Thursday, August 30, 2007

Environmental Factors

I just walked into the bathroom and was bowled over the smell of chlorine. I had dropped a chlorine tablet into the tank last week to keep the bowl clean and I didn't realize how strong the smell was. Then it occurred to me that I had just started using these things back in May. We were going to be having company and I was tired of the trying to manually keep the bowl clean. Andy's symptoms started in early June. Also I had a flashback to when he was swimming in an enclosed pool up at the YMCA Rocky Mountain camp in Colorado. He got really ill from the chlorine. It irritated his skin and burned his eyes. His grandmother told me at the time that she had a terrible allergy to chlorine. I also just read on a message board about people whose IBS symptoms were triggered by the sorbitol in toothpaste or some ingredient in shampoo or phenol in cleaning products. Could it be that this was a trigger for him?!

I have been focused so heavily on the food intolerances that it did not occur to me that it could be something on the outside. It is worth a try. I am removing all chlorine from the bathrooms and I am changing my cleaning products from pinesol to something more natural.

His D was non existent today! I kept the calcium at 900 mg and changed his diet a little bit.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Walking the Fine Line

Things have not been going well for Andy. His D came back yesterday and today. I am getting a little concerned as he can't afford much more weight loss. He is deathly afraid of eating now as he feels everything is setting off his symptoms. I have upped his calcium to 900 mg and will probably have to go to 1200 today. His D was a little better this morning but still present. I am praying the calcium is going to do its job and keep everything in check. Everyday, I don't know what I am going to have to wake up to and it's getting stressful. I can't even imagine what Andy is having to deal with. I finally got a chance to listen to the audio ibs program by Michael Mahoney cds. I have been making Andy listen to them daily. I listened to one session and have to say it was very relaxing and I think I am going to have to do it too just so I can keep my anxieties under control.

This set back has been a real downer. I thought we had found the combination that worked. I still think it's there but I am going to have to fine tune it some more. I feel like I am walking this fine line to keep calories on him but not upset the IBS at the same time. Now with the migraine and school thrown at him, everything has been turned upside down. This has been one of the most challenging things I ever have had to face and I am not even the one who has the IBS. So I can't imagine how it has been for my son.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Not Another Problem!

Tomorrow is the first day of school and Andy was doing fine and getting ready for the big day. Then he started to develop terrible eye pain. He couldn't see and within a half an hour he was having massive head pain. I can't believe it! What else can go wrong! I do believe he is having a migraine. My older son started about this time and now my youngest son has it too.

I am thinking the 21 bananas a week that have been going into the high calorie smoothies may be suspect. It's the one thing I thought he could tolerate and now I am going to have to find something else that he can have. This is maddening. He really needs the calories and I don't think he can handle the other fruits but I am going to have to try them.

I have a ton of errands to do too. I just called my husband and he is coming home for a couple of hours to take care of Andy so that I can get these other things done. It's nice that my husband is the boss and can come and go as he needs.

I hope Andy comes out of it in a few hours. If it lasts until tomorrow, he will have to miss the first day of school. I may have to put him on cyproheptadine, an antihistamine that my older son took and it controlled his migraines really well.

I was just reading that there is a connection between the IBS and migraines. Guess I will have to do more research on that.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Nothing New in the Diagnosis Department

We're back from our hospital excursion and I have to say that I am tired. I didn't really feel stressed during the day but I am feeling the aftermath now. We are supposed to go to a party tonight and frankly I am not in the mood for it. My husband is getting on my case about it but what can I say, I just sent one son off to college and the other one is being tested for severe GI problems. I am emotionally exhausted!

The hospital did the CT scan and although I was pretty sure it would be normal, there were moments of doubt that may be there was a tumor or something that could explain why these symptoms were happening. I searched the nurse practitioner's face for answers when she walked in and she delivered the news immediately. Everything was normal, negative.

So that brings us back to square one. I am relieved but it explains nothing. She could not say that Andy has IBS for sure but all roads seem to be pointing that way. She gave us the option to wait on further testing. If it was Crohns or something else, it would rear it's ugly head eventually. Since Andy has been doing well under the circumstances, we decided to wait 3 months on the endoscopy and colonoscopy.

