Raw Cocoa Butter Protein Balls

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I’ve been trying to find ways to incorporate more protein powder into my diet, more palatable ways than stirring it into a cup of bone broth. Finally after much experimentation, I think I’ve found an easy and downright delicious way to do that. These are simple and can be made in only a few minutes with ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. Be careful though- they’re easy to devour if you don’t ration yourself. Call it breakfast or snack or dessert, if you will.

What You Need: (makes about 12 balls)

  • 1/2 cup of raw cashews or cashew flour
  • 5 pitted dates
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons protein powder (I use Great Lakes collagen)
  • 1/3 cup of cocoa butter
  • 1/3 cup of almond butter
  • 1/3 cup of shredded coconut plus more for dipping

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How To Make It:

  • Ground the raw cashews into a fine flour in a food processor. Portion out 1/3 cup and leave in processor. Reserve the remaining flour in a separate bowl for later.
  • Combine the rest of the ingredients in the food processor and mix until it forms together into a ball.
  • Separate the ball and roll bite-sized portions.
  • Roll them in the remaining cashew flour and/or shredded coconut.
  • Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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The Liebster Award

IMG_3134If you’re an active blogger, you may have heard of the Liebster Award or received it at one time. If not, then let me fill you in, otherwise it just sounds like the german word for lobster. It’s not a lobster award.

The Liebster Award is an online blogger award and it is derived from the German word for sweet, kind, nice etc. How it works: a blogger nominates another blogger they admire and provides specific questions for the nominee to enter. If you (the nominee) choose to accept, you answer the questions, nominate others, and list some questions for them. It’s an internet honor and serves to promote your blog and share the love with others.

Recently, I was nominated through my Instagram account by fellow instagrammer, Martine Partridge of @thepaleopartridge. In the world of Instagram, the Paleo pool is large but the autoimmune protocol clan is small, leading to a kinship surrounding our dietary issues. Since I feel the best when I adhere to the AIP, I try and follow it for most meals, although I do well with nuts and eggs also (not nightshades or dairy). Here’s how I answered Martine’s questions:

  1. What brought you to a Paleo lifestyle? When I was diagnosed five years ago with Ulcerative Colitis, I had no idea how to handle my disease. After much research, I discovered some alternative diets that gave UC sufferers much relief. I started with strict SCD and cutting out all processed foods, but transitioned to Paleo after I realized I did better without dairy.
  2. What is your best Paleo cooking tip? Be creative! Transitioning to a Paleo lifestyle can be really challenging at first with foreign ingredients, new kitchen tools, and the inability to eat out most of the time. I had to overcome my fears of inadequacy and plunge myself into a whole new world of cooking.
  3. What benefits have you seen from making lifestyle changes? Paleo has completely changed the course of my disease. I still have to be on medications but I truly believe Paleo is what keeps me healthy and in remission. I even cured a small flare myself by focusing on eating healing foods and it went away in less than a week!
  4. What is your absolute fave Paleo dish? All time favorite treat would have to be the black bottom banana creme pie from @againstallgrain. When I first made it, I never knew that something so delicious was available in the Paleo diet. I’m also crazy about my carrot-tatoes (made with almond flour). Having some foods that resemble comfort foods from the old days helps with my nostalgia, not to mention they’re delicious!
  5. What is your oddest but tastiest flavor pairing? I love sweet and salty lately, so sausage and cooked pears or butternut squash and apples, or sweet potatoes and bacon! I make breakfast bowls often on the AIP, which means I just throw in most of what we had last night for dinner!

Here are my two nominations for fellow bloggers:

Andrea from Loubiesandlulu.com: You’ve met Andrea before on my blog before but I nominated her specifically for this award because of her persistence in pursuing health for her family. While she doesn’t have any actual GI issues and neither does anyone in her family, she adamantly supports the Whole30 and Paleo diets. Since I had no real choice in my diet changes, I truly admire those who make those overhauls voluntarily and stay consistent. She’s a great inspiration!

Cindi from @fightingflare (fightingflare.typepad.com). As a UC patient, I always think it’s sad to hear of children suffering from UC and the trials their parents have to go through. If it’s hard for me as an adult to stick to these dietary regimens, I can’t imagine the feeling of loss and isolation for a child. Cindi has a daughter with UC but isn’t standing down. She’s ready for a fight, using healthy diet changes, and I admire her for advocating for her daughter so adamantly.

