OK, I’ve had it with this crap. Last week, I had my second infection of the year, and we’re only 7 weeks in? I used to never get sick. This was the “very contagious” stomach virus that went around. I actually kept a change of clothes in the car, just in case. (Yes, I still taught class. I don’t spend much time on campus, and since I have high standards for my students, I hold myself to the same standards. I just didn’t eat before class those days.)

I talked with another neuro recently (not an MS specialist) who told me that maybe I could just hang in until the next new MS drug came along… which would be… WHEN?

Enough is enough. Waiting for the update from my specialist…


Today, I finished up a long-time big project… my summer travel blog:

http://bandbinthebalkans.wordpress.com/

This blog outlines our 28-day trip through the Balkans last summer. And I finally finished my write-ups about it! Lots of photography!

And as I say in my final post of the blog, the world is our best classroom. It’s not the same to read it here, or to watch it on TV. Get out, go, and do! Meet people… and your prejudices will slowly melt away.

Enjoy!


Looks like we’ll be able to fulfill one of our guilty pleasures this summer…

A few summers ago, we roadtripped through part of the Southeast US. We vowed we’d get back to a few places. First off, we fell in love with the Outer Banks (North Carolina beaches) — just a little bit touristy, just enough, without going overboard. Great weather — a breeze gets rid of the oppressiveness of the heat. Oh, and seafood. I Got Your Crabs — now that’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout. Butcher paper on the counter, freshly boiled crab legs, served by local fishermen who’ll chat you up. :)

But… heh… another guilty pleasure: we stayed outside Great Smokies park, thinking that would be a major attraction for us. Meh — who cares about the park. (Not really, but it looks a lot like where we live in the Pacific Northwest!) So, we spent time in the neighboring town of Gatlinburg and the overly-kitschy Pigeon Forge. (Both in Tennessee.) Just kitschy enough that it reminded us of childhood tourist attractions. And… dare I say that we really liked it… :D and really wanted to return.

So now that we’ve recently bought a business and can’t take the time for a month-long trip — but we can manage two weeks — why not go back this summer, we say?

I’m looking at websites and planning accommodations and I have to say… I’m getting really excited to get back there. Touristy kitsch, ’80’s style, made modern. But, we like what we like, right? No shame!


have fun.

23Jan16

Just about an hour ago, I was working one (of many!) volunteer shifts at our local community theater, and I met a couple who was new to volunteering at the theater. They were a youthful, fit, probably mid-50’s.

They talked about having totally revamped their diet recently. No sugar, no wheat, no dairy. Occasional meat and fish, mostly vegetables and beans. And since they didn’t really have cooking skills, it was so boring. But it’s what they “had to do”…

Why? Because his brother was just diagnosed with cancer, and (not remembering all details) another close relative had cancer. They “read a book” (believe everything you read, right?) that cancer feeds on sugar and dairy, so they’ll never eat it again, for fear of the Big C. So many people are dying of cancer!

And they live a boring life. How soon will they die of boredom?

So, I told them, first off, that I teach nutrition. And that I see a lot of 20-year-olds with the same fear.

And I told them what I tell my students: maybe there is an increased incidence of cancer. But much of what we see is better detection methods, in my opinion. Think about it: 50 years ago (not that I was around!), people would die at age 70 from “old age”, “natural causes”, and other such vagaries. People died from “getting old”, whatever that meant. Nowadays, we have sophisticated MRIs that can see fine detail (if you have MS, you have had detailed MRIs like me!) and can detect the smallest tumors… so rather than the “old age” label, we know when a person has cancer.

Thus, I would say a good percentage of the “old age” folks 50 years ago would, nowadays, be diagnosed with cancer, or Alzheimers’, or another disease we weren’t as good at seeing, back then.

The guy at the theater, before running off to the next thing, looked sincere when he thanked me. Not that it’s a free pass to go overboard on the bad stuff; I certainly don’t. But I think it’s OK to HAVE FUN with your food now and then. Because I think that dying of boredom might be almost as bad as dying of cancer. Live life!


forge your own

19Jan16

You know what they all say… right? We’re always told to not let anyone else make our decisions for us, we’re told to choose our own path… because in the end, we can only create our own happiness. And I sincerely believe that.

advice

I have my own edit to this, based on life experience. And I hadn’t really thought of it until a few days ago.

My grandfather was a wonderful person, rest his soul (he passed almost 7 years ago). I learned a lot from him, and he is probably the person in my family whom I am most like, in terms of personality — persistence, leadership, etc. However, he was a bit misogynistic… maybe “a bit” is stating it mildly… and as someone interested in science, he encouraged me, but I often felt like the “sweet little thing who wanted to go into science” and that I would always hit a glass ceiling, in terms of my family.

