Sunday, July 25, 2010

Gastronomical Challenges

For those of you who follow one of the MS diets:  Best Bet, Swank, Recovery diet, or any version of these, you will understand where today's blog is coming from.  For those of you who can basically eat what you want...I cannot repeat what I am thinking!

I have been following for the past 3 years, what many would consider, a restrictive diet.  Basically I do not eat any foods containing: gluten, dairy, eggs, corn or soy, limit my sugar intake to almost nil, and keep my saturated fat intake to under 15g/day.  Oh, and I try to eliminate yeast, which up until now, hasn't been that difficult, but as you will discover, is causing me some 'issues'.

And for the most part, I have been very good at staying 'on the wagon', but I would be lying if I said I never fell off...occasionally.  I have the occasional bite or sip of forbidden food...and I usually end up paying for it in the form of worsening symptoms the following day. here I am in Germany...and the southern part (Bavaria) to boot; where it seems that all the people do is sit, eat, and drink...hike up a few mountains, sit, eat, and drink...hike down a few mountains, sit, eat, and drink...well, you get the picture.  Hey, I can sit, eat, and drink with the best of long as it's something I can eat and something I can drink.

And therein lies the challenge!  I knew before I left on this trip that  my willpower would be put to the, being the proactive person that I believe myself to be, I packed half my suitcase full of the essentials:   2 packages of creamy rice cereal, 5 boxes of Sesame Rice snacks, a huge bag of almonds, agave syrup, 50 teabags of my jasmine green tea, and a large container of freshly ground flaxseed.  These, along with my vitamins and supplements, literally filled my 27" luggage case half full leaving barely enough space for my clothes and other essentials and probably accounting for three-quarters of the allotted 23kg weight limit.

Breakfast is the most challenging meal when I am away from home...hence the creamy rice, agave, and flaxseed.  But do you know how hard it is to sit at a table where your uncle has just brought back freshly baked (that morning) buns and breads that are sitting nestled warmly in the blue checkered basket, with that slight yeasty aroma wafting tantalizingly under your nose???? Or how about the fresh from-the-cow, creamy, no-skim-here milk that sits so deliciously in front of you???Or the creamy fresh butter that you know was probably also as fresh from the cow as it could be??? If I was a dog, I would have a pool of saliva in front of me and my mouth dripping with it as well! Oh, how I miss bread, but I have been stoic in my resolve not to succumb to the tempting aromas of the breakfast table.  Score one for me!

Lunch in Bavaria is usually like dinner in Canada.  This is the main meal and for the most part I have been able to eat much of what has been put on the table...except that with this meal comes the obligatory beverage of some form of beer.  Most beer is made with wheat or barley, water, and malt or yeast.  So for the most part I can say no, because I automatically refuse anything that has wheat in it.  However, in this particular area of Germany, they are masters at brewing a special kind of beer made with hops.  And most breweries in Germany follow the rule of 1512,  which states that beer can only have hops, water, and yeast.  That's it!...How much more natural can you get!?!?! And so I am thinking that since I have never ingested hops, there's a good chance I'm able to eat it.  Well, the beer is called Münchener Hell (appropriate name, don't ya think?) and it is good.  The kind of good that could turn a water/tea drinking middle aged woman into a beer-swigging drunk overnight! I'm a little concerned about the amount of yeast that is in the beer, but I convince myself that "I probably don't really have a sensitivity to yeast, anyways" ...yeah, right.  Well, after three days of consuming more beer than I have probably consumed in, make that 13 years...I have come to the conclusion that perhaps I need to cut out the Munchener Hell for a while because it might be contributing to the hell my feet and legs are experiencing at this moment?!

But, then again, I did have that shot of Hazelnut Scnapps last night...and maybe I should have said no when they offered me "Sex on the Beach?  Then again, maybe it isn't even the beverages??  Because I did have 8 pieces of that lovely Rittersport milk chocolate bar just before bed time...oh, and I forgot about the apple streusel cake we had at that lovely cafe downtown...although I was good and didn't eat the streusel!  It couldn't have been the couple of large licks/bites I took of my brother's gelato?! there milk in gelato??? Hmmmm....score 1 for the food. :(

Dinner, which is lunch in Bavaria, is probably the second hardest meal to be 'good' with.  Typically it consists of bread (verboten), cheese (verboten), an assortment of cold cuts and sausages (potentially verboten) and sometimes, some sort of pickled vegetable (most likely NICHT verboten) and of course, beer (self verboten).  So I dutifully bring out my rice crackers and the cucumbers, which I had the foresight to buy at the market down the road...along with the sugar free Gummi bears and "natural" potato chips.  I eat the cold cuts and sausage because they are VERY tasty,  and aside from what I am sure will account for my entire daily allotment of saturated fat, are made with all natural ingredients.  I am currently declining the beverage of choice, and instead opt for mineral water.  Score 1 for me...I think?

I have never felt so challenged by food  as I am on this trip! And as I keep repeating my mantra over and over, "food is meant to sustain life...if it tastes good, its a bonus" I can't help but realize that my 5 boxes of rice crackers and bag of almonds are gone, which means tomorrow I'm on a hunt to find my 'sin-free' food.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

PreAssessment Physio Videos

My physiotherapist just emailed me the videos she took during my pre op assessment.  Here they are:

I didn't think I did too bad with the reaching, but apparently I stick my bum out way too much, and then bow my legs.  This is not how you're supposed to do it. LOL

Random Observations

Well, we've been in Germany for almost a week (hard to believe) so I thought I would share some observations I have made about how things are done here. 

Handicap accessibility is severely least in the area I am in...Bavaria.  The one time I used my 'transporter' I had to get out and park it to get into many of the stores and don't get me started on curbs!  Thankfully, I have not needed to use it since then, but they are a bit behind when it comes to accessibility.

Public washrooms are have to pay to use them!  Anywhere from 50¢ to 70¢.  If you are a patron at a restaurant or cafe you don't have to pay but many of the mountain 'gäst hofs' expect you to pay...I say buy a beer and be done with it.  The toilets themselves are interesting.  The last one I used (n Austria along the Autobahn) disinfected the toilet seat at the push of a button (this piece comes from the back and then the seat rotates around so that the piece thingy can clean it)...quite fascinating really.  Some will do it automatically by sensor...I made the mistake of shifting my weight and all of a sudden the seat started to move..."what the hell???". I thought.  That was on the first day in Germany...I now know better...park yourself and don't get up until you are totally finished your business.  OK enough about toilets! LOL

Smoking! Germany its not too bad, but in Austria, where we went at least, they are still allowed to smoke in restaurants...disgusting.  I don't know how we ever coped with it in Canada?? Antways, I though I would have to leave the restaurant when the patron behind me lit up, but I turned around to see who was smoking, and I must have had a disgusted look on my face because shortly after that, he wasn't smoking...thank gawd!

Stoplights.....turn yellow to let you know they are going to be turning green...not red!  Maybe they do it for turning red too, although I never see them do it...hmm?  Reminds me of car racing...I think the lights turn yellow before they turn green.  With all the Porsches, Mercedes, and BMW's here, I can see why!

Bicycles...I have never seen so many people who ride their bikes.  Old, young, crippled, business men, farmers, ladies wearing name it, they're out on their bikes.  For fun, to go to work, to the doesn't seems everyone rides a bike.  Either that or they walk.  It's actually nice to see so many people using alternative modes of transportation.  Don't get me wrong...there are still lots of cars on the road, which is why there are probably just as many people NOT in their cars.  I couldn't imagine what the traffic would be like if they all drove cars?....utter chaos most likely!

I was going to talk about beer, but that could take a long time. LOL  I'll just say that its cheap, its good, and you have to like a country that delivers it to your doorstep!

I will continue to add any other observations I make as the weeks go on.  My apologies that this is not really MS related...but its an interesting side note.  (besides, its my blog and I can write what I want!)

FYI  This is a view from the Partnach Alm (a cafe in the mountains) which is owned and operated by my cousin, Wilfrid.  The picture does not do it justice.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I love to go a wandering...

We went for a 'rund fahrt' yesterday, which in English means 'round trip'.  My first question was, "Are we going to be doing any walking?"  Yes.  My second question was, "How far?"  Oh...not too far.  "So, I won't need my transporter?..." No, its not too far.  So I leave the transporter behind and off we go.  This is a pic of a nature park in the Karwendel Mountain range which borders Austria and Germany.  This very nice, fairly level path winds up to some, what look like in the distance, very small buildings.  and I'm thinking to myself..."this is a lot farther than I am usually used to about two or three times as far".  My mother thinks so too and we jokingly comment that Peter, my brother, can piggy back me if I get too tired.  But I'm game, thinking if I have to limp and struggle some of the way I can do it...and yeah, Pete can piggy back me if I really need too.  So off we go...and I'm feeling pretty good...legs aren't too stiff, gait is pretty smooth.  Hey, I think I can do this!!  By the time we get to the houses which are of course much bigger close up, I'm thinking "I have GOT to sit down, and how in the hell am I going to make it back?!" 

It's lunch time, so we decide to stop and have a bite to eat at the restaurant there.  I actually found a few things on the menu I could eat and the food was tasty.  By the time we were ready to head back, I felt pretty good and actually found it NOT to be a struggle to make it back to the car (which I thought it might be).  I did snooze on the way back...but that could have been the beer I had for lunch!

I surprised myself that day because I did better than I thought I would.  Maybe I won't need to use the 'transporter' as much as I thought I would.? :)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Leaving on a jet plane

“Well my bags are packed I’m ready to go...” and so the song goes— but unlike the song,  I’m looking forward to getting on that plane because  I love flying.  I don’t fly often, which is probably why the novelty hasn’t worn off yet.  For those of you who weren’t aware, I left today on what I like to think of as Part 2 of my road to liberation.

The butterflies began as we drove over the Alex Fraser Bridge and I caught the first glimpse of a plane landing.  Finally, I was going to be the one leaving on a plane rather than the person saying, “Have a great trip!”

We went through security without a hitch and without a line up (imagine that?!) although the security person was rather grumpy L  Would it have hurt him to smile?

And then fortune smiled down upon me in the persona of Tina, our check in clerk, who asked if she could give us a lift to the gate in her golf cart “thingy”.  Actually, fortune smiled on me even before that, because, even though I was 300 g over the weight limit, I didn’t have to pay extra...pheww!  Tina must have realized I had some sort of mobility issue, since one of my checked baggage items was a ‘transporter’ (I refuse to call it a wheelchair...yes, I have some issues over the fact that I even have to consider spending some time in one, but that’s a whole ‘nother story”).

Anyways, so off we go, bombing down towards Gate 71 and I’m thinking, “it’s a pretty long way to Gate 71...thank goodness I don’t have to walk there!”

Fortune kept smiling on me for the entire flight...I was served meals before anyone else (courtesy of my special meal request) and I would have to say my meals were slightly better...which irked my brother, who was flying with me...Brad not being able to come for two more weeks.  We got the seats nearest the exit doors AND the toilette, which meant more leg room and convenient access when nature called.  All in all it was a good flight despite the length (13 hours).  But being up for over 30 hours is not a good idea, so off to bed I must go and hope the jet lag doesn’t appear. As they say in Bavaria, “Tschüss”. (good-bye).

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Physio Pre-Op Assessment

Yesterday, I met with my Physiotherapist, who actually specializes in neurological disorders, to get a pre-op assessment of my mobility and balance.  It was a very enjoyable hour long appointment, as she was quite aware of CCSVI... having actually heard Dr. Zamboni speak at the American Association of Neurologists convention in Toronto!!!! How cool is that?!?! Anyways, the good news is I scored quite high on the assessment test (which is called something like 'Berg')...Wouldn't you know it...I forgot to ask for a copy of the report.  Oh well, no worries...will be seeing her again near the end of August for Post-Op.  OK, so I scored high but if you just look at the number (which was like 49/56) it doesn't really give you a clear picture of where I am at, because, although I was able to perform the tests fairly well, I lacked "fluidity". This lack of 'fluidity' stems from a severely decreased sense of propioception - basically, my feet and legs are so numb that they don't really know where they are in relation to things around them (like the ground), so I take small mechanical steps to do things like: turning around, stepping onto a riser, and even putting my feet together.  Spasticity doesn't help either.  So she videotaped me doing these tests to give a more accurate representation of where I am at. 

I also talked with her about Cortical Remapping, which I discovered thanks to our intrepid blogger, Ginger!  I have been stimulating the bottoms of my feet and toes ( the end of a tweezer works great)  and trying for at least 4x/day...6x is better, but trying to fit them in is near impossible...unless people (in the mall, doctors office,etc.) are willing to see me take off my shoes and socks and start playing with my feet. LOL  I've been doing it for about a week and a half but haven't really noticed any changes...but maybe I NEED to do it 6x/day???  I guess I will just have to take tweezers with me wherever I go.  Luckily, I'm getting a pedicure today, so at least my feet will be pretty when I whip them out in the mall!   My physio has a particular interest in stimulating nerves...although she focuses on using electrical devices (there is one for foot drop, which she says works quite well) but she told me the Liberation procedure was the way to go, in my case.  And if (God forbid) I don't have CCSVI, at least I know I can work with her on improving my neural pathways.

I really feel like I'm getting all my ducks in a row.  I can't help but feel positive that everything I am doing will have a good outcome.  But only time will tell.

For those of you who are in the Abbotsford, BC area, if you want/need to see a Physiotherapist go to Abilities Neurological Rehabilitation and ask for Heather :)