Interestingly, I just had a conversation with Andy's violin teacher. I was bringing her up on what was going on with us this summer and she told me about another student who was having severe problems exactly like Andy's. The student lost a tremendous amount of weight, all tests came back negative. They ended up taking out her gall bladder even though tests showed it was normal. She started to improve but now is having problems again. I told the teacher about the Calcium Caltrate as a great control for the D and especially for those who have had their gall bladder out. Also I was buying Digestive Advantage for IBS at Safeway and the checker wanted to know if that controlled the D too . She had no idea Safeway even carried products like this probiotic . Guess she has been an IBS sufferer too. I passed on the info about the calcium to her. I am amazed at how many people are being afflicted with this problem. The fact that very little research is being done on it , is an abomination.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

For the Love of Huskies

I just finished my latest original watercolor of a Siberian Husky. It was inspired by my dog, Chaise, who was lost last year. He was a sweet dog and I miss him.

I have been a Siberian Husky lover for many years. It started way back when my husband and I were first married. We were at the University of Illinois in Champaign- Urbana. A friend of ours was working at the local humane society and told us about a dog that was just brought in. The dog had been chained up his whole life and had a severe case of worms. He was very sick and the vet didn't know if he was going to make it. We went down to see him and we just fell in love. How could anyone mistreat this beautiful Siberian Husky dog? We adopted him on the spot and so began our 10 year relationship with our dog, Wolfe.

I remember a few weeks later we took him to Allerton Park near the University and we let him off his leash to explore. He took off and we couldn't find him. We climbed the nearest hill and called his name over and over again. After about 10 or 15 minutes, we saw him through the trees and he followed our voices back to us.

When we moved to the West Coast, he came with us. We backpacked and camped with him everywhere. Wolfe would go jogging with my husband but as he grew older, his arthritis flared up and he could only go part way, sit and wait patiently while my husband did his loop. Then Wolfe would rejoin my husband on the jog back home . That dog was smart. Sadly he passed away when he was 12 years old. To others, he was just a dog but to us he was a friend, a great companion and we miss him to this day.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Recipes to Gain By

I wanted to post a couple of calorie building recipes that I have found for my son who is in the middle of an IBS like flare-up. He lost about 12 lbs and I have been working like crazy to put weight back on him. The first is my revision of a smoothie recipe given by his doctor's office. It was made with all dairy products, something my son can't tolerate very well.
The ingredients are:

1/2 cup rice ice cream
1/4 cup egg beaters
1 banana or some canned fruit
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz of rice milk

Blend all together. Calories approx. 410

I have been giving him 3 smoothies per day.

The second recipe I found was the

Low-Fat Oatmeal Cookies with Raisins by Nicole Weston

1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
2 tbsp butter, room temperature
1/4 c plain apple sauce
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups quick cooking oats
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add cinnamon if using raisins.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the sugars. Beat in the egg, followed by the applesauce and the vanilla extract. Working by hand, stir in the flour mixture and the oats until just combined and no streaks of flour remain. Add raisins just before the batter comes together.
Drop tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 9-12 min at 375F. Cookies will be light brown at the edges, but will not get as dark and golden as regular cookies.
Let cool on sheet for 3 or 4 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Store in an airtight container.
Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Calories: 92 per cookie

The cookies were very good and didn't cause him any problems what-so-ever.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Trying to Wrap Up and UnWrap Loose Ends

Had a great start to my day. I was working on an Etsy order and had to use my printer. The paper got jammed and I was trying to fix it. Did not notice that the cord to the blinds had fallen down and was now being fed into my printer as I was trying to advance the sheet that was stuck. All of a sudden my printer went berserk, every light came on and it was making terrible noises. To my horror, I saw the cord had wrapped around one of the rods inside, several times. I shut it off , got out the instruction booklet and looked for the trouble shooting section. Needless to say, there wasn't anything on how to undo a cord that was wound around the insides of a printer. I don't think the authors had anticipated that ever being a problem. There was nothing on how to open the back of the printer up even.

I decided to take action into my own hands. Got a flashlight, tweezers, manicure scissors and a knife. I proceeded to surgically remove the cord off the rod. It took about 30 minutes. It was a lot of cord and very thick too. Piece by piece, I got it out of there. Then I held my breath as I proceeded to test the printer for damage. It worked with no problems! What a relief.