Here were my questions for them:

1. What motivated you to transition to a healthier/more alternative way of eating?

2. What’s your favorite quick and easy meal?

3. What’s something you want others to know about you and your blog?

You can follow both of them on Instagram for their responses and check out their blogs!

The Power of Looking Up

(It took everything in me not to entitle this post, “An Attitude of Gratitude.” You’re welcome).

It’s all too easy to look at what you can’t or don’t have. It’s all too simple to compare your life to others and wish for an easier path or a more comfortable scenario. It’s frighteningly acceptable to downplay others’ successes and broadcast your problems lamentably to the world. But that doesn’t mean that it’s right, or acceptable, or the best thing for you.

When I’m doing restrictive diets or suffering from a flare, the temptation to dream about another path is evident and available. When I first got diagnosed, I didn’t understand the concept of a lifetime of illness. I suffered naively, in ignorance of how my life would change. A few years in, when I started to comprehend the inevitability and constancy of a chronic disease, I became extremely bitter and angry, mostly at God. I couldn’t rationalize why I drew the short stick, why I was chosen to walk this crumbled path. Now as I approach five years with my UC diagnosis, I’ve learned (though still learning) that those cyclical types of pity-party thinking only end in more bitterness, more resentment, and more discontentment.

There is an alternate route, one that brings joy and peace and a realization that God controls all things for our good. It’s again, frighteningly simple: Be thankful.

When I’m focused on the joy of adding back a new food into my diet, I don’t have the mental energy to complain. I snack on my sweet potato chips (yes, I got sweet potatoes back!) and revel in the taste of a new food. When I’m writing about the Lord’s goodness over the past five years in bringing me a huge amount of healing, a husband who is supportive in every way, and family and friends who have walked in this journey with me, I can’t waste time of lamenting my short stint without chocolate. Or more seriously, I can’t waste time of thinking, “what if things were different.”

If you talk to enough honest people in life, you’ll realize that everyone has a burden or a trial to bear. In my case, some are less arduous than mine, and some have cancer instead of colitis. You can always rank yourself on the scale of most-to-least-whatever. But that’s not beneficial or uplifting. We shouldn’t be starting at ourselves but at Jesus, who gives us all good things.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

You may have heard this verse before or seen it on a coffee mug, but in the moment that you realize that your life with never be the same, you cling to those words. If these words are true (which I believe they are) then nothing that happens to me is outside of God’s plan. Nothing has gone unnoticed. He didn’t stop paying attention and then I got colitis. He’s not a sadistic God, wanting me to suffer. He works all things out for our good, even when we can’t see the other side. Maybe we won’t see the other side until heaven, and that’s ok too.

Count your blessings. Be thankful. Whatever you want to call it, cliche or not. When I’m staring at other people or myself, I tend to get unhappy. But when I’m staring at Jesus, all I see is hope and joy. And an adventurous life, with all manner of ups and downs.

 

Recipe: AIP Pesto sauce

As you may have guessed, the name is misleading. I did not make actual pasta or actual pesto sauce, but a variation of both that complies with AIP restrictions. Now that I’ve gotten more comfortable using the spiralizer, it takes only a few minutes to make noodles and overall requires minimal effort. Since I’m avoiding nightshades currently, I wanted a thick, creamy sauce that supersedes the automatic ritual of drizzling the entire meal in basic olive oil. This sauce is versatile and can be poured over vegetable noodles or used for dipping. Hope you enjoy!

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What You Need:

  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/4 tsp minced garlic
  • dash of sea salt

How to Make It:

  • Combine all ingredients in a food processor or high-speed blender and process for several minutes. You may have to scrap down the edges of the bowl and process again.

If you’ve got questions about how to make vegetable noodles, see this post from AgainstAllGrain with the accompanying video. 

Guest Post: Nurse Eye Roll

Meet NurseEyeRoll. If you don’t already follow her blog, nurseeyeroll.com, you should join the club. Her nursing-oriented blog focuses on helping nursing students, new nurses, and the rest of us as we try to navigate the trials and joys of this profession. I love her honesty in this post and willingness to divulge a sensitive moment with a fragile patient. You will probably cry after you read this but I promise, it will be worth it. 

