Thursday 29 September 2011

Alas I have no junk in my trunk, nor no lovely lady lumps.

Oh Black Eyed Peas, how I wish I could sing your pithy song with you:

What you gon' do with all that junk?
All that junk inside your trunk?
I'ma get, get, get, get, you drunk,
Get you love drunk off my hump.
My hump, my hump, my hump, my hump, my hump,
My hump, my hump, my hump, my lovely little lumps (Check it out)

But I fear my days of a junk filled trunk are over. (sigh) Two months out of hospital and my trunk is still as flat as a teenage boy's.  Actually, I'm sad to say, I also appear to have acquired the chest of a teenage boy.  20 years later and my high school nickname of 'Sufboard' is apt once more.  Oh miniscule mammaries, our glory days were so short.  Our cup no longer runneth over, it is, I fear, empty. I am officially sans, humps, lumps and junk.

My abnormally junkless trunk is quite the conversation starter:

"You've got no bum!", from my tactful cardiologist
"God. There's nothing there!", from a caring nurse.
"Wow it's really gone", following a sad attempted arse grab from Mr Grumpy.
"It's gone!", thank you sweet physio.

And then, there was the photo.  Look away now, for fear of being overcome with rennui.

My junkless trunk displayed in all it's full length glory (ironically in the kitchen, and about a kilo heavier than present).  What is left of my trunk was reduced to a sobbing pool of flat melancholy after this unmistakable visual proof.  Poor, sad, little trunk.

Alas, I just can't seem to gain back the weight I've lost over the last few months.  And I've tried.  I really have.  I've followed the dietician's instructions.  I tried the supplement drinks, with their vomit inducing thick texture.  (Fake strawberry flavour is an abomination, and the creator should have their testicles repeatedly waxed by an inept, burly guy named Tiny, who sweats like he's coming off a three day bender).  But they just made me ill and run to the loo.  I was perplexed, as was my dietitian.  Then a timely little article came up on a forum, and I had a moment of enlightenment.  Over 50% of people who consume hospital grade meal replacement/supplements for even a couple of weeks, end up with diarrhoea as they are high in FODMAPs.  Brilliant.  Because that's just what I need.  Ah Universe, you are a cruel and heartless cow.

I am now on a high calorie, dietician recommended, diet.  Whereby I must eat ice-cream and other high calorie foods. And if I must, I must.  Bring on the pizza.  Bring on the chocolate.  Bring on the cakes.  Smoother me in your delightful, health improving, sugar and fat laden, bounty.  I will take my medicine.  I will even purchase a bigger dosette box.  For I fear that no matter how I fold that piece of medicinal cheesy crust meatlovers, it's not going to fit in that tiny plastic hole.  And still I cannot gain.

It seems I must resign myself to my new 'svelte' body.  For my guts decided to make itself comfortable and I continue to consume a rainforest worth of toilet paper each day.  A quick check of the scales before typing tells me I have reached the stellar weight of 53kgs.  Woo Hoo!  I refuse to believe that my gain could really be the result of the litre of water I just downed.  Or that I will most likely pee out that extra weight in the next half hour.  As far as my delusional mind is concerned I have gained, and I'm sticking with that.  Reality has no place in my current health regimen.

Maybe this is all a case of, "careful what you wish for".  For the past few years I have lamented my weight gain thanks to medications, sloth-like metabolism, and lack of exercise.  I had cursed Bob for my Texas-sized muffin top and the transformation of my saddlebags into turn of the century travelling trunks.  And my luscious love handles? Well they clearly indicated that I had a lot of love to give.  And now?  Now my body looks like it belongs in The Corpse Bride. Skeletal, pasty, mottled-skin and poking bones.  Sexy No?

Now whilst a strategically placed push up bra may help to give me the illusion of lovely lady lumps in the front, my trunk remains problematic, or is it?  Did you know there are multiple sites dedicated to butt enhancers?  The things you learn whilst surfing the internet at 3am.  Who says insomnia is all bad?  My personal favourite is this one.  How can you not love a site whose tagline is "Our duty is your booty!".  Little did I know I was suffering from "flat butt syndrome".  "OMG!"  I hear you cry.  I know, I was shocked too.  Must make sure to add that to my list of diagnoses.  Thankfully, treatment is available and I can be "Instantly transform [my] boyish figure into a feminine body".  Go science!

Now to work out the look I'm going for.  Should I go for a Brazillian or Silicon Pop Up?

