Category Archives: Endometriosis

What I Eat to Feel Good

green juice

I started changing what I ate about four years ago when my endometriosis was getting more severe. Before I made the change, I remember thinking that being a vegetarian was really tricky. How can you eat every meal without meat?! Fast forward four years later and I eat a mostly vegan and wheat free diet. Old me would have been picking her surprised jaw off the floor looking at new me (and then had another cronut once she got her mouth closed). I seriously never thought I could (or would have to) give up my foodie ways.

Before I made the change, I thought I was pretty healthy because I liked fruit and wasn’t opposed to a veg or two on my plate. But I never tried to consciously change my diet just because I had put on 10-15 a few pounds since my early twenties. Loosing weight was never a good motivator for me, but pain was. When my endo got more severe I looked for ways to combat the debilitating pain. The pain motivated me enough to think if giving up hamburgers and beer could help me, let’s give it a go.

I started by reading Kris Carr’s Crazy, Sexy, Diet. I also started following the endo diet as closely as I could. Green juices, big bowls full of kale and broccoli and beans and brown rice became the norm for my meals. I cut out all refined sugar and most fruit too (and replaced the fruit with lots of veg). It was hard, the first two weeks I felt miserable. And then I felt really, really good.

It shocked me to find out that I felt stronger and more awake on a vegan, wheat-free, sugar-free (and alcohol-free) diet.

Sadly the diet didn’t do much for my endo pain even though it made me feel better overall. So about a week every month I would still be in agony (too painful to do anything — even sitting hurt). But I stuck with the diet because it helped me feel stronger the rest of the month.

And I’ve stuck on the diet on and off again the past four years. Any time I veer off the diet for two long, I begin to feel sluggish, achey, more anxious and my digestion gets wonky. Although it doesn’t seem to have much power against my endo, I’m really lucky that my second surgery has helped me feel so much better. I also think it helps keep my body in balance overall, and that should help keep the endo monster humble (Take that, endomonster! You’re getting more broccoli!).

So without further ado, here is a general list of what I usually eat during the day. I often have cheat meals where I don’t stick to the diet, but I try to keep those to one or two a week. As you can see, it’s not completely vegan (I do eat organic eggs), but there’s very little refined sugar, dairy, wheat or alcohol.

fancy-oatmeal

Breakfast:
Oatmeal is one my most favourite foods in the whole wide world. I’ve always liked it, but since coming to Scotland (and learning to add a pinch of salt to it), I’ve fallen in love. During the week I’ll just throw in a few dates and chia seeds because I’m usually in a rush. But on the weekend –oh the weekend! — there’s time for pecans, bananas, pumpkin seeds, ground flax seeds, sunflower seeds, maple syrup — the whole works.

buddha-bowl

Lunch: Buddha Bowl
Steamed broccoli, avocado, tomato, garlic and quinoa, sprouts and and an egg. All sprinkled with some lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper.

sprouts

Lunch #2/Snack
Steamed broccoli with lemon juice and sprouted, wheat-free toast with green pea hummus and sprouts.

mocktail

Mocktail
I’m not always great at sticking to my teetotal ways. My job involves tasting a lot of delicious boozey drinks. But I do try to keep it to one or two nips of alcohol per month. If I go to a fancy bar, I’ll ask the bartender to make a mocktail that doesn’t have much sugar in it like the one above. You obviously don’t get a buzz from gingery bubbles and mint, but alcohol usually is one of the triggers to make me feel lousy even after a few sips. Enough motivation to keep my intake to a minimum.

daal

Dinner
I usually have something with brown-rice and beans and lots of veg. This is my new favourite. Endo Diet’s daal — sooo good! Even if you don’t eat vegetarian or vegan, this recipe will blow you away. I added chickpeas and lots more garlic and ginger and topped it with a healthy sprinkle of parsley.

healthy-frosty

Dessert: Healthy Frosty
I have such a sweet tooth. I’ve cut out almost all refined sugar, but I do still eat fruit and . delicious, healthy smoothies! This one is based on Wendy’s frosty but is much healthier: one frozen banana, a big spoonful of cacao (not cocoa — that usually has sugar added to it), a cup of almond milk, a healthy spoonful of almond butter and a dash of maple syrup if you need it. Seriously, I don’t crave other sweet things when I have this and the only sugar is from the banana and a bit of maple syrup.

If you are looking for more recipe inspiration (because I know the idea of eating veggie/gluten-free/dairy-free/sugar-free can seem so daunting), here are some great resources:

Tara eats
Kris Carr recipes
Endo Diet
Detoxinista
Greener Resolutions

Even if eating this way most of the time doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, I strongly recommend trying it for a week and just to see how you feel cutting back on some of the foods that do tend to cause inflammation in the body (dairy, red meat and sugar). And let me know how you feel! I love hearing other people’s adventures in trying new ways to eat — if you’re a foodie or paleo or are an almond-butter junkie like me. I love to hear it all. Happy chomping, guys!

Where are my stretchy pants?

Jeans
H&M jacket | (5 yo) Madewell jeans | Cos booties | Baggu leather tote

I’m in a transition phase at the moment. I love a good pair of jeans — nothing revolutionary there — but I’m a little jean-shy these days.

Ever since my first endo surgery almost two years ago, I’ve been a massive fan of leggings because. they are stretchy! Going through two invasive pelvic surgeries in the span of six months meant that anything with a non-spandexy waistband, got shoved to the back of my closet.

It’s now been almost a year and a half since I had my second surgery and I still wear jeans only on occasion. That photo above is from this past weekend. I’d like to say I was contemplating the qualities of suspended flight, but I was actually thinking “oy this waist band needs some elastic in it.” Seriously, I’d love to dress like a five year old all the time: flowy dresses or elastic-waisted trousers. Sounds amazing.

But I’m trying to wear jeans again just because I think part of my hang-up is mental. Leggings have kind of become a comfort blanket to me. And comfort blankets have a purpose, but it’s good to leave them at home once and a while.

Or maybe I’ll just become a yoga teacher and then I can wear my comfy trousers all day long!

jeans2

Insta Inspiration: Kayla Itsines

instagram inspo

On those days that I really, really don’t feel like working out and I need some added motivation, I always turn to Instagram. There are a handful of fitness gurus who constantly inspire me. You guys might be familiar with Kayla Itsines — especially if you use Instagram for fitness inspo too. She’s an Aussie with a massive following that swear by her Bikini Body guides.

I think she, and her followers, all look amazing, but I don’t follow Kayla because I want a “bikini-ready” body. In fact, I haven’t used her guides as of yet (and keep waffling about the idea). I follow her because she also has endometriosis.

I admire anyone who works out and aims to be healthy (because we all know how hard that is), but just having a lovely set of abs or pretty pictures of green juice wouldn’t do it for me. Knowing there are others who work through additional pain and health problems gives me strength to workout even when I’d rather not because I don’t like thinking about my own scars (both physical and emotional) from endo.

I know endometriosis isn’t a universal problem (thank goodness!) but everyone has something they battle with that makes working out harder than it needs to be. We all have our own pain and barriers that make an already arduous task, that much harder. So when you need a little extra encouragement — not to get a bikini body, mind, but to just get your body moving — I highly recommend checking out Kayla if you haven’t already.

Oh and I also follow Kayla because she loves puppies!

A puppy-loving, endometriosis warrior. Double-tap.

Working out at home: my favourite 10 Minute (HIIT) workout

In my last post I talked about going to the gym and my former gym-phobia. I have had an official gym membership for nearly eight months now — and that sounds so weird still! Going to a gym (any gym) is still new to me. And I still find lots of certain aspects of working out tricky.

For instance, if it’s a cold, rainy, windy evening in Edinburgh (the usual spring/summer weather here), the idea of gymming it after a long day in the office sounds about as appealing as rubbing chili seeds in my eyes.

So I found what works best for me is to go to the gym during the weekend and do some workout at home during the week. My favourite one at the moment is this high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout. I know 10 minutes isn’t that hard-core, but I feel really proud of myself when I make it through this. Though I have to say, I’m so very glad I can do this in the privacy of my own home. By the end of most of the sets I can barely lift my legs off the ground and my arms go all wobbly — I look a bit like a turtle trying to do a handstand. It is heeerrrrd!

Speaking of my hermit-like tendency during the week, I should be completely honest and tell you that I also still get a bit overwhelmed at the gym if it’s really busy. After work is usual peak time at my local gym and I found it hard to stay focused with tons of people running and cross training all around me.

Another bonus for doing some at-home workouts? I work different muscles than when I go to the gym. I tend to stick to a routine at the gym (2 miles on the elliptical, a few wights and then yoga) and I know I won’t get Michelle Obama arms just doing the same thing over and over.

As I mentioned earlier this week, I used to detest working out. It’s still not my favourite thing, but I’ve been very motivated by the Endo Monster and it really helps to blog about it. So hope you guys don’t mind me sharing what I do from time to time!

x Lar

Why I Workout

workout

Before October of last year, I’d never set foot in a gym. And I was obnoxiously very proud of that fact. The idea of row upon row of shiny, fit people running on treadmills made me smirk knowing that I had never participated in such mindless, rote activities.

What I snob, I was! So judgey! A mindset that 100% came from being intimidated by the idea of a gym.

I knew that working out was a good thing, but the thought of those clanky and complicated looking weight machines and intimidating, sweaty people in spandex made me uncomfortable. So even though I’ve been horribly out of shape for years, I never gave the gym a second thought.

But, like nearly everything in my life, things have changed since learning to live with endometriosis. After my first surgery two years ago, I spent half a year still feeling like my body had to knit itself back together. After that, I did a bit of tentative tai chi and yoga, but was really scared to do anything else.

Being afraid of my body because of both my endo and the subsequent surgeries, is not something I ever thought would happen. It’s strange to feel so uncertain of your body. Cath and I trained for 13 years to be ballet dancers. As a dancer, your body is your instrument and you feel you have absolute control over it — put in enough hours of practice and training and you know exactly how to make your body move how you want it and withstand exacting and punishing positions.

But even with this new fear, endo is actually what also propelled me to the gym. I wanted to feel strong again and in control of my body (as much as possible with a capricious, poorly-understood chronic disease). I’d also learned that working out would help keep my hormones leveled out better (women with endo usually have too much estrogen).

So even though the idea of spending an hour with the whirring treadmills and clanking weights of a gym doesn’t make me jump out of bed in the morning, I feel so lucky to get to do it! Since October I’ve felt so much better (thanks, endorphins, you are the bestest!) and my body has more muscle than its had in nearly a decade. I do get some pain in my pelvis once in a while if I go too hard, but I try to listen to what my body needs and pull back when I need to.

I’m still a newbie at working out (which sounds kind of ridiculous at 31 years old), but I plan to make this part of my life. Working out for me will never be about loosing weight or gaining muscle (thought I’m so glad those both happen), but to stay healthy and hopefully keep kicking the endo monster in the butt as often as possible. Getting stronger is a good motivator, but the thing that motivates me most, and also makes it hard to do, is having endometriosis.

So I spend way more time than I ever thought I would googling new workouts to try and half of my instagram feed is fitness gurus that keep me inspired on those days (most days if I’ve being honest ;)) when I don’t feel like working out.

This is all to let you know that you’ll be hearing more fitness-y related things on this blog. Which is weird because I think one of the many reasons why I never wanted to go to a gym was because I felt like there was a smugness about people who worked out. Again, that’s my judgey-ness coming through. But I don’t want you guys to think I’m ever posting pics of myself in the gym because I feel smug. It’s all to foster a holistic approach to staying healthy, whether you are working through health problems too or just want to be a bit more healthy.

Phew! Sorry for that lengthy babble. I promise to keep my next posts short and sweet! There’s just a lot of baggage I carry around with working out, and I wanted to let you guys know about it before I just started posting about fitness and health-related things.

I’d love to hear what you guys do or if you’ve had gym-ophobia too.

x Lar

Hello Again!

Dearest Readers,

It’s been too long! So sorry for the radio silence. I’ve spent the past two weeks trying to get my life back to some type of normalcy. Thank you so, so, so, so much for all the wonderful words of support and kindness! I wish I could better express how much it meant (and continues to mean) to me.

Last month’s surgery and post-op infection threw me for an emotional and physical loop that I’m still coming to terms with. Long story short, I had invasive surgery for my endometriosis (Lar had the same procedure done last year), spent 10 days trying to recover and started to feel worse, ended up going to the ER and staying at the hospital for three more days due to a post-op abscess, which was followed by 14 days of incredibly strong antibiotics that made me feel worse than ever.I finished the antibiotics two weeks ago and am almost fully recovered – woohoo!

All last month I didn’t shower much, definitely didn’t wear make-up, didn’t wear a bra, and lived in sweats and large t-shirts. So even though the photo below isn’t glamorous, it makes me happy because I took it on the first day (about 1.5 weeks ago) that I was energetic enough up to apply make-up, put on a fitted shirt (and bra), and wear jeans.  If that’s not something to celebrate – I don’t know what is!

Dr Who tshirt

I don’t want to sound overly dramatic – because I know so many people have been through so much worse than what I experienced – but suffering for 30 days straight completely changed me. Some changes are expected:

  • I’m even more grateful than ever for my friends and family. It sounds so trite, but I would have not have made it through without all of the love and support I received.
  • I’m much more empathetic towards anyone who is suffering or in pain. I’ve always been a sympathetic person (or at least I like to think so), but now I feel like I have a much better understanding of what people are going through when they’re unwell.
  • I admire people who are able to live with chronic pain – whether or not they complain about it nonstop or have a stiff upper lip and never mention it.
  • I’m terrified of hospitals now and have even less trust in doctors.
  • I don’t trust my body anymore. I’m worried that if I ever need surgery again, I’ll get an infection again – or something worse.

Some changes are totally unexpected:

  • In some ways I’m not as scared about things. Stuff that would stress me out before – like having to drop out of grad school for a semester or working on a presentation for my job – don’t seem as overwhelming because I’ve lived through a scarier and much more painful experience and everything else doesn’t seem like a big deal.
  • In other ways I’m more terrified about things – especially health-related things. I freak out if I start feeling slightly unwell. I’m scared that if I get even a minor cold I’ll somehow end up back at the hospital. I feel much more vulnerable.
  • I’m kind of mad that eating healthy and exercise didn’t prevent my infection. I know that sounds like the dumbest statement ever, but I really subconsciously thought that because I was a healthy person going into the surgery and I followed the doctors post-surgery orders (breathing exercises, frequent short walks, sticking to a strict medication schedule etc.) that I would have a pretty quick recovery. So wrong!
  • Even given the above statement, I’m more motivated than ever to take better care of myself – eat more veggies, exercise even more and drink less. So although I’m mad that good eating and exercise didn’t magically prevent me from getting sick, I still have faith in them.
  • After feeling so crappy for so long, I now want to surround myself with pretty things more than ever. That’s not to say I want to go on a shopping spree for new clothes and house goods (although I kind of do), but it’s really more about taking care of the things I already have and keeping/making them nice.

I know some of these feelings will dissipate with time – and maybe some therapy – but those are my feelings now. I know Lar can completely relate and maybe that’s one of the silver linings from this horrific experience. I feel closer to Lar now than ever before – even though we’re still thousands of miles apart – because we’ve had similar experiences (although her’s was much worse than mine).

Another silver lining: getting joy out of things that I used to take for granted. Like:

Skyping, Facetiming and What’s App-ing with Lar. We send each other goofy photos of ourselves randomly throughout the day:

funny faces

I’m also so grateful to eat food again – and not just crackers and toast and apple sauce! Although I won’t be eating tons of meals at Waffle House in the future (not the healthiest place to eat), it was so lovely to tuck into some raisin toast, cheesy eggs, and hash browns this past weekend. Also, having the energy to workout is a wonderful feeling – that’s my post workout face below.

workout eats

You know how I mentioned wanting to surround myself with pretty things? Well, one of the ways that has manifested is through my nails. As soon as I started feeling better, I put on a set of Jamberries that my friend had sent me, and it totally brightened my day. Seriously, nail decals do it for me – especially because it’s so much cheaper than a salon mani.

jamberries

I’ll start posting more frequently again. I just need to get my act together and start taking photos with something other than my iPhone 4S. It’s a dinosaur and the camera doesn’t want to focus on anything. Also, at some point soon I’ll start wearing some bloggable outfits, but right now I’m just excited that I can wear jeans again.

Love you all!

xoxo, Cath

Cath update

Audrey knitting

Dear Readers

We are so sorry things have gone a little quiet here the last few weeks.

As you know from previous posts, Cath got an infection after her endometriosis surgery at the beginning of the month. She is still at home recuperating and sloughing through the last week of her heavy-duty antibiotics.

I’ve been skyping her daily. Sometimes she feels good enough to sit up and chat and other days she’s too nauseated to even look at the screen when we talk. It’s been a long, hard month for her, to say the least.

But she is on the mend. And every day I know she’s getting closer to that moment when she can feel healthy and whole again.

Once we’ve all gotten a bit more rest, we’ll both be back here blogging as much as we can. In the meantime know that your kind comments mean the world to both Cath and myself.

Much Love,

Lar (and Cath)

p.s. The pic above of Audrey Hepburn knitting is from Cath’s Pinterest account — she just pinned it! I can’t tell you how happy it makes me that she feels good enough to do that! It might sound silly if you haven’t been ill for a long while, but feeling good enough to do that is a HUGE baby step forward. Huzzah!

We are totally identical

twopeas3

Dear Readers

Cath is back in the hospital for another few days because she developed an infection post-surgery. This is rare. Our surgeon told us this happens to 1% of his patients.

I also had an infection after my endometriosis surgery.

Rare, you say?

This is what I think:

1) We’re totally ruining our doctor’s percentages. (Now he has to tell patients, “it’s less than 1% likely you’ll have to come back — unless, of course, you count this set of twins I operated on — but they’re an anomaly already so don’t count them!”)

2) We are totalllllly identical. In all things apparently. Lucky duckies!

Getting an infection is no fun. Nobody wants to spend more time in a hospital than they need to. It’s scary to have to run tests and go under anesthesia again for them to drain an abscess and then to be put on the Hulk of antibiotics.

At the moment Cath is feeling pretty miserable because the antibiotics make her nauseated all the time, but the pain meds help her to doze on and off, which is good. She’ll be on these mega-antibiotics for a couple more weeks post-hospital stay. And though she’ll feel pretty miserable, her body will be healing. It will feel like eternity to her, but by Valentine’s Day she’ll be swilling champagne and chocolate to her hearts content. I’ll make sure of it!

Well, that’s the other thing. It’s sucky to be identical because I know what she is going through and I’m absolutely no help because I’m 5,000 miles across an ocean. We’ve Face-timed and texted but it is not the same as sitting with her all night and holding her hand. When she feels so terrible and tired and scared, I wish so very badly I could be there to cool her forehead and murmur that everything will be okay and this too shall end. And that everything she feels (all the things she doesn’t want to feel but has to) is normal. And it’s all okay even when it doesn’t feel okay and feels interminable.

In the near future I won’t live quite so far away from Cath and then we can be identical together together, not just together via the great interwebs. I’ll swig bubbly with her and we can reminisce about how we used to live in separate countries. Separate continents even.

(If you’re in between bouts of nausea and can read this, Cath, love you so so so much and can’t wait until we’re on the same land mass again)

 

An update on Cath’s Endometriosis Surgery

Babysloth
Photo by Josh Norem

Dear Readers

Cath’s surgery went really well and she’s wrapped up warm and cozy recovering at my parent’s house in Atlanta. I’m so very grateful to Dr. Sinvervo (the endo specialist and surgeon) and his team for keeping my twinie safe and hopefully curing her of the endo and putting an end to the pain she has had to endure.

Cath’s surgery was on Tuesday and she was on her way home Wednesday afternoon. She’s still feeling pretty sore and tired from both the surgery, antibiotics and drugs, but looking beeeyoootiful (I skyped her yesterday).

I’m sorry this update was so long in coming. I was away on a business trip right as Cath was going in and having a hard time juggling lots of What’s Apping and Skyping while speeding along in a train through the wilds of north west England.

Thank you all for your wonderful prayers and positive/health-ful vibes for Cath’s surgery and speedy recovery! Between you guys and getting her platelets spun (a new technique they do during surgery that quickens healing time), Cath will be on her feet in no time!

Lots and lots of Love,

Lar

My Endometriosis UK story

Endometriosis-UK
All photos Holly Wren Photography

Hi Lovely Readers,

This is a break from my usual letter posts to Cath so that you can take a gander at some professional photos of my mug and learn some more about endometriosis!!! (Discussing chronic disease is proven to be more fun with exclamation points!!!)

Long-time readers know that I have endometriosis and this year has been a challenging one. I’ve been in the hospital twice in the span of eight months. The first stay was an emergency where I was in a lot of pain and still suffer from flash-backs from such a scary and bewildering time.

Having a chronic illness is an immense challenge for so many reasons: the pain, the isolation, the fear, the frustration, a sense of being trapped by your own body. Part of the frustration and fear of having endometriosis specifically is that so little is known about it. Nearly every doctors visit I have, I feel so frustrated and scared because I know more about my endo than they do.

So that’s why you will see me blab about it as often as possible here on AsianCajuns. The more people (doctors and lay people, alike) know about the disease, the better. More knowledge means fewer misdiagnoses and less stigma against talking about women’s health.

This winter I got to work with amazingly talented photographer Holly Wren who is volunteering her time for Endometriosis UK; taking photos of women around the UK who suffer from endometriosis. Endometriosis UK then share our stories and portraits on their site. You can read my surgery story here.

I’m also hopeful that my story will help women suffering with endo and looking for answers like I was. Because doctors visits were so frustrating, I turned to the internet to read about what other women were dealing with, and it was immense comfort to read their stories and know that I wasn’t alone.

For those of you who would like to know more about endo in general, you can read a quick blurb about what endometriosis is here. And if you’d like to read more about my personal journey with endo you can click  “Endometriosis” in our blog categories in the right-hand column or click here.

Thank you, readers, for listening to all this. I know talking about chronic pain is not nearly as much fun as Scottish castles or sustainable style, but it means so much to me to get to share this with you.

Much Love,

Lar

Holly-Wren-Lauren-Lee