“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” ~ Jonathan Swift

Monday, November 23, 2009

Healthy Fall Soups

I have been celebrating Fall (or the little that's left of it) by cooking up some healthy soups.  Though the two soups look a lot alike, they are radically different in taste.  I need a new digital camera so everything seems to look yellow-orange these days.  

The first soup is a Curried Sweet Potato Soup.  I don't particularly care for sweet potatoes but begrudgingly bought some because they are touted for being anti-inflammatory.   This soup was excellent and very easy to prepare.  My only adjustment to the original recipe was in the way I roasted the potatoes.  I used the Cook's Illustrated method because the potatoes caramelize so well--trust me, you will eat these like candy.  The resulting soup was very flavorful with hints of curry that are balanced out by the sweetness of the potatoes and coconut milk.  Make sure you eat this soup with lots of bread or with another side; though delicious, it's not particularly filling.  My roommate has adapted the original recipe by substituting pureed pumpkin for the sweet potato.  She swears it's tastier than sweet potato.  I dislike pumpkin even more than sweet potato, so I'll just stick to the original.

The second picture, a pureed chickpea soup, was hearty and satisfying.  No need to strain the soup--it's still tasty.  Besides, who has time to strain hot soup?  From soaking to actual cooking time, this soup took an eternity to make.  I was too hungry to strain it!  Just make sure you stir the mixture when reheating as it tends to separate over time.  As you can see, I like to eat my soup with lots of bread (sssh. I am not supposed to eat too much refined white flour).  Whole Foods makes an affordable Artisan Ciabatta loaf that rings in at under $3.  I couldn't resist.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

S-L-O-W Reading

As promised, I have started to use my eye patch on a somewhat regular basis.  This is a way to keep my eye from a type of atrophy. Because the vision in my right eye is so compromised, a big concern is that my brain will "forget" I have two eyes.  Thus, even though I do still have some vision in the affected eye, there's a chance that my brain will get too tired trying to use a gimpy eye and just switch fully to my left, un-affected eye.  The result: full blindness--regardless of how much vascular or inflammatory activity I may actually be experiencing.

My goal is to finish reading Gilead by Marilynne Robinson using only my right eye.  I have about 100 pages left to go, so this could take a long long while.  Why this book?  I actually started reading it a while ago but tend to put it down after a few pages because it makes me drowsy.  The book is actually not bad, just very quiet in tone so I tend to zone out.  I figured that I probably won't be able to read more than a couple pages with the eye patch on anyways, so it would be an ideal read.  Secondly, though the print is pretty standard (12 pt), the lines are double-spaced and much easier on the eyes---errr, eye.  

The other night I tried reading as much as I could before I became completely exhausted.  I survived only two pages before I thought my eyeball would fall out.  It took me about 10 minutes to piece together the two pages.  Afterward, I re-read the passages with both eyes to check my comprehension.  I discovered that I tend to have the greatest difficulty with the text near the margins of the center book binding.  This makes sense because I no longer have central vision in my right eye.  

All in all, not a bad experience I guess.  It was frustrating when I couldn't make out some letters no matter how hard I tried.  But it was comforting to know that I could read some text, even with a lot of effort.  Above all, it made me grateful that I still had one good eye.  What a difference it makes to still have one completely unaffected eye...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Two! Dos! Deux! Due!

2009 may have begun as the terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad-year, but it looks like it may end on a positive note.  (Watch, my luck is gonna turn just because I said that.  Oh brother. No more of your tricks, Universe!)

Today marks the second successful eye appointment of the year!  These days, I define successful as walking out without any vascular activity and most importantly, injection-free.  I did not make gains on the eye chart, but at least things did not worsen.  I'm "holding steady" as Dr. B calls it.

Before checking out the situation, Dr. B asked me if I thought things had improved.  I told him honestly that I did not know.  Secretly, I feared that my eyes had worsened.  I've been eating a lot of junk lately and not really taking care of myself.  The heartache of the World Series meant that I treated myself to pizza and ale while staying up way past my bedtime.  A few weeks ago, I fought a nasty cold and graded an insane amount of student work.  Then Halloween happened, and I'm left staring at a cauldron of candy that smells good even through plastic wrappers.  I don't think the guilt really hit until last night, which was spent worrying over everything I had done the past three months.  This resulted in feeling bad about not sleeping and what that would do to my eye blah blah blah.  Basically, I worried about my worry.  Unproductive but it happens.

But ta-da!  Great eye appointment, and I'm not due to see the doc until February.  

So, I'm left with a couple questions:

* Is my diet truly working?
* Maybe my diet works...but not necessarily the whole  of it?  Do I really need to eliminate meat and flour?  Or are my pharmacy-grade fish oil capsules doing a great job?  Funny, I'm also asking these questions as I munch happily on my celebration snack of bread, cheese, and prosciutto.  Oh, I missed you prosciutto!  How great would it be if I could eat bread and meat as much as I wanted?!?
* Maybe the decreased stress levels are at work.
* Or, as Dr. B insists, Avastin and Lucentis are the true miracle workers here.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Incredible, Edible (Omega-3) Egg!

I hate breakfast.  Hate it.  Waffles and pancakes, no thanks.  French toast, who cares?  Omelettes, fine.  I am probably eating such a late breakfast because I hate it so much.  But here's the problem: I totally need breakfast.  If I don't get fed in a timely manner, I morph into crazy cranky person or catatonic lady.  No good.

However, as I type this, I am scarfing down my new favorite breakfast (yeah yeah, breakfast at 2pm.  Don't give me that look.  Like I said, I hate breakfast.)  Anyways, welcome to sauteed kale and fried eggs!  Mmmm.  I keep telling myself that I should upload more photos of my meals, but I ate this one too quickly.  Sorry.

I love this meal because 1) it's healthy and anti-inflammatory and 2) quick.


olive oil
1-2 minced garlic cloves
2 eggs (preferably omega-3 rich and organic)
a large handful of kale
red pepper flakes
salt and black pepper

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan.  Then add the minced garlic and saute for about a minute.  Add kale (just washed is best because the moisture from the rinsing will help with steaming) and saute until the kale becomes slightly wilted and maintains a deep green color.  I like my kale hearty so I don't saute for more than 5 minutes.  Add a dash of red pepper flakes for a kick.  Transfer kale and garlic to a plate.  Then crack two eggs into your hot pan and fry as desired.  Place cooked eggs atop your lovely bed of kale, sprinkle with S&P, and add a dash of soy sauce.  YUM.

Maybe my hatred of breakfast will transform into a like, or at least apathy?  When I'm in a real bind for time, or just a zombie after work, I'll add brown rice to this dish for an easy dinner.  Sometimes I substitute the garlic with slivers of onion or ginger as well.  

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Behold...the Truffle!

I am stuck in the house.  Too poor to do anything fun and very bored.  So, what to do?  Make truffles, of course!  

I found a fantastic vegan truffle recipe which uses cashew cream in place of traditional heavy cream.  My roommate has a Vita Mixer so the cashews were no match, and in seconds I had cashew cream!  I doctored the recipe a bit by adding a tablespoon of coffee.  When the mixture was chilled, I used a melon baller to get equally sized chunks, rolled them by hand, and coated them in toasted coconut, cocoa powder, and regular coconut flakes.  The coconut flakes are admittedly sweetened, but I often don't eat my own desserts anyway.  You could easily make this entirely-sugar free by using unsweetened flakes.

I did save two truffles for myself and plan to indulge later tonight.  A little sweetened coconut won't hurt, I suppose.

Aren't they cute?!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Ominous News

I usually check out the New York Times' "Health" section for healthful (and often anti-inflammatory) recipes.   What I found today was disturbing.  Before I could even check out a recipe, I was distracted by another link.  Check out this alarming article on curtailing Avastin's use.