(image from here)

So, excuse me whilst I grab my bucket of cookies and cream and chug down a super, triple shot mocha latte with extra cream and shot of lard.  Now, do I want my trunk to be  "Unbuttleivable", or "Buttoholic"?  Decisions, decisions.


Monday 26 September 2011

Taste of Melbourne 2011

Well after a rather crappy couple of months I finally made it out of the house this past weekend.  Me? Manage to get out of the house?  I know I can't quite believe it either.  But somehow between more loo breaks than I can count and a little lie down on the bathroom tiles, I managed to brush my hair, frock up and head out of the house with Mr Grumpy.

I was lucky enough to win a double pass to this years Taste of Melbourne, thanks to a fabulous local food blogger Jeroxie.  Who couldn't love a blogger who has a recipe for Ox cheek stew, a fav from my childood? A fool with the tastebuds of a rock that's who.  Not only are there recipes for ox, but goat and rabbit.  Be still my heart.  Mind you trying to get my local butcher to source me goat or rabbit is proving a bit of a mission impossible.  Seems strange given that as a child growing up in the country, rabbit, ox, duck and the like were all common place.  I still have fond memories of my Nanna's braised rabbit, complete with errant buckshot.  Mind you, I figure given the price my butcher quoted me for a single rabbit, they probably come buckshot free, and coated in diamonds.

And yes, I can see the irony in winning tickets to a food festival given my recent, and continuing, gastric adventures.  But I've always been a bit of a foodie and love trying and cooking new foods.  And there was no way I was letting my recalcitrant gut, get in the way of free samples!  Even having  fructose mal-absorption and lactose intolerance, I still found a tonne of yummy foods.  And what I couldn't sample Mr Grumpy was willing to sample on my behalf.

I even managed to swallow my pride and hire a wheelchair.  Anyone who has read my blog for any length of time will know how much this pains me.  I would rather listen to Snookie and The Situation debate the political situation in Libya, whilst having someone slowly pull bandaides off my hairy legs (hey, don't judge me and my hirsute ways.  It's been Winter here in Australia, the time when razors and wax strips go into hibernation. It's eco-friendly insulation), than use a wheelchair.   Unfortunately, my current level of decreptitude didn't give me much a choice, and I sucked it up so I could get out of these ever shrinking four walls and head into the city.  Mr Grumpy even agreed to push me around.  I did see my life flash before me at one point where Mr Grumpy's eagerness to push me around nearly ended up with me face planting.  For those in Melbourne, you should know that the Melbourne Museum has free hire of wheelchairs and a reciprocal agreement with the Royal Exhibition Building, where Taste of Melbourne was held.  You can't book them, as they are on a first come, first served basis, but there are plenty and the staff at the cloakroom are lovely.

So much to see, and sample.
Proof that I sucked it up and grabbed a wheelchair, and yes that is a lovely row of handmade chocolates.  
I may have purchased one, or two or twelve.
Hello my pretties.
Proof that I was meant to come to Taste of Melbourne.
For my salt loving brethren here is a pyramid of bliss, curtosy of Murray River Salt.  
Further proof that I was meant to go to this festival.
One of the beautiful domes at the Royal Exhibition Building.  
Every time I go I am amazed at how gorgeous it is.
Mmmmmmm Macaroons.
The best Gluten-free Brownie I have ever had.  If heaven had a taste, this would be it.
Tea anyone?   
Love this building.
Mr Grumpy, sampling on my behalf.  Thanks Honey for taking one for the team.
Now this is how one should eat chocolate.

Finally had the chance to taste elderflower.  It's something I've always wanted to taste but didn't think was available here in Australia.  Maybe it's too many years of watching UK programs like River Cottage and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's hedge brews, but elderflower has been on my "to try" list for some time.  It tasted like a cider with a hint of something floral, strange but quite nice.  The elderberry was by far my favourite.  Thick and dark like treacle, with a taste similar to blood plums.  I now have bottles of both waiting for me to find the perfect dessert to go with them.

I am still in recovery mode from the day, who knew it could be so exhausting being wheeled around.

Big thanks to Jeroxie and Taste of Melbourne for making it possible.

Oh and proof I was inspired and actually using all my purchases, well except all the chocolates and macaroons which are long gone.
Roasted tomatoes (tomatoes, fresh oregano from my garden, salt, pepper, minced garlic, chilli flakes, splash of olive oil).  Topped with Yarra Valley Dairy's Cardi goats cheese (their Persian Fetta is also delicious), a swirl of Biogrape Red Wine Jus, and Myrtlevale Olives, cold pressed corregiola olive oil.  All on a slice of my homemade spelt and kamut sourdough.  Yummo.

