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

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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! 🙂

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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:

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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. 😛

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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.

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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.

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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.  🙂

 

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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,

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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.

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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!

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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!

 

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

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Ovary Farewell Tour

September 8, 2015

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I am flying through the air at 30,000 feet, thinking about my ovary. An ovary is a strange thing to think about on a thursday afternoon, flying through the air in a steel tube of impatient, head-phoned travelers trying to ignore the screaming baby. Perhaps the baby is why I keep thinking about it, as babies begin with that simple little ovary. It’s my 36th birthday today and sidebar, I had an incredibly fun beach birthday bash with friends to celebrate.  It was cat-themed.  Because I am a 9 year old girl.  You know you have good friends when they dress up as cats for you and drink beer on the beach.  🙂 And yes, I am wearing a cat bikini.  

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If you’ve never stopped by my little corner of the internet before, welcome! You can read past entries by clicking the home page and scrolling, or by clicking on “My SIBO Battle” above for the history of my digestive and thyrodial (yes, I sometimes make up words) woes. OR click here for the previous entry, or here if you’ve stopped by to learn about my experience with the elemental diet, or my Recipe tab if you want some yummy, SIBO-friendly recipes.

For 36 years I’ve given very little thought to that ovary, probably even far less than your average woman. Even as a teenager, I somehow doubted I was going to be a Mother. I was quiet about this doubt, because growing up in the South as a woman MEANT Motherhood, and wifeliness, and these things were (and still are) very tied into being a “proper” and “good” woman. I can recall someone many years ago talking about how my husband’s friend was marrying a “Good Southern girl” and what she really alluded to before and around that statement was that girl’s (open) desire to get married and start a family quickly. I remember thinking, “I will never be a ‘good Southern girl.'” And despite myself, feeling sort of shameful or sad about it…or maybe it was just the loneliness of knowing it was one more thing that made me not fit in, in the Southland. Either way, it was the beginning of a lifetime of defending my choice around Motherlessness.

Anyway…my ovary. My husband Joe and I have named it “Oscar.” I have a thing about namingconfuseduterus objects women’s names. It pisses me off. I think it’s because it’s a default of our culture to so naturally objectify women that we automatically attribute female names to objects. Things like boats, cars, hell even hurricanes, are given the pronoun of “she” and given a female-sounding name.  It’s one of those seemingly small and harmless things that perhaps isn’t so harmless after all.  That kind of thing fascinates me.  So I name objects with boy names. I know. I am SUCH a rebel. And I think it funny to name an ovary, something so intrinsically and overtly female, “Oscar.” We named it Oscar because it is grouchy…as in, of course, Oscar the Grouch. It has become hostile and surly and needs to find a new garbage can in which to live.  Yes, I just essentially called my body a garbage can, which isn’t a too-off analogy for it these days.  😛

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Looking pregnant when you’re not pregnant. No fun.

The last I wrote, I was celebrating the fact that I had totally kung-fu chopped SIBO and H. Pylori in the balls. I have to admit, I was READY for some celebrating. After months of a crazy strict diet, becoming a bit of a hermit, feeling ill, dealing with debilitating stomach pain, and feeling lonely because no one in my life REALLY got it…I was all too ready to reclaim my former perky, adventurous, go-get-’em self. But something was still…off. I was still having symptoms. I still had intermittent digestive issues, bloating, fatigue, and back pain. At first I just attributed it to a weakened gut. I’d blasted it with antibiotics, strong herbals and antimicrobials, hundreds of acupuncture needles and B12 shots, and denied it many delicious foods and drinks. The fact that it was pissy was understandable. But after weeks and weeks of unchanging symptoms, I knew something was still up. After being mistaken for being pregnant at the grocery store AGAIN (what IS it with people at the grocery thinking I’m preggo? It seems I’m always accused of being “with child” in the same grocery store on my block, which I suppose is convenient because it allows me to slink home quickly to feel bad about myself in private. Of course this is after rubbing my belly fakely to the person that has audaciously asked when I’m due while pretending to be happy about my fake baby. I just feel like lying in that instance is a public service. No one wants to be that uncomfortable). I went back to my ND, my trusty ole girl that has been with me in this fight from the beginning and said, “What else ya got? We need to keep checking…something else is up.”