In my undergraduate life, I’d pursued a lot of biology, but also some chemistry. I found an interest in pharmaceuticals (no… not in that way… I often get comments of “oh, I studied drugs in college, too, heh”) and how they affect the body. I was interested in the chemistry and the physiology, and I am to this day, 21 years post-graduation — though I’m more interested in food as my “drug” these days.

I look back and realize that, in graduate school, there were two paths in my department: one was a bit more chemistry focused, and the other was a bit more biology focused. If I could choose things now, I would’ve gone for the latter. But I went for the organic chemistry side of things… which I think was a lot less interesting for me.

Why did I choose that? Lack of sufficient lab experience? Naivete?

Or… was I subconsciously pushed by my family background? The thought of showing them that not only can girls be scientists, but they can also be chemists?

Silly me. I was young and foolish… I hope I’m a bit wiser these days.

I teach almost entirely biology these days, and occasionally chemistry as needed. I much prefer biology, and embrace it — I am no less of a scientist as a biology instructor than I was as a chemistry instructor. In fact, since I feel much more passionate about what I teach right now, I think I am MORE of a scientist… maybe?

So, don’t let anyone’s thoughts sway your end goals. It’s hard to figure out when it’s happening (it took me over 20 years!) but stick to what you want to do. (Within reason. I doubt anyone will make a career out of sitting around watching soaps. You know what I mean.)

Stay your true genuine self… because that’s the person that others will like!


Despite my last confused post about whether or not to continue my MS drug, I still carry on with eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, to get my vitamins in me naturally. I like playing around with different smoothie combinations.

(And — my nutrition students have found an interesting article from not too long ago: apparently antioxidants are not beneficial for cancer? Unfortunately, it makes sense. Antioxidants help protect our cells. So, why wouldn’t they also protect cancer cells, that we’d rather have die off? Give them a “safe haven”, so to speak, where they can continue to multiply? It was preliminary research, but it will be interesting to see where it goes. Nonetheless, antioxidants are still beneficial for the rest of us.)

Here is one of my favorite smoothie combinations — and I’m afraid that I don’t really measure:

I put in the blender in this order:

  • About 1/3 c water
  • A few handfuls spinach, though kale would also do. Spinach is quicker, and I need to make these things quickly sometimes…
  • A banana, broken into chunks. Slightly overripe makes it sweeter.
  • About a c of frozen cherries. I like the dark ones from trader joe’s.
  • 1/2 tsp or so of chia seeds
  • 1/2 tsp or so lime juice (to taste)

Blend away… you may need to add more water to get things to mix. Or, more lime juice for tartness.

Cherries are especially known for their anti-inflammatory properties, so this is great for post-workout! If you’re into it, maybe tossing some vanilla protein powder into the mix would do (I’m more a fan of nut butters for protein, and think that cashew or almond butter might suit this)

This will make a big smoothie — if you want to keep part of it for later, just make sure you refrigerate it, and try to consume the other part within the same day.

Any other favorite smoothie combos out there? :)


MS meds and their side effects. Ahem. I’m sorry, I meant to say, “disease modifying therapy”, as it’s not really changing my disease — just maybe changing the course. Changing the amount of damage my MS does to me. We think.

So, MS being an autoimmune disease and everything, the meds do strange things to the immune system, like taking some of the immune cells out of circulation so that they don’t attack our nervous system (as they tend to do in MS). This, of course, weakens our immune system.

With the other MS drugs I’d tried, my white cell count was on the low side, but still within normal range. Gilenya, on the other hand… has had me significantly below normal. Dangerously so, back in September, when I had other routine bloodwork done.

Gilenya is typically taken 7 days a week. Apparently studies have shown it to have an equal therapeutic effect when only taken 5 days a week (or so we hope?), so at that point, I’d cut down to only taking it on weekdays. Meanwhile, my white cell count came almost back to normal…

I had a routine appointment with my MS practitioner just before the end of the year, and it’s become standard practice for me to give them a vial of blood every month to check on things. I started getting lower again, out of the normal range.

Which hadn’t affected anything… until I got a terrible sinus infection about 10 days ago. (Luckily almost gone. The wonders of modern antibiotics!) Despite my weak immune system, I generally manage to avoid what my students bring in… which always stuns me. Sometimes, however, it hits me, and it hits hard, as it did recently.

And it left me wondering: if my white cell production is overall low, would I be able to fight off an infection effectively? Likely not. In that sense, I’m glad it was a bacterial infection, and that I could have the help of modern medicine.

And if I did end up catching this nastiness as a result of my Gilenya-weakened state, should I be taking the medication? It’s slowing disease progress, they say, but I haven’t had a flare-up since 2012. And, thanks to insurance snafus, I had several month-long chunks with no medications, where I worried about flares — nothing. Which begs the question: do I just stick to the good ol’ diet and exercise routine? I don’t know if anyone can answer that… (the problem being that damage from flare-ups can be permanent… so the risk outweighs benefits of no meds, maybe???)




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