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When Your Nurse Prays For You

 My patient was a 50-ish year-old woman in great shape with no medical history, whose husband recently died.  A few months prior, they were driving on the interstate and he had a sudden massive heart attack.  She raced him to the hospital, but he essentially died in the car, right next to her.

He was her best friend, married for 20+ years, they had a few awesome kids, and a brand new grandbaby.  They took really good care of themselves and they thought were really healthy.

In the months after his passing, a few events transpired and she realized she needed a coronary artery bypass graft.  She needed a major cardiac surgery mere months after her husband died from a massive cardiac event.

At that time, I was working on a cardio/thoracic surgical stepdown unit and about 36 hours after her surgery, she was my patient.

I was working nights at the time, so I introduced myself and assessed her at about 1930.  I came back to give her 2100 meds.. you know, the normal routine.  As I sat down to chart about an hour later, I noticed her heart rate was climbing.. 90, 110.. now 120.  Her blood pressure was increasing as well.  I went into her room to see what was up, because an hour ago she was perfectly fine and denied any pain or discomfort.  I was ready to grab some pain meds, labetalol, or something to address the change in vitals.

She was crying uncontrollably.

“Hey, hey, what’s goin’ on?” I asked in my concerned nursey voice, as I sat down next to her bed.

She said she wasn’t in pain, but she was very anxious and couldn’t sleep.

“Do you know why you’re anxious?  What’s going on that might be making you feel anxious?” I asked.

She sobbed harder.

She told me the story of her life these past few months.  I tried not to cry as she explained the traumatic details.

After that first night in the Cardiac ICU she was transferred to my floor.  Now, she was awake and aware enough to feel the reality of the major surgery she just endured and the fact she would recover without him.  The pain of surgery was real, with chest tubes coming out of her sides and the incisions on her leg and chest.  Now she had to deal with the pain of his death and the pain of surgery.  Her heart must have broken when he died and we literally cut into it less than 36 hours ago.  It was all too much.

“He was my best friend,” she told me through her painful sobs.  She hugged a pillow to support the foot-long fresh incision down the center of her chest, held together with staples.  “We prayed together, we went to church together, he took such good care of me.. he was so, so young.  He loved God with all that he was.  Why would God do this?” she asked me.

As a nurse, you get that question once in a while.  It can be really difficult to answer because, really, how can you? I didn’t know what to tell her.. so I just asked her if I could pray for her.

“Yes, I would really, really love that,” she replied.

After I blinked the tears out of my eyes, I grabbed her shaking hand with my calm and steady nursey hand, and I prayed for her.

I prayed for peace and comfort.  I thanked God for their relationship and love they clearly shared and enjoyed for years.  I thanked Him for every second they got to spend together.  I prayed for rest and against fear and anxiety.  Nothing fancy, just a little somethin’ somethin’.

I gave her a hug, told her I was here taking care of her all night, and sat next to her to chart while she fell asleep.

I left the room a little while after she starting doing that sporadic slight twitching thing that people do when they really fall asleep so you know they’re not faking it.

Her heart rate went down.  Her blood pressure went down.  And every time I went to check on her that night, she was sound asleep.

In the morning, she told me that it was the best sleep she’s had in weeks.

Her eyes filled with tears as I gave report to the next nurse and left for the day.  I was off for a few days and probably would never see her again.

When I came back a few days later, I asked my coworkers how she did the last few days, as she was not on our patient list anymore.  They said she did great, was discharged home after another day or so, and wouldn’t shut up about me.   I was sad she wasn’t there anymore, but glad she was on her road to recovery and healing.  And glad I was able to be there for her that first scary night.

Sometimes, being prayerful for your patient means way more to them than getting their meds on time or answering their call light quickly.  Sometimes, it’s all they really need.

Note:  Please be respectful of your patient’s beliefs.  I only offered to pray for this patient because she opened up to me about her faith and beliefs, without me asking.   Only because I realized we had very similar faith, values, and beliefs (after she willingly shared them with me) did I offer prayer. 

AIP Banana Pudding

Necessity is truly the mother of invention.

