So, what were your symptoms?

Something’s afoot. I’ve gotten multiple messages today asking about the symptoms that lead me to my stage III rectal cancer diagnosis. And I think this is important information to share.

So why don’t I just spell it out here? Buckle up for some poop talk!!

In late 2015, I started to have more urgent poops. I’d get the urge to go and I’d take off like a shot to the potty. I always made it, but there were some close calls. Around that time I also began to notice the sensation that I never quite emptied my rectum, either; I’d finish pooing but it felt like there was more in there that needed out. I had skinny poo–like, the diameter was smaller than normal.

I also lost some weight. This was a sneaky sign because I was actually trying to lose a little weight at the time, and was fiddling with my diet and exercise so that as my weight dropped 1-3 pounds per week, I wasn’t surprised. In retrospect, I attribute some of my weight loss to my diet/exercise, and some to the growing cancer.

All of that was quite gradual. Each symptom became more noticeable over the course of several (2? 5?) months. I was still adjusting to postpartum life (I think my symptoms began around my baby’s first birthday in October) so noticing my own physical needs and sensations and just fuckin wrapping my head around the concept of time was pretty challenging.

Then, in early 2016, I began to notice some bloody, mucus-y output. Not every time I went, and maybe not even daily. But every so often, I’d notice some pink-red blood that didn’t look quiiiite hemorrhoid-y. Also, snot? That’s weird.

I’m very glad I talked with my doc. I have a straight-shooting no-nonsense conventional internal medicine PCP, and I’m so glad she listened and referred me to GI. I’m so glad the gastroenterologist I saw ordered a colonoscopy. I had that colonoscopy on Friday the 13th of May, 2016.

The incidence of colorectal cancers in younger adults is increasing, and it’s not due to better detection. In fact, most younger folks are diagnosed at later stages than folks over 50. Many providers have historically approached younger patients with rectal bleeding with lines like, “oh, you’re so young, it’s probably hemorrhoids/whatever, not cancer, so we can defer the colonoscopy.” THAT’S NO LONGER SOUND CLINICAL DECISIONMAKING.

I’ve noticed that there are three main ways that people ask me about the symptoms that started the party.

  1. With genuine concern and curiosity about the experience (an attempt to connect).
  2. From a space of vulnerability and concern about their own symptoms and risk (also an attempt to connect).
  3. With fear and a desire to confirm that we are in fact quite different and distant, and this could never happen to them (an attempt to separate).

Regardless of where the question comes from, I’ll always answer it. And for the love of cheese, if you are having any sort of weird symptom anywhere that makes you want to ask me what MY cancer symptoms were, CALL YOUR PCP!!!!!

I’m always a little sad for the person who asks out of that third space (one can tell). Because we’re not separate. Anyone’s life can be turned upside down at any moment. Accurate cliche: It. Can. Happen. To. Anyone.

Which must mean, in fact, that there’s nothing wrong with me for having gotten that cancer. That I have nothing to be ashamed of, and neither do you. I can be free to be an organism, a living being with a body with all sorts of idiosyncrasies. Due to and in spite of my conditions, I am whole, and connected to all.

This experience has taught me about the power in leaning into that connection. Showing up here is one way for me to do that. Thanks for joining me.

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Tilapia with rice and zucchini

How do I title these posts? What’s the most user-friendly? The recipe or meal description seems to make sense. But “tilapia with rice and zucchini” sounds boring as hell. It does not beGINNN to portray how fucking good this was.

And because I had rice in the fridge, it took 15 minutes.

The tilapia

  • Frozen tilapia filets
  • Garlic-infused oil or ghee if you can tolerate it, or tasty fat of choice
  • Cilantro leaves, small handful, coarsely chopped
  • Flat-leaf parsley leaves, small handful, coarsely chopped
  • Lemon
  • S&P

Heat a heavy nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add oil/gee/fat. Slip frozen tilapia filets directly into pan. Do other stuff for about 4 minutes. Then come back and season with salt and pepper. Loosen from pan if stuck. Allow to cook another minute, then flip. Cook 2 min more. Fish is done when opaque and flakey with crust of golden brown deliciousness.