Yesterday, I baked 6 dozen peanut butter cookies. I put 1/2 in a care package to my college son and the other 1/2 is going to his friend (recovering from a car crash) that we will see tonight . I spent most of this morning trying to get the package ready and birthday cards in the mail.

We made some special low-fat cookies too that my younger son could eat and I will post the recipe the next time around. We have a wedding to go to tomorrow , out- of -town. My youngest had out grown all his dress clothes , even ones that I bought back in May. I had to get him new pants and then I had to hem them yesterday. He even out grew his dress shoes but luckily wears the same size as my older son, so Andy will just borrow his brother's shoes. Also have to prepare him special food to take with us as he can't have anything at the reception.

I have to say the one question that irritates me the most is, "Did you do anything today?" It's a question my husband asks me periodically and it gets me very mad. A typical day has me running about 4 to 5 errands in the morning, usually I have orders to ship ( which I am grateful for) , groceries to buy, finances to do, the house to clean , laundry, the usual. I try to take care of all the nitty gritty details and loose ends so that my husband does not have to deal with them when he gets home. I feel as most housewives feel that we work really hard at the same chores over and over again and no one notices the time and effort we put in. It is a thankless job!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Moving In

Yesterday, we dropped my son off at school. I had tried not to think about it too much and that helped. When we got to the dorm, the unloading of belongings was done quickly and efficiently. The room was on the top floor and there were no elevators just a ramp. It was bigger than I thought which was a good thing. We had a whole van load of things and was not sure it was all going to fit in that small space. The roommate, my son's best friend, also arrived at the same time and I was amazed that the room was able to accommodate everything. The moms' jobs were to unpack. We put their clothes in the closet and drawers and made their beds. It was special because this was one of our last motherly duties that we could do for them.

You can't go to college without a computer and my son's computer that we ordered back in July is still MIA . We got word last week that Dell was having major problems and it won't be shipped until the end of this month. I was quite concerned about that but what can you do.

We got lost going to the bookstore. I told my husband to get directions and we ended up parking
2 miles away and then walked up a huge hill in the heat to the store. Later found out that we should have gone right not left and it was only down the street about 1/2 mile from the dorm.

We had ordered all the books online a month ago. It was a fiasco then because the website wouldn't accept the 3 gift cards my son had gotten as graduation gifts. He ended up having to call the order in. When we went to pick up the books, they either lost the order or had not processed it yet. They couldn't tell us which and he has to go back and check another day. I was not happy about the glitch. We wanted to get the used books and now that may not be possible, also all the gift cards are back at home.

We dropped my son off at the dorm and said a somewhat emotional goodbye. Even my husband choked up and he is one that usually doesn't shed a tear. Now that I am back home, the house does feel empty and I know that unlike the other times Nick has been gone, this time is different.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Walk in the Woods

My phone service and DSL were down most of the day as were all my neighbors too. So didn't get a chance to attend to my blog until now.

Got word the other day that a friend of my oldest was in a terrible car crash. Not something any mother wants to hear. It had sounded pretty bad and he was airlifted to a trauma center 3 hours away. Thankfully, now it looks like he will survive but he had to have hip surgery and not sure if he will need plastic surgery on his face. He went through the windshield at 80 miles an hour. Was not wearing a seat belt and it looks like alcohol was involved. I told my son to let this be a lesson to him and to his friends on what can happen when you drink and drive. They already have lost a couple of classmates in car crashes the last two years and several have been in accidents where alcohol was involved.

Decided to go to the mountains for a hike with the family. Unfortunately, we didn't check the forecast before we left. The mountains were totally under fog and rain by the time we got up there. We had to head to lower elevations to escape it. We found a sliver of sun and were able to picnic and hike under dry conditions. We had a nice hike through the woods and we walked along a raging river that had flooded back in the fall so we saw the damaged that had been done to the banks, trees and roads.

We were in our shorts but luckily brought some sweatshirts as the temperatures were in the 40's so quite chilly. Back at our house in the valley, 85 degrees. Despite the wrench in the weather, it was a fun and wonderful way to spend the last weekend with my boy before he leaves.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Splendor of Grapes

I recently had a customer buy several of my grape note cards and it got me thinking about painting some more grapes and vineyards. One of my favorite paintings was of grapes that I did for a New York winery. I have another grape painting that I decided to never sell because I love it so much.