I always struggle with the autoimmune protocol (AIP), lamenting the strict reductions in my diet, and this current thirty days is no exception. I’m an emotional eater so I get upset and angry over the lack of “treat” foods, which only exacerbates my impending feeling of loss over my culinary freedom. While I already spend an inordinate amount of time in the kitchen, I find myself there constantly, feeling trapped permanently in an ever-growing pile of nasty dishes, holding out for the hope of almonds and eggs once again. Our dietary repertoire is shrunken and I mourn the gaping absence of cashew waffles or coconut milk ice cream. The more I think about, the more I throw myself a giant pity party amidst the mountain of dishes (and may have sat and cried in the pantry on an especially emotional day).

However, the strict adherence to the diet requires me to be more creative, dig deep into the recesses of my brain, and invent my own recipes. This spurt of ingenuity is the culmination of experimentation and desperation. It doesn’t resemble pudding in the creamy way that egg pudding does but it provides a different texture that I find extremely palatable. Plus, it’s not very time consuming to make and if you’re rationing fruit, you can make it last for several days. Enjoy!

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AIP Banana Pudding with Coconut Whipped Topping

What You Need:

  • 4 ripe bananas (preferably with brown spots)
  • 2 13.5 oz cans of coconut milk (one must be refrigerated)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons gelatin

How To Make the Pudding:

  • Place the two teaspoons of gelatin in 2 tablespoons cold water and let sit.
  • Heat a non-stick skillet on medium heat. Alternatively, use a regular skillet and place a teaspoon of coconut oil to coat the bottom of the pan.
  • Cut the bananas into small pieces or mash.
  • Combine the bananas, one can of coconut milk (doesn’t need to be refrigerated) and the cinnamon in the pan. Simmer for 10 minutes or until the bananas are very soft.
  • Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool for several minutes. Place in a food processor and blend until very smooth.
  • Add the mixture back to the skillet on low heat and combine 2 teaspoons of gelatin. Stir for 10 minutes to fully combine.
  • Pour into a bowl or smaller individual containers and refrigerate for at least three hours.

How to Make the Whipped Topping:

  • Once the pudding has set, prepare the topping. Open the can of refrigerated coconut milk and skim the cream off the top. Discard the translucent milk or save for another use.
  • Mix the coconut cream in a high-speed mixer on high for several minutes until it begins to form whips.
  • Add to the pudding with a dash of cinnamon on top and a few banana slices.

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My UC Story

*This is by far the most personal post I’ve ever written but I think it’s important for you to know the abbreviated version of the whole story, even the hard parts. Living with a chronic illness isn’t easy but I’ve found ways to live triumphantly with UC and I hope my story encourages others to do the same.

“Mom, something is seriously wrong with me,” I said hesitantly through the phone.

The concerned musings of a mother. “Do you want to go the doctor?”

“I think I need to. Something is seriously wrong.”

            A foreboding sense of dread filled my oily stomach as she picked me up and we drove to the minute clinic. I tried to swallow the feeling of impending doom but it stuck too thick in my throat and I choked on waves of nausea. Something is seriously wrong.

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At barely twenty-two years old, I had suffered through the last remaining months of college with various, nonspecific symptoms: fatigue, irritability, GI upset. In the midst of other major life changes, including graduating and getting a job, I ignored the signs, attributing them to the stress of transition. How could I anticipate the diagnosis surreptitiously waiting for me? I had no clue what was coming.

  The practitioner skimmed over my paperwork, scanning the pieces and compressing them together in an attempt to form a whole diagnosis.

“Considering your symptoms, I think you might have hemorrhoids.” The words fell off his tongue like an everyday occurrence, like a verdict not so terrible. His face, middle-aged and plump, was plastered in a smile accustomed to customer-service and handing out lollypops.

            My face remained stoic, staring at him in disbelief, un-amused by his cheerfulness. Drained of all energy, I felt tired in a way I had never experienced, a deeply rooted fatigue that settled in my bones.

            I stared at him for a moment longer, trying to contain my words but then I woke to myself. “Excuse me,” I started as anger began to simmer and boil, crowded into my stomach with the beginnings of my disease. A miserable mixture.  “I realize I just graduated from nursing school and I am not qualified to make diagnoses. I also realize I don’t really know what hemorrhoids entails, except what I read in school. But I can guarantee you, this is NOT hemorrhoids!” The words launched off my tongue with frustration as tears brimmed on the surface of my lids, threatening to overflow.

