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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Of Butter and Gems

My brother, Jim, volunteered to cook for my low-iodine diet.

First, let me tell you that Jim does Julie & Julia proud in the “It’s all about butter” department. He lavishes his recipes with butter, sea salt, eggs, cheese, marinades, shrimp, Italian sausage and a lot of other now-forbidden things. He loves bread, sauces of all kinds and salad dressings.

The challenge: prepare his typical gourmet menus without the stuff that makes it gourmet. The first full week of my “diet from hell,” that threw my lifestyle out the window, he turned it into a contest of mixing tasty concoctions out of new and bland “allowed” foods.

Bring on the Fleischmann’s Unsalted, Non-dairy Margarine and non-iodized salt. Forget the bread, eggs, sea salt, dressings, sauces and most of the food I eat and the recipes he uses every day.

His back-deck herb and vegetable garden yielded seasonings that delighted our taste buds; his grill became the center of attention.

Four nights we’ve driven the 30+ miles to his house for dinner. Each time he sent other food and leftovers home with us. Our meals have included ribs, pesto, chicken salad, tacos and chicken kabobs over couscous.

Have I missed the bread, shrimp and other stuff? You bet. Did Jim beat the challenge? Absolutely, he surpassed it, adding in liberal portions of smiles and humor. Instead of drudgery and focusing on the things I couldn’t eat, we laughed and focused on the sumptuous dinners he created with all the things I could.

My challenge with his meals has been to limit myself to the 5 ounces of meat and 4 servings of starches per day. The Thyroid Cancer Survivor’s website ( offers a low-iodine cookbook and advises people prepare menu items ahead of time and freeze them. Since I don’t cook and we frequently eat out, I didn’t even check it out.

All this talk of food is making me hungry. For lunch today, I think I’ll choose between couscous with chicken and pasta with pesto. Which should it be? We’ll see…

I’ll leave you with this thought. If you’re ever faced with a “special-needs” diet, I wish you a gem like Jim.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Where's the Iodine?

Everywhere! It’s in the ground, the plants that grow from the ground and the critters that eat the plants. It’s in the sea and everything that comes from the sea. It’s in the iodized salt that is used in almost all of the commercially prepared food we eat.

Normally I neither think about it nor mind it’s there. However, now I’m on a low-iodine diet preparing for my radioactive iodine treatment. Since the thyroid absorbs iodine, I need to get the iodine level in my body as low as possible. Then when I have the treatment my thyroid cancer cells will love it. Then ZAP! The radiation kills those cells anywhere in my body where they’re running amok. I’m getting ready for the battle.

My first memory of iodine was that nasty red stuff in the bottle that my mom put on my cuts and scrapes (you have to be of a “certain age” to remember that stuff). Stung like the devil! Nasty stuff but it did the job. Now I want it out of my body so I can take a super big dose of it back in! Does that make sense?

So enjoy your grilled steaks, shrimp and lobster, burgers and fries. I’m thinking about you…

Monday, July 19, 2010

My two longest summers

Last winter Everett and I enjoyed South Texas. I edited a manuscript. Joyce and I worked on our new book (Role Call: Women’s Voices) and the spring issue of The Bugle. Everett and I volunteered at the new birding and nature center on South Padre Island. In the evenings I headed out with my camera to the beach, the island or the wildlife refuge. Oh yes, we spent many evenings chasing after Brownsville’s parrot flock – to no avail.

Life was good and my life bounced right along. Mark, our son, visited the week before Easter. I needed to get to Branson to finish up the Bugle. The day after Easter I had my doctor’s appointment. While there, an “Oh by the way…” question turned into two months of tests and a May 28 diagnosis of thyroid cancer.

Life changed. I needed surgery – as soon as possible. My choice was Houston or Kansas City. My family preferred Kansas City. So we immediately headed north. Mark scrambled to find the best doctor to perform the surgery. I think he found the best in Dr. Robert Thompson. My surgery took place on June 11 and I left the hospital minus my thyroid and eight lymph nodes – with the knowledge that cancer was in both sides of my thyroid and 3 of my lymph nodes and instructions for my radioactive iodine treatment.

My endocrinologist, Dr. Mercado, informed me that after my treatment I will have a full body scan to find out if the cancer has metastasized. It’s a summer of waiting and more waiting.

The 2004 summer of Ben’s (my grandson) auto accident stretched on forever. We prayed, waited, and prayed some more. This summer I’m doing much the same thing.

Our book is finished. Joyce and I are now working on the fall issue of The Bugle and I’m starting the second week of preparation for my treatment; a low-iodine diet (you’ll hear more about that later). I’m not finding time for my camera and I miss it.

As life lessons go, I’m learning a lot – about a disease I knew nothing about, about life and most of all about the beautiful support and love of family and friends. I’m learning from others who are fighting their own cancer battles. I’m witnessing strength, faith and unbelievable caring. I’m learning how much each of us means to our family and friends. What a joyous lesson!

Life is a series of adventures with twists and turns. While I never would have chosen this turn - or Ben's accident - I realize both have a purpose and have changed the path of our lives. We are what we are today and we can't change that. While we can't always control the future, we can control the way we face it and what we do about it.