I live in the middle of wine country and also concord juice grape country so there is inspiration every day. Here is the latest painting: Grapes on the Vine, done in watercolor and acrylic.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Sweet Music to My Ears

Went to a concert yesterday and just had to comment on how wonderful it was. Martina McBride was in town. Unbelievable to get talent like her performing so close by. I saw she was coming to town last week and told my husband we had to get tickets. Also I wanted to take my youngest to his first concert. All I can say is that she may be small in stature but she has a powerhouse of a voice. She had several standing ovations just because she
gave it her all in many of her songs. She opened up with the song "Anyway", a song she co-wrote and it was fantastic! I have been a fan of hers for a long time and have her greatest hits cd back in 2001. Love every song on there. She had the crowd on their feet with many songs including a real crowd favorite, "Independence Day."
It's easy to see why she was voted CMA's Vocalist of the Year - 4 times and is the top country female touring act in the US for 2007. My youngest had a great time. It's too bad my oldest didn't want to come as "country" is not his thing. It was sweet!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Empty Nest + One

A few more days and my eldest will be heading off to college. Time has flown by so fast. I remember when he was 9 years old like yesterday and my husband and I commented that this was the halfway point, my son would be leaving in another 9 years. Now that moment has arrived. I really haven't had much time to fathom what it would be like not having him at home. Just lately he has been really sweet, doing all his chores without complaint and cleaning up the dishes without being told. He has been making an extra effort to be nice to us and I have appreciated it since we have been preoccupied with my younger son's health problems.

We almost lost my son his junior year. A very good football player on an equally good team, he was playing in the state quarterfinals against a brutally physical opponent. He was a receiver and was going up for the ball when he got hit by another player and that player came down on him. # 20 outweighed my son by 80 lbs and when it was over, I knew he was hurt. But he didn't come out of the game, he continued to play for 7 or 8 more plays. Then the coaches removed him because he wasn't able to keep up with his man.

Afterwards, I wanted to go to the hospital, my husband and son wanted to go home. I pretty much had to throw a tantrum and said we were going to the hospital and that's it! When we got to the ER, my son almost blacked out. I had to insist that the nurse look at him right away. I had an inkling that it might be his spleen ... more on that later. Anyway, they found his BP to be dangerously low. He was wheeled into the back and a CT scan was performed. Next thing I knew, the surgeon was called in and my son had to go into surgery ASAP. He was bleeding internally and his spleen was shredded. So 10 minutes later, my oldest was undergoing major surgery to save his life.

He made it through very well and recovered in 6 weeks. He had to watch his team, from the side lines, play in the state championship game without him. The team came in second. Then came 5 or 6 months of intense fighting. My son wanted to play football again, I did not want him to. My husband had agreed with me but then went to the other side and backed my son. Our fights got so heated to the point where I felt we needed some counseling. No one would go except me.My son ,who was in the top 5% in his class, began to let his grades slide. I started to see his future with college go down the drain.

It was a very difficult time. The problem was compounded by the fact that this was the second injury due to football. He was also hospitalized his freshman year for a spleen injury. The doctors were able to save his spleen that time but it took 3 months for my son to recover. It was the same scenario where my son and husband would not go to the hospital after it happened. My son wanted to go watch film with the team. I was having a cow but no one would listen. When they finally went to the hospital, several hours later, my son had been bleeding internally the whole time.

To make a long story short, after a lot of soul searching on my part, my son did play football again. The coach got him heavy duty protective gear that only hockey players wear. My son who was playing offense and defense before , was limited to playing cornerback. He ended up having a very successful senior year, his team came in 3rd in state, he won a lot of football honors and he graduated in the top 10% of his class. I knew that if I didn't let him play, there was going to be a rift between us that I was not sure could ever be healed. It was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make (my husband deferred it all to me and refused to be the bad guy ). I still carry anger about that but I am just grateful to have my son healthy, happy and alive.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

My own Art Therapy

Being able to create art and focus on something other than doctors, hospitals, or my son leaving for college, has been real therapy for me. I can see why art therapy has been beneficial to those with physical and emotional illnesses. The relationship between art and mental illness has been evolving since the late 1800's. It was and still is a tool to help patients release unconscious thoughts by allowing them to speak their feelings symbolically through their art. In 1969, the American Art Therapy was formed and education standards were set so that people could actually train to become art therapists. Art therapy has helped children and adults with eating disorders, sexual abuse, bereavement, addiction issues and etc.