            Clearly, not my finest moment of patience.

            The practitioner stuttered nervously, surprised by my abrasiveness. My mother rang her hands nervously in the plastic chair next to me, looking at me with the same confused feeling.

            “Well how about I refer you to a gastroenterologist. She may be able to give you more answers.”

            I stomped out, more discouraged than when I entered. In some foolish way, I had hoped for a quick fix, a simple answer that would explain my symptoms and satiate my internal voice of impending disaster. But I disregarded his suggestion and suppressed the truth that I inherently recognized, refusing to see or acknowledge it, waiting for the appointment with the specialist.

            I don’t think I said thank you. I don’t think I said anything. I should probably go back and apologize to him.

            Something was seriously wrong.

After months of difficult graduation decisions and some extremely emotional experiences, I landed back in Dallas close to my family. I wasn’t completely sure I wanted to be there, but I had no better options. Thankfully, God placed me right back in their midst, knowing the support I was going to need from my family over the next months and years.

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Two weeks after my embarrassing outburst at the minute clinic, I endured my first colonoscopy bravely and ignorantly, like a new recruit heading off to war. With only some basic training in nursing knowledge, I had no idea of the damage I would incur on the battlefield of disease and the devastating toll it would take on my body and my emotions. But I put one foot in front of the other, knowing I had no other choice, the bravery of unfamiliarity and responsibility.

My parents guided into the surgery center before the sun came up and I listlessly complied, weak and dejected and broken-hearted. Due to the sedation medications, I woke up several hours later, completely ignorant of the procedure and the passing of time. By far, the best way to do a colonoscopy. It’s not exactly something you want to remember vividly.

“Why am I crying?” I said through massive crocodile tears, sobbing in my post-anesthetic state, trying to wake up. I couldn’t contain my uncontrollable emotions or decipher their origin.

“That’s a natural reaction to the medications for some people. It will wear off soon, nothing to worry about,” a kind voice said next to me and she hooked up some fluids to my IV line.

My parents leaned over me, concern etched onto their faces, and small smiles on their lips. I must have been comically drugged.

“What’s happening,” I asked as I tried to look around, my head spinning. My mother cooed at me, “shh, just relax.” I had already surrendered my last shreds of dignity on the procedure table and now I felt helplessly out of control from the medications. What else could I stand to lose?

“Oh gosh, oh gosh.” I frantically scanned the room for a basket or a bucket or anything. The nurse appeared out of nowhere and caught me at the last second, right before I vomited. Now I literally had nothing left in me.

“You have ul-cer-a-tive co-lit-is,” she said confidently, looking up at us as she pushed her glasses back onto her nose.

A look of complete confusion passed over my dad’s face as he asked, “she has what?” Two words previously unknown to them.

“Ul-cer-a-tive co-lit-is.” She couldn’t help but pronounce every syllable as her Indian accent spilled over onto the words. “I would classify it as severe, left-sided colitis.”

My first gastroenterologist was a fiery Indian woman, only a few inches short of five feet tall, with enough personality to make up for her small stature. She gazed up at us; her long black hair expertly pulled back behind her, and explained the details of my disease with gusto and over-pronunciation.

In the wake of my anesthetic stupor, I tried to register the words. Ulcerative colitis. I had feared as much. My parents looked at the doctor, then me, and I stared at the floor. No one knew what to say.

It wasn’t the worst news I could’ve received that day. The doctor could have soberly informed me of a life-threatening illness or the need for emergent surgery. I could’ve been admitted straight to the hospital or told I needed to quit my job to take care of myself. Instead the doctor flung a foreign diagnosis at me and I went home with pathetic pamphlets explaining the ABC’s of IBD. I don’t remember crying, or feeling much at all in the midst of all the fatigue and pain. Without any excess energy, I couldn’t quite muster the ability to care.

Instead of facing a life threatening, quickly debilitating diagnosis, I now had to adjust to a completely new mindset, one that included UC for the remainder of my life. And as a brand new twenty-two year old, you don’t routinely try to comprehend the “remainder of your life.”