Sprinkle on herbs, squeeze of lemon.

The zucchini

  • 1 med-large zucchini
  • Yummy fat of choice (I used rendered bacon fat from low-FODMAP bacon)
  • Pinch of low-FODMAP curry powder (it exists! O Organics and Simply Organic make some, for instance; or you can make your own blend)
  • S&P

Cut zucchini into half moons (or if your zucchini is girthy, quarters). I like my slices a little thick–like, a little thicker than half inch–and I cook them over high heat in cast iron so they get crusty on the outside and firm-tender on the inside, so that they’re like meaty steaky squash bites. Fortunately, the method for achieving this outcome is really easy.

Heat fat/oil in cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Throw in the zucchini and season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of the curry powder. Ignore them for a few minutes. Do not shake, turn, stir, or otherwise agitate the skillet. After a few minutes of neglect holding vigil, move a piece and see if the side that’s been in contact with the pan has browned sufficiently. If so, yay! Stir and flip. Turn the heat down to medium and cook a few minutes more, stirring occasionally.

The rice

  • Rice

Microwave. If you’re my husband, apply coconut aminos.

Fuckin YUM.

What’s for breakfast?

Today, it’s the usual. I’ve had this every morning for weeks.

Cream of rice cooked in unsweetened vanilla Almond Breeze almond milk, with a pinch of salt and teaspoon of soy-free Earth Balance. Maple syrup. And when I feel like I have the capacity, a breakfast sausage. Green tea, Metamucil, and Florastor.

Thrilling.

I’ve met a few people with IBS, redecorated guts, or other functional gastrointestinal disorders who have a similar routine–well, who have a go-to breakfast like this that they eat essentially every day.

Breakfast is kind of a tricky meal. I mean, the name–you’re breaking a fast that has lasted for hours. Your guts have been resting all night (if you’re lucky) and then you go from 0 to 60 by dumping in some chow. Breaking a fast, I’ve learned, gets my gastrocolic reflex poppin’. I make sure that I’m gonna be home for at least an hour (or two, if possible!) after I eat brekkie so that when my post-breakfasted gastrocolic reflex hits, I’m close to Home Potty.

The More You Know.

🤣💩

BUT SERIOUSLY. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT THIS STUFF. I know I’m not alone.

You out there, already nervous about food for the day, and it’s only 7 AM? I raise my glass of Metamucil to you. There are literally dozens of us!!!

Bread dough AND pizza crust

Why not both?

Seriously. This bread dough makes a delicious rustic boule, or baguette, or PIZZA CRUST. I mean, if you can handle eggs, find a pizza crust recipe that calls for eggs. They’re more reliable. But if you’re like me, and you shit like crazy within an hour of eating egg, well, here we go.

The recipe is adapted from Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day, which is a total fucking misnomer because when I read that title I think, great, I’ll do 5 minutes today, and 5 minutes tomorrow, and 5 minutes the next day, and I’ll have awesome bread all the time. Nope. It’s more like, Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in an Average of 5 Minutes A Day, If You Have Hermione’s Time-Turner.

But whatever.

The idea is make a huge batch of dough, use a little at a time, and keep the rest in the fridge. It’s a good idea because I’m having pizza tonight. The proof is in the pudding.

Here’s the master recipe, with one important mental energy-saving tweak: I use Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Gluten Free Baking Flour (not to be confused with Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour, which is not low-FODMAP and kind of weird) instead of making my own blend at home. This saves my brain, and it WORKS.

  • 6.5 cups Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Gluten Free Baking Flour (2 lb 3 oz, if you’re going by weight)
  • 1 tablespoon granulated yeast aka 1 packet aka 0.35 oz
  • 1 to 1.5 tablespoons kosher salt, aka 0.6-0.9 oz
  • 2 tablespoons sugar aka 1 oz (this is technically optional, but does help the yeast do its thing and helps the bread brown)
  • Lukewarm (100 degree F) water, 3.75 cups aka 1 pound 14 oz

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix well.

