself, “This wait is a good sign.  It means your doctor is taking time to sit and talk with patients and answer their questions thoroughly.”  I even posted on facebook about it, assuring myself that if I was patient, it would come back to me in a good way.  But again, nope!  The good-natured moron strikes again!  


I’m shuffled into an exam room where I wait another 20 minutes.  The oncologist swoops in, very quickly checks my incisions, states that I am healing at a “speed-of-light” rate (das’ right doc, over achiever right cheeere) and then drops a big ole bomb.  Allow me to properly set the stage…

***DOC WOOSHES IN***


DOC: Aloha!  How are we feeling?

ME: Good!  The recovery has been very easy, no real troubles.  My incisions are healing nicely.  
DOC: (inspects my incisions) Wow, those are healing super fast!  It seems you are healing at a speed-of-light rate!  Well, as it happens, it’s a super good thing we took out the tumor, as it turns out it was a Granulosa Cell Carcinoma.  So it’s lucky you made the decision to take out the entire ovary and fallopian tube, because…

ME: Um hold UP a sec. (I blink at him for a moment).  Carcinoma?  Are…are you saying that I have cancer?
DOC: Yes.  Well (clears throat) I’m saying that I think you did  have cancer, but I’m optimistic that we got it out.  
ME: Um. Uhhhhh, ok.  But you told me after surgery that the tumor was benign?  
DOC: Yes, the frozen biosy we did in the middle of surgery came back negative, but we also send samples out to other labs that do a more thorough analysis.  This is when we found that it was, indeed, a carcinoma.  
Your tumor was very large and it’s likely it was highly estrogen-producing, which is why I think you haven’t had a menstrual cycle in 15 months.  I think that now the tumor has been removed, your cycle will continue.  I will see you in three weeks.  If you haven’t had a period by then, we will take further steps.
ME:  Further steps?
DOC: Yes.  If you haven’t, we will need to do another ultrasound and perhaps a biospy because this particular cancer has a tendency to spread to endometrial cancer, so we will want to closely monitor that.  
ME: Ummmmm, errrrrrrr, ok then. What about the right ovary?  Should we be concerned at all that it has cysts as well?  
DOC: (smiles like a f*cking maniac) No.  Not at this point.  We’ll keep an eye on it but there is no need for concern.  You still have PCOS and are likely to always have cysts.  Ok, sound good?  I’ll see you in three weeks!  
ME:  Er, Ok.  Thanks doc! (I chirped this out like a complete idiot…like the man did not just tell me I have cancer and then try to shove me out the door not-so-subtely).
DOC: No problem at all.  See you soon!  *Exits


cancerblog7I walked out the door, wondering numbly what had just happened. Once I got down to the street to walk home, I began thinking, “WTF is wrong with me? Why didn’t I ask questions?  WTF is wrong with him, oh-so-casually mentioning I have (had) cancer?!?!  Why didn’t he give me even 30 seconds to just absorb the information and gather myself so I could ask questions?”  I promptly called my husband and couldn’t answer any of his very valid questions.  I felt like the moron of the century.  I immediately texted my ND, who I’ve seen so often through this health storm that I swear we’re becoming actual friends, and she replied immediately, “Oh wow.  Ok.  Give me 24 hours to do some hard core research and I’ll see you on Thursday.  Don’t stress, we’ll make a gameplan together and I’ll consult with your oncologist and get more information.”  I was thankful and relieved.  I assumed she would get more info outta him than I would.  


So, cancer.  CANCER?!?!?!  Really universe?  I mean for serious?!?!?!?  


I didn’t exactly freak out for some reason.  Maybe it was the way the doc so cheerfully delivered the news that something creepy had been growing inside my body, but I was ok.  I think he was probably just trying to manage mycancerblog8 reaction.  I wish I had had the forethought to say, “Look man, I’m not a really reactive person.  I’m not going to freak out, or sob, I just need you to give me a minute to process this and to answer my questions.”  But really, if ever there WERE a time to freak, it would be when the C-bomb is dropped like it’s hot. However, I just sat there like a damn deer in headlights that has cancer.  