"Through the Trees", an original ACEO watercolor,acrylic, ink card in my etsy store.

Personally, my art has been my refuge. It's the one safe place I can go and create whatever I desire with no distractions. A great escape from the every day grind.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Catch 22

Came back from the hospital and not much new to report. My son had 7 more vials of blood taken and the next test will be a CT scan in 3 weeks.

Had my questions addressed by the nurse practitioner. Still have not gotten to see a GI doctor. She pretty much said that they don't believe that yeast overgrowth problems exists or that the thimerosal mercury still in some vaccines ( my son got a meningicoccal vaccine + 2 other vaccines and the severe gastro problems started within 48 hours of the shots) can cause gastro- intestinal problems, at least from the many cases that she has looked at.

She thought from the tests done so far, it wasn't pointing toward Crohns or Ulcerative Colitis, also didn't look like an ulcer but that one is a little tricky. She also told us that even though my son is better off gluten, he needs to stay on it so that they can see if it is damaging his gut. That was bad news because school will be starting in a few weeks and we have been doing everything to get him functional for that.

She told me that the digestive enzymes we had him on, the chewable kind, were not worth anything because they denature in the gut rendering them totally useless. Only the ones with the very thick coating like the prescription ones used for Cystic Fibrosis patients are effective. I need to do more research on the enzymes as everything I have seen to date- the chewable, capsule, pill form over- the -counter ones have been effective in many, many people.

The immediate concern was that my son has dropped 12 lbs in 7 weeks. A lot of it due to the fact that he just can't tolerate food and has developed an aversion to eating which I don't blame him.
She wanted me to put him on high calorie smoothies, the problem is that almost all recipes she gave me require milk and Carnation instant breakfast. He can't tolerate soy milk either. I'm going to have to revamp the recipes with rice ice cream and rice milk. I am hoping he can tolerate that.

Now it is just a waiting game. I really don't know what to think as yes, I want an answer but I don't want my child to have some serious disease . I also don't want my child to have IBS and have to possibly face a life of never knowing when the next D attack will hit, of having to map out every bathroom location, not being able to eat the food he loves, not being able to go on camping trips or travel for fear of an attack on the plane, bus, car, whatever. This doesn't even address the impact of working or going to school. I don't want him to have any of it, I just want him to be well!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Challenges of Eating Out

One more day now until our hospital appointment. My son had another attack of D, a few days ago. It was related to the banana bread I made for him (recipe was from the IBS cookbook). It had reduced fat in it and he was tolerating it well until he decided to eat it late at night and first thing in the morning. Anyway, it was a setback but he is doing OK now.

This condition, whatever it is, has been a really difficult challenge to be sure. We haven't been able to eat out very much because I have found that most restaurants do not have anything on the menu that he can have. I guess I need to find out if people just don't go out or if there are special tips to use when they do eat out. I took my son to Quiznos and ordered him the oven roasted sub on white bread with nothing else and he brought his soy cheese from home and put that on it. No problem afterwards so I was relieved.

One of my friends told me in passing that there was a gluten-free dairy-free bakery in her town and I was quite ecstatic to hear that. I went and checked it out and sure enough the bakery had fresh baked breads and cookies and muffins. The prices were very steep (but definitely worth it), $9.00 for a loaf of bread and $15.00 for a half dozen cookies and muffins. The baker told me the challenges of offering gluten-free and dairy-free items. It has taken her years to perfect her recipes just because gluten free breads do not behave like regular breads. She said that every batch even from the same flour will not come out the same way. But she is at the point now where she can just look at it and tell how much water it needs or whatever. Her deli restaurant offers food for the gluten dairy intolerant and for those that don't suffer from these restrictions. She said she really can't make money doing this but her rewards are helping those people who can't eat anything. She even makes custom baked goods for people with certain allergies. I told her she was doing a great thing and I really was grateful to have found her.

I went to Fred Meyer and found a decent selection of health foods including soy pudding and soy
yogurt without dairy and gluten in it. Also rice milk and rice ice cream. I bought it all.

I decided to try the gluten- free diet to see if that would help. So far my son has been feeling better in the mornings so maybe it is making a little bit of a difference. Guess time will tell.