For the past five years since my diagnosis, I’ve fought against my disease with medications, infusions, colonoscopies, and a plethora of organic, non-genetically modified foods. Thankfully, I’ve been able to abandon my love-hate relationship with steroids, since I used to pop Prednisone like a child with innocuous candy. My face has inflated and deflated several times now due to the unpleasant ramifications of the drugs, causing everyone confusion. I used to look fat, and then I lost ten pounds in two weeks, back and forth. A cyclical game of immunological cat and mouse.

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I’ve also abandoned a life of processed foods in exchange for a strict, specific diet that focuses on gut-healing foods and eliminating any inflammatory triggers. Cooking at home all of the time provides it’s own set of challenges but I’ve found it rewarding and actually extremely delicious. No more bread or sugar or processed foods. No cheat meals including fries and a margarita. I’ve sworn off the artificially modified in exchange for the organic, combating my own immune system with a plethora of creative foods. My diet may seem impossibly restrictive to some, but in light of the alternatives, it’s a saving grace to be able to heal yourself with food, rather than more harsh medications.

Faced with a life-long chronic illness, I’ve also battled my own emotional and spiritual conundrums as well, all the “why me” questions that accompany such a dramatic life change. Working through fear, anxiety, entitlement, and pride, I was forced to determine my theology on sickness, healing, and the Lord’s goodness. Divulging myself of the entitlement to life-long health, I’ve gained freedom in relying on God amidst the unknown, welcoming the childlike trust that accompanies such reliance.

Some days I feel more positive than others. On those lonely, dark days I am tempted to swallow those bitter feelings whole, letting them rot inside me. The adversarial voices in my head speak words of discouragement, loathing, and resentment. But I choose the light; I have to choose the path lined with optimism, as arduous as it seems in those moments.

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With a fat face and chronic fatigue, I lamented over my ability to find a man who would willingly sign up for all my issues. Crying to my friends one day on the porch, little did I know, one of the guys was thinking, “I’m up for it.” This attractive young man wasn’t scared of disease or the life-long promise of difficulty. He wasn’t swayed by my tales of harsh medications and physical restrictions. He simply wanted me, and contrary to all my fears, he married me in November of 2012.

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Since then, Seth has been the single most helpful influence in my healing. Soon after we got back from our honeymoon, he adamantly advocated the strict diet we now follow. He looked up articles, invented recipes, and hugged me when I cried in discouragement. To this day, he cooks for me on days when I work and doesn’t complain about not being able to eat out or go to Africa. Again, the Lord knew what I needed and provided abundantly.

Occassionally my practitioner bounces around the word “remission,” a mythical amorphous ray of hope in the midst of a life-long battle. Will I ever get to full remission? Is the Lord good even if I don’t? Yes, He’s always good, even amidst the challenges He allows us to walk through with his help.

Now I’m doing everything in my power to maintain my homeostasis through medications, diets, and supplements. Now I waltz into my GI appointments, say “everything’s good!” and prance right back out, when I used to turn into an emotional mush of fear and depression in her office.

After my diagnosis, I needed a coping mechanism, a way to fight emotionally against my disease.  Using my most natural inclination, I started writing. I wrote about the facts, my feelings, my emotional and spiritual struggles. And then I started sharing some of that writing through this blog thirtyeightfive.com. Through the magical community of the Internet, I’ve been able to learn from and encourage others and hopefully provide some semblance of hope in the midst of a life-long struggle.

I’m thankful to be at a place of peace with my disease, no matter how long it lasts. And if you suffer from a chronic condition, I hope this gives you a bit of peace and hope as well. We are given enough strength for today only, and that’s all we need.

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Natalie R.N., P.I.

Natalie R.N., B.S.N., C.C.R.N, P.I.

Some days I feel like my job involves more investigating than actual nursing.* It seems more like a giant, medical version of the game Clue, including nefarious characters, bizarre situations, and suspicious injuries.

*While I’m a nurse in the ICU, some days I take on a unique role where I also work with other staff members like social work or the chaplain on family or social issues.

Sometimes my job entails ironing out important details, like next-of-kin. Yesterday I spent about four hours of my afternoon trying to distinguish the truth amidst a never-ending game of “he said, she said”. Whose telling the truth? We may never know. The situation changes with different patients but the claims remain the same and seem to get progressively more outrageous:

No, she’s not married to my father. She’s a liar.