Mmmmm.  May have to whip up some more as my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Michelle :)

And to celebrate finally getting out of the house, I give you classic Australian rockers Boom Crash Opera.

Monday 12 September 2011

Invisible Illness Week 2011

This week marks the start of Invisible Illness Awareness Week (okay, so it's more of a US initiative, but here in Australia we are bit lacking in the PR side of things, so I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon to promote a bit of awareness in the Land Down Under).
As someone living with a nice little collection of invisible illnesses I know the challenges that can arise.

For those new to the blog, I'm 5yrs into living with Dysautonomia, or Bob as I like to call it.  Well five official years, if I look back at my photos pre-2006 I have a lot of sexy purple leg shots.  And if I look back over my life I have had periodic symptoms since my teenage years.

I am also living with:
Progressive neuropathy,
Degenerative disc disease,
A mutant jugular vein called Jeff,
Boobs that persist in growing in places there not supposed to, and popping out painful cysts and fibroadenomas like randy rabbits.
And if I ever pull my finger out to get an official diagnosis, Ehler's Danlos Syndrome.
To top it off I now have my delinquent gut, for which I am still looking for answers.

In other words, I have the Ford Pinto of bodies.

Despite my delightful and ever increasing list, I still look pretty healthy on the outside.  Okay not so much in the last two months since my dodgy gastric system has taken up residence.  As Mr G says, "well at least you look sick now".  Thanks honey.  Always there for the moral support.  But in general I can put on the spackfiller, whip on some lippy, and look relatively normal.  This can make my health issues seem rather confusing for others.

Apparently, I simply "don't look sick".  I also don't act like a sick person, whatever that means.  Foiled once more by my own Oscar worthy acting abilities.  The logical conclusion to this being, people think you're either not sick, or not as sick as you claim.  Which is understandable, right?  Because all real illnesses are visible.  You know, like Diabetes or heart disease.  Because their years of no medical training, makes them experts at spotting and diagnosing illness. (Okay, I may still be a little bitter about a few people).

It doesn't help that I was stupid enough to pick the obscure disorders.  The kind that no one, not even most doctors, have heard of.  And if it's not enough that they are obscure, they are also complex.  All of which adds up to yet another layer of invisibility to contend with.

What's a girl to do?

Should I highlight the black circles under my eyes?
Should I lie dramatically on a couch and moan?
Should I "woe is me" at every opportunity?

Would that make my invisible illnesses more real?

Maybe for other people, but not for me.

I live with it everyday.  They are very real to me.

It is real when I can't stand in the morning because my bp is so low.
It is real when I can't string a sentence together.
It is real when I can't open my eyes due to the excruciating pain in my head.
It is real when I have to lie on the tiles in my bathroom following a shower.
It is real when I can't feel when I've cut my legs when shaving, or burn my hands when cooking.
It is real when I have to hold my hips in with my hands when exercising.
It is real when I am bent over the toilet in a public bathroom because the nausea is so bad.
It is real when I lie in bed unable to sleep because my feet are burning to the point where I cry.
It is real when I pop a disc in my back because I have a scan at my local hospital.
It is real when I can't coordinate my legs to walk properly.
It is real when I grab the wall or have to stick my head between my legs because I simply went to the loo.
It is real when I can't get cool in the middle of Winter and must put on an airconditioner.
It is real when I can't exercise because it causes my bp to drop.
It is real when I can't feel the pedals in the car through my shoes.

It is real to me in a million other ways that I could list, but that most people will never see, or understand.

Disbelief and dismissal cut deep.  They attack the spirit.  Heard enough times, they are internalised until the criticism comes from within as readily as it comes from without.

It must be in my head.
I must try harder.
It is my fault.
There are others worse off than me.
I am not worthy.

Acknowledgement isn't about pity, it's about compassion.

Just because you can't see someones suffering, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
Just because you don't understand, doesn't make it less real.

Compassion costs nothing.
But is priceless to those who receive.
And is a gift to those who choose to give.

Michelle :)

Here's a little post I wrote a couple of years ago.
Dysautonomia: Invisible Illness My Arse.

Friday 2 September 2011

I'm a Salty Wench

Bob continues to go all WWF on my body.  Brain cells have left the building, along with my bp, pulse pressure, and the ability to ablute like a normal person.  So I thought I'd put up the post I initially tried to schedule pre-hospital admission.  Obviously my brain was firing on all cylinders that day as it failed to post. 

One of the strangest parts of having Bob, is our need for salt.  People look at you crazy when you say you have a health condition where you must have salt.  And not just a little salt.  As my cardiologist says, "if you can still taste your food, you're not having enough salt".  Whilst the rest of the population is doing everything in their power to decrease their salt intake to aid vascular health, we Bobettes are mugging cows for their salt licks.

There is only one form of Bob that should avoid salt, Hyperadrenergic POTS, but the rest of us need to live on a saltpan.  I still remember the look on the poor OT's face when I was in hospital and she handed me the stock standard cardiac health book, with it's anti-salt campaign.  It's hard for others to understand.  When I tell my GP that I often just have a teaspoon of salt in the morning she looks horrified.  Yes GP I am living in crazy town and it's full of salt loving freaks.

One of my medications even requires salt to work.  It's on the little information sheet that comes with the bottle.  I only scanned the sheet so I'm not sure if it mentioned tequila and lemon as an additional requirement, but it only seems logical that they'd also make it work better.

I collect salt sachets everywhere I go.  A bowl of sachets on a shop counter really is an invitation to take what you need.  Just because my need is larger than most, shouldn't stop me from clearing them out.  And really I'm performing a public service by removing the salty temptation from others who need to lead a salt-free life.  It's all very Mother Teresa.

I carry a stash of salt sachets everywhere these days.  In my purse, in my handbag, in the glovebox of the car.  You just never know when you're going to need that salt hit to get your bp up.  I don't advise keeping the sachets in your coin purse though.  I know from my own early rookie mistake, that the gross metallic taste can permeate those little paper packages and make you gag.
(My purse salt sachet stash)

I have a good knowledge of emergency salt sources for the times where my brain fog has let me leave the house without a single grain.  Burger Rings (1140mg per 100gm) are one of the best sources.  They have the added bonus of making me feel like I'm 12 again, especially when I wear them as rings on my fingers.  And I like to think of a packet of Thins (596mg per 100gms) as purely medicinal.   Not to mention my encyclopaedic knowledge of the most salty foods eg fetta and miso.  And the joy of brine.  Mmmmm......brine.  How I love thee.
(And now the Lindt gods have smiled on me and combined chocolate with salty goodness.  
This can now qualify as purely medicinal.  Thank you.  Oh thank you.)

I make my own flavoured salts which I use at home.  Herbed salts are what I mostly make, but you can add pretty much anything.  And it's so easy that you can make it with complete success in the midst of a shocker of a brain fog.

All you need is:
  • An old coffee grinder.  You really need to dedicate this grinder to future salt production unless you like your caffeine with a salty/herby/spicey aftertaste.  I found this out the hard way after a less than pleasant mug of salty, fennel seed coffee.
  • Good quality salt.  When I can afford it I buy a good quality sea salt flake or a Murray River Pink Salt.  Ironic that the area of my youth that was decimated by salinity, now produces tasty salt to sprinkle on my fries. 
  • Herbs dried or fresh. My favourite is rosemary, but thyme is a close second. You can use a softer leaf herb such as basil or oregano but the moisture content can make it a bit too moist if you're not careful.
  • Spices.  Fennel seed is great.  As are everything from chilli flakes to cumin.  And Szechuan pepper is yummo on calamari.
  • Citrus rind.  Any citrus will work, though I have a preference for lemons or Tahitian limes.  Use a microplane (which maybe my favourite kitchen gadget ever) to collect the rind.
I don't really measure quantities as I am more of a measure by sight and feel, cook.  But if I had to guess it's be about:
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup salt
then depending on what flavour you want, add
  • 1tbsp fresh herbs
  • 1 tsp spice/dried herbs
  • 1/2tbsp citrus rind
Then it's simply mix it all together in the coffee grinder.  It also lasts forever thanks to salt's natural preservative qualities.  

My favourite is rosemary and lemon salt.  It's like a little taste of heaven when sprinkled on some home baked potato chips ('fries' for my Nth American friends).

I do have an emergency commercial rosemary sea salt flake by Falksalt.  Which looks a bit like fish food but tastes divine. Must be my Swedish roots that make me love it so.  Kind of why I like smorgasboards, gravad lax, ABBA, and Greta Garbo movies.

(I really want these salt and pepper shakers from here)

Michelle :)

And what would any discussion about salt be without a classic Salt-N-Pepa tune.