I got home and called two of my sisters in a conference call.  The first thing my oldest sister said was, “Whoa.  WTF?  Well, I just want you to know…I will NOT be shaving my head in solidarity.”  Hahahahahahaha.  They’re assholes. But they’re funny assholes.  They made me laugh.  And yes, sister, if it ever came to that, you WOULD be shaving your f*cking head in solidarity. Because I will get you hammered on wine, wait until you pass out, and then sneak into your bedroom and shave your damn head.  You bettah believe it.  


I did a little research on Granulosa Cell Carcinoma, but I had to limit it because I knew so little.  I had no idea what stage I was in, how large thecancerblog9 tumor was in size exactly, and I wondered how thorough the surgeon had been.  He had told me many times that he was doubtful it was cancer, so the thought kept coming up: you don’t find what you’re not looking for.  How sure was he that he had “gotten it all?”  


I went to meet my trusty ND a few days later.  She was great as always.  She had printed out several articles for me and was armed with info.  She had gotten the biopsy report and surgeon’s notes and though she hadn’t been able to speak to the surgeon directly yet, she said she would hunt him down and talk to him.  In the meantime, I had made another appointment with another oncologist/gynocologist for a 2nd opinion.  A gyno friend in Honolulu had given me the name of another person she trusted (and also actually assured me that my original surgeon was the best on island, so while his bedside manner was not stellar, as least his surgical skills are known to be!).  I learned cancerblog10that Ovarian Granulosa Cell Carcinoma is a very rare cancer (less than 2-3% of all cancers…why am I always getting some shit no one’s ever heard of before? SIBO? Pylori? Now this?!?!?!  :P).  Of course it is.  It is most often seen in women over 45, non-white women, and women with ovarian cancer in their families. None of which I have/am.  Again, of course. Because it is a rare cancer, there isn’t a ton of research on treatment/protocols/survival rates.  Some, but not a lot. My ND was insistent that I get the endometrial biopsy regardless of whether or not I start to menstruate again, which I agree with.  The peace of mind would be welcome. We also agreed to start me on natural chemotherapy as a preventative measure (which basically involves very high doses of IV Vitamin C…many lyme patients actually use this protocol so some of you may be familiar with it).  She also informed me that according to the biopsy report, the entire mass was about 17cm, and the cancerous tumor was about 12cm. HUGE!  Gross.  She also delivered the good news that I am officially a stage 1A.  Oh hells yeah.  Can’t beat that!  I’m a cancer overachiever, ya’ll!  She gave me a lot of stuff to read and told me not to let the doctors intimidate me.  Doctors can be domineering, ego-centric, and cancer is scary, so the combination often results in deer-in-headlights-with-cancer syndrome, but she warned me to be aggressive.  “They work for YOU,” she told me.  


So, there you have it.  My update is not at ALL what I imagined it to be.  It’s kind of funny, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking/reading/pondering about

'The problem is I can't tell the difference between a deeply wise, intuitive nudge from the Universe and one of my own bone-headed ideas!'

‘The problem is I can’t tell the difference between a deeply wise, intuitive nudge from the Universe and one of my own bone-headed ideas!’

intuition…leaning into it, listening to it, learning to rely on it a little harder. But I often joke that my intuition is broken.  It’s ALWAYS wrong.  If my small intestine is the slow kid in class, my intuition is the overly-confident loudmouth that sits in the back shouting the wrong answers.  I was SO SURE that this wasn’t cancerous.  I confidently told everyone this.  Now who’s the dumbass with cancer?  I need to just listen to my gut and then do the complete opposite of whatever it tells me.


Okay, back to SIBO (but actually, this next part applies to a new cancer diagnosis, too…however I’ll use SIBO for examples).  During this whole surgical process, I was super afraid it would bring back SIBO symptoms.  I know, I know, a chick with cancer shouldn’t really be that concerned, but I think I’ve been hyper-focused on it because it feels like something I have a little more control over.  I had ALOT of time to think and be online during this recovery time.  I commented on every post anyone ever made on facebook. I’m sure everyone loved that. You’re welcome. It got me thinking more about what I alluded to on my last post.  When you get a chronic illness, your life drastically and immediately changes.  It’s a SERIOUS adjustment.  As such, it’s really interesting and important to allow yourself to move through the grieving process.  We’ve all heard of the steps of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  My stages of grief are usually: Eat body weight in pizza and chocolate (denial); pick a fight with my husband for no apparent reason (anger); decide to give up pizza binging ONLY if I’m still allowed wine (bargaining); cry intensely while watching something like Grey’s Anatomy (depression); and finally wake up one day, start a damn diet, exercise, start a blog to bitch publicly about my woes, and take every supplement ever created (acceptance).  I see it often in the forums. What it looks like:


Denial and Isolation: “I don’t believe I have to stop eating ____ because ____” OR “I refuse to give up ____ because I’ve eaten it my whole life so how can I be reacting to it suddenly?!?”  I believe denial to be a very key part in the grieving process.  It’s a self-protection thing; not looking at what we really have to face because we’re not ready.  I often like to set up camp here and hang out until someone smacks me in the face with reality, which I find very irritating indeed. Another interesting part about denial is how we pull others into it. Meaning, sometimes we can’t face the truth and we try to ask others for their opinion. We pull people in that we know are emotionally or socially invested (friends, family, others with our same illness) to help keep our delusions.  We tell them to be “brutally honest” but they often cannot.  They will tell you what they think you want to hear or what they personally wish to believe because they are emotionally and fervidly invested in us and care about us.  Their own emotional attachment clouds their vision as well, as we sweep them up in our denial and make them play our denial-filled game.  🙂 Isolation is sometimes used by social workers in conjunction with the denial stage.  This reason is clear, right?  We isolate because we don’t want anyone else to break our denial.  I don’t WANT to leave my house bubble of pizza and Gilmore Girls because someone might actually try to tell me that eating pizza 6 meals a day isn’t good for a digestive condition.  


Anger: “I am so sick of this shit!  I will not be on this strict diet anymore!” OR “Everyone in this forum is wrong and I’m pissed so I’m going to take it out on everyone and everything around me, including getting completely furious and taking things out of context that I normally wouldn’t! RAWWWWR!” Anger will manifest itself in so many ways, won’t it?  Anger at our loved ones for not “getting” it, anger at our friends for not respecting our dietary restrictions, angry at all of the people around us happily munching away on pasta and pizza without a care in the world, anger at ourselves for not taking our health seriously or taking things for granted before we got sick…sigh.  Anger is one of the easiest emotions to go to.  Getting furious is a way of channeling pent-up energy.  It’s a way of making sense of some of the grief you’re feeling.  Even if you have the presence of mind to realize that your anger is illogical or WAY out of proportion with the situation, it’s still an easier go-to than sadness.  My husband and I have a joke about the anger stage.  He calls it my “Bouts of Aggression stage” (aka BOA, as in, “You’re having a BOA right now”).  I’ll get super worked up about something and I’ll look at him and his eyes are big as saucers and he looks scared.  BOA.  Anger too, is a protective stage.  And, when you are facing an unjust loss, it’s natural to feel angry about it.  One of my favorite professors from Grad School, whom I’ve quoted on here before, always said, “Feelings are neither good nor bad, they just are. ” I love that, and try to remember it when someone else’s feelings don’t make sense to me.  


Bargaining:  In the movies, people in this stage are always making deals with God…of the “I promise to go to church every Sunday for the rest of my life if you’ll only…” variety.  In real life, bargaining takes on so many different forms.  “If I give up milk, I can still have sugar.”  OR “I know exercise is important but I don’t feel well.  If I don’t exercise but stick to the diet strictly, it evens itself out, right?” With SIBO, other than denial, this is the stage I see most often. Probably because it’s so glaringly apparent.  😛 Bargaining statements also often come in the form of “what ifs” and “if onlys.” We might even try to bargain with pain or with the past.  We get so desperate that we will do anything not to feel more pain or loss.  So we choose to dwell on the past, trying to negotiate our way out of our present situation, as if we can step into a time machine and change our past decisions. It’s important to note that bargaining is often a reaction to feeling helpless or scared or vulnerable and is sometimes used as a means to gain back power and control.  We bargain and beg with the SIBO gods (or devils…lets face it, those assholes are probably devils and demons) in an effort to feel like we actually have some kind of control over the outcome.  


