About Me

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I'm a glass-half-full type of girl. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, grave's disease and celiac disease in 2010 and life-altering allergies in 2013. I believe having a positive attitude is the only way to live with dis-ease. I also believe that life doesn't have to be PERFECT for it to be WONDERFUL. Dis-ease is expensive, so I live a frugal yet healthy lifestyle. This is just my blog; my day-to-day story.

Monday, November 18, 2013

How a diabetic celiac packs for a trip.

If you have diabetes or celiac disease, you know that travel can be a daunting experience. Packing for your disease takes a lot of planning and a lot of room in your suitcase. I find road trips or driving to a location MUCH more desirable than flying, due to the number of items I need to pack. However, I recently flew to see my family for a long weekend, so I’m going to show you, in pictures, how I packed for a 3-day trip.

Firstly, I suggest you start writing your list of things to pack beginning a week before the flight. Keep it out on the counter, so you are able to add or remove items as you think of them. Waiting until the last minute to pack will almost ensure you forget something you are going to need.

I started off the day by putting on a new insulin pump pod and CGM on prior to the flight. I don’t want to have to change either device during the flight. Also, I wore easy, comfortable clothes for the flight.

I packed a diabetes “grab bag” of supplies, using my 50/50 Medical Supply bag. Although I would have only needed 1-2 pods (pump supplies) for the weekend, I packed several plus an extra Omnipod PDM (the handheld device).

I packed lots of Multi-Clix lancet refills, an extra 50 Accu-chek Nano test strips (in addition to a bottle of 50 in my purse), 1 extra lancing device, 2 needles, a Justin’s Maple Almond Butter individual pack, and several forms of fast-
acting glucose.

I couldn’t forget my stickers for decorating my pod.

This little pack zips up quite nicely and it went right into my purse for easy access.

For personal care supplies, I packed my prescriptions, baby powder for my hair, makeup, toothpaste/brush, hair clips, deodorant, allergy creams, Benadryl, face/eye cream. This zipped up nicely and went in my suitcase. This is a very old Victoria’s Secret travel case that I have had for many years. I have never been able to find one exactly like it. It’s been a staple in my traveling.

Not pictured: 3 oz containers of my own shampoo, conditioner and soap, since I am allergic to every kind out there, and the ones I use are not found at most stores. Also a little mini honey bear. These all went into a Ziploc bag that would have to follow the security check’s “3 oz containers in 1 ziploc bag” liquid rule. I had so much shoved in that Ziploc bag that it wouldn’t close all the way. They were sideways/upside down, whatever way they had to be to fit in that bag. Here was the little honey. I thought it was so cute!

I only used one small suitcase (I didn’t check any bags!), so I had to be very selective with what I chose to bring. I brought a couple outfits, 1 pair of shoes stored in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag in addition to the Nikes I wore on the plane, a mini cutting board from Macy’s Martha Stewart line (I need something to cut food on upon arrival at my dad’s house, as his cutting boards are all cross-contaminated with gluten), phone charger, chapsticks, a birthday card, and printed recipes for my sister. In the side pockets I packed two Go Picnic lunches, so I’d have food to eat when my plane landed at 10pm. I knew my dad wouldn’t have any “safe” gluten free food options for me and I was going to be starving! This would buy me time to get to the grocery store to buy a few food items for the weekend.

“Can I fit in your suitcase?”
Bella doggy was well taken care of during my long weekend. I sure did miss her, though!

Next, is my purse. I carried a large purse, my Louis Vuitton, which I never use because it is too heavy. But my other purses were too small for traveling. I packed all THIS crap in my purse: Glucagon kit, glucose tabs, juice box, wallet, “FLY” letter from Endocrinologist that states I am diabetic and celiac and need to carry supplies and food with me, pump supply bag, raw almonds, albuterol inhaler, word search, Prevention magazine, kleenexes, sunglasses, Mike & Ikes and CGM.

You cannot even imagine HOW MANY things had to go on the security belt. Multiple devices: iPad, iPhone, CGM, Pump, needles, bag of liquids, insulin, food, shoes, fly letter for security to read in case of any confusion. They must have thought “Who is this crazy girl??”

Upon arrival, I stopped at a grocery store to pick up some eggs, fruit and a couple GF frozen food items that I could heat and eat for the weekend. Since I did not have access to cookware that was not cross contaminated, I did not buy food I would have to cook. If it were a longer trip, I would have driven the 9 hours instead of flown, so that I was able to load my car with my pans, toaster oven, cooking utensils, and bags of groceries to eat. I bought a larger vehicle 2 years ago when I realized that my small sporty car was too small to transport everything I needed for a road trip and fit the dog, too. Yep, celiac disease actually influenced what vehicle I purchased. Basically every time I travel by car, it looks like I’m moving.

I had a great time while I was there. I was invited to a birthday party. Due to celiac disease, I was unable to eat any of the food there, so I stopped at Chipotle on the way there. While everyone else ate this

I ate this

But I choose to focus on the people and the special time I had with them, and not focus on the food I cannot eat. No time to feel sorry for yourself when you are having so much fun!