Add the water and mix with a big spoon, a stand mixer with dough hook, or a heavy duty food processor with a dough hook and a 14 cup (or larger) bowl. Once completely mixed through and smooth, mix for an additional minute.

Cover the bowl loosely with beeswax wrap or plastic wrap (or if your bowl has a lid, fit it on there but leave it cracked). Allow the dough to rest on the counter for 2 hours.

And now your dough is ready to store or to bake! To store, pop the bowl in the fridge and leave the wrap or lid loose. Use within 10 days.

FOR BREAD/BAGUETTE/ROLLS: Tear off hunk(s) of dough of desired size and shape on a big piece of parchment paper. Don’t smush down the dough–you’ll end up with a brick. You can shape it most easily with wet fingertips. Allow to rest for 1 hour, during which time you’ll preheat your oven to 450 and place an empty broiler tray or cheap pie pan on the bottom rack of the oven. If you have a pizza stone, put that in the oven to preheat as well. If you don’t, put your heaviest baking sheet in the oven to preheat.

After an hour’s rest, slide the dough-on-parchment onto the pizza stone or baking sheet. Pour a cup of water into the broiler tray or pie pan to create steam while baking–this helps develop a crisp yummy crust. For a crispier bottom, pull out the parchment paper after about 20 minutes in the oven.

A 1-pound boule bakes for about 45 minutes, until the crust is browned and firm to touch. Adjust baking time for smaller or larger loaves.

Then, let the loaf cool. All the way. I KNOW. WHAT KIND OF TORTURE IS THIS?! Fuck!! But seriously, the texture hasn’t reached its final form until it’s cooled all the way, for, like, 2 hours. Cutting into it before then can result in a gummier texture. And if you’ve gone through all this trouble already…

But when you DO cut into it, get your favorite lofo DF spread (helllloooooooo Earth Balance) ready because YUM. And the longer the dough is in the fridge, the yummier and sourdough-ier it starts to taste. Yessss.

FOR PIZZA CRUST: Tear off a 1-pound-ish sized chunk. That’s about the size of a big grapefruit. Put a big piece of parchment paper down on a pizza peel or cutting board and plop your dough onto it. Roll it out with a rolling pin to desired shape. I’ve been rolling mine to somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 inches. Then, let the crust rest for at least an hour.

AN HOUR?! By rolling it out, you’ve smushed down the air pockets that your yeast created during the dough’s initial rest and rise, so you have to let it a) warm to room temp and b) re-rise. Leave it somewhere out of the way and let it do its thing for at least an hour.

About half an hour before your crust is done resting, preheat your oven to 450. If you have a pizza stone, put that in the oven to preheat as well. If you don’t, put your heaviest baking sheet in the oven to preheat.

When all the stars have aligned, slide your crust-on-parchment onto your pizza stone or baking sheet and let it bake for about 12 minutes. At that point, it’ll look pretty blonde but be mostly baked–perfect for topping. Pull it out of the oven and top it quickly before returning to the oven to heat the toppings through.

Oh, yeah. The pizza sauce! Spread it thinly–a thick layer will soggy up your crust.

Here’s an easy AF pizza sauce recipe:

  • 1 14.5 oz can diced or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • Black pepper
  • A dash of white wine vinegar (optional)

Blend it allllll up in your blending apparatus of choice and taste for salt. You could throw in some fresh herbs instead of the dried! Mix it up. As always, check all canned ingredients for lurking onion or garlic powder or other FODMAPs. This will make enough sauce for about 4 pizzas.

Tonight, I’m topping my crust with a thin layer of red sauce, Daiya mozzarella ‘cheese,’ prosciutto, kalamata olives, and roasted poblano pepper.

I’m experimenting with other shortcuts, because as it stands, you still kinda have to work from home/be a stay-at-home parent with an easy-going kid/crew in order to have this pizza ready to eat by dinnertime. I’m trying out freezing the crust after par-baking, for instance. I have my doubts, but it’s worth a try! If I come up with any timesaving or meal prep-friendly hacks, I’ll update.

