You Can Call Me Ned

Jacob and I walked into my oncologist’s office this morning and I was a ball of nerves. This appointment meant cancer or no cancer. Another round of radiation and isolation for ten days or freedom from molecular scans and the LID for three years. There was a LOT riding on this appointment.

My doctor walked in and nonchalantly said, “Well, you’re good girl.” Umm… “What?!? Like, I’m good, good? Like cancer free good?”

After ear-to-ear smiles, high fives, and giddy chatter (along with all the necessary medical junk), I left the office with a new name… Ned. No Evidence of Disease! Praise the Lord.

IMG_6347Sorry for the blurry picture, but Jacob snapped this as I was literally *running* out of the office yelling “wooooooooooo!”

And just like that, I had a peace that is hard to come by as a cancer fighter. The peace of knowing that for the moment I was victorious over this wretched disease. The worry muscle in my brain can rest in knowing that there is no evidence of cancer in my body. I will rest well tonight, but I know there are many that are still fighting and that breaks my heart. I pray that each of them get their NED designation soon.

14 Things You MUST buy for a Low Iodine Diet

Before I dive into what I think are “must haves” for a low iodine diet (LID), let’s first discuss why thyroid cancer patients must be on this diet as part of their treatments and check-up scans. This is my “no medical background” explanation, so if you are a nurse or have M.D. after your name, feel free to stop reading here. Hah!

Thyroid cells are the only type of cells in our body that absorb iodine. Actually, salivary cells also absorb it, but they spit (pun intended) the iodine out quickly, because they can’t process it. So, in order to kill all thyroid cells, healthy and cancerous, patients starve their bodies of iodine for three weeks and then take a radioactive iodine pill called I-131. The starving thyroid cells suck up the radioactive iodine and they die… hopefully! Every time a patient has a check-up scan, they must also go through this process. The dosage, called a tracer dose, is very minimal since it’s not intended to kill any cells. If there are any thyroid cancer cells, they will soak up the radioactive iodine and “glow” on the scan. There are lots of other parts to this process: thyrogen injections, blood draws, withholding medications, etc., but that is the bare bones basics of how the process works.

Now that all of the science is out of the way, let’s talk about the low iodine diet. It’s terrible. I hate it, but there’s no other option but to do it. And let’s face it, its infinitely better and easier that chemo, so I try not to complain too much.  (Jacob may say otherwise!)

Doctors disagree on what is and is not allowed on the low iodine diet, but here are the guidelines my thyroid oncologist gave me:

Foods to Avoid

1. Iodized salt and sea salt
2. All diary products (milk, cheese, cream, butter, yogurt, ice cream, etc.)
3. Egg yolks
4. Sea food
5. Foods that contain the additives: carragen, agar-agar, aglin, alginates
6. Cured, corned & salt-seasoned foods (ham, bacon, sausage, etc.)
7. Bread products that contain iodate dough conditioners
8. Food and Medications that contain red food dyes
9. Chocolate (whomp, whomp)
10. Molasses
11. Soy products

When on the LID, a patient is advised to never eat anything from a restaurant because it could become contaminated. So, every bite of food for three weeks must be prepared by hand. This isn’t a huge change for me because I love to cook and we only eat out once, maybe twice a week. However, it became a huge challenge when we traveled to San Fransisco for the Super Bowl. I had to bring my food with me for the entire weekend… yikes! The only thing I could eat from a restaurant was fresh fruit. It was tough, but with a little bit of careful shopping and planning, I survived.

low iodine diet pictureMost salt has iodine in it, so any item that contains salt on a store shelf is a big no-no. Be on the lookout for “no salt” or “salt free” items and then you can add your own iodine free salt to them afterwards.

Here are 14 things you MUST buy while on the LID:

  1. Salt free tortilla chips. I use these for a snack with this salsa recipe and as a side for LID friendly fajitas.
  2. Puffed wheat cereal. I eat this as a snack without milk, but you can also make your own almond milk to go with it.
  3. Unsalted Kettle chips. These are my favorite! They are so yummy, I don’t even add salt to them.
  4. Egg whites. This is a no brainer! They provide protein and you can use them to cook with in place of whole eggs.
  5. Popcorn. I ate this nearly every day. We quit using microwave popcorn after I was diagnosed in 2013 and have never looked back. I cook it on the stove top with olive oil and iodine free salt and it doesn’t even resemble microwave popcorn… so yummy!
  6. Fresh fruits and veggies. Fruit is your friend because it’s all LID safe. I also munch on carrot and celery sticks for snacks.
  7. Haagen Daz Lemon Sorbet. Seriously, go buy this. It’s amazing even if you aren’t on the LID.
  8. Lara bars. A great portable snack, but be sure to read the ingredients. Some contain chocolate and/or salt. My favorites are apple pie and cashew cookie.
  9. Steak. I only cooked myself one big hot meal a day, so I treated myself to steak frequently.
  10. Chicken. See above… chicken was a dinner staple. I’ll share my dinner recipes in a later post.
  11. Salt-free peanut butter. I used this in recipes, as a dip for veggie sticks or apples, and sometimes just ate it on a spoon.
  12. Unsalted nuts. Mix any type of unsalted nuts with raisins and you have a quick LID safe snack mix.
  13. Coconut oil. I used this in place of butter in recipes as well as an oil for cooking egg whites.
  14. Simply Lemonade. This was a treat for me each day and a great LID safe drink.

Over the next two days, I will be posting my favorite LID meals, snacks and dessert recipes, so stayed tuned!

My scan is tomorrow morning and I could NOT be more excited to be off the LID! I will be spending the day drinking Starbucks lattes and eating pizza. I plan on pigging out for three days and then I will resume my normal eating habits. We have a vacay planned in three weeks, so I’m going to try not to indulge too much.

 

Victory Monday

Happy Monday, y’all! It’s VICTORY Monday in our house today! Yes, the Falcons won yesterday and are 2-0, but we are celebrating an even bigger victory today! Yesterday was my “Good News Day” – the day I gained the NED designation. If you haven’t been a cancer patient, the word NED might not mean much to you. But to me, it’s basically my favorite word of all because it stands for “no evidence of disease” in other words… cancer free! Since Jacob was in New York all day yesterday, we are celebrating the 2nd anniversary of  my Good News Day today! If you are new to the blog and haven’t read about my cancer journey you can read about it here and here.

September is famous for Childhood Cancer Awareness month, but it’s also Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month. I had never even heard of thyroid cancer until a few months before I was diagnosed. And even though it’s one of the fastest growing cancers among women, it still isn’t mentioned when the cancer conversation comes up because it’s dubbed the “good cancer” due to its high survival rates.. News flash: There isn’t a good cancer. Sure, my hair didn’t fall out and I didn’t spend months in the hospital, but I am *still* dealing with the repercussions of this disease and will for the rest of my life.

Since most people are uneducated about thyroid cancer, I want you to know a few things (things I didn’t know prior to January 28, 2012).

  1. Check Your Neck. Seriously. It seems so simple, but no one does it. Women will be bombarded with all things pink next month to remind them to do monthly breast exams, but I’ve literally never heard a single person tell me to “check my neck”. Not even my doctors mentioned it, until after my diagnosis. To do this simple check, first, locate your thyroid. It’s right above your collar bone and below your Adam’s apple. Next, stand in front of a mirror and take a drink of water and swallow it to watch for any lumps, bumps or knots. Then, use the side of your hand and slowly move it up and down the front of your next to check again for any lumps. That’s it. It’s that simple. If you feel something that doesn’t seem right or is new to your neck, please call your doctor. check your neck

2. No one is immune to the threat of cancer. No one. My only risk factor was my gender. I had no family history of this type of cancer and I was only 28 when I was diagnosed.

3. Take care of your body: it’s the only place you have to live. I have recently become a little slack in taking the best possible care of my body, but my Good News Day anniversary has reignited my fire to do so. You can control two of the four things that contribute to cancer: diet and exercise. It’s actually pretty simple… eat the rainbow, don’t eat junk and move your body! Don’t you want to reduce your cancer risk by doing those simple things?

4. Eat foods that contain iodine. Iodine is crucial to your thyroid health. These types of foods include anything that comes from the sea (fish, seaweed, etc.), dairy products and eggs. You can also buy salt that contains iodine.

5. If you feel that something just isn’t right with your body, call a doctor. My first symptom of thyroid cancer was my toes tingling. It then spread to my legs and arms. My doctor did a CT to check for a pinched nerve and that’s when they saw the tumor on my thyroid. I had been feeling a little sluggish, but attributed it to having a toddler and the stress of football season. If you aren’t feeling like yourself, seek help.

Now that we’ve gotten all of the serious stuff out of the way, can we talk about the Falcons game I mentioned earlier? My sweet hubby caught his career long catch with a 41 yard haul from Matt Ryan. He’s just getting better each year. 30 is the new 23, right? Hah!