Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I went to TX, and didn't starve!

Growing up in the grand ole state of Texas, my diet consisted primarily of beef, dairy, casseroles, and baked goods. I thought guacamole came from a packet of powder that you mixed with water. Vegetables came from a can or a freezer bag. I had never had hummus, avocado, Thai food, or brown rice. I didn't know what gluten or Vegan meant. I had heard myths of Vegetarians or Lactose-Intolerant people existing, but like Sasquatch, had never actually caught sight of one. My brain wouldn't have been able to comprehend cheese coming from cashews or milk from rice. Most of my meals came from a drive-thru or a mircowave tray.

Five years ago I moved to California, and was exposed to a world of organic, free-range, fresh foods. I explored Farmer's Markets, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe's. I learned how to use a rice cooker and how to steam vegetables. I introduced edamame, tofu, and kale to my vocabulary and my palate. I stopped microwaving things. I fell in love with Thai, Mediterranean, hummus, Agave, and goat cheeses. I traded in Guiness, Bud Light, and Keystone for Fat Tire, Stella, and PBR. I still ate a LOT of dairy and baked goods. I went home to Texas for barbeque every chance I had.

I used to plan my trips home based on what and when I would eat. Breakfast at Cracker Barrel, followed by lunch at La Madeline's, topped off with dinner at Spring Creek Barbeque. I planned my life around The Texas State Fair and made sure I would be home during the winter months when Blue Bell puts out its peppermint ice cream. Life was simple. Life was grand. Life was about to take a backflip.

After I was diagnosed, I didn't go back to Texas for two whole years. Why bother? I wasn't allowed to eat anything! My sister had to go and get pregnant to get me to come back. Smart move, Sis! Oh, and there was that whole recovering from surgery thing, too...

While I was home for nearly three weeks, I was certain I would starve to death or be living on almonds and carrots which is usually what happens when I travel. This time, I learned a Whole Foods has opened near where my parents live, so we took a family excursion over there. Minds and wallets were blown, interesting stocking stuffers for the whole family were acquired, and Bren-friendly food was found. My Mama made it her mission to ensure I wouldn't starve, bringing me something to eat approximately every 27 minutes:

Fried egg, bok choy, tomato, brown rice, black beans with corn

Rice crackers, cucumber, hummus

Black beans and corn, chicken, rice noodles

Fresh raspberries

Stir fry

And of course, there were the pancakes that she perfected the recipe for!

She even packed my lunch when a friend picked me up so I could visit another friend in the hospital. (That's almond butter in the container, btw)

I was even so nice as to decorate cookies for my family, (while elevating my foot, no small feat). I think my tears added something extra special to the taste.

Much to my surprise, Texas and my Mama did me well.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Free to Breathe

I'm am excited to report that I will be participating in a fundraiser on March 25th. This will be the first fundraiser I have done that involves being physical since Jump Rope for Heart in elementary school. They gave us some rad t-shirts, y'all

The event is a Yogathon to benefit Free To Breathe, funding lung cancer support and research.

We will be doing 108 sun salutations. (Any Yogis out there?)

This is ONE full sun salutation:

To be repeated One Hundred and Eight times. Oof!

108 is a sacred number in Yoga, associated with luck and wellness. Coincidentally, the event falls EXACTLY 108 weeks after that fated ski trip in February 2010 that kick started this whole journey.

I have yet to do a single sun salutation in my life, before now. In fact, the only yoga I have done is what my physical therapists recommend.

-Most people who have Aspergillosis die within 6 months (80%) or 12 months (15%), so the fact that I will (God-willing *knock on wood*) have seen 108 weeks of sun risings shouldn't go unnoticed.
-My illness attacks the lungs, so I know what it means to not be able to breathe, and lung failure is usually how Aspergillius kills people.
-I've known way too many people who have died of cancer, and lung cancer kills more people than any other cancer.
-I have a newly reconstructed foot that a)could use yoga to get stronger, and b)can actually DO yoga!

So far, I can do the first three poses and I'm going to really push myself to be able to do all of them.

If you would like to contribute my fundraising efforts, you may do so here.

I will be sure to post updates on my progress!

"I have the right to breathe; everything else is a bonus." -Anonymous

So where does that leave me?

Now it's National Chocolate Cake Day?! Who comes up with this stuff? When's it going to be my turn? When's "Gluten/dairy/sugar-free Faux-chocolate This doesn't even resemble Cake Day?"

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Crying into my rice milk

What is this?! Why was it not invented 3 years ago?!


On a side note: Dear Ear Infection, this week really isn't good for me. Can we please reschedule your visit?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Do me one solid

It's National Pie Day.

I expect every single person that knows me to do this day the justice it deserves and get in their hole as much pie as you can get your hands on!

If anyone needs me, I'll be crying quietly in the corner...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

And then there was one...

Two crutches/one shoe status has officially changed to ONE crutch/two shoes!

I'm now 6.5 weeks post surgery and working my ass off.

I was in Chicago this past weekend and am pleased to announce, as a result of the weather there, I was introduced to the sports of competitive figure crutching and snow acrobatics. I'm already going pro and have my sights on The Olympics.

I ate really well in CHI, too. My friend even cooked me this awesome meal!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

I'm wearing shoes! Two of them!

I wore shoes today. Two of them. One of each foot. And they matched! 38 days of wearing one real shoe and one surgical shoe is enough for me.

And don't get me started on these booties!

Yesterday, after crutching through SF, and a couple Bart stations, I had to put on a glove in order to peel the disease-ridden bootie off my foot and then double garbage bagged it so I didn't catch Ebola.