She asked when my last ultrasound had been taken. I’ve had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) for quite a long time now, but over the past few years, it seems to have gotten worse. PCOS is an unpleasant, but fairly mild illness. It ovary2causes really fun things like heavy/painful periods, spikes in hormones (especially testosterone), weight gain, acne, unwanted facial hair, and mood swings. Sounds fun huh? It basically makes you so ugly and disgusting that you don’t need birth control anymore because no one wants to touch you. I hadn’t had an ultra sound for a few years, so my doc suggested we start there. Despite my digestive issues being “resolved” (so said the tests anyway), she wondered if there might be something going wrong with mah lady bits. So, off to the gyno I go! (Never a fun sentence for a woman).

ovary3As I was getting a standard ultrasound the radiation tech was making a lot of noise. Many, “Hmmmms” and “Oh, MMmm Hmmmmms” were happening. She asked if we could do a pelvic ultrasound as well to get a better look. Why not? My body has become fodder for new explorers. Er, I mean that in a non-slutty way (the slutty way would be far more fun). While performing the pelvic, I had a LOT of pain. It was extremely uncomfortable and the incessant murmuring of the tech made me think that yup…they found something weird. My body is just chock FULL of weird shit.  But alas, radiation techs are sworn to secrecy for some inexplicable reason while they make discouraging faces and probe your most private of parts.


The next day I met with my ND for the results. They found that my left ovary (Oscar) was nearly 4 times the size of my right ovary (Kanye West) and that there was a substantial growth of an indeterminable size on Oscar as well. They referred me for an MRI to get a better look at that old grouch.

A few days later, I go for the MRI. Easy peasy. Big, loud tube that screeches and clicks and clucks at you rudely. Then you’re done. The next day I again met with my ND for the results. She was very solemn this time. Serious face. Ruh roh. The growth was in fact a grapefruit-sized mass that was both hard and had fluid-filled sacks. Dammit, Oscar. She and the doc that read the MRI wanted to refer me to Oncology at the Kapiolani Women’s Center to see what my options were. Oncology is always a scary word that tends to sort of hang in the air after uttered, taunting you with its possible canceryness. But, ovary4in all honesty, I was mostly unworried. I’ve had these “female issues” my entire life and every time they find a new cyst or scary something, it turns out to be nothing. I’m young and despite my small intestine being the slow kid in class, I’m relatively healthy. I was pretty dern confident that I would see this scaryologist, and he/she would pat my head and tell me it’s “nothing” and send me on my uncancery way.


I go to see the Gyno/Oncologist. He was highly recommend by my ND, and he turned out to be really wonderful; personable, patient, and easy to talk to. ovary5He did none of the “I AM A DOCTOR AND THEREFORE GOD” stuff that has become so familiar to us SIBO folk. He told me, however, that he was quite concerned after looking at my MRI. He said he wanted to examine me. Up in the stirrups I go (again, never a fun sentence for a woman). The funny part was, I was in a teaching hospital, so there were 5 med student interns staring right at my lady junk. A few of them tried to awkwardly make conversation… “So…you live around here?” or, “isn’t parking horrible in this area?” to which I just had to reply, “Guys. You’re starting at my vagina. Let’s just skip the small talk.” They laughed and I stared at the ceiling, wishing I had the forethought to draw something funny on my pubic bone for the show.


After he examined me, he sat up, looked at me and said, “Yup. We have got to take that out. Soon.” I was surprised, really. I said, “Soooo…surgery?” and he nodded. 3 incisions, out through the belly button. Gross. The thought of pulling a tumor out through my belly button makes me wanna hurl. He told me that removing the entire ovary was ideal, in case it was cancerous (if it is, it would be safer to have removed as much as possible), but that if I was at all concerned about fertility, he would leave it. I told him that I wouldn’t be having children. He looked at me concerned, “Are you SURE? You’re only 35!” I nodded. “I’m sure.” I said. He asked again, “But what if you change your mind? Are you sure you are sure?” This is something that irks me (and I imagine any woman that chooses childlessness)…the assumption that we might “change our minds” as if we don’t understand our own wants or desires. It’s quite insulting and frustrating. If someone says, “I want children!” The answer is not automatically, “Are you SURE?!?!?! You’ll probably change your mind!!!” I looked at him in the eye and said, “Doc, have you ever been sure about something for 35 years? I have. I’m sure.” He laughed good-naturedly and said, “I haven’t ever thought about it that way. Fair enough.” I was liking this dude more and more. Besides, even if he did preserve Oscar, my PCOS is so terrible that I haven’t ovulated in over a year, making it an “almost certainty” (my gyno’s words) that I would have to go the in vitro route to conceive. I’ve always doubted I would become a Mother (but I’ve also always tried to remain open to it as well) however I certainly have never wanted it badly enough to go through THAT. I always imagined adopting orovary6 fostering if I were to parent, anyway. But I’m rambling. I think I always feel a need to explain or pander to people reading this blog that are silently judging my non-Motherly ways. I don’t know why. Ok that’s a total lie. I do know why, it’s because we still view women’s “roles” as synonymous with Motherhood. It’s still, even in these “progressive” times, strange to nearly everyone that I have not longed my whole life to be a Mother. People really have severe reactions about it, so I am almost always (because of these reactions) a little bit on the defensive about this choice, which I truly hate. I don’t want my defenses up. It seems unfair. My husband NEVER gets questions or judgmental looks or statements like, “Ohhhhh, you’ll change your mind…just you wait!” They accept his childlessness with complete approval. But if I tell someone that even though I really enjoy and like children, I just don’t think that parenthood is the path for me, they look at me like I am the Antichrist and immediately seem suspicious that I will try to kidnap and cage their children Hanzel-and-Gretel-style.