I know this article mainly pertains to Medicare, but I can't help worrying.  What may this mean for me and my insurance coverage at some point in the future?  

Avastin has been the only treatment that has worked for me.  Granted, my doctors and I have not found anything close to a cure for whatever this Multi Focal Choroiditis may be...however, the Avastin has often staved off blindness in a pinch for me.  To complicate matters, at my last appointment, I was told that my insurance was not pleased with my latest Lucentis injection and threatened to pull my coverage on that one.   The NYTimes article hinted that doctors would then be encouraged to switch to Lucentis, which I definitely can not afford at face value.  If I now am in danger of losing Avastin, this could be very bad, no good news...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Questions, comments, thoughts, clarifications?

Health benefits and emotional rollercoaster effects aside, the most fascinating part of my diet journey has been...other's reactions.  Who would have thought? 

For such an image conscious society, Americans really can't handle the concept of healthy dieting. Apparently, eating healthy is something that really skinny people (yours truly) can't engage in healthfully.  This makes no sense of course; healthy eating should be everyone's domain no matter your natural size.  With school resuming, I am once again under extreme scrutiny when it comes to what I do and do not eat.   As many of you know, I've been dealing with outlandish accusations of eating disorders for all my life.  I'm not going to launch into a defensive diatribe; just suffice it to say that I really don't have a disorder and know my body pretty well.   Call it my personal homeostasis.  

When I'm home, all is well.  I buy my groceries for the week, prepare my meals, and eat them in relative privacy.  My roommate has a host of health problems too, so neither of us accidentally tempt each other with junk food.   Then I go to work and am surrounded by a staff and students who have real issues with the way I'm eating.   Why is she eating so healthy?  Is she on a diet to lose weight?   This is all the more difficult when very nice people want to share their desserts or candy (Halloween...ugh).  When I say no over and over again, I get puzzled looks and probably some suspicions that I'm on a deprivation diet.  Sometimes folks even get borderline angry when I absolutely refuse to eat their junk.  One coworker of mine actually screamed at me "What's wrong with you?  Live a little for crying out loud."  He then literally tried to force me to eat potato chips.  

So, what to do?  I don't like to talk about my health problems at work (being "blind girl" is really just something I'd rather avoid) and especially among folks who probably think my real health problem is anorexia or bulimia.  I just eat my meal and go; I don't make snarky comments about their nasty-processed-barely-200-calories-Lean-Cuisine (at least not to their faces...only in the cowardly safety of my blog).  These days, I often hide in my classroom; it's really not worth the aggravation and if I keel over dead from food deprivation one day, then "I told you so" will be in order.   I also think it's really sad that our society has such a skewed perception of "living healthy"--as if living healthy is only for folks who are currently struggling with weight issues.  This makes no sense to me.  Even thin people need to live healthily--it's a dangerous myth to believe that skinny people can unload junk into their systems.  Case in point: myself.  These last few months have taught me that my diet really can have positive/pernicious effects on my health.  

On that note, here are some healthy and sugar-free preoccupations for you:

1) Sugar, my sweet enemy, has been on my brain.  I discovered a fascinating and informative blog about one person's quest to cut out refined sugar.  The blog has helped me stay current on the sugar industry's insidious public relations efforts.  I've also picked up some great habits, like using agave as my primary sweetener. Check it out: www.myyearwithout.blogspot.com

2) Remember my obsession over ice cream?  Well, I've found a great compromise: Larry and Luna's line of vegan, soy-free, and sugar-free ice cream!  It's delicious and creamy and oh-so-good.  I love the chocolate coconut and am on the hunt for the cherry flavor.  At 5-6 bucks a pop, they are pricey but at least I feel guilt-free about digging in.  Warning: there are other brands that offer very similar products, but I know from experience that L&L is the real McCoy.

3) I love Banana Whip.  Have you had it?  It's a staple at the Jersey Shore; someone had the brilliant idea to take ripe frozen bananas and push them through a Champion Juicer.  The result is a frozen, whipped, gooey banana goodness that rivals the richness of ice cream.   Nothing is added!  Incredible.  Apparently, bananas contain a compound that allows it to become glutinous upon whipping.  I was able to replicate Banana Whip without a $200 Champion Juicer (though I did perform a quick eBay search...).  Get some ultra-ripe bananas, freeze in chunks, and then whip in a food processor with one-two tablespoons of plain yogurt.  Whip to a fluffy consistency.  This morning,  I added some Kashi cereal to the mix for crunch but you can throw in other frozen fruit or top with some dark chocolate and whipped cream for dessert.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Hear ye, hear ye!

Let today, August 31st, be forever remembered as the first all-around fantastic eye appointment of 2009.

Good news #1:  I made significant gains on the eye chart. I was just rattling off all these letters and the technician just kept giving me more and smaller lines to read...crazy.  Granted, I didn't read them all in order; it counts nonetheless.  For example, a line of the eye chart might read: C A O V.  My flashes of light and shadows often crawl over my field of vision, so I generally see O V, wait for the flashes and shadows to drift, then the C and A emerge.  Indeed, when I cover up my good eye and try to read, my brain is able to understand words even when I read 'backwards'.  I don't get it either, but I'll take it.

Good news #2: After three doctors shined bright lights into my dilated eyes and an OCT scan (sort of like an ultrasound but for your retina), I was deemed "activity free."  This means that I have no neovascular activity and thus, no fluid (blood) in the back of my eye!  Always a good thing to hear especially when all those lights literally left me seeing hot pink for minutes afterward.

Good news #3: Activity free means no injection!  In fact, this was the first appointment in 2009 that did not end with a needle penetrating my eyeball.  I know you love that visual...This news was doubly good to hear because my insurance is apparently not thrilled about the heavy cost of my last Lucentis injection.  They "nicely" covered my last one but today I was informed that future injections might not be covered.  Crummy, huh?  I kind of liked Avastin better anyways...but I'm not thrilled about the prospect of having insurance bail out on me.  

2.5 hours later, I walked out of the hospital feeling fancy-free.  I celebrated my successful appointment by buying some much-needed clothes for work and a book.  When I got home, I ate a tomato and fresh mozzarella salad with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.   Now I'm gonna sit back and let all those anti-inflammatory goodies do their magic...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sugar, Oh Honey Honey

For most of my life, I have never considered myself as having a "sweet tooth."  I like salty foods--potato chips, french fries, pickles, the salt rim of margaritas.  I hardly order dessert and when I do, I usually share.  Whenever I bake, I give away most of the goodies.  Even sugar cravings were never really an issue.  A little nibble of chocolate or one cookie could take care of it pretty easily.

But that was before I made my drastic diet overhaul.

Avoid or eliminate sugar.  That is one of my anti-inflammatory guidelines and up until recently, I thought that would be one of the easiest rules to follow.  I thought French Fries and buffalo wings would be my biggest sacrifices: WRONG.   Ok not true, my heart still hurts for them...let's not dwell on these delicious foods.  Anyways, turns out that sugar is becoming very hard to give up.  It's not that I'm not trying.  Take a look at some food labels: sugar is everywhere.  Even in the saltiest foods--SUGAR.  

As a result, I have been trying to cut out sugar as much as possible.  The result: intense sugar cravings.  In my previous life, I never had sugar cravings, but I suppose my sugar fix was being satisfied little by little in all my salty foods.  Now, I think about sweets all the time.  Occasionally, when I indulge in a sweet, I devour it and want more!  More ice cream!  More candy bar!  

You might say: just do it.  Sometimes I say that too and they next thing you know, I am eating all this junk.  Sugar has been connected with inflammatory responses, and we all know that's something I do not need whatsoever.  Anti-inflammatory gurus tell me to discover the natural sweetness of fruits and rely on strong spices to bring out flavors.  I discovered that a long time ago.  In the process, I discovered that sugar does a pretty good job too.