Depression:  “I want to die.”  OR “I can’t imagine anything being harder than this.”  OR “No one understands and I just want to give up and I don’t care what happens.”  The depression stage is a DOOZY and is often the one people get most stuck in.  While often we oscillate between stages, it is common for depression to last the longest.  It’s the catastrophizing stage, the stage in which we lose perspective.  If you are thinking to yourself while reading this, “NO! YOU just don’t get how horrible this is for ME!” then I challenge you to do some deep thinking and soul-searching.  Is this the worst it could ever be? You might feel the worst you have ever felt, but do you have people in your life that you love?  Do you have a roof over your head and disgusting SIBO food in your belly?  Because if you have those two simple things, you are MILES above many people in the world.  This isn’t meant to shame you. Depression is also an important stage and one that everyone (me, too!) has to move through.  It’s important to emphasize that the depression stage is not a mental illness.  While therapy can help and is indeed suggested by this social worker, the depression stage is the appropriate response to a loss.  We are grieving the loss of our old life, of our old way of being.  It’s hard.  We’re left with intense sadness we don’t know what to do with.  So let yourself feel it, try not to chastise yourself for being sad or for catastrophizing, but also, don’t move into depressionville and set up shop.  For one thing, most people in your life cannot handle it and you will end up even more isolated than ever. And for another thing, it’s a terrible way to live.  Give yourself full permission to grieve, and then give yourself full permission to let go and move forward, because you’re better and stronger than the depressed version of yourself. You’re YOU, and you’re a one of a kind…a damn snowflake or some shit.  


Acceptance:  Ah, the holy grail!  You’re here!  You made it! Everything’s gonna be ok!  Wellll not entirely.  That is why acceptance is still a stage, instead of a state of being.  Most people are not ever going to feel 100% ok with a significant loss.  There will be times in which you’re still pissed that you can’t find something to eat, times when you’re still a little down, times you may decide to regress to bargaining because you realize a new food is actually bothering you.  Acceptance is about learning to adjust to the reality that this is your new permanent reality.  We may never love this reality, but we can learn to live with it and accept it.  This new lifestyle becomes our new norm.  The inclination is to sometimes try to live our old normal life as it was pre-diagnosis, but through time and acceptance, we learn that we must adjust.  Our lives have been forever changed and we must learn to adapt by reorganizing certain aspects of our lives.  Acceptance might simply boil down to just having more good days than bad.  And that’s ok.  Those good days will slowly increase.  


This all might seem quite obvious to you, but I think for many, we don’t realize when starting out what a long haul this is going to be.  Many seem to think they’ll pop a few antibiotics and poof!  They’ll be cured!  People even seem overwhelmingly desperate to get those antibiotics (which in some cases can be hard – some insurance companies don’t cover it and some docs refuse to prescribe them).  And I’m sorry to tell you, but antibiotics are not the key to this illness.  If they were, we’d all be better.  Unfortunately many doctors don’t help, as they tend to downplay or flat our refuse that some digestive issues exist at all.  The point is, while punching SIBO in the junk is absolutely possible (and encouraged!) it can take quite a while.  And understanding and accepting where you are in the grieving process can help you cope.  Don’t beat yourself up, feel your feelings. It’s not fun to be chained to your toilet (but thank God for the cancerblog12internet, right? Don’t even ACT like you don’t do it!), it’s unfair that others can eat whatever they desire, it’s frustrating that even healthy foods and a strict diet hurts your belly. And while I always want you to be true to your feelings, I also want to encourage you to keep perspective. You know what’s hilarious?  I always used to say, “SIBO sucks, but at least it’s not cancer.”  Hahahaha whoopsie!  (See?  My ridiculously dumbass intution really had NO idea).  Lastly, try not to expect everyone else around you to “get”it.  Humans are flawed and often can’t quite empathize until they go through something similar.  Accept where you are, then try to move forward. You can do it.  🙂


I want to thank you for reading.  I want to thank you for your amazing support, kind words, hilarious jokes, kicks in the ass when needed, and my fellow SIBO partners for befriending me, helping to guide me, and challenging me to just keep going.  Imma working on my Recipe page and will have 6-7 new recipes coming your way soon!  Also, if you’re new to the blog and new to a SIBO diagnosis, check out my SIBO Guide page for some guidance on good resources.  If you have questions about H. Pylori, the Elemental (there are actually 4 entries on this!), or how I came to decide on the Fast Tract Diet, scroll and read or click the highlighted links for more info.


Until next time, aloha!  🙂

cancerblog14

%d bloggers like this: