Monday, November 8, 2010

Starting a blog

I've always thought of blogging as somewhat self indulgent. Sure it can keep your family and friends up to date with your lives when you aren't nearby, but that struck me are rather too much like those Christmas letters that some people send to everyone they know that are an excuse to brag about their wonderful children and perfect lives (surely everyone is irked by these, not just me… right?). Also, I'm not really someone who seeks to be the centre of attention - anyone who knows me will know that this the understatement of the century. But I've recently written a couple of posts on (excellent website - if you've found this site because you are searching for stuff about ulcerative colitis, I highly recommend you check it out), and found it to be very cathartic. 

I've also found it really helpful to read some other the blogs of other people with chronic inflammatory diseases, to know I'm not alone, that not going insane and that other people out there feel the same way. If I can do this for just one person, I can justify the self indulgence! (I also adore recipe blogs, so I'll throw some recipes out there as I go too - some of my own creation/adaptation and links to particular favourites from around the place).

Anyway, I guess I'd better say a bit about me (assuming that someone other than my mum is reads this). I'm starting writing this blog because I have ulcerative colitis (UC), and the title is because I am up to my 23rd day on the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD). I'll get back to this a bit later.

I was diagnosed with UC just over a year ago, and had been having symptoms for about 6 months before that. For a while, it defined my whole existence - it's difficult for it not to, when you are in constant pain, going to the bathroom 8-10 times a night, sleeping 3 hours a night (in 20 minute blocks) if you are lucky. I've spent almost 3 weeks in hospital (6-7 days at a time). I lost 12 kilos before getting things under control, and have gain back 7. Thankfully I'm past the worst of it and ,determined not to get back there again, and I'm working towards the point where my life does not revolve around my health. 

Besides UC, I have a pretty full life. I work at the Tax Office as a legal adviser - it's not something I ever saw myself doing, but after getting into tax policy at Treasury when I first started working, tax somehow just seems to click with my rather analytical mind. I've been working 4 days a week since I got sick, and it is the best decision I have ever made. To start with, having Fridays off was to give me more time to attend the many medical appointments and to sleep (having used up all my generous public service, 17 days a year, sick leave in 3 visits to hospital and recovering) but it has more recently turned into a day to shop for food, and prepare food, and just generally enjoy myself. I highly recommend a 4 day week and 3 day weekend to anyone and everyone who can manage it!

I also learn and teach karate. I had been learning karate for about 5 years when my husband (Ben) and I moved away from our home town (Hobart, Tasmania) to Canberra for work. Our Sensei encouraged us to start a karate club, which we have been running for a bit over 5 years. We teach 3 times a week, and train with a couple of fellow black belts once a week, and every visit home is a marathon of karate classes and private lessons, to try to keep up to date and maybe even improve a bit.

I also have a rather severe love/hate relationship with online poker; a crazy little foundling kitten who was excellent company at 4am through the worst of my illness; and an obsession with food. 

Which brings me full circle to what I wanted to be the subject of this post. I have been told by several doctors that diet is not a factor in UC, but quite frankly, I don't believe them. I started on the SCD over 6 months ago (if you want to know more about it, check out but because I was symptom-free due to massive doses of prednisone, I didn't do the introductory diet properly and when my symptoms started up again about 4 weeks ago, I decided to start again and do it properly.

This involves a chicken soup, beef mince, carrot and egg (and yoghurt, if you don't have a problem with dairy) diet for between 2 and 5 days, followed by the gradual reintroduction of other foods, one at a time, at intervals of 2-4 days to observe possible negative reactions (there is a chart of the food stages at Did I mention I am obsessed with food? This has been really difficult, and I have to admit to cheating a bit, adding more than one food at a time and occasional cheating of having advanced foods. 

I'm currently allowed to eat:
Meat and fish
Eggs (lots and lots of eggs)
Cooked: carrot, zucchini (peeled until a couple of days ago), spinach, green beans, pumpkin, tomato, asparagus, apple, pear, sultanas and currants
Raw: avocado, ripe banana
Almond milk, almond butter (and trying almond meal tomorrow)
Yoghurt (lots and lots of yoghurt, homemade, fermented for 24 hours to get rid of the lactose)
Cheddar cheese, parmesan cheese (real stuff made from milk and cultures, not synthetic chemicals)
Sugar-free dijon mustard
Homemade tomato sauce
Oil (olive, grapeseed, macadamia, coconut)
I'm trying really hard not to become obsessive about all bad things in foods, but there are a number of reasons it is difficult. SCD categorises foods as 'legal' and 'illegal' which is a really useful mindset to have. Not just allowed/not allowed but illegal gets you thinking about it in the right way. I also visualise things I can't eat, like sugar and flour, as poison - this is particularly useful to stop me licking my fingers when I'm making biscuits for Ben and have gooey ginger and cinnamon-scented dough all over my hands. And the more I read about sugar substitutes and the various chemicals put into foods (either directly, or feeding/injecting the animals we ultimately eat) the more scary it all seems.

Being on a really restricted diet has made me appreciate food in an extremely intense way. I've always liked food - cooking really tasty things and then savouring eating them in good company. I was the kid that ate the cupcake from the bottom up, to leave the best bit with all the icing til last (okay, I admit it, I still do). But this is something different. I made hollandaise sauce on the weekend, to go with runny poached eggs, rissoles (bacon for Ben) and spinach. I've made it before, and it was good, but this was just divine. A bite of egg, hollandaise, and rissole was one flavour. Runny yolk on rissole another. Spinach, egg white and hollandaise…. I've better stop before I drown in my own saliva.

Then I started work on the cupcakes I'm taking to work for morning tea tomorrow. Lemon meringue - almond based lemony cake, more dense than flour based cupcakes, lemon butter sweetened with honey, and the meringue icing (to be made later this evening). I had to make almond butter in the process and had a bit leftover and just ate a bit off the spoon - kind of like peanut butter, but with a much more subtle flavour. Then I thought, this would go with a dried apricot (one of my occasional cheats - I've had 4 in total since restarting the diet, and they are really moist and gooey and oh so good), so I carefully spread a dried apricot with a teaspoonful of almond butter, and ate it in five little bites, carefully chewing eat one until it disappeared. Soooo good.

It really is the simple little things in life that make it all worthwhile.
Anyhoo, the recipe for the cakes can be found here (milk for the morning cake is not only my current favourite blog, but also a favourite book as a child). Time to go make that icing...

1 comment:

  1. Hey, So happy to see you have started your own blog, and that you are talking opening about your UC. That is so great. I really hope the best for you and your UC for many years to come. We will get a link on the site for you for sure so others can follow your personal blog. Congrats Caherine!!