Wednesday, April 18, 2012

And This One....

...has been a part of our family for over ten years. Longer than Ava. This is Mahalia Jackson, our Shih Tzu. We're not over-the-top pet owners. Well, I mean no offense to anyone who considers their pets their Furry Babies, I just mean we've always known that our pets enhance our family, but are not PART of our family, in that PETA kind of way.

That's why we decided, a year and a half ago, that we were not going to intervene when growths started appearing along her mammaries. We were reassured that she was in no pain, but we've been waiting for that shoe to drop ever since - about 18 months.

Over Easter weekend, we saw some alarming symptoms which made us think the time had come. We were sad all Easter day and dreading the trip I'd make with the pup to the vet first thing Monday morning. Before the kids went to school on Monday, I encouraged them to give her extra loving, since I anticipated that it would be goodbye. Brooks petted and sighed heavily. Sophia refused to pet or even look at the dog, until right before she walked out the door, sobbing. Ava was nonstop tears, interspersed with flinging herself down to Mahalia's bed where she could hug her.

I cried for my kids.

Lo and behold the vet told us that her symptoms were unrelated to the presumed Doggie Breast Cancer. It was the result of an infected uterus, which led to alarming blood work and significant blood loss. Somehow we ultimately decided that surgery was a good investment for our family. They removed the infected uterus and did a lumpectomy to do a biopsy.

All is going well. I even got a call from the vet yesterday to say that the results of the biopsy came back and the lumps are benign! It makes us feel better about the investment in her health. We're not waiting for the cancer shoe to drop anymore. She's not a pup anymore, but she likely has many more years of good health ahead of her.

"First you take my uterus, then you take my dignity." - Mahalia the Dog

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

This One...

...has migraine headaches. Has had since she was two years old. When they started and she was tiny, they often came in the early morning hours. She would wake up crying and would spend an hour or so writhing in misery, crying, until she either fell asleep or threw up. Both of these actions served as a bit of a solution. She would finish either job feeling significantly better.

We had the big tests done and had the scary stuff ruled out. But the headaches persisted. Eventually, the severeness of them subsided, but as she entered adolesence, the frequency increased. For the first half of the school year, she needed to take ibuprofin every morning at breakfast.

I was sad and concerned. And I was sad and concerned out loud. People suggested things. Some of the suggestions we heeded. She hasn't had caffiene in a year. We are careful to give her adequate rest. These things help some.

Recently a friend told me that the only thing that solved their family member's migraine problem was getting off gluten. I had to try.

Reader Jenny asked for an update on the gluten-free experiment, so here are my observations to this point.

1. Cooperativeness of subject - much better than expected. It shouldn't have surprised me. Sophie is an adventurous eater so she doesn't mind trying new things. She is a middle child so she thinks it's special that many foods are being chosen specially for her. She doesn't feel well and wants to feel better. This all adds up to a relatively pain-free experiment.

2. Ease in providing the food - not without difficulty, but again, a bit better than I expected. Gluten-free girl MaryBeth told me that lunches are the most inconvenient and that's the case all right. Sophia doesn't mind taking a packed lunch and I don't mind packing it. We find gluten-free bread at our health food co-op and she might take a ham, or a PB, or a Nutella sandwich. Sometimes she will take a ham roll-up, with a bit of cream cheese inside. Other times a salad. Other go-withs: fresh fruits and vegetables, string cheeses or mini goudas, yogurt, these awesome gluten-free rice and nut crackers we found (if there are any left after I get to them). On days when I feel rushed, she might pack her own, but if we both feel rushed, there is always the salad bar at her school.

Here I have to brag on my local co-op a bit. Soon after starting the new diet, I had an opportunity to travel to The Big City, which has both a Trader Joes and a Whole Foods. I was excited to see what I imagined would be abundant and varied offerings in the specialty diet area. Really, I found very little that I hadn't already found at home.

3. Hidden gluten - This is one that worries me a bit. I'm not really sure what I'm looking for on labels. Mostly I avoid breads, pastas, cereals and their ilk unless I find one labeled gluten-free. I also rely on similarly eating (and more experienced) folks around me. Celiac Spouse Stacy made me so happy when she said corn tortillas are ok for taco night. We heart Taco Night.

What worries me is the stuff it never occurred to me to wonder about. MaryBeth tells me that there is gluten-free soy sauce available because most SOY sauce lists wheat as the first ingredient! Huhn. And as we searched for gluten-free cake recipes, we found one that called for baking soda and one that called for gluten-free baking soda. So is it safe or not?

4. Cost - more expensive, for sure. One caveat being that scooping my own measurements of rice flour out of the bulk bins at the co-op is a lot cheaper than buying the pre-packaged stuff at the supermarket.

5. Eating other people's meals - tricky. But so far, not insurmountable. A week into the diet, we were invited to a small group church carry-in where the host provided macaroni and cheese as the main dish. We found a rice pasta version and brought a pot of that for us. We figured she would be able to find some other things to eat there also. Some things were safe for her but of course there was no dessert she could eat and that made her sad. Solution: carry a gluten-free breakfast bar in my purse or hers so that she can have a sweet that is portable and handy.

6. Tastiness of the special foods - so far so good. A couple of things have even tasted better to Sophia than the original versions.

7. Effectiveness in treating Sophia's migraines - still hoping for better. Look, there is no denying that there is improvement. She has taken very little medicine for her pain since we started 2.5 months ago and she really, truly had been taking it every single day before that. But I'm always asking her to score her pain. "What's your head right now on a scale of 0-10?". And she has never, EVER said zero. Perhaps it takes time to completely purge her system?

We'll keep trying. And if there's anything to report, we'll keep posting.