So, what to do?  First, I thought I could rely on honey and cane-sugar, believing these to be more "natural" sources.  Some recent internet searches reveal that these are just as bad as sugar!  I am also not into this whole artificial sweetener baloney, which I'm convinced will lead to other terrible health conditions in time.  I might look into Agave, which many use in place of honey.  We shall see.  Stevia also seems worth looking into.  But the price tags are enormous.

Following this diet is tough.  When I am disciplined and stick to the diet, I feel like I'm a diabetic vegetarian with a gluten-allergy.  Needless to say, I cut corners a lot.  For example, today I made zucchini muffins using 1 cup of honey, and the other day I made coconut ice cream using 1.5 cups of sweetened coconut flakes.   Not surprisingly, both recipes came out slightly less sweet than their sugar cousins but also still a little sweet.

If you have insights on natural sweeteners, please help!

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Summer So Far

I'm baaaaaaaack!  So, after going into blog-hiding for over a month, I really don't have much to report.  How...pathetic.

The diet is going well, though I do find that summertime treats like ice cream and cold happy hour drinks tempt me too often.  Overall, I've been pretty good.  My CSA box keeps me on my toes in terms of recipes.  I've had everything from zucchini soup to muffins and this week may try zucchini stuffed with feta.  Too much zucchini!  And beets!  A girl can only eat so many beets.  Last week I roasted them, sliced them into matchsticks, and rolled them in some brown rice, tofu and nori for a weird veggie-sushi combination.  It was not bad but not necessarily something I'd repeat.  At least it was super healthy and anti-inflammatory.  Riiiiight.

Thankfully, the most exciting part of my summer has nothing to do with my eye.  I took a much-needed vacation to Mexico and indulged in lots of treats not approved by my diet: strong delicious margaritas, flan, coconut ice cream, flour and corn tortillas, and coca-cola (which, by the way, was the one thing I had resisted for the longest time).  However, I was also very good in Mexico.  The seafood is so abundant and fresh that I usually ordered the shrimp or fish tacos anyway.  On my final two days of the trip, I contracted a mild but still unpleasant stomach virus.  The way I see it, it really doesn't matter if I put all that junk in my body because I'm pretty sure it went right through my system anyway!  


Monday, June 22, 2009


My doctor's appointment today went really well.  Left eye is fine, as usual, and Ol' Rightie gained a few lines on the eye chart!  Woohoo!  Yeehaw!   Doctors are super happy too...so happy they decided to give me another injection.  I think this is like #4 or 5 or something for 2009; perhaps we should start celebrating anniversaries together.  Today, I was given a Lucentis injection, which operates similarly to Avastin; however, according to my doctor, Lucentis offers a more powerful dose of blood-vessel-zapping power.  That said, it's also more short lived.  Doctor hopes to regain as much of my eyesight as quickly as possible.  I see him again in late August.

I don't know much about Lucentis except that a lot of MFC folks receive this treatment.  If you have any insights into Lucentis, please leave me a message.   

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Checking In and Checking Out

I don't have much to report except that I am eating a delicious anti-inflammatory meal as I write this.  My CSA has been slowly...slowly...improving, and today I received a bunch of beets.  So I stopped by the fish market for salmon steaks.  Though I take fish oil caplets daily, I like to eat actual fish for protein and extra omega-3s; I am also trying to gain weight sort of (un)sucessfully--packed on three pounds what what!  


When I got home, I peeled and sliced the beets, tossed them in olive oil with salt and pepper, and roasted them for 30 minutes at 375.  My salmon steaks were similarly prepared.  As an added bonus, I de-stemmed the beet greens and chopped them into smaller chunks before quickly sauteing them in garlic and olive oil.  The end result: a colorful, tasty, and healthy meal.  I am always impressed by how far salt, pepper, and olive oil can take a meal.  All three ingredients taste radically different but also complementary.

I have another appointment on Monday, which makes me nervous.  Work has been eventful--too stressful actually--and I hope Ol' Rightie knows better than to let a little stress get to it.  Cross your fingers.   Back to my dinner!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

More than Fine in 2009

I think I am on the verge of something BIG: my eyesight is slowly improving.

I am sure of it now.  I just closed my good eye and tried to read a chunk  of the newspaper.  

"G.M. essentially came under government control when it received its first federal loans from the Bush administration in late December..."  

I read that!  I could READ that. With only my bad eye!  No help from the other good eye!  It was amazing.  I want to read everything now.  But I won't because my right eye is now really tired after trying to read a measly paragraph. It's taking too long to read anything longer with just a gimpy eye.  Letters and lines are still swirly and wave-like, and it takes a minute for my brain to reorder them into the right sequence.  

You may think that this is a small accomplishment.  No, this is a BIG deal.   A couple months ago, I would have seen a dark circle in my central vision, resembling a solar eclipse of sorts.  But today, I can see colors and shapes and some letters.  Maybe they are all jumbly and a bit shadowed, but this is so much more than I had.  And though I am ecstatic, I must accept the sobering reality that there is indeed permanent damage to my retina.  I may regain some eyesight, but I will always have impaired vision because of retinal scarring.  

But let's not forget this wonderful moment.  I want to celebrate and throw a big party full of healthy food and things I can try to read.  Ok, not really.  But I am pretty excited.

In honor of today's great news, I would like to take moment to thank all the important folks who have helped my eyesight get to where it is today.

1) Thanks, crazy-healthy-strict-diet.  You make me eat inordinate amounts of tofu, brown rice, salmon, leafy green vegetables, green tea, and nasty vegan protein shakes.  I am actually getting sick of you, diet, and sometimes I really resent you. But you help me see (more of) the world.  So, I appreciate you, and I will continue this strange journey til death do us part.  Nevermind that I am constantly craving potato chips, french fries, soda, coffee, ice cream, candy, cake, chicken wings, burgers...

2) I'd also like to thank my health insurance plan.  You are awesome, health insurance.  You pay for my super expensive fish oil capsules and my ridiculous eye appointments which cost anywhere from $700-$6,000 a visit. My scary Avastin injections aren't so scary now that they only cost $15.  I can't wait to thank you after next year, when I get tenure and even better health insurance coverage.  

3) Thanks, doctors at Wills Eye. You guys have been taking care of me since 2004 and doing all sorts of things to make me feel better.  From steroids to cold and hot lasers and Avastin injections, you just want me to feel better.  And when those don't work, you tell me that I'm the sharpest MFC patient they've had and that my eye patch doesn't hamper my fashion at all (true story).  I like that.  I can't wait to see you again on June 22 and master that stupid eye chart.

4) Friends and family, you get thanks today too!  You all have been great and let me eat really healthy.  You go out of your way to cook vegetarian or fish for me, or research restaurants that have anti-inflammatory things to eat.   You ask me about the diet and don't make me feel bad about eating healthy.  And when I fall off the wagon, it's usually because it was my bad idea to begin with.  Ahem, except for one of you who trekked through NYC to fetch us some cigarettes...that was a bad idea, esp. because I don't remember how many I smoked and because I kind of liked it. This maybe worse than the bajillion drinks I had this weekend.   Did I mention I also ate chicken? And beef.  Crap.

Regardless, I am thrilled.  Finally, good things are happening in 2009.  Yesterday, a college friend asked me "On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you?"  Without hesitation, I said "I am a nine".  Another college friend told me she thought I looked "so healthy" and "radiantly serene".  

Well, if your eyesight was slowly returning, wouldn't you be all this, too?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hello Out There

One of the main reasons I created this blog was to keep some friends and family more easily in the know.  It's a lot simpler for me to just update the blog than rehash the same conversation and facts with each person.  Also, sometimes it is difficult and/or awkward bringing this stuff up.  

However, I chose to keep the blog public and readily accessible.  The paranoid teacher inside me still worries about this.  But I do a pretty good job of keeping my disability a secret at work; today a student even told me she thought I was too healthy to need health insurance...riiiiight.  Though I do struggle over the blog's privacy settings, I am intrigued to find that there are some new readers to my blog.  Who are you?  How did you find my blog?  Do you have multi focal choroiditis too?  Do you know someone who does?  Why are you following my weird blog that often has no focus? I would really like to hear from you, so please comment.

In other news, I am beginning to think that my diet might actually be working.  On the airplane this past weekend, I nearly shocked myself when I realized that I could see--and see well!  The flashes of light were significantly calmer; I even closed my good eye and discovered that I could see much more through my left eye.  This news kept me happy for the rest of the flight.   Then, I spent the rest of the weekend eating processed flour, chocolate cake, and drinking lots of alcohol.  The joke was that I'd return to Philadelphia blind.  And what do you know?  My flashes of light are indeed a bit more intense than before the trip.  Back to being good...but a trip to New York City awaits me this weekend.  Being good in New York City?  Oxymoron!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

And that makes three

It's been an eventful year for ol' Rightie here.  A post-operation follow-up appointment last week ended in...you guessed it, another Avastin injection.  This makes the third injection in 2009, and I haven't even made it to the midpoint.  

Am I upset? Actually, not really.  I was pumped for last week's appointment and convinced that there would be better news.  In a sense, there was; I was able to read more of the eye chart than previously.  Doctor wanted to give me another injection because he's confident that I can regain more and more eyesight with increased injections.  At first, I was confused because I used to associate these terrible injections with bad news.  Turns out, I have had very little exposure to these treatments compared to the typical MFC patient.  Some folks have as many as 22 injections in one year!  Holy cow!  Though neither of us anticipate 22 treatments, we both understand that I will probably have more injections as the months go by.  

Indeed, I honestly feel like I am gaining more and more eyesight as the days go by.  I have another appointment in June, so I'm quite hopeful.  My doctor has also tweaked terminology with the billing department, and I am no longer required to pay for a single lick of these injections!  

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Way I Live Now

I stumbled across a fascinating and enlightening article in the New York Times today. Eating for Eye Health confirms what I hoped my anti-inflammatory diet would do for me all along.  Though the article dealt with age-related macular degeneration, its findings are noteworthy and meaningful for those of us with macular degeneration. Period.   The article does not mention it by name, but all its food recommendations are perfectly in line with the anti-inflammatory way of eating.

Thank goodness.

When I began my anti-inflammatory diet, I honestly just sort of took a stab in the dark.  Anti-inflammatory diets are not concerned with ocular inflammation. Most folks think of inflammation of the joints...or some other tangible chronic pain.  My inflammation is a silent and painless one---when my right eye is duking out all sorts of neovascular and hemorrhaging activity, I honestly don't feel a thing.  At best/worst, I might get a headache because the flashes of light become overwhelming.  I embarked upon this diet out of hopelessness more than anything else.  Whether the diet could help ocular inflammation was a big unknown.

And then the article!  It's a small ray of hope for me.  Surely, some part of all this must help.

Today, my CSA with Lancaster Farm Fresh began.  My box was on the smaller side (typical for the early season) and filled with the makings of salad (lettuce, arugula, cress, radishes, mushrooms, scallions, and rhubarb).  I picked up some other goodies at the market, along with some fish because I was motivated by the article; my plan is to make some salad with seared salmon.  For dinner tonight I had leftover risotto with carrots and leeks.  I added a simple salad of lettuce, grape tomatoes, mushrooms, balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkle of flax seeds.  It was a very springtime dinner, which was a nice diversion from all the rain we've been experiencing lately.

...as for the rhubarb.  I'm going to try my hand at a rhubarb crisp, of which I will have one bite.  Friends will hopefully finish the rest.   Perhaps I'll see if I can track down a healthy rhubarb dessert recipe.  

Monday, April 27, 2009

Excuse me. Have you seen my diet?

I've been really bad!  This past weekend's beautiful weather made everything seem like a great idea.  


You know, just when I was thinking about how I should detox from that greasy Teacher Appreciation luncheon, I fell off the wagon.  The weekend began with a bang with a bunch of friends in Olde City.  I was only supposed to have my one beer but then here I was, with a tequila sunrise.  At least I ate a Clif Bar before going out???


I woke up kind of hungover, being a lightweight these days.  Outside was 90 degrees and sunny!  I scampered around town picking up anti-inflammatory goodies; this was probably wishful thinking.  When I went home, I made yogurt (also wishful) and then met up with friends for a pre-dinner dinner.  Water ice!  Vegetarian Burrito!  Corona!  All in my tummy.  The beautiful weather made everything look so delicious and refreshing--and they were.  I had a great time. 

Ok, so what?  Big deal.  Just stop eating bad stuff after that, right?  

A good college friend was visiting, so the night was just getting started.  Here is where things went exponentially south. Hoping to show him a taste of the Philly foodie scene, I booked reservations at Matyson.  Both being very good walkers, we showed up too early and headed to a nearby bar where I decided to have what he was having: Jack Daniels on the rocks.  Like I said, everything just seemed like a fantastic idea this past weekend.  Dinner was good and I tried to stick to my anti-inflammatory plan.  We split a lump crab "cocktail" thing and then I had seared scallops.  Along the way, we are easily going through our bottle of wine.  Naturally, dessert seemed like a good idea!  I read glowing reviews of their butterscotch pudding, so you can see where this is headed.  It was so good!  So good!  I don't even care for sugar, but this was like drinkable dang it.


I had to take him to Capogiro.  HAD TO.  He ordered the tangerine and dark chocolate.  For myself, the tangerine and Mexican chocolate.  At some point, we swapped so I guess I ended up eating dark chocolate too.  The weather was so wonderful, we decided to end the night with margaritas.  At this point, I was so drunk he ended up finishing my drink, thank goodness.

On Sunday, I woke up with a raging hangover and an aching tummy.  This is my retribution for playing with my diet these days.  Playtime was over and I tried to get my act together.  I drank tons of water and met up with my mama for some steamed fish and sauteed snow pea greens.  It's time to detox for real.  This week's lineup of meals include pasta with seared shrimp, salmon and lentils, and quinoa stuffed bell peppers.   Along the way, I'll be popping fish oil capsules and drinking my Vega protein shakes...

Monday, April 13, 2009

2009: Year of Stupid

The universe hates me.  I am sure of it now and wonder how stupid 2009 will get before I hit bottom.  I had a disheartening eye appointment today.  My vision has worsened since December and there's blood in the back of my eye.  After five hours at Wills Eye, I walked out with another Avastin injection, a $15 copay, a $100 injection bill, and a tender bloodshot eye.  I ended up bursting into tears at the doctor's office, which was mortifying and another stupid thing that happened. Hey, at least my antibiotic drops were free...thanks, universe.

So, now I'm questioning a lot of things.  I was so excited about my new approaches but it's been close to five months now.  I am trying to get my new batch of acupuncture treatments refunded; at $500 a month, I'm not convinced this is worth it.  I'm broke and stressed about being broke...on top of stressing about all those other things 2009 has dumped on me (personal life falling apart, crashed hard drive, piling debt, lost luggage...it's really getting a bit unbelievable).  

What to do?  I'm free and clear of auto-immune activity, so I'm back at square one.  My retina specialist has a hunch that this is infectious in origin but that's all he's got.  Hopefully I can get my acupuncture refund and that will help ease my mind.  I'm still sticking to the diet though; I have had too many other health benefits and honestly, I like eating healthier.  

Here's to my rotten day.  I'm gonna finish my soy chicken cheese steak now and then drown my sorrows in really bad television.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A New Dilemma

So, my magical diet has created a new problem: I'm losing too much weight.  I know some people might think I sound obnoxious.  How can you complain about losing weight? Well, if you are born tiny and every pound is literally more than one percentage of total weight, this is worth worrying about.  At first, it was kind of a novelty to see my little paunch gradually shrink.  But then, I kept shedding the pounds.  

Now, I'm struggling to maintain a weight above 90 pounds and getting worried that I'll dip into the 80s.  I have always been a small person (a petite 5 ft), but I have not been this thin since high school...I can easily wear three shirts without any loss in mobility and today, I had to adjust my skirt which kept trying to turn itself backwards. Oh yeah, I can also slip my pants off with any unbuttoning or unzipping--convenient and efficient, no?  Er, not to mention completely sexy. ;)

But I guess the kicker came when my therapist changed the subject today to tell me she was worried.  I'm shrinking at a rapid rate and "can't bear to lose anymore," she says.  She specializes in eating disorders, and I couldn't help but wonder if she suspected a disorder (story of my life).  So now I'm off to see another medical professional--this time: nutritionist.  Hopefully, I can find a way to still eat healthy and gain weight.  Sigh.  To be honest, I'm tiring of dealing with my health.  I feel like my days are spent shuttling myself around to various health appointments.  I miss the days when I worked my usual long hours and just came straight home...

After my alarming appointment, I came home and proceeded to stuff my face with food.  Bring on the sesame snack sticks, Wasa rye crackers, and a giant bowl of brown rice and cabbage with tofu.  I feel full after my meals but apparently, this is not enough.  

Monday, March 23, 2009

More Recipes

Here are some of the latest dishes I've tried.

Provencal kale and cabbage gratin
(This was quite delicious! Definite keeper.)

Oven steamed salmon with lentils
(Mmm. Savory.)

Vegetarian Dumplings
(These were fun to make...I'm going to make a bunch and freeze them so I always have a snack. Lady-J came over to help me with these; our dumpling party was fun!)

Stir-fried Bok Choy, Shitake, and Tofu
(This was my own culinary creation. I added a dash of black bean garlic sauce for some kick and then served over brown rice. Yum!)

The remainder of last week was spent either at a restaurant (pesto and shrimp pasta; smoked salmon sandwich) or at my sister's (fish poached in a soy sauce base with spinach and mushrooms).

My meals have been pretty tasty so far. I'm frustrated with my yogurt lately--I keep burning the milk and have effectively wasted an entire carton of expensive organic milk. Grumble grumble.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Menu Ideas

When I first started this diet, I had some trouble finding recipes.  I'm going to start posting my weekly menus and links to recipes, where applicable, so newcomers can get ideas of what the heck to eat.  It can be really tough figuring out what to cook, esp. if the new diet changes your current eating patterns.   Hope this helps.

Last week's meals:

Tofu Provencal with Quinoa (surprisingly good)

Foil-baked Cod with Soy-Lemon Broccoli and Brown Rice (dress the broccoli very lightly--otherwise it will be too salty)

Honey-Soy Broiled Salmon with Sauteed Kale and Quinoa (delicious)

Sesame-crusted Tofu with Soba Noodles (too salty; tone down the soy sauce!)

My breakfasts always consists of non-fat plain yogurt and a Chunk of Energy or two.  Snacks include Chunks, nuts, banana nut bread, edamame, and fruit.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A New Beginning

After years of increasing unhappiness with my primary care office, I finally switched practices.  My "new" doctor is actually someone I used to see when I was in high school, until she left the practice and then was hard to locate.  But now I'm reunited--and she even recognized me after 10 years.  Nuts.

I'm thrilled with her.  She was inquisitive and sincere; basically, she treated me like an actual human.  I'm very proud to report that she thinks I'm super healthy, thanks to my super diet.  She remarked on my clear skin (so did my sister the other night!), low blood pressure (I now join the ranks of yogis, she said), and tiny tummy.  She did notice that I'm shrinking too quickly and was alarmed to find my BMI creeping off the low end of the chart.   My new goal is to gain weight while eating healthy...this is a strange spot to be in.  

My doctor also prescribed me pharmacy-grade fish oil caplets which I now take daily.  They are giant yellow horse pills but on my script plan, still cheaper than the lower quality stuff at GNC.  It was also nice to know that these high quality supplements are actually better for me than eating fish directly.  Apparently, there are too many contaminants in fish these days; I also don't like the taste of farmed fish as much.  Anyways, so far so good.  I've heard that fish oil supplements can cause eternal fish breath, so I'll have to monitor that.  

On a slightly bleaker note, she also ordered a full auto-immune workup (ANA sed rate, C-reactive, etc) in an effort to pinpoint my mysterious eye problem.  I forked over three vials of blood and almost passed out.  She also hopes my insurance will cover these tests; otherwise, I will be facing several hundred dollars worth of damage.  :(

Well, mark your calendars for April 13th when I next visit Wills Eye.  We shall see if my dieting and acupuncture have done anything...If anything, according to my sister, my hair is "so nice and black!"  That's worth it, right?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Baking Blues

Even though I have never had a strong sweet tooth, I enjoy baking.  My favorite things to bake are ultra decadent sweets like frosted cakes and candies.  When I began my new diet, I found myself at a crossroad: to bake or not to bake?  These days, I rarely have processed sugar and now find myself missing it in a way that I never had before.  The smell of freshly baked cupcakes sends me over the edge.  This is odd because I don't have a sweet tooth; the smell of sugar, however, is one of the best smells ever.  

I bake weekly, mainly for my students' fundraiser.  I've learned to deal with making and frosting cupcakes, without eating any.  However, these past fews days I have been plagued with atypical sugar cravings.  After downing a container of blackberries in hopes that the natural sugars would help, my craving was still not satisfied.  There had to be a way to satisfy this the good ol' fashioned way.  

Armed with a bunch of uber-ripe bananas, I consulted Dr. Andrew Weil's website for help.  Dr. Weil is my anti-inflammatory guru and I take my eating cues largely from him.  His approach is welcoming and quite varied, so I was pleased to find a Banana Nut Bread recipe that conformed to his anti-inflammatory approach.  Instead of butter and sugar, this recipe relied upon canola oil and honey.  The result: A+.  My loaf turned out moist, sweet, banana-y, and quite similar to traditional banana bread.  I look forward to eating it as a snack or dessert in the coming days.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Quick Update

Those who know me personally know that the past few days have been rough, so today's post will be short.  I tried two noteworthy recipes.   For a gluten-free "mac-n-cheese", try Peruvian Baked Quinoa and Cheese.  For the best veggie burger I've ever had, try Mediterranean Burgers.

Today I ate bacon, bread, and white potatoes, and I don't feel bad about it. 

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Trip and Treats

Seeking some R-n-R, I fled to New York City this past weekend to reunite with college friends and a former coworker. To my great relief, I was able to eat sensibly for the majority of my trip. There is hope for going out to eat after all!

The trip began with lunch at Lupa, a Mario Batali restaurant. Here, I had Farro Tarjarin with Brussel Sprouts and Mushrooms. Delicious! The farro was incorporated into ribbons of pasta, so I definitely had my whole grains for the day. Additionally, it was vegetarian and overall quite anti-inflammatory thanks to the mushrooms. Tangerine sorbet (shared with my lovely lunch companion) ended the meal. I eat sugar so sparingly these days that the sorbet shocked me with its sweetness. It was quite good though.

Afterward, I trekked to Caffe Reggio. Thankfully, I was full from lunch so the case of cannolis and tarts were not so tempting. Here, I literally had three pots of green tea. That's a lot of tea, no? The tea was good but it was hard to be in a coffee shop---drinking tea. When I used to drink coffee, I could always bank on going to a coffee shop for a better cup, something better than I could have made myself. However, tea is usually just tea--at home or in a cafe, doesn't matter. Same thing, except more expensive. Sometimes I go to Tbar for more exotic teas when I need a change though.

Then it was off to Mary's Fish Camp for dinner. The boys and I headed to a nearby bar to wait for our table. They had whiskey and vodka drinks; I had water. It sucked. Drinking water at a bar is lame. I couldn't even order a soda or juice. LAME. Thankfully, our table was ready in no time. I ordered raw clams on the half shell and then had Spanish mackerel with carrots and a chickpea puree. All were delicious. I indulged in a glass of white wine and then ended dinner with a glass of red. Meanwhile, I looked longingly at my friends' desserts: a beautiful chocolate bread pudding topped with pecans and a stately ice cream sunday drizzled with chocolate sauce. My friends assured me that the desserts did not taste nearly as good as they appeared. Hmpf.

The night ended with a trip to a local bar. What was it called? No idea. Let's just say I had a lot to drink. Decreasing alcohol tolerance + two boys eager to pay = Fun! Here, the boys discovered that my diet allows red wine. Before I could let them know that two glasses is my daily limit, a magical glass of red wine would appear...again...and again. I am not quite sure how much red wine I had last night but I woke up with a hangover. Good times.

I woke up to a tasty breakfast of banana cinnamon pancakes and green tea. The pancakes toed the line a bit, but oh well! They were really good--this coming from someone who does not typically like pancakes. (Thanks, S!)

When I returned back home, I went straight from the bus terminal to the grocery store. Here I picked up anti-inflammatory goodies for the week ahead. This week I will be cooking with millet for the first time. I had a lot of fun this past weekend, but I also realize that damage control is in order. Time for some (more) green tea and a turmeric supplement...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Small Gems

Now that I am on a restricted diet, I get very excited about delicious anti-inflammatory meals that may come my way.  Trust me, on this diet, there are some massive misses (for example, a spinach salad topped with sardines and chick peas--yuck).  As promised, I hope to share recipes that are downright tasty and healthy.  Tonight, we made Mushroom and Pea Quinoa Risotto and I enjoyed this thoroughly!  I think it's tastier than the traditional arborio rice variety because there's lot of texture in the whole grains.  We made this with a mixture of cremini and button mushrooms, as well as spinach cous cous for added nutrition and a nice punch of color.  The flavors are not only rich but also very clean and light.  I felt full but not heavy.  Best of all, this dish took significantly less time to prepare than traditional risotto.  I also benefit from the the lower glycemic indexes of quinoa and cous cous vs. the arborio rice...

In other news, I went to the optometrist today for new glasses.  It has been almost two years, so my glasses were long overdue.  I failed my depth perception test, which was kind of disheartening and funny at the same time.  When I couldn't tell which circle was "popping out" more than the others, I thought the woman was giving me a trick question.  Whoops. I mean, I can't say this was all that surprising given my difficulty with stairs and pouring water.  

While my diet may not be doing miracles for my eyesight, I think there have been some noticeable benefits.  1) I lost five pounds.  This is out of control for someone as small as I am.  Meanwhile, the boy has lost four pounds since pseudo-following this plan with me.  2) I used to have a persistently oily patch near my brow/forehead.  That is now gone.  In fact, I haven't used face wash since going on this diet, but my skin is just great.  3) This is not about me, but I'm convinced of the miracles of this diet.  The boy used to have this noticeable cyst on his hand.  GONE.  Totally decreased in size.  Coincidence?  I think (maybe) not!

What can this diet do for others?  I have no idea.  All I know is, I think I found something good.  Though I may hate it sometimes and cheat (sssssh...I had lots of fatty, creamy, and delicious cheese on V-Day), I think this plan is quite good and healthful.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

An Amsler a Day...

One way to monitor your vision is through the use of an Amsler Grid.  Simply look at the grid with both eyes, and then each eye individually.  If the lines appear straight and still, your eyes are probably fine.  If the lines appear distorted or stretched or fluid, something is wrong.  Call your doctor ASAP.  Some look at Amsler Grids daily while others just occasionally.  Though I do not use Amsler Grids as often anymore, I do think they can help with prevention if used at an early stage.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

No Mo' Money

I'm so broke it hurts.  Since I began taking this alternative approach to my health problems, I feel like my money is slipping away.  Granted, it's hard to know if I've racked up more expenses or if it's the economy worsening at an alarming rate.  Both?  Either way, I'm living paycheck to paycheck.

When I first started acupuncture, I forked over $500 for 10 sessions.  At the time, it seemed like a small sum to pay for potentially lifetime benefits.  With twice-a-week appointments, well...the 10 sessions are rapidly running out.  My acupuncturist, Dr. Wang, told me that I could start coming once a week if I liked.  But she seemed a bit uncertain when she suggested this; after asking her if she thought I was ready for once a week, she admitted that I would benefit from another month of intensive sessions.  Even she acknowledged how costly this would be and told me that I could choose between once or twice a week.  Talk about being trapped between a rock and a hard place.  While I sure could use $500, I ended up agreeing to another round of twice-a-week sessions.  Dr. Wang believes that my situation is really serious and that an intense regimen of treatment now would help strengthen my body's ability to combat future inflammation.   It's like one of those corny credit card commercials: 10 sessions of acupuncture - $500...Vision - priceless.  In the end, I realized I had spent enough money on Avastin injections ($100 a pop after insurance), which involve a giant needle into the eyeball while fully awake and very scared.  And those certainly didn't work, and I'm not eager to sign up for any more. So, needle in the eye or needles all over my body...same difference.

So, is this acupuncture working?  I don't know.  As crazy as my condition sounds, it is totally painless and this makes it very hard to tell if the symptoms are improving or worsening.  The other day, Dr. Wang asked me to cover my good eye and look at her.  I was astonished by how much of her I saw--where once shadows and 'wavy smoke' dominated, I processed a full face.  I was thrilled, then I went home and tried to read with no success.  Dr. Wang tells me that I'll never regain my lost eyesight--I can only hope to maintain what I have.   

So, perhaps I was imagining that early successful episode.  My retina specialist tells me that sometimes it may seem like I have more inflammation than I actually do because my nerves are shot and misfiring light signals to my brain.  This is why sometimes I see more shadows while others more persistent flashing (like right after someone takes a picture).  This also explains why sometimes I feel like my life takes place at a dance club with a crazy strobe light (except not that much fun).  Most days, I see a combination of flashing and wavy shadows; the picture of the golfer is a very accurate representation.  Thankfully, my left eye sees fine and helps out the right one a lot; Leftie is my lil champ.  Thus, I can still process images correctly and lead a relatively normal life.  I can still read and only need larger text when I'm tired of staring at the computer, or when my eyes have been dilated after an appointment.  I don't drive...but honestly, I think I'd be a really dangerous driver even with two good eyes.  I get pedestrian sidewalk rage as it is...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

Since I started this dieting madness, friends and family have been asking me what exactly is safe and not safe to eat.  To be honest, it can be really confusing even to me.  The research is all over the place, and it isn't a specific "fad" diet so no one source is the authority on inflammatory foods.  I've also discovered that there is a spectrum of anti-inflammatory diets, with the most extreme adopting a vegan diet sans gluten and corn.  At the other end of the spectrum, some diets seem too lax to be even health-oriented.

So, what to do?  I ended up going with the diet plan generally recommended by Dr. Andrew Weil.  I like his writing style and overall philosophy toward eating for health.  His food pyramid (pictured) is also quite easy to understand and offers some flexibility in eating options.  This is in sharp contrast to Dr. Perricone, whose list of Pro-Inflammatory Foods is so extensive that I wondered how I would survive day to day. 

Culling information from several sources of anti-inflammatory eating plans, here's my general approach to my diet:

The Good: 

These are the super foods of my diet.  If I am not eating these, my body's anti-inflammatory abilities will go haywire.  It is essential that I eat these foods several times a week and even daily.

* omega-3 anything (cold water fish, amped up eggs)
* fruits (berries and apples are winners)
*veggies (esp. dark leafy greens)
* whole grains (quinoa, brown not white rice) 
* legumes
* nuts (no peanuts)
* spices (esp. turmeric and ginger and cayenne pepper)
* soybeans (tofu, edamame)
* green tea
* olive oil

The Bad:

"Bad" is used with some reservation. I do eat these foods but in moderation just to keep myself from going insane.  Depending on who you read, these could go under the forbidden category but I've seen some recipes with such ingredients.  If I eliminated these, I would become very depressed.

* skinless poultry
* whole grain flour products (I like Rye Wasa crackers)
* tomatoes, peppers, and corn (These belong to the nightshade family and can cause irritation; it seems like this varies from person to person though.)
* canola oil (olive is best)
* low-fat dairy (I do eat this daily; my homemade organic low-fat yogurt is safe to eat.)
* honey (I eat this regularly in my Chunks of Energy though)
* pasta (I try to eat buckwheat pasta.)
* brown sugar
* red wine (You would go crazy without it too.)

The Ugly

No matter what, these are under that "Most Wanted" section of any diet I've researched.  Far and away, I am NOT allowed to have these because these foods are known to trigger inflammation and keep the good guys from doing their anti-inflammatory work.

* all deep fried food (hydrogenated oils are forbidden)
* red meat (so bad, just stay away)
* white sugar
* enriched and processed flour
* peanuts
* vegetable oil
* shortening
* corn syrup
* juice
* coffee
* beer
* trans- and saturated fat anything 
* in short, anything fun and junky

Basically, eat as organically close to the earth as possible.  I have my next doctor's appointment in April so I'm curious to see if any of this will amount to progress...

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Healthy Superbowl Eating

We're having a few friends over for the Superbowl tomorrow. While I'm still sad about giving up beer, I am very happy to have found a way to enjoy buffalo wings--healthy style! Buffalo wings, I love buffalo wings! In fact, my many attempts to become vegetarian in the past have all failed because of my love for these cute little bits of delicious-ness. You can imagine how horrified I was to find out that they rank high on the list of prohibited pro-flammatory foods (oh, the curse and injustice!). BUT I was willing to give it up if it meant, obviously, the health of my vision.

So, for a couple weeks, I just resigned myself to never having buffalo wings ever again. Then, the boy realized that there was probably a way to bake them. I was not convinced; how could you possibly replicate all that goodness through baking? A quick internet search later and I found a highly rated recipe for healthy buffalo wings. I plan to substitute the margarine with butter, which I am allowed to eat in extreme moderation and is preferred over margarine. I also found a healthy blue cheese dip. Not too sure how tasty it will be so I might end up doctoring some ingredients. All in all, I'm pleased and relieved that I can at least enjoy some party food on my own terms. A couple weeks ago, I went to a friend's house to watch the game and almost died listening to everyone crunch on Doritos. Hopefully, tomorrow's recipes will be tasty so I won't feel as left out anymore.

UPDATE: The wings turned out really well! I couldn't even tell the difference between baked and fried---actually, I thought they were better than most wings I've ordered. We ended up broiling them for less than 15 minutes because our oven gets super hot. Also, we added some Sriracha Chili Sauce to the hot sauce and that added a nice kick. The dip was so-s0. Next time I might just stick with a low-fat sour cream and yogurt base (cottage cheese is kinda weird). It will also be fun to branch out into types of chicken wings, like a honey-ginger glaze or something. I'm still not supposed to have wings all that often so they will still be a treat, but this was a very nice healthy-ish alternative!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Worth a Try

I had a delicious dinner last night, and you should try it--regardless if you give a shibbibbles about inflammation. We made Brown Rice with Black Beans and Cilantro (Cook's Illustrated March & April 2009). Roasted Carrots and Parsnips made a nice accompaniment, and the meal was really good!  Just be careful when coring those parsnips!  If you have an easy and safer way, let me know because I almost lost a finger a couple times...

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Year of the Ox - Happy New Year!

Ironically, I began this anti-inflammatory diet on American New Year's.  Then, I broke several cardinal rules on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year...

As you can see from the picture, there were so many delicious things to eat!  Egg rolls, rice noodles, stir fry, roast duck and pork, soup, and a fluffy white heavenly-looking coconut cake.  


So I cheated and ate a couple deep-fried shrimp balls and roast duck, all washed down with a glass of white wine.  It all tasted great and made me miss my old diet.  I tried to rationalize my choices: the shrimp balls were not battered and fried in canola oil; the roast duck was oily but still 'roasted'; and the white wine was not red but at least gluten-free.  At first, this was fine and then I felt crummy/paranoid.  Less than a month into this and I was already falling off the wagon.  Was I nuts?  Was I playing with fire?  What if these tasty things spurred another inflammation attack?  I had planned on eating one bite of the beautiful coconut cake...but felt worried about my previous eating choices.  So, I ended up washing dishes in the kitchen while everyone else ate cake.  At the end of dessert, I began clearing the table and picked up the cardboard round the cake sat on.  There were little bits of frosting and yellow cake still stuck to it.  Right before dumping it into the trash, I found myself---like a complete crazy woman--eyeing these yummy bits.  I took a deep sniff of it: it smelled great and I realized that I miss sugar a lot.  Then I threw it away.

So what did I learn tonight?  I learned that eating with other people who are not on a diet is very painful.  I also learned that I really miss some foods.  Lastly, I learned that a little cheating is probably going to happen...and I'm trying to tell myself that I'm making lots of other good changes at the same time.  For example, I'm still going strong on no french fries and no coffee.

On New Year's day, you're not supposed to do anything that you don't want to do for the rest of the year. Tomorrow, I will go back to my regular anti-inflammatory meals--because that's what I want to do for the rest of the year.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Hidden Wonders of...Turmeric?

During one of my crazy internet-searching frenzies last month, I came across a message board hosted by the American Foundation for the Blind.   Here I found some folks who also suffer from MFC.  Most of the posts were full of confusion: Why was this happening to me?  What is your life like now?  Should I keep going with the prednisone?  

Then, like this little gem, I found a post from a woman who claimed to have been cured!  By turmeric!  She went out and got turmeric supplements as a natural remedy to her MFC.  In as little as a month (!!!), this woman halted her MFC and even regained some vision.  This was and is a little incredible.  I sat on this bit of information for a couple weeks, vowing to stick with the new diet for now before involving supplements.

Then I found myself in front of a Vitamin Shop and the next thing I know, I'm purchasing a 30-day supply of turmeric supplements.  A bit of research into this spice revealed that it's famous for its anti-inflammatory properties.   I found another article that connected turmeric to the remedial effects of Indian cuisine, which is great because I love Indian food.

However, I've always been lousy at remembering to take daily pills (apologies to all those forgotten antibiotics), so this could be tough.  The pills are large and smell strongly of turmeric but they don't taste strong.  So, here's hoping.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tasty Treats

So, one of the challenges of my new diet is actually finding suitable recipes.  As someone used to searching by a main ingredient ("I feel like lamb!"), I now found myself totally lost.  I might punch in a main ingredient and then find a recipe filled with deep frying or sugar or something else strictly prohibited.  

I did have some tasty meals this week though.  On Tuesday, I had Barbequed Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps.  Just go a little easy on the hoisin sauce, generous on the ginger and garlic, and add a dash of crushed red pepper flakes.  I used romaine lettuce instead of iceberg for more color and an easier 'pocket'.  With the leftover chicken filling, I made a salad by putting it all on a bed of baby spinach leaves and a sprinkle of flax seeds.  Both meals were pretty good!  Last night, the boy and I tried out Saag Tofu.  Also very tasty!  We ate it with brown basmati rice.  

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Just a quick post to commemorate Obama's inauguration...It's a bit off-topic because he has nothing to do with my choroiditis or alternative health approaches.  However, without getting overly sentimental and emotional, I can't help but feel overwhelmed in a good way.  All day, I have been feeling this way and given the sad moments of the past couple weeks, today offered some welcome relief.  Perhaps 2009 will truly be a radical year.  The nation's first Black president?  The healing of my choroiditis?  

Oh, why not? I'll take it.

Happy inauguration day, everyone!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A is for Acupuncture

My visit to my acupuncturist was interesting and informative.  A newcomer to acupuncture, I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  What were the limits?  Would the cost be worth it?  How would I know the acupuncturist would actually be taking care of me?  To top it all off, it was a frigid day for Philadelphia and I was cranky to be on the bus. 

Dr. Wang, the acupuncturist, invited me in to her office and began asking me questions about my multi focal choroiditis.  She also asked me about my family's history with vision problems and also auto-immune issues.  Finally, she asked me if I knew why any of this began happening, and of course I did not know.  Nobody knew for sure.  My doctor at Wills Eye has been baffled for years and keeps testing me for diseases like Cat Scratch, Lyme, and Syphilis...all of which I test negative for.  Dr. Wang then sighed, which made me feel nervous.  Just the other day, a different acupuncturist admitted that he personally had never used acupuncture for a case like mine and suggested that I look elsewhere.  

Fortunately, Dr. Wang did not turn me away but she did give me a very realistic assessment of what she could do.  The acupuncture could never restore or regain any of the vision I had already lost.  What she could do, however, was restore my body's Qi (chi) and strengthen its immune system.  This would help to fend off future inflammation attacks.  She also hoped that the acupuncture would decrease my stress levels because it seems that I have begun stressing about my stressing (very true).  At best, she believed that the current inflammation affecting my eye could be cleared up.  In other words, she could maintain my current state of vision and hopefully keep the MFC from attacking the left (aka "good") eye.

I was eager to get started but sensing my desperation, Dr. Wang said that this was a pretty serious case.  One or two sessions would not be enough.  I didn't care and told her that I'd do anything, even though she's out of my insurance network.  So, I signed up for 10 sessions at a discounted rate of $500 total.  I will see her over the course of 2-3 months, twice a week at first and then just once a week.

And then the good part!  She got immediately started and began administering acupuncture for my stress.  Needles were inserted in my shins, wrists, stomach, and ears (PS. Acupuncture is not as painless as I was led to believe.  It was like little pin pricks) A timer was set for 20 minutes and I was told to relax relax relax.  This is kind of hard to do when you're half naked, unable to move, and jabbed with needles.  However, oddly enough, I found myself sleeping in less than a few minutes!  Maybe this stuff actually works!

When I went home, I prepared some oven fried chicken breaded with panko.  Then I sauteed some kale and sprinkled it with some flax seeds.  I then went to sleep for a glorious 11 hours.  Maybe it was the acupuncture, the end of a long work week, or the feeling of content that comes along with taking health into my own hands...whatever it was, I slept great and hope for many more restful nights.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Tomorrow, Tomorrow

Tomorrow I will be visiting an acupuncturist for an initial consultation into my eye situation. I hope that my diet, coupled with some alternative medicine, will result in some positive change. My doctor at Wills does not seem to have any answers for me, so I'm branching out in terms of medical care...

An update on the diet! So far, so good. It is too soon to tell if there have been any influences on my eyes. I do feel overall much healthier. My stomach is much calmer (probably most impacted by cutting out coffee altogether). Morning drowsiness also seems to wear off quicker than it used to. Aaaaaand....every woman's dream come true: my waist seems to be slightly more slim. I'm only half-joking about that last comment. At a petite 5'0" and just shy of 100 pounds, weight loss is not quite a priority for me right now. However, if you are looking to lose some weight, I can definitely see how an anti-inflammatory diet would promote your efforts. It's so fat-free and basic that it's hard to imagine being overweight for long on this eating plan.

One of the bigger struggles I've had with this diet have been looking for snacks and such. Meals are not overly difficult to prepare (although I'm being flexible right now by still eating small amounts of chicken and pork). It has been difficult to watch television without a delicious plate of french fries or potato chips or even popcorn (!). Instead, I now reach for the bowl of mixed unsalted nuts (hold the peanuts). However, I am particularly excited about my upcoming shipment of Chunks of Energy, which are cubes of blended nuts, seeds, and honey. I first found them at Whole Foods in the bulk section but have since ordered 10 lbs of Chunks from their website. Not only are these incredibly anti-inflammatory but they are also low fat, raw, and mostly vegan. Plus, they are pretty tasty for someone who is no longer permitted candy bars, chips, fries, etc etc. SIGH.

I think in a couple more weeks, I will become more at peace with this new diet. So far, researching new recipes has been quite positive. I have branched out into new territory by cooking with quinoa (I recommend the Baked Spinach and Quinoa recipe available through the New York Times' Recipes for Health section) and tonight, I ate a chilled soba noodle salad. As this blog continues, I hope to share more fun and insightful recipes! Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I will look forward to tomorrow's acupuncture appointment and keep you posted...it's time to kick choroiditis in the ass!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A New Year, A Lifetime Resolution?

Hello and welcome to my blog! I hope that this will be a meaningful attempt to keep track of and reflect upon my experiences with an anti-inflammatory diet. For approximately five years, I have been suffering from Multi-Focal Choroiditis, a poorly understood condition which produces inflammation of the retina. It is my hope that this new eating lifestyle will decrease and manage MFC.

Much of my battle with MFC has been very passive, waiting for doctors to prescribe prednisone, laser treatment, or Avastin injections directly into my eye. When symptoms flared up, I went to the doctor and recieved some type of drug. The drugs would usually keep the inflammation and leakage under control for a few months...and then I would repeat the cycle. I resigned myself to living this way for the rest of my life. Eventually, I knew the inevitable would occur: full blindness in my affected right eye.

Part of me did not worry too much. In 2004, when all this began, I told myself that technology and research would advance in the coming years. For now I would be a medical mystery but one day, there would be a "cure".

In December 2008, I had a disheartening appointment. The inflammation in my eye was flaring up again...something it had not done in years. My doctor admitted that he had no answers for me, and the appointment ended with yet another Avastin injection. I went home and immediately began researching everything I could find on MFC and found helpful community support groups. A small handful of posters mentioned the remedial effects of an anti-inflammatory diet. The basic philosophy guiding an anti-inflammatory diet is that our body's ability to produce anti-inflammatory hormones has been thrown out of balance with the introduction of pro-flammatory foods. By restoring our body's natural balance through the introduction of healthy food, inflammation could be kept at bay. I was intrigued.

Here it was: potentially a way for me to take this condition into my own hands. Almost five years after my diagnosis, I knew I could no longer wait for a medical miracle to fall out of the sky. It was hard not to wonder: was this trick--eating healthy--something I could have done so long ago?

Curious, hopeful and above all desperate, I rang in the New Year with a lifetime resolution to eat healthy. As someone who generally shuns resolutions, this one should be interesting. I invite you to read my blog and share your own experiences. I extend an especially warm welcome to my fellow MFC-sufferers...perhaps we can begin answering our own questions about this very serious condition.

I will use this blog to not only report out on my reflections but also to share information about helpful books, recipes, and websites.

Happy New Year!