To be perfectly clear, just because I have made this choice does not mean that I don’t respect your right to have children.  I love my nieces and nephews.  I love my friend’s kids and love being auntie.  I will jump up and down with you when you tell me you are pregnant and buy your child ridiculous gender-neutral toys (because that is what Auntie Katie does), and I will cry with you when  you suffer a miscarriage or when the in vitro doesn’t work, and I will fight for your right to breastfeed in public (because boobs do not exist solely for men’s pleasure!). I will hardCORE go to bat for any Mom out there, because they do not get even a tenth of the respect they deserve.  I simply would like the same respect for my chosen path.  Perhaps now that Oscar is movin’ on out, this will be a built-in excuse and that disdain will turn to pity. In fact, I’m certain it will. But I refuse to be pitied. Instead I will always make it clear that I have chosen this path for numerous intelligent reasons, and that should be enough. Maybe one day it will be. My biological clock is ticking, and I really find that sound quite soothing. I’ll just let it tick. Reader, meet soapbox. Stepping down now. Damn, this thing is high…

Good God I’ll probably turn 45 and suddenly decide I’m DYING to have a freaking baby and will have to delete all of this.  I’ve always been a late bloomer, after all!  If anyone would get pregnant with one ovary gone and another covered in cysts, believe me…it would be me. 😛 Anywho, we scheduled the surgery for the 8th of September, because I’ve had a fun vacay planned to Portland and Denver for awhile. I’ve taken to calling it my #ovaryfarewellltour. Ya know, show him the sights

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#ovaryfarewelltour in full effect in PDX!

before he leaves the womb. The oncologist believes that the residual bloating I’ve been experiencing (despite clearing SIBO and pylori) is due to the growth. He said that because of its size, it could be causing other issues as well, as it is pressing against my transverse colon and bladder. This COULD explain so much! I inquired about the possibilities of cancer and he simply said he didn’t know, and we wouldn’t know until he got in there. It’s strange but again, I am weirdly not worried. I feel like it’s silly to waste time worrying and freaking over something that very well may be benign. I’ve spent enough time this year hyper-focused and obsessed with my health and my future. I just don’t wanna do it anymore. Whatever comes I’ll handle it. Er, I hope. But just in case, don’t judge me if my next entry is a self-pitying mass of fear and overwhelming anxiety. 😛


So now, I have to get into the next thing, which has been HUGE for me! H-U-G-E I tell ya!  I posted about it in the SIBO forum but I have to mention it again. Some of you have heard me talk about the Illeocecal Valve. Check out this nifty little blurb about it from this website:


“Between the small intestine and the large intestine is a sphincter-type valve called the Ileocecal Valve (ICV). The purpose of this valve is to “prevent backflow” from the Large Intestine, once any material leaves the Small Intestine. Not all the contents entering the digestive tube are going to be absorbed as food. In fact, much of what is ingested and processed continues to flow through the tube for eventual elimination. At the point where the small intestine ends, it sends its watery waste products into the large intestine.

IF things “are normal” the ileocecal valve:

– Remains closed most of the time.
– Opens briefly to let the contents of the small intestine exit.
– Closes again quickly to prevent any materials in the large intestine from leaking back.

ovary8


This very important anatomical structure does an unheralded job. The Ileocecal Valve is such a major cause of digestive symptoms for people that the problem has reached epidemic proportions; yet, outside the chiropractic profession, its function and importance are practically unknown. Problems with an open ileocecal valve (Ileocecal Valve Syndrome) are extremely common in today’s society yet its symptoms are often misdiagnosed. Very few health practitioners understand the significance of the ICV in digestive problems.”


My nd has been talking to me about this because one day, on a whim, she decided to manipulate the valve to close it. I was having stomach pain that very moment and was very bloated and frustrated. She had me lie down and proceeded to push in on my right side and move slowly back and forth in little waves (video of how to do this found on my SIBO Guide page, under Websites/Videos). It isn’t pleasant and hurts when someone pushes on it, but once it actually closes, you feel relief. Sometimes it’s very small at first, sometimes almost imperceptibly so. But a few minutes later I noticed that my stomach pain was subsiding, and my bloat had decreased. She encouraged me to try it at home on myself, or have my husband do it.


The next time I got that weird pain, I dutifully laid down to dig weirdly into my stomach. The things we do, I swear. Anyway, try as I might, I couldn’t “close” it. I ended up nearly giving myself a bruise from pushing so hard. I had Joe try it and he was even worse. He pushed so hard and was digging so deep it was like he was trying to find a buried treasure. We were laughing so hard (in between my screeches and yelps because it felt like he was pushing straight into my kidneys). 😛 The next appt., I asked her to show me again and to explain it in detail. That’s when I videoed it to share with you all. Shortly after that appointment, I left for Portland, Oregon to visit a friend. I had PLANS for Portland. Mainly of the food-and-booze variety. I wanted to test out my new sibo-free belly. I was ready to indulge and drink bourbon and eat my body weight in cheese. My nd

ovary9

Gluten and coffee and cheese, oh my!

instructed me to try to close the valve before eating and again afterward. Luckily, the friend I was visiting (Celina) is super comfortable with the body. She’s a yogi and reiki master and when I explained she would have to close my valve multiple times a day, we had a good laugh and she was like, “Well…lay down. Let’s do it!” Aren’t good friends who will close your intestinal valve the best? Haha again…the things we do. It would sometimes take awhile to get it, but when we did, it helped SO. MUCH. I mean I really indulged people. I had gluten. I

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My fantastic Portland buddies! ❤

had beer. I had donuts. I had coffee every single day (I’ve been off coffee and well, ALL of these things for nearly 8 months!). I went out and partied for my birthday and even ate at an all macaroni and cheese restaurant ‘Dis girl wasn’t playin’.  Only a few times did I have pain ( I THINK I am tracing the pain to my digestive enzymes) but each time I did, we worked on it and it subsided quickly, along with much of the bloat. It’s like some sort of weird SIBO switch. DISCLAIMER: This is ONLY going to help you if it is actually your problem. Meaning, this technique will only provide you relief if you are actually having illeocecal valve disfunction. ND DISCLAIMER: My ND wants to be clear that she is not recommending this treatment to others without personal consultation.  This massage technique was recommended to me during my individualized treatment plan and she would recommend you seek medical care/advice from a doctor or educated practitioner before attempting it.  So basically, try it at your own risk.  It certainly made my vacation more fun. 🙂 And it’s a hilarious memory for Celina and I for many years to come. I’d eat and then say, “Close mah valve, gurrrrl!” and she’d get right to work.  When you have friends like that, you can’t really complain too much about life.  🙂

I also began to notice another pattern while on vacay. I only had stomach pain every now and then (about 3x times while on the trip) and the foods I had eaten when the stomach pain came on were not consistent. Then, BING!  A light went on and I remembered that with each of those meals, I had taken digestive enzymes beforehand.  A while ago I was taking Protease as a biofilm disruptor, which I learned really hurt my stomach.  Many people can take these without issue, but for some reason, it gave me terrible stomach cramps.  I have now tried 3 different brands of digestive enzymes and finally realized that all of them have high levels of Protease.  Why didn’t I put this together before, you ask?  Because I am a moron. The connection never made its way into my brain.  I had slowly convinced myself that tomatoes were the culprit, but once I realized the enzyme connection and stopped taking them, I tolerated tomatoes with no problems at all.  I tell you this in case YOU are experiencing some pain and are currently taking enzymes.  It seems that NDs and doctors ALWAYS recommend these and for many people I think it can be extremely helpful.  But some of us are just too sensitive.

