I’ve been having a lot of health problems recently and it seems like I’ve had some sort of illness or another since January. I am reminded of an ugly thing a childhood