On Thursday I had my 6 week post- op appointment. (Technically, it had only been 5 weeks, but I will be out of town next week.) They were impressed with my progress, namely by ability to bear weight, my pronation, and my dorsiflextion. I'm already meeting the 8-12 week goals! Brag

As you may recall, a few weeks ago, I said I wanted to be off my crutches by 6-8 weeks.

I'm already walking short distances without them and have decided Goal #1 of 2012 is to ditch these damn crutches. I've got 3 weeks to stay within my prediction that they'd be gone by 8 weeks, but really I'm hoping to be done with them a week from now.

Ready, set, GO.

Oh, also, I went on a nature walk today!

The first of many. I can't wait to put more miles on this foot.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

First recipe of 2012: Pancakes!

This recipe is brought to you by my Mama, and the Texas belief that you can't start your day right without a hearty breakfast.

Batch #1: Savory

Oat flour
Olive oil

I was the only one who liked these, everyone else said they were too bland.
Mama: "Bren, you're used to eating stuff that doesn't taste like anything."
Dad: "It's good with syrup."
Sis: "I guess it's better than no pancakes at all."

Batch #2: Blueberry

Oat flour

These were the biggest hit. We all approved. Halfway through making the batch, Mama added cinnamon which made them even better. I ate the cold ones for the next couple days.

Batch #3: Raspberry

Oat flour
Greek yogurt

These were pretty tart and messy. They made a really good dessert. I also ate these cold for snacks for a few days afterward.

How to make your own:

-Beat the egg
-Blend in banana
-Mix in applesauce or yogurt or oil
-Mix in oat flour
-Add berries and/or cinnamon
-Cook on pan as you would any other pancake

Happy Breakfasting!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Dear 2011

*Click the links throughout for relevant past posts*

Dear 2011,

Wow, you're gone. You're really, actually gone. And I'm still here! Phew.

2011, we had quite the battle of wills, this year, you and I. There were knock out, throw down brawls, when I wasn't sure who was going to come out on top. You kicked me in the teeth, literally! And when that wasn't enough, you went for the money shot: a scissor kick to the kidneys. But, that's okay, because bed rest led me to a discovery that helped me through the pain.

After two surgeries, more money than I care to name, a total of more than 5 months time spent in bed, I'm still here, kicking it. Yes, my foot actually works now, so I can literally kick, now.

There was also the robbery, which took with it all the video footage from my childhood and all my pictures from the last 5 years, in addition to the novel I was writing and numerous other works. But, it also brought a new camera, which led to my pictures being published in a magazine. That was an unexpected diamond in the rough.

While I was down, you showed me who my real friends were and brought me new ones. You showed me who I couldn't count on, and more importantly, who I could. You forced me to ask for help and accept it. You made me grow.

You took several beloved people from us, most much too soon. Because of these losses, I allowed myself to grieve in a healthy way, for probably the first time in my life. I wish I hadn't had to do it as many times as you made me, 2011, but I now know how to live through it. My health, and seeing others slip away has made me appreciate and celebrate life, and also to accept and forgive death.

There was the period of steroid-induced-Hulk behavior, where I hated you and then praised you, followed subsequently, by the steroid-withdraw-thirteen-year-old-heartbroken-girl emotional period when I felt let down by you. Both difficult, very different, but equally eye-opening and enlightening experiences, that I started off resenting you for, and now thank you for.

You saw me through moments of feeling sorry for myself and moments of gratitude, only laughing at me minimally for both.

You brought me an abundance of salads and vegetables, and trying duck and buffalo for the first time. You forced me to step out of my comfort zone and try new foods and recipes, many of which, to my surprise, I actually don't hate.

You allowed me trips to Washington DC, where I couldn't eat anything; to Virginia, where my friend showed me a new recipe; to Vegas, where I ate a lot of almonds; to Chicago, where I didn't eat pizza; to NYC, where I also didn't eat pizza; to Philly, where I was robbed of cheese steaks; to LA, where I ate like a king; and to Texas, where I currently am, and about which I will be reporting on soon.

Despite your attempts to thwart me with cancelled flights and hotels, delays, frozen bank accounts, and broken down or wrecked cars, I enjoyed myself. You truly kept me on my toes and challenged my ingenuity more than any other year has, but I can now say I'm continentally street savvy.

You even allowed me to spend an enormous amount of time, every couple of months, with my family. That was a huge blessing to me, so thank you for that gift.

You slipped in Artichoke Fest and Pride to make up for missing The Texas and California State Fairs (they were too much to bear attempting, anyway) and didn't throw too much salt in the wound.

You gave me cause to open up and share my secrets and answer questions, opening up dialogues that wouldn't have otherwise happened.

Even though you forced me to undergo tests, and more tests, and even more tests, and handed me big decisions to make, you gave me hope via new research and promising results. This led to a new treatment option being started, which (*knock on wood*) seems to be working.

You made sure my days were full of foot braces, crutches, canes, scooters, and wheelchairs, too. I guess you thought that could stop me, or at best, slow me down. You thought wrong. You can have your wrench back, now, because as many times as you throw it at me, it won't kink my plans. In fact, I'm doing better than they thought I would, and I don't intend to stop.

2011, I'm thankful for the hardships you've put in my path, dropped on my head, and snuck in my pockets, because they have made me stronger, smarter and softer. I am thankful for the blessings you've laid at my feet, placed in my lap, and whispered in my ear, because they have made me thankful, hopeful, and more giving.

Thank you for being both a challenge and miracle. Thank you for showing me the silver lining in every storm cloud. Thank you for driving home for me that I must always count my blessings and not my burdens.

Oh, and one last thing, tell 2012 I've got my game face on and I'm out for blood.


This year, I resolve to:
- Continue living like I'm dying
- Be better about updating about my health (I sure hear about it, when I don't!)
- Post more recipes. For serious. (I know I said so last year and only did a handful)