So that’s where I am. I have now moved on to Denver to finish this entry and just indulged in a mocha and small sandwich. It’s so fun to eat again, I can’t even tell you all. I even indulged in Portland

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Mah drunk-on-a-rooftop-in-Portland face. 🙂

with a spicy mango, orange, jalepeno infused vodka drink. YUM. And shockingly, no problems whatsoever. F-U-N I tells ya! Those things are highly problematic for SIBO, so right now I’m feeling on top of the world, despite Oscar telling me otherwise. He’s an old bastard anyway. I just love thinking of my ovary as a grumpy, pissed old man. (For those of you reading my blog for the first time…yes, I’m weird)


Denver and Portland brought great times with old friends, LOTS of food andovary13
 booze, trail  running and huffing and puffing while running in the altitude, hours of Dr. Seuss reading with my friend’s adorable little girl, hanging with my aunt and uncle and cousins, and catching up with some of my favorite people in the world – my friend Sarah and my friend Celina. My friend Celina is in so many ways, my complete opposite.  We are so vastly different that we often

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Celina and I

laugh that we even became friends.  But I LOVE our differences. She challenges me to look at the world through an entirely different lens.  She forces me to look at things that make me uncomfortable or to notice things I would never otherwise notice or contemplate.  Likewise, Sarah is one of the most self-aware people you’ll ever meet. She constantly challenges me to break out of my little Katie world and to push beyond my usual thought patterns, which can lead toward self-ridicule and anger at myself. We had many intense conversations about our life choices; why we remain entrenched in the same destructive spaces, why we ignore our higher selves and how we cling to denial out of fear. It stirred up quite a bit in me, honestly, and I need some time to work through it. But despite a surgery looming and some weird life

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Sarah and I

choices that I need to work out in the next few months, I’m so grateful in this moment. No, not for food (ok, not ONLY for fun food) but for…life. For the ability to move outside of myself, to not linger any longer in self-pity or shame about that self-pity. Not gonna lie about it, this year has SUCKED health-wise, but in so many ways it’s been eye-opening. I had my major crutch, my drug-of-choice, my main coping mechanism taken away: FOOD. My entire life I’ve relied on food to soothe, to calm, to celebrate, to cover up pain or anger or fear. Having that taken away has been incredibly difficult and also eye-opening. It’s forced me to really learn to concentrate on other joys in life more, and to focus more inwardly on my feelings instead of just eating them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I’ll still be an emotional eater, but I think I’ve finally learned to look at my relationship with food in a healthier way, as well as (and probably even more importantly) learned to look more closely at my reasons for using food as my emotional savior.  I’m still muddling through all of this, but I can honestly say that all of these health issues, while being a total bitch, have also shown me some things that I needed to focus on; like my attitude, my great privilege in this world, my tendency to self-loathe, my desire to grow and be

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Contemplating mah life in the CO mountains

a better, more empathetic and compassionate version of myself, and my fear of failing. These are things I would eat away. These are things that I need to dive into, instead. Seriously, I am NOT one of these “everything happens for a reason!” people…in fact that statement makes me viscerally angry (work with child sex abuse like I have for awhile and see if you can EVER say that statement again), but I DO, wholeheartedly believe that we can grow and learn and push our boundaries in the face of frustration and difficulty. I am proud to say that I am doing that. It might have taken me awhile and I might have spent one-too-many days holed up in mah “bed cave” (that’s what my husband calls it…when I get REALLY down I lie in bed with the shades drawn with my cat and binge-watch things like “Keeping up with the Kardashians” or “Project Runway”…don’t judge me!!! And simultaneously feel sorry for myself while hating myself for basking in self-pity), but I’m facing it and that’s what matters. We all have to move through those stages in order to get to acceptance…which is something I’ll talk more about next time.

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The hubs and I on our trip. 🙂

Fast forward 4 days and I’m at home, finishing up this entry.  Today is my surgery and I’m less nervous than I thought.  I’ve never even had so much as a stitch, so this is all unfamiliar territory to me.  I was super healthy right up until the day that I wasn’t.  And while I know that surgery and the removal of Oscar will come with it’s own set of issues, I am hopeful that I will finallyoscar15 get some relief from (other) issues.  It’s time to heal and recover and get back to my Katie self.  Some friends and I went out for one last toast to Oscar yesterday. Cheers Oscar…it’s been real.  But now you gots to go.  Rest in peace, ya grouchy old bastard.

 

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#byebyeoscar #ovaryfarewelltour

Aloha from SIBO world!  Not to be confused with sea world…though I do sort of have whale belly sometimes.  I am 12 days off the elemental diet and into eating REAL FOOD!!!!  It’s been a very interesting transition.  As usual, you can read the first installment here, the 2nd installment right cheeeeere, the 3rd installment hurrrrr and the most recent (other than this one) here. I awoke my first day off of the elemental, sooo excited to shove food into my gullet. Like…SO. EXCITED.  I got up early and started cooking my meat broth.  It smelled so gloriously decadent while simmering on the stove.  I cannot even tell you.  I had only broth at first and it tasted like a warm hug; salty, herb-y, and delicious.  My stomach immediately (within about 20 minutes) reacted, but that was to be expected.  I’m sure my digestive system was like, “Whoooooa now, what’s goin’ on here?!?!  We were used to that stinky fart drink garbage you’ve been guzzling!  Now we have to remember how to process this…”


After the first meal, I added a little bit of shredded chicken to the next bowl of broth.  I continued eating only broth and chicken for the first day.  The next day was mostly broth and chickenftblog1 again, with a little more chickeny-chicken.  I then slowly added back pureed carrots and pureed butternut squash, then red meat, then a little cheese (starting with dry curd cottage cheese, otherwise called DCCC), then a few more roasted veggies (all veggies deseeded and skinned). It was funny because once I started eating, I didn’t want to stop.  I WANTED TO EAT ALL OF THE THINGS!!!  I swear I could have holed up in my house for a week just eating non-stop.  But I tried really hard to hold back.


I had decided to combine several aspects of several diets.  The Fast Tract Digestion Diet (FTD)SCD, and low fodmaps.  Well, that lasted about 3 days.  Trying to combine all 3 was not only miserably limiting, but damn near impossible.  So while I had visions of being able to ftblog2seamlessly meld these, it quickly became clear that I am an idiot and that was impossible. Certain aspects of the diets are in direct opposition to one another. For example, an orange is considered low fodmap, so yay!  But an orange is considered high in fermentation potential on the FTD, so boo.  😦  Conversely, watermelon is considered high fodmap and is a no-no, but on the FTD it has the lowest fermentation potential of all fruit so it is considered the safest.  WTF? What’s a girl to do?  I’m running out of food options here!  That air diet above is looking more and more likely…


It was then that I decided to hell with it, I was going to give the FTD a sincere chance.  I had done SCD + low fodmaps after all for over 2.5 months with very little results.  Why not try something new and a diet that was created specifically for the little SIBO assholes?  So, I immediately threw all of my combining research out of the window (actually, in a moment of pure hatred and frustration I threw it on the floor, stomped on it, and then threw it in the recycling…and no, I am NOT kidding) and decided to work with the FTD.

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Allll my charty-charts for FP values!


Sooo the Fast Tract Diet in a little bloggy nutshell?  The diet is a quantitative approach to gut health (meaning, it is numbers-driven). Like the low fodmap diet (the most common suggestion for SIBO sufferers), it limits lactose, sugar, fiber, fructose, and resistant starch in an effort to reduce foods’ intestinal fermentation potential.  We ingest foods with high starch, fiber, sugar, lactose, etc. and it sits in the intestine, fermenting. These foods are harder for our bodies to process and break down, giving them time to ferment and feed pesky bacteria shitheads that make us all miserable human SIBO zombies.  The point of the diet plan is to limit these foods that have high fermentation potential (FP) so that we can more easily digest what we consume, leading to an ease of SIBO symptoms.  The author, Norm Robillard, specifically addresses SIBO over and over again in book, which was a relief after reading Breaking the Vicious Cycle (the SCD food guide), which not once discusses SIBO.  The book has a total of 15 different food charts so that

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All my many food charts!!!

you are able to calculate your individual food’s fermentation potential. The ideal is to have as low an FP per day as possible. This is where it gets tricky for many people, including yours truly.  I hate to be the stereotypical girl that is terrible at math (because that is a dumbass stereotype with absolutely NO merit!) but math = YIKES in Katie-land!  And not because I’m a chick.  Shit people, I can barely add and subtract. And we’re talking algebra, here!  But honestly, once you get the formula down, it’s easy-peasy…even for a math moron like myself. The trick is to not let yourself be intimidated by it, as it’s sort of a lot of work at first.  You must weigh your food by using a food scale to get the correct serving size to calculate the FP.  This is annoying at first, and I was a little forgetful at times (brain fog, anyone?), but after a while, I started making my own charts of foods that I eat regularly, and it became a much quicker process.  And you have to be diligent about writing down your every food particle. ***EDIT: Since writing this blog, an FTD app has come out that has made my life soooo much easier! It has an FP calculator and allows you to search and save foods (and their FPs) that you eat regularly. So read the book AND be sure to get the app for a much easier go of it.*** Shout-out to Norm…your book is amazing and I am seeing great results thus far…thank you and mahalo for your diligence and expertise!  If you want to read a little more about the diet and compare it to other common SIBO diets like SCD, low fodmaps, and Paleo, click here to learn about it from the Digestive Health Institute website.  (where there is a ton of useful information!).  Also, for a Q&A with the author about fodmap versus FTD, click here.  