I did not have any issues at the airports coming or going, so that was a huge blessing. My blood sugars were high on the flight there, because I suspended my pump AND carb loaded prior to the flight. Lesson learned: one or the other will do.
So there you have it. This is how I fly.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Don't make food your focus at the holidays.

Here in Minnesota winter is on its way and today brought with it extremely high winds, not much sun and cold temps. No snow yet (whew). It is not weather you want to be outside in. And I'm also trying to watch my budget and anywhere I can think of going involves spending money. So today was a stay indoors and catch up on reading day. I get behind during the week reading the blogs I love, magazines, emails. It was also a lazy cooking day. Breakfast was scrambled egg whites and Eco Planet oatmeal (which is really millet and quinoa) and is AMAZING. I craved oatmeal this morning, but with type 1 diabetes, it requires a little bit of planning for me. I gave myself insulin for the 27g of carb 15 min ahead of time and made sure to eat my protein (eggs) first. It worked and 2 hours post-eating my bg (blood glucose) was 110. YESSSS. I can't say that my dinner went as well- I made a chicken quesadilla on an Udi's Gluten free tortilla (30g carb) with chicken breast, 1/4 avocado and 2 tablespoons of salsa, totaling what I guessed was about 45g of carb. I bolused only 10 minutes ahead, since my bg was 82. Well,1 hour post I'm sitting at 179 and the CGM is reporting a sidewards-up arrow. Fail. My body tolerated the morning carbs but I guess eating them again for dinner was maybe not the best idea. My bg is sensitive to carbs and it doesn't take much to send it soaring. Lesson learned; tomorrow will be a low carb day (a normal day for me).

Sometimes I like to "treat" myself with carbs but it seems like I always regret it. I now will chase my blood sugar around for the rest of the night. For some people, that's the trade off and they don't mind the swings as much. But I do. I aim for very tight blood sugar control so seeing a 140 or higher will send me rage bolusing to get it back under 100.

Tomorrow I will be making a batch of homemade chili (I know, I ALWAYS make chili) and chopping up salad material for the week. I also thawed a pack of Applegate All Natural hotdogs for a quick eat option (no bun). I have a butternut squash and a few sweet potatoes to bake, too (I use earth balance "butter" and black pepper on them). I like to keep my prepackaged food to a minimum for health reasons. I also think prepackaged food is a waste of money for this frugal girl. Making something completely from scratch (like chili) is inexpensive and yields a high quantity of food. I don't use any chili starters, I season it with herbs and single-ingredient spices that don't have sodium. Homemade also ensures a GLUTEN FREE meal that is safe from cross contamination, which is a necessity for this celiac diabetic.

I've been feeling tempted with all of the holiday food recipes I've been seeing posted online. Lots of gluten free holiday desserts. But I am trying to maintain the weight loss I achieved so I plan to make some healthy alternative options. There are lots of gluten free desserts, but they are no healthier than their gluten-laden counterparts. Just as much fat, salt, carbs and calories. Having to follow 2 medical diets changed my perspective on holidays. I no longer focus on food as the main event, not even on Thanksgiving. My focus is on the people- the family and friends. I want everyone to eat what they want to eat, but as for me, I will eat in moderation this year just like I did last year. I didn't walk away from the holidays bloated or 5 lbs heavier. I didn't feel guilty for what I ate. I didn't have blood sugar swings. I felt GOOD and happy. If you make food your focus during the holidays, you will either feel guilty (for eating poorly and gaining more weight or having blood sugar swings) or feel deprived (for not eating what everyone else was eating). You may even feel sick. So my advice is to focus on the games on tv, the board games you play, the conversations/ interactions you have. Focus on the healthy food options and have a small nibble on the other stuff.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

You can't live in a bubble, even though it probably would be easier.

I envy extroverts. People that socialize effortlessly and stress-freely. They seem to really enjoy social gatherings. I used to be an extrovert, pre-2010, the year I was diagnosed with multiple autoimmunes. I used to accept every invite to every social gathering and I looked forward to each one.

Nowadays, when, IF, I accept an invite, it is met with much anxiety. Will it involve physical activities that I cannot participate in? Will there be food I can eat? What do I need to pack in my purse? Is the activity something that will affect my diabetes and that I should start planning for in advance, insulin-wise? What if my diabetes isn't behaving that day? Is it at someone's house where I may come in contact with one of my allergens? Do they have cats? Will all the food choices be glutened or cross contaminated, leaving me to eat my GF protein bar while everyone else enjoys a delicious meal?

These are just some of the questions that I must answer when considering whether to accept an invite or not. There are times when I feel my presence at an event may hinder the "fun," as in instances where many of the plans would need to be changed in order to accommodate my needs and so I may choose not to attend. I never want to feel like a burden and I also don't want to be viewed as a "downer" for having to constantly say " I can't eat that," or "I can't do that." Having multiple chronic health issues DOES alter your social life, and in my case, hinders my self esteem/self confidence.