In the meantime, NOM.

Meatballs!

GF, DF, lofo, egg-free, easy AF. Makes 40ish meatballs, or about enough to fill a 6-cup food storage container.

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1.5 pounds ground pork
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions, greens only
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • Zest of 1 lemon (this takes these meatballs to another levellll)
  • Black pepper
  • Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Throw everything in a bowl and mix–your hands work best for this. Roll into 2-tablespoon-sized balls, make sure they’re not touching when you plop them on your baking sheet, and bake for about 12 minutes.

Boom! You just made a dinner or three! Throw your meatballs in the fridge, or if you’re not sure you’ll eat them all this week, throw half in the freezer. To serve, heat in a non-stick pan til heated through and browned a little.

Dinner idea: make a pot of rice and fry up some sliced red/orange/yellow bell peppers with salt and pepper, and call it good.

What’s for lunch?

GF

DF

Egg-free

Low-FODMAP

Today, turkey tortilla roll-up with salsa.

1. GF corn tortillas. I can handle the gums in commercial tortillas, but you can find gumless torts at Whole Foods-esque stores. Or make your own with masa harina and water.

2. Turkey breast lunch meat. You can find plain-ass lunch meat even at Safeway, but I found this stuff at 365 aka Whole Foods. If you’re at a deli counter, do not hesitate to ask questions and have your friendly deli staff member show you the ingredients on every single hunk of meat behind the counter.

3. Vegan mayo (yes, apple cider vinegar and pea protein is lofo, but check your tolerance) and deli mustard.

4. Salsa. This is a combo of the following lofo ingredients, in proportions that I found tasty:

  • Tomato
  • Radish
  • Cucumber
  • Jicama
  • Red bell pepper
  • Green onion, green part ONLY
  • Cilantro
  • Lime juice
  • Salt

Are you on the low-FODMAP diet? Y’know how people are like “fill your plate with veggies! You can never have too many veggies!!” Well, now you can call bullshit on that assertion, cuz FODMAPs are totally dose dependent. For instance, jicama. In small servings, less than 300 grams, it’s lofo. So I can handle it in this salsa as long as I don’t eat the whole bowl. I’m having maybe a quarter of a cup of a salsa like this at a time, so I know I’m still in the green. But it’s something to keep in mind. I do use some fruits and vegetables that are lofo/”green” on the Monash Univery FODMAP app in small quantities, but always keep them within the “green” serving size.

I learned my lesson by having more than 15 green beans a few weeks ago.

DON’T DO IT.

So have some salsa.

Keyword some.

Holy. Shit.

So it’s been a while.

Since I last posted on this blog, I got pregnant, had a kid, got a rad job, got rectal cancer, quit that job, did the whole cancer treatment life upheaval thing, and am now authentically living the life of my dreams (plus the occasional episode of fecal incontinence and griefsplosion, though the two don’t necessarily always go hand-in-hand). I’ve been through childbirth, chemo, radiation, more chemo, wild surgeries, and a lot of cannabis.

And I’ve been surrounded by love and angels the whole frickin time.

So why am I back to a blog platform? Because in working to heal and recover and integrate, my precious guts have needed some pretty specific dietary consideration. And I’m finding others who hear I’m doing the low-FODMAP thing and are like OMG ME TOO WTF DO I EAT MY DOCTOR GAVE ME A HANDOUT AND EVERYTHING HAS GARLIC IN IT AND I AM SO HUNGRY.

So I’m gonna start posting some recipes, template-y recipes, and food ideas. I have missed exciting, delicious, healthy-ish foods. I’ve gone through a veritable shitload of cream of rice in the last few months and now I’m getting more creative and using my kitchen skills and tools. So I’m gonna share what I’ve been learning.

Currently, my diet looks like this:

  • Gluten-free (since 2008!)
  • Dairy-free (except for some ghee here and there)
  • Egg-free (had my gallbladder removed in December and still can’t eat eggs)
  • Seriously low-FODMAP

Sound relevant to your interests? Join me, and together, we can rule the galaxy!