No, his son is crazy. Can’t trust him.

No, they’re not his real children. They refused a paternity test.

She’s pregnant with her other boyfriend’s baby!

She’s tried to kidnap him from the nursing home!

What some people don’t understand is that, in the real world, we require documentation for such vital issues like next-of-kin, especially when we’re talking about life and death matters for a patient. There’s a medical decision-making hierarchy that most people aren’t familiar with, for the sole reason that they’ve never encountered such an event. In the case that you can’t make medical decisions for yourself (coma, intubation), someone else, usually a person in your family, adopts the responsibility of determining your care.

Your spouse, your adult children, your parents… and on down the line. You might think this is self-explanatory but oh, how wrong you are.

“Sir, I understand that you’re upset. I’m trying to help you but whether I believe you or not, is irrelevant here. I need legal documentation, some actual proof that the story you’re telling me is in fact true.”

Funny how marriage licenses and divorce certificates seem to illustriously disappear, vanish into thin air. Strange how important legal medical paperwork gets lost in a move or a house fire. With everyone accusing everyone else of being a liar, it’s really the only way to get to the truth. And in actuality, if you genuinely fear for your loved one’s safety, then get a restraining order.

Sometimes we get trauma patients who lack a license or any kind of identifying information and we are at a loss as to their identity. That’s when I get to play detective.

*If you know anything about me, you realize this has been a lifelong interest of mine. I’ve seen every single James Bond movie multiple times, have a distinct adult obsession with NCIS, and secretly wish someone would’ve recruited me for the FBI at an early age. So this job works out perfectly for me.

I start with the facts. Young white male. Car wreck. Positive alcohol screen. Incriminating tattoo, appears to be of the jail variety. Wallet with no license, only four hundred dollars in cash and a strip club member card. This is shaping up to be interesting.

With nothing but a hunch, I call apartment buildings, police stations, jails and motels, inquiring about a tenant’s emergency contact. I send the cops out to knock on doors. I google names and phone numbers, hoping in vain for a hit. I spend a lot of time on the phone with information, who I’m sure loves me for asking for a generic name like John Smith who lives in a random place like Oklahoma City. Good luck. I have to search through cell phones entirely in Spanish, picking out the most recently called numbers and hoping someone speaks English.

Sometimes in the midst of my search, I hit the lucky numbers and discover a family member. I did it! I found them! But the sense of accomplishment is soon tempered by the ensuing conversation. As a part of the job, I have to conduct the most horrible of phone calls, the ones no one wants to receive. I begin speaking and they are left helpless in the hearing.

Your loved one has been in an accident and you need to come to the hospital right away. It breaks my heart.

Some people believe that nursing is limited to physical, medical care, but any nurse would contest you on that falsity. Yes, we do clean and give medications. We do take patients to procedures and do chest compressions. But we also deal with a plethora of other emotional, social, and familial issues that play just as important a role in our patients lives. There are moments of crisis that require more than a knowledge of Anatomy & Physiology; they demand a sensitive human ear or some extra help in the midst of a breakdown. As nurses, we offer more than our skills or our time. We offer ourselves: to run into the situations that others want to run out of, to have the difficult conversations, and above all, to let our patients and families know that we care.

Recipe: Banana Pumpkin Mash (AIP)

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During my first Whole 30 autoimmune protocol, I felt absolutely confounded at breakfast time. Without eggs or nut porridge, what could I eat in the early morning? Since I sometimes didn’t want sliced turkey and vegetables, I invented an alternate breakfast treat that was light enough to allow me to get moving but nutrient dense enough to sustain me for a while. If you’re a devout follower of the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) or simply looking for a variation of a morning meal, check out this treat.

Banana Pumpkin Mash (Paleo, AIP)

What You Need:

  • 1 ripe banana (soft with brown spots)
  • 1/4 cup organic canned pumpkin
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon coconut flour
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil to coat skillet

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How to Make It:

  • Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Melt the coconut oil and spread to cover the pan.
  • Using the flat side of a fork, mash up the banana into small pieces.
  • Combine the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Let sit for two minutes.
  • Pour the lump mixture into the heated pan and turn several times to brown each side.

Add a splash of coconut milk over the top at the end. Enjoy!

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How I Beat a Flare (in the Kitchen!)