One thing about the FTD gave me great pause, and well, I’ll just say it (you all have never known me to hold back anyway, right?) suspicion.  Many of the foods in the charts are processed foods.  Even the FP of diet soda is listed!  At first this bothered me greatly.  I’m not a certified nutritionist, but I have worked long and hard to educate myself about food and I know that many of these foods are not healthy.  Should I be taking the advice of a person that tells me the FP of wonderbread and Snickers?!?!?!  However, eventually I came to the conclusion that this book is written for the masses, and that (sadly) most Americans eat a heavily processed, poor-nutrition diet. And as such, many have IBS.  And if those people don’t want to make a major life-style change (because so many people resist), the author gives them a way to eat certain foods that will aggravate their symptoms less.  For dis’ girl though…I’ll be eating only real, healthy foods.  You won’t see diet soda or wonderbread in my vocab (you will see chocolate occasionally though, which is far more exciting, anyway!), but I do think I understand better why the author made this choice.


How am I doing you want to know?  Well, thanks for asking!  Guys, you know you’re gonna get honesty here!  I’m doing really well.  The elemental, I am coming to realize, gave me far more healing than I originally thought upon completion.  After that initial digestion trouble over my first meal, everything has been much improved. Not perfect, not totally healed, but greatly improved.  Totally normal ftblog7BMs…I’m talkin’ normal poo!!!! For dayssssss!!!!  I know it’s sad that I am this excited about poop, but this is my life now.  I’ve had virtually zero pain and my bloating, while still there, has decreased. I even ate out for the first time in nearly 5 months at the Hawai’i Book and

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I’m eating out! IN public!

Music Festival.  It was only a grass-fed, no-hormone, plain burger with swiss cheese, but it was TERRIBLY exciting! I felt like a normal person for a hot second! Several people have asked me if I believe it was the elemental or the Fast Tract Diet that has brought me so much relief. Well, I have no idea. That is a very chicken-or-the-egg question, isn’t it? I guess my best answer is: both. I have a feeling that the FTD would have been a far better option for me about 4 months ago than low fodmaps or SCD. I also think that had I not done the elemental, I wouldn’t be where I am now, either.  I know people in my SIBO forum that have been fighting this SIBO battle for years and I can tell you that I do not want that to be me.  So I am happy with how things have progressed, as I feel like I am moving at a rapid healing pace compared to most people (as of right now…I am well aware that can change in an instant).  I think this is largely due to diligence and determination to be better, to a good caring doctor, and to this new diet that has started to allow me to not bend over in pain after having a simple meal.

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Makin’ my glorious homemade almond milk!


Having sung the praises of FTD here, I need to mention that I still keep aspects of SCD around, though. Namely, that I will cook and create most everything I eat with my own two hands. I see many people on the SIBO discussion boards still eating store-bought almond milk, store-bought gluten-free breads, store-bought jams or sour creams…and lamenting that they are feeling awful.  I get it, folks.  I really do.  It’s not only hard as hell to have to cook and create everything you eat (from your own mayo to your

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Homemade almond nut butter!!!