On an average day, my life is good. I'm happy. I Iike my job. I love my dog. I enjoy cooking A LOT. I read a ton- books, blogs, magazines, journals, you name it. I like talking to family and friends. But when it comes to going out, my social anxiety seems to really take over things. I panic. I sweat. I don't want to go. I have cried before out of sheer anxiety. My life is good until I receive an invite to step outside of my bubble.

Situations that involve only family, or are one on one with a close friend do not cause me anxiety. It is parties, dinner invites at other people's houses, holiday gatherings, group gatherings and work events that send me into a panic. I will do just about anything to get out of them. And when I do get out of it, a wave of relief washes over me and my mind relaxes. I feel safe again.

I originally thought this was a phase I was going through and that once I had adjusted to living with chronic illnesses and allergies that this would all go away. Instead, it has intensified.

It is the one area of my life that I seek to improve. I want to be happy in ALL areas of my life, especially my social life. I'm working on it and feel confident I will overcome this anxiety.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Sometimes your body breaks.

I returned home after spending all last week at my moms house, to spend time with our loved one, whom we lost at home last Tuesday. The whole situation is difficult to talk about. It was a long week of planning and executing funeral arrangements, what felt like hundreds of telephone calls, and nonstop visits from friends and family. Early mornings, late nights, and not much sleep. Also, there was a lot of running around- errand things to do. There wasn't always healthy, low carb and gluten free food options available everywhere I went, so I either skipped eating altogether or would eat a gluten free high carb junk food snack. The combo of no sleep, no down time, high emotions and anxiety, poor nutrition, definite dehydration and the stress of all the future stuff one has to plan when losing a loved one left me worn to the bone, sick, weak and exhausted. Sunday (yesterday) after being around a total of 4 different cats on Saturday (a bad allergy for me), my body just couldn't take it anymore and it gave out. I had a severe allergic reaction along with an asthmatic attack. I took Benadryl and used my inhaler, took a shower and changed clothes. But it did not improve overnight and turned into chest pain accompanied by light headedness. I landed in the emergency room, diagnosed with pneumonia and exhaustion. I missed what should have been my first day back at work today, and I'm hoping the antibiotics work at loosening this crap stuck in my chest so I can return to work, because as a contractor, it's all unpaid time off.

Today I slept. I mean really slept. I got up at some point, ate 3 egg whites, plopped down in the recliner chair and slept for another 4 hours. I'm working toward returning to good health by eating lots of lean protein, giving what my body needs to heal itself from illness, also getting 8 hours of sleep and resting through the day, and drinking lots of water.

I'm in the process of returning to me and returning to health and happiness. Things will get better from here.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Self-Care while under stress.

Well a lot's been going on. I'm tired, slightly crabby and a bit anti-social. As a result of not striving to take awesome care of myself like I normally do, I have experienced blood sugar swings, swelling in my feet, chronic neck/shoulder pain and noticable bags under my eyes. Going through stressful times can make you put self-care on the back burner. But when you have chronic diseases, that's never a good idea.

So starting tomorrow, I've set a goal of getting myself back on track. Eating regularly, eating healthy food, hydrating myself with lots and lots of water, and the hardest- trying to get more sleep every night. Between blood sugar swings, CGM and pod alarms, high anxiety, and oh- a dog that clearly has her days and nights mixed up right now- I don't think I've slept more than 2 or 3 hours straight in several weeks. I'm waking or getting up 4+ times a night. Then my alarm goes off at 5am and it's time to get up for work and I'm dragging.

So tomorrow I won't be working (my first Saturday I haven't worked in a long time) and I won't be putting much on the schedule. I was planning to drive over to the Minneapolis Diabetes Expo, but I'm so dang tired that the thought of walking around the Expo all day exhausts me. And my feet hurt, A LOT, because I am a person who incessantly paces when I talk on the phone and I've been on the phone A LOT lately. So instead, I put sleeping in (as late as my dog will let me)and catching up on non-medical related reading on tomorrow's agenda. And a scheduled oil change for my car in the afternoon. And that's it. Weather pending, I'm going to sit on my deck, drink tea, read and watch the leaves fall from the trees. Phone off for a few hours. Just me, the dog, and nature.

When things are stressful, I've noticed that with most people what gets neglected is self-care. But long after the stressful event is over, you will have to live with the consequences of not taking care of yourself. I've always been a big fan of Martha Stewart and when I saw she had a new book out, Living the Good Long Life- A practical Guide to caring for yourself and others- I bought it. It was kind of expensive and if I had the patience I would have ordered it for cheaper online. Oh well. I'm thinking now that I've started reading it that it might be targeted more toward people older that I, it says it's for "living your healthiest life after 40," but I think it might be for an older crowd than that. Either way, she has great tips in the book that apply to people of any age. It talks about sleep, mindful eating, developing healthy rituals, creating a healthy outlook regardless of your health status and of course, gardening. It also talks about taking care of yourself while you are tasked with taking care of others who may be ill, or aging parents.

I also want to say a big thanks to everyone who has sent awesomely nice notes and messages of support. Thank you! I am lucky to have a great online community of friends.

Well, it's 9pm and I think it's time for me to wind down for the evening. Time to take a quick bath to wash the day off. Then snuggle time with the 4-legged furry monster who has been under the kitchen table this whole time licking my feet and begging for attention.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

"You have Stage 4, metastatic cancer."

This is the news delivered to my family two weeks ago today. I got the call at work, right after lunch. A call from my mom so hysterical she can't speak. I don't know what's wrong. She is just screaming, and eventually inhales enough air to say "HE'S GOT CANCER...EVERYWHERE." She's in a public place when she gets the news and I hear a woman in the background asking her "Ma'am, are you okay?" The answer to that, is no, we are not okay.

I feel faint and my heart starts to beat weird. Physically sick to my stomach. I can't go back to my desk. I don't know where to go. I run to the bathroom and stay. And stay. And then drive home.

Diagnosis: Stage 4 Renal Cell Carcinoma of the right kidney that has metastasized to his other kidney, both lungs, brain and trachea. The PET scan today will tell us if it has spread to his bones. But it won't matter either way. There's no treatment available. "Palliative treatment only." Prognosis: 2 months. He's only 63 years old.

I make a call to the Mayo Clinic; a plea for help. A second opinion. Hope. Anything. Their review yields the same outcome.

He had no symptoms, no warning. No signs of trouble until two days before the diagnosis. A healthy person with no health issues. We never suspected that kind of news.

A family in mourning. Grief strucken. Disbelief. Tears to the point of dehydration headaches. No sleep. Nightmares. Praying for a miracle, but would settle for more time. Lots of I Love Yous. Sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medication prescriptions. Funeral arrangements.

Please pray for my family.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Developing a Fear of Carbs

I'm not sure if this is something I really need to be concerned about, everything is probably just fine but I have developed a fear of eating carbs. I feel that whenever I eat them, I have such an undesirable outcome (read: high blood sugar or blood sugar swings), that I have found myself avoiding them altogether. Good things have come out of this- I have lost weight and inches, and my BGs are pretty good and very predictable on a regular basis. My A1c has been at or below 6.0 since last November when I started eating low carb. I have been able to sustain tight control of my blood sugar without having many lows. I believe the bad association I have with carbs is a direct result of the bad blood sugars I get from eating them. It reminds me of when I was a child and I got a stomach bug while at the baby sitters. As a result of the stomach bug I threw up my macaroni and cheese. I wasn't able to eat macaroni and cheese again for over 20 years, because I associated it with stomach pain and nausea. I have developed a similar association with carbs. It's interesting how we develop relationships with food based on our individual experiences.

Do you fear any foods? Are there some you completely avoid (even thought you really like them) because of how they affect your blood sugar? I know that as diabetics we have been taught that "no food is off limits," and that we can eat anything as long as we bolus for it. But is that really true? Why is my bg SO MUCH BETTER (as are all my numbers) when I eat low carb? I have a few friends in the D community that eat low carb and have had good results. How come this way of eating isn't taught in the diabetes education classes I had to take?

I guess since my fear of carbs isn't harming me, I shouldn't worry about it. I don't like that one category of food can wreak so much havoc on my health. I don't like to feel limited, but the truth is diabetes does limit your diet. You can eat what you want, but you are going to pay for it. I fear bad blood sugar more than I desire carbs, if that makes since. But it would be nice to eat the occasional dessert without having fear or bad BG repercussions.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Hiding diabetes.

Day two of new job.

The extreme tiredness that one experiences when your brain is trying to absorb new info for 8 consecutive hours has set in. I feel like I stuffed 20 lbs of potatoes in a 10 lb sack. I don't think I'm eating enough. I'm definitely not going to bed early enough. And the 1 hr commute home everyday (from city rush hour) is killing me. But I like the job and the people.

My diabetes numbers have been GREAT, but at a price. Since I have been trying to keep my diseases a secret for as long as possible, I have been eating very small amounts of carbs in order to avoid having the CGM beep with highs. So breakfast has been 3 egg whites, no carbs. Lunch has been a salad with almost no dressing. And I have carby snacks and juice boxes on hand when I see I'm dropping below 80. I eat only enough to get it in the low 100s. I have not beeped one time in two days. I only check my blood sugar in the bathroom stall. My pump is currently on my stomach; virtually invisible under the right clothing. No one seems to have noticed anything. People talk to me about normal people things. I felt NORMAL for the first time since being diagnosed with diabetes 3 years ago. I'm enjoying this for as long as I can, because I know as soon as people find out I have diabetes, I will start to hear the stories we've all heard- who they know that has diabetes or died from it. I will get 1000 questions on my diet, diabetic symptoms, my family's health history, and get told how I don't "look" like a diabetic (what does one look like, exactly). I will have judgments placed on me when people see me eating sugary things.

I have had diabetes long enough that I had almost forgotten what it felt like to not have it (or to not be treated like I have it). It's 100% non-disease related conversations. It's like old times. It made me sad and made me really miss my "old" life, the one without diabetes. I want to hang on to people not knowing I have it for as long as possible.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A look in my fridge.

I like to do this blog subject every once in a while, and I wish more bloggers would do this, too. Aren't you curious what other people eat?

I want to show you what this diabetic/celiac/allergic-girl eats.

This is basically what my fridge looks like at the beginning of every week. It's full of veggies, because I do my grocery shopping over the weekend.

A break down of the left and right sides

Nothing too exciting going on in here. On the left, hormone-free eggs (3 dozen), hummus, dairy free cheeses, Zevia soda, tofu, GF tortillas (Rudi's brand), and a few veggies. On the right GF bread (Glutino multi-seed bread), Bragg's liquid aminos, Litehouse dressing, almond milk, Bragg's Braggberry dressing, guacamole salsa, earth balance butter, soy creamer, raw sauerkraut, red hot, ketchup and fresh green juice. Also, a Bragg's organic apple cider vinegar drink, Limeade flavored. It's straight up vinegar and lime juice. I was pulling faces drinking it like the first time I drank tequila. It's not for the faint hearted. But it's so good for you!

In the drawers, just more veggies, organic gala apples and some bagged salad

If you are wondering where the meat is, it's in the freezer. I have chicken sausage in there along with organic chicken breasts.

The green juice was transferred into this for freshness for the day

This is what I put in my green juice I used 2 apples in the batch instead of 3, about 4-5 romaine leaves, 3 cucumbers, 1 broccoli stalk, 3-4 stalks of celery.

I drank it out of a wine glass afterwards

After I cleaned and dried the lettuce, I put everything in bags for the week. I also pre-cleaned and bagged up my individual juicing combinations for quicker juicing this week. I packed my salad for lunch for the next day, too.

Then there was the cleanup from juicing

Lastly, today was my first day at work

I put a potty pad down for my dog, since my drive to work is longer and I didn't want her to have an accident. But apparently the purpose of the potty pad was lost on her.

But at least there were no potty accidents! Today was a good first day. It helped ease some of the worry I had about whether I made the right decision (I need to stop second guessing myself all the time). My mind is fried from cramming so much new information in it. It's time to go sit on the couch and watch some mindless tv.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

New job challenge: Sharing your disease info.

Friday was my last day at my job. I was a little relieved, as this week has been IMPOSSIBLE for me to avoid distractions and get work done. There is something about knowing it's your last week at work- your mind will simply not stay focused anymore. My work peeps were great- they threw me a mini party complete with giftsc and a very sweet card. They bought me Reese's peanut butter cups, since they had seen me eat them before so knew they'd be "safe" (gluten free) for me to eat. I am always humbled and grateful when someone attempts to understand my illnesses. And then someone explained the thought process that went into picking out my gifts- making sure the food stuff was gluten free, and making sure the gift stuff was rubber free. I was blown away. It touched my heart. Especially because I work hard to downplay my illnesses as much as possible; I don't talk about them much at work so most people think my diseases are relatively easy to manage. But clearly people were paying attention and that is just sweet.

One of my supervisors was talking to me near the end of the day on Friday, and what she said was so heartwarming, I almost teared up. She said "I know you have been through a lot, and you have to deal with more challenges everyday than anyone I know, but you do it with such grace. You have every reason to have a bad attitude, but instead you have a positive one. You could be Eyore, but instead choose to be Tigger."

Firstly, to have someone acknowledge that my life is actually hard- wow- I just didn't know that anyone noticed.

I start my new job on Monday. I made the right move, but it still is scary. I have to start over with introducing my diseases to my new team and management- ALWAYS a terrifying thing because I worry whether they will wish they hadn't hired me. I wonder if they will worry whether I'm going to miss a bunch of work, or if my diseases will impact my work quality/quantity, etc. I'm already developing a plan in my head for how to introduce things. My diabetes always introduces itself- I wear an insulin pump visible on my upper arm. It also beeps, as does my Dexcom CGM. There's also the every-two-hour blood sugar checks, so there's really no hiding it for any period of time. But the other things, celiac disease and crazy allergies, I will try to hide for as long as I am able. You know, try to spread out the negative stuff that I don't like to highlight, instead of giving it all at once. Not giving out any unnecessary information about myself that I don't need to. I want people to get to know ME FOR ME, not me as related to my illnesses. I can bring my own food everyday- lots of people pack their lunches everyday. No one needs to know I can't have gluten. They will just think I'm a very healthy eater (which I am!). If someone offers me something with gluten, I'll just say no thank you. They don't need the gory details why I can't have it. I think I'd rather have someone think I'm a picky eater than know I have a disease that prevents me from eating it. In time, sure, I'll probably spill the beans. But at least while I'm new, I'm choosing to lay low. I'd like to put off being known as the "sick person" at work for as long as possible. If I had my way, my employer and coworkers wouldn't know about any of my illnesses, ever.

I DON'T want to be viewed as a problem when I start a new job. I am happy that I succeeded in not coming across that way at my most recent job- that I was liked and viewed highly; that my work was praised. I worked hard to have my work and my accomplishments outshine my diseases.

My insurance runs through the end of the month, at which point I will begin my $600/month COBRA payments to continue my insurance (OUCH). It will mainly be used to pay for my prescriptions. I won't be using it to pay for doctor visits, since I won't be able to take time off for the next 5 months (the joy of being a contract worker with no employee benefits, including vacation time). My prescriptions would cost me MORE than my COBRA payments each month, so I'm still making out ahead by paying for COBRA. Since I met my out-of-pocket maximum for the year a long time ago, all of my prescriptions are covered at 100%. But this week when I picked up one of my prescriptions- a cream I have to use for skin allergy reactions- I looked at the cash price of the tube of cream. It was $497.99. WHHAAAAAT! Add to that my monthly insulin ($350), test strips ($339), and about 4 other prescriptions I pick up monthly (that cost less), it adds up to A LOT of dough. Yowzer. It ain't cheap being sick.

I'm starting back up on juicing tomorrow. I went NUTS at the farmer's market this morning; purchasing 5 bags worth of fresh, pesticide-free produce for juicing. I'm not sure it's actually cheaper to get stuff at my farmer's market than at the grocery store. But I like to support the local farmers so if I have to pay a little extra so be it. I went as soon as I woke up- I threw on a tee shirt and shorts, threw my dirty hair up in a ponytail, slipped on some sandals and sunglasses and off I went. I wanted to get there early before the selection was gone. I used to juice on a regular basis, but fell away from it because it is time intensive and somewhat expensive to do. I'd like to say that I'm going to stay committed to making fresh vegetable juice every morning before work, but that means I'd have to commit to getting up probably 1/2 hour earlier and I just don't know how likely that is. I might make it the night before, even though I know that the juice loses some of it's nutrients overnight.

Tomorrow is Sunday, which means it's prep and chop day. The day I make ALL meals for the entire work week- breakfasts (usually an egg bake that will last all week), lunches and suppers. I also pre-measure out all snacks. So I'll likely sleep in, start the morning with a cup of decaf coffee or tea and a nice egg white scramble. Maybe do some light reading and relaxing. Then it's turn the music up time and start cookin'! Later in the day I will put together a few outfits for the week, and then stock my work bag with glucose sources, my own pens and office supplies (since I can't use ones with rubber grips) and everything else I might need. It sure takes some of the stress off when you are prepared ahead of time.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Change is good.

A big change took place on Monday. I put my notice in at my current job. It was a hard decision, as you will see why. I traded in my full-time, regular employment status position for a contract position at another company. What this means is that I will not have any benefits with my new job- no vacation time, no health insurance. And the contract only runs through the end of the year. It was something I thought over very very carefully. I made the decision in order to improve my financial situation. You see, although I am frugal and have "gotten by"at my last job, things have been VERY tight and I've had to cut many things out of my life that I enjoy in order to "get by." When I took my current job, I did so after a period of unemployment and needed income and insurance. However, it was a very very large cut in pay from what I have previously been making. It was a fine job, working for nice people, but I discovered it was too low skill and sort of very boring, along with low pay. I missed the challenge of my previous work. This new contract position I accepted is making a substantially higher income; in the same range as I am used to making. The trade off is that I will have to pay for COBRA continuation of benefits at the hefty price of $600/month. There is a very good chance there will be an opportunity to turn this into a regular employee status position by the end of the year, which I will work hard to do.

Now as a person with T1 diabetes, celiac disease, grave's disease, allergies and recovering from a spinal cord injury, it is terrifying to take a job that does not have health insurance OR vacation/sick days (or days off for dr appointments). COBRA is only available for 18 months, which means I will have to work my TAIL off to turn this position into something permanent, or find something else within the company that is permanent. The biggest risk would be coming to the end of the contract without having an opportunity for either another contract or a permanent position- I would not be able to afford the COBRA if I had no employment. This is a very scary thing for an unmarried chica like myself who does not have a spouse's insurance plan (or income) as backup. The other risk of course is that I NEED to maintain perfect health for the next 5 months, or at least plan on going into work sick if I do get sick.

Sometimes you have to take a gamble in life in order to get ahead. I realized that there wasn't opportunity for growth in my current position. I don't want to struggle financially or have things always be "tight." I don't want to always carry medical debt. I just simply need to make more money.

I am a person who has a lot of faith and I believe this situation WILL work. I have faith in myself that I will have a full time employment offer by the end of the year.

It's a big decision, a little scary if I think too much into it because of the risks, but I need to just focus on the positive. I hope you all will be praying for me!

Everything has been pretty good this week. Blood sugars are hanging steady, allergies are sort of in check (except tonight when I had the crazy idea to bear hug my dog, rubbing my whole face and neck in her face and ending up with hives all over my neck, face, and arms). I know better than that. Nothing that a bath and a Benadryl can't fix.

Tonight I made a quick dinner- flash fried some organic chicken breasts in coconut oil with salt, pepper and garlic powder and then splashed on just a little Bragg's Liquid Aminos (it's a gluten free soy sauce) on top. I ate that with a side of green beans and then snacked on a few organic corn tortilla chips with bean dip. Dessert is strawberries sliced up in a bowl and some brewed iced herbal (decaf) tea from Teavana.

Tomorrow after work I have a friend coming over who wants some assistance in meal planning for the week. I've been working on a take-home instruction list for him tonight. He likes the idea of doing all the weekly cooking on Sunday so your weeknights after work are freed up. His criteria is that it needs to be simple, quick recipes that are also very healthy and cover all the food groups. No problem at all; I do that every week anyway. I'm making him a sample meal to try as well.

Time to call it a night. I've been go go going all day and it's time to put my feet up. :)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Gluten Free Egg Mcmuffin.

While I usually prefer to eat low-carb, on the one of the weekend days (usually Saturday but this weekend it is Sunday) I will usually allow myself to indulge a little. Not go overboard and binge on carbs, but I allow myself to eat more carbs than I normally would during the week. Today my indulgence was making a gluten free egg Mcmuffin.

Here are the ingredients. I started with spraying my pan with non-stick gluten free olive oil spray to fry my egg and lunch meat. I use hormone-free/antibiotic free egg. For meat, I use Castlewood brand (found at Sam's Club), because it is gluten free and lower in sodium and fat. Since I try to steer clear of dairy as much as possible, I use Go Veggie! cheese slices. To me, they taste just like regular cheese slices with a slight texture difference. I use Food For Life gluten free multi-seed english muffins. These come in many different flavors, so if you don't like seeds you can get brown rice ones or plain white ones. I get these at Lakewinds, my local co-op but I'm sure Whole Foods sells them, too. After toasting, I lightly butter them with Earth Balance Organic Whipped buttery spread (dairy and gluten free).

The thing I learned about gluten free english muffins is that they don't really brown when toasting. I toasted mine twice at the highest level on the toaster and got mild brown-y toast-y spots. However, even though they may not look toasted, they are as crunchy and tasty the way that an english muffin should be.

Afterwards, I assembled everything and voila. A filling and tasty breakfast for 40g of carb.

Friday, July 5, 2013

A day in the life of a type 1 diabetic celiac with life-altering allergies.

Do you ever look at the people around you and wonder what their story is? How people (like us) can look so normal and healthy on the outside that most people would never question or guess there was anything wrong with us. I have heard this statement so many times, “Wow, you LOOK so healthy; I never would have guessed that you have XXX (fill in the blank here- spinal cord injury/diabetes/celiac disease/autoimmune thyroid disease/life-altering allergies)." I am amazed myself that I can make it look so easy to others that they don't know I have multiple diseases. It's a skill.

So what’s it like to be a type 1 diabetic/celiac with life-altering allergies? It’s a very analytical lifestyle. If you are a diabetic, you are analyzing carbs and blood sugar trends. If you are celiac, you are analyzing menus, ingredients, cross-contamination risks. If you are a person with severe allergies, you are analyzing your environment, ingredients, etc. If you are all of these, like me, you are analyzing EVERYTHING.

Having severe allergies to all detergents (in bath soaps, shampoos/conditioners, household cleaners, hair products, laundry products, makeup, sunscreen, deodrant, eye drops, self tanners), many adhesives and all antibiotic ointments, and carba-mix which is rubber (think rubber gripped pens, soles of shoes, spatulas, all rubber gloves, cell phone bumpers, rubber bands, hoses, certain ear phone cords, erasers, cavity fillings, just to name a few) has dramatically altered my life. I also have diagnosed allergies to dairy and raw onion, although these are mild on the allergy scale and I can sometimes still eat them without consequences as long it is not an everyday thing.

I’ve talked a lot on my blog about diabetes and celiac disease, and some of the challenges I face having BOTH of these diseases (that do not place nice together). But today I’d like to talk a little about how having severe allergies to things affects my life. It’s going to be a story, in pictures.

Let’s begin with what I am allergic to: (click on any picture to enlarge)
It's 2 pages of allergens that I must look for before buying a product. ANY product.

It's every month going to the special website you've been assigned to go to by your dermatologist and printing off the most current list of products that are SAFE for you to use based on your unique combination of allergies. This list is 111 pages long and is reallly hard to sneak-print at work.

You bring this crazy-big document with you every time you go shopping, and you use tab stickies to organize sections for easier finding of product categories:

Here are some of the products that are safe for me.
Household cleaners- Seventh Generation- these particular ones only, not the entire Seventh Generation line of products. Free and Clear is the only shower gel/soap I am able to use. It doubles as my hand soap, since I am unable to use all hand soaps. This holds true when I leave my house- I must carry a small travel size refillable container of my soap, as I cannot use soaps in public restrooms, at work, or at other people's houses.

Acure lotions, Rusk W8less hairspray, Sebastian hairspray, Mineral Fusion shampoo and conditioner, Acure shampoo and conditioner, Pure Silk shaving cream. Again, these particular scents and formulas only; not all products of one brand are safe.

This is the only safe nail polish I can use. All colors in this Sally Hansen Complete Manicure line are safe.

So what happens if I come in contact with with an allergen? In addition to sometimes having wheezing followed by an asthma attack (I now carry a rescue inhaler in my purse), I always break out all over my body in red, painful bumps that break open, ooze, bleed and itch like there is no tomorrow. They become so painful that even having clothing come in contact with them is painful. I have a cream I put on them to help them heal, but healing still takes several weeks. Things can get a little dicey if I accidently touch a surface that has one of the allergens on it, and then touch my arm or face or something. So I carry antibacterial wipes, Huggies unscented wipes and antibacterial hand gel with me at all times to wipe my hands off after touching communal things (like the fridge or microwave handles at work.

Here is what a recent outbreak looked like. It's a little hard to see in the iPhone pictures taken at work. Here are the ones visible on my neck and chest. Multiply that by your whole body and you get the picture. These pictures were taken before they started breaking open and bleeding.

All of my autoimmune diseases are challenging and life altering, and I do my best to down play each of them as much as possible. Despite it all, I think I still have found a way to lead a pretty nice life, based on a "different" normal than other people. I have been able to meet others in all of my different disease populations.

Sure, when I travel now I have to bring a ton of extra garbage with me. OH WELL. I've got my carry on cooler for my insulin and gluten free food, and my other carry on will be jammed packed full of my 3oz containers of special shampoo, conditioner, face wash, body wash, and lotion.

What's the other alternative- check out of life and be depressed everyday? I tried that before and it wasn't very fun. It took some time to develop confidence and not feel as though I was a burden to everyone around me. As you well know, disease can be very isolating. And that's not to say I don't feel self-conscious sometimes about all the special accommodations I need for food and everything else (like having to ask my work to not use rubber bands on any of my work). My work has been gracious and very kind. But not everyone in every area of my life is always accommodating. I think some people think that avoiding allergens or eating GF due to celiac disease is more a choice than a requirement. But I've learned to work around those situations. I'm a pro now. I'm actually thinking about hosting a dinner party for my friends at my house FOR THE FIRST TIME since being diagnosed with my first disease(2010!!!). Things are easier if they are at my house; I have more control over things and also I don't have to tote around a bunch of extra things. Maybe I'm just getting a little ahead of myself. I'm just going to take things one day at a time.

Monday, June 3, 2013

How I prep food for the week.

Sunday is always a busy day at Chez Nikki. It's a day that begins with a nice cup of decaf coffee, a nice hearty low carb breakfast, maybe a little exercise or reading, and then it's cooking and prep time for the week. I just don't have time during the week to cook healthy meals. I end up taking short cuts and eating easy processed food because it's handy and ready. This sunday, I did a lot more cooking than normal, because I had some ingredients that needed to be used up or else risk having to toss them. And I HATE throwing out food. It's like taking dollar bills and throwing them right into the garbage. So, I prefer to cook everything up and if needed, freeze it for later use.

You'll see a theme of bell peppers in all of the main dishes, as I had 6 to use up.

I started with a 3 lb log of ground turkey, and make it into two different dishes: chili in the crockpot (2 lbs) and turkey cranberry burgers (1 lb).

Here are the turkey burgers, with mixed in dried cranberries and chopped red pepper. I always weigh my food, as it helps with calorie and carb counting.

It made enough for the whole week plus enough to freeze for later.

With the chili, I was able to use up a ton of fresh tomatoes that were coming to the end of their life, along with a few bell peppers that I was concerned would be too soft to use for dipping in hummus this week. I didn't take a picture because I've made it several times and have previously posted pictures of it. You probably don't want to see weekly chili pictures. :)

Next, I made a quinoa salad, for a nice vegetarian/vegan option during the week. I threw in more bell peppers, green beans, a can of mushrooms and walnuts with a dressing made out of olive oil + fresh lemon juice + salt and pepper.

After making 3 main entrees, I made sides.

First I baked up a few sweet potatoes in the oven. Then I chopped up veggies for dipping in hummus- carrots, celery and radishes. I buy organic, since these are veggies where you essentially eat everything and there is nothing to really peel away. It is one place in your diet you can buy organic and not have it break the bank.

Next, I chopped up a head of cabbage and fried it in a teeny amount of Earth Balance butter with black pepper and apple cider vinegar. It's a great food to eat if you want to feel full without excess calories and carbs. And I really like it!

Not pictured, I cut up salad fixings for the week for easy, throw-together salads for lunch. I highly recommend throwing some walnuts on your salad. They are so nutritious and delicious! I buy the organic walnut pieces from Trader Joe's. I keep them in a Ball jar to keep them fresh after opening.

Lastly, I picked up some organic raspberries, which I love to throw in some lite whip cream for dessert or maybe throw in a smoothie this week. It satisfies my sweet tooth!

This is what my fridge looked like afterwards

I also spent the day cleaning and enjoying the sunshine come through my windows, which as you can see, the dog really enjoyed, too

Hope I've inspired you to do some cooking this week. Whether you are cooking for one, two or five, it will save you money and calories. I hear a lot of single peeps say that they don't like to cook because it goes to waste or is too much work for one person. But I say just freeze it. Also, with home cooking, you will have the benefit of knowing exactly what's in your food and where it came from.