Chronic illnesses find their trademark in cyclical activity. You feel fine for a while and then as a result of an insult, or seemingly nothing at all, the disease resurges and you return to a weakened state. Sometimes you see it coming, other times you are blindsided and left to put the clues together, performing an investigational search through your last meals, events, and stressful moments. After a while, you get tired of analyzing every factor and just focus on getting better.

Unfortunately, last week I suffered from one such random flare of my Ulcerative Colitis, a loathsome inconvenience that hasn’t occurred in over a year. In my complacency, I had forgotten how good it feels to have energy, to sleep less than twelve hours, and to eat some more adventurous foods. As I fell back into my immunosuppressed state, I realized the joy I felt at having been mostly symptom-free for over a year. That’s definitely something to reminisce on with gratitude.

After five days on the couch, several nights of inflammatory fever, aches, headaches, swollen lymph nodes, and lack of hunger, I’m finally almost back to normal within only six days. In the past, I would’ve dragged myself to the GI doctor, been prescribed some steroids, and kept going on with my normal life. But this time I tried a different approach. Rather than running to artificial energy like Prednisone, I ran to food. I cut out all the potential stimulating factors and imbibed only nutrients proven to help my body. Essentially, I drank chicken broth and ate mashed carrots for five days. Plus, I didn’t push myself. I slept when I needed to sleep, took off work as many days as I could, and miraculously, it all worked. I’m essentially symptom-free less than a week after my flare began. If you’ve had difficulty controlling your autoimmune disease, you know that’s pretty amazing.

Between the kitchen and my bed, I healed my flare.

After scrutinizing every dietary choice and lifestyle factor, I determined that I’m probably intolerant to nightshades, a group of plants that often present significant issues to people with autoimmune disease. These include peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, various spices, and a few others. Click here for a full list of nightshades.

While it seems discouraging to discover that I’m intolerant to, yet, something else, I don’t see it that way. If my body is still suffering from chronic, systemic inflammation, I want to destroy it, even if that entails overhauling my diet. Yet again.

So I launched myself into another form of alternative eating called the AutoImmune Protocol or AIP. It’s based out of Paleo and restricts all foods that could potentially cause an inflammatory response. You may remember that I did a Whole 30 Autoimmune protocol several months ago and greatly benefitted from the break to my intestines. In fact, I remember telling Seth that I felt like a person without disease while we were following the protocol. I’ve been meaning to try it again, and now I had no choice.

The Autoimmune protocol eliminates any potentially pro-inflammatory foods like nuts, eggs, nightshades, overindulgence in fruit or honey, dairy, and grains. So what is left to eat? Organic, grass-fed meats, shellfish, and fish, almost all vegetables (excluding starchy ones like corn and potatoes), and most fruits. Sounds limiting but there are actually a plethora of credible resources to explain the pathophysiology behind the diet as well as tasty recipes and cookbooks.

Sara Ballantyne PhD, of the popular blog ThePaleoMom and the book The Paleo Approach, has graciously shared her knowledge and wisdom through both venues regarding Paleo and the AIP. After going through her own autoimmune struggles, Sarah started on a journey to renew her health through diet.

Click here to read more about AIP from her blog, ThePaleomom.com

*Now let’s be clear: my healing occurred with a lot of help, mostly from one handy husband. Seth picked me up from work when I couldn’t take it anymore, put me in bed and took all the responsibilities on his shoulders. He stayed home with me the entire weekend, watching The Great Gatsby and Veronica Mars (we did watch Tombstone so don’t say I didn’t do anything nice). He invented a delicious butternut squash carrot bisque using homemade chicken broth (see below). He never complained or freaked out or got irritated. He simply cared for me, despite my complete inability to bring anything to the table. Those are the moments in marriage when you realize that if this agreement was based on 50/50, I would be screwed. Thankfully ours is based on a covenant and the grace of the Lord.

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I believe the Paleo way of eating is beneficial for everyone, regardless of your health status. I’m truly convinced that eliminating processed foods and refined sugars/flours is the most important change you can make for your health. If you have chronic inflammation or have been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition, I believe it’s even more important to pay strict attention to your diet and make those hard but rewarding changes. And you just might find that it does wonders.

Click here to read about the AIP from Whole 30 and The Paleo Mom