own nut butters!) it’s like a damn part-time job. And the clean-up? Crazytown.  I swear I spend half of my life washing dishes. But these (and many, many other) foods have all sorts of terrifyingly disgusting things in them.  And for people with digestive illnesses, they affect us more than most.  Things like carrageenan, MSG, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors and preservatives, and soy. Hell, I have even read appalling things being included in our foods like human hair (HUMAN HAIR, PEOPLE!!! Otherwise known as L-Cysteine), Sawdust (used as a caking agent in spices and in cheese…in our glorious cheese, ya’ll!), anti-freeze (I shit you not, it’s also known as Propylene Glycol) and much MUCH more. And we wonder why we have gut issues when we are eating human hair and sawdust, right? I feel like a cat when I read that stuff…like I should be hacking up sawdusty hairballs every morning or something.  The point is, just because you buy it at Whole Foods or Trader Joes, or just because it says it’s organic or healthy or gluten-free, does NOT mean that it’s good for your body.  And it most certainly does not mean it is good for your gut.  Hell, if it hurts some of us with gut problems to eat organic cauliflower, you bettah believe ingesting sand (otherwise known as silicon dioxide and found in canned soups…yeah) is gonna do a sad little number on your intestines. I actually recently had a friend say to me, “I’m really lucky that nothing bothers me, food-wise. I can eat pretty much whatever I want!” This was AFTER she confessed to me that she suffers from cystic acne and rosacea and often has such severe constipation that she has to get regular colonics.  I just blinked at her.  I didn’t say anything…what was the point?  If you are in such ftblog9denial about your body, a lecture from me would not only be unwelcome, but would fall on deaf ears. Still, it shocks me that people don’t connect what they put into their body with how they feel. Even people with diagnosed digestive issues still want to believe that food is not key.  I am here to tell you…you’re wrong.  I’m so very rarely right about anything…trust me, I’m often wrong about many things…but this is one thing I KNOW to be true. So if you want to get better and feel better, start looking at what you’re consuming.  If you want to continue with your symptoms, happily munch away on your jet-fuel laden cereal (also a real thing).  I won’t say a word (I’ll just sit in the corner judging you silently).


Now that I’ve lectured you, if you’re still with me (thanks for hanging in while I rant on like a smug lunatic), I will happily admit to falling with a mighty KERPLUNK! off of that high horse.  We can’t eat perfectly all of the time.  We just can’t.  We’re bound to cheat now and then, we’re bound to slip up and not read a label perfectly, or we’re bound to just get depressedftblog14 and say screw it, I NEEDS MY CHIPS!!!!  It happens. When it does, just accept it, try not to beat yourself up too much over it, and get right back ON that high horse.  🙂  So, confession time.  I learned last week that my last breath test for SIBO was “contaminated” and couldn’t be read.  They think that perhaps the seal on one of the test tubes was faulty.  I have been on PINS AND NEEDLES wondering what my numbers are and how helpful the elemental was.  I was super frustrated when I heard that I’d been waiting 2 weeks for nothing, and that I’d have to re-test all over again (and wait all over again, too). My doc felt horrible delivering the news to me, I could tell.  I looked her straight in the eye and said, “I. AM. EATING. INDIAN. FOOD. TONIGHT.”  She didn’t even try to talk me out of it.  Sheftblog10 knew I meant business.  I think she was probably scared.  I likely looked like some sort of deranged masala-drooling zombie.  I went home, ordered my favorite dishes, and went to TOWN on those puppies. And you know what?  I don’t even feel guilty. Firstly, it was my first and only “cheat” in 5 months.  Secondly, it amazingly didn’t really bloat me (just a little more than my average dinner) or cause me any pain, and no all-night parties with my toilet, either! Everything came out normally (**trumpets sounding!**). And lastly, it was crazy, crazy, CRAZY good.  Now I must admit, the fact that it didn’t seem to derail me took away from my guilt exponentially.  I must have had some serious healing happen over the elemental and the million and one other things I’ve been trying.  So I don’t recommend this until you are pretty sure you have successfully beaten back this SIBO dragon significantly. Otherwise, it’s not worth it.  But in this case, it totally was.  😛 My always long-winded point being, I f*ck up, too. So please don’t take my lectures as sanctimonious.  They are as much for me as for you.


ftblog11So I just completed my 2nd SIBO retest and am eagerly awaiting the results. The last few days have been a little more rough.  Just slight tummy pain here and there, and I think it’s due to that damn lactulose solution that we have to drink to complete the test, and the fact that I had to drink it twice in 2 weeks. I handled it MUCH better than in the past (a little bloating but no running to the toilet or pain) but I feel like my stomach hasn’t recovered yet. Which makes me MAAAAAAD!  However, what can you do?  It’s the only way to test for this trollish bacteria-eyed asshat.


On that note, have you heard the news about the new SIBO (blood) test to diagnose IBS?  It was just released today by Dr. Pimental.  Check out the video here.  And the press release here from First Line Media!  Exciting things are happening!!! Maybe doctors will start to actually take us seriously?!?!?!


I’ve been putting together a recipe page for you, since that is a huge topic of discussion for many with digestive illnesses, but it is taking some time.  I’ll be following the FTD while doing so, but I invite you back soon to check it out! That’s all I’ve got from this side of the Pacific!  Thanks for reading, and for stopping on by the SIBO world according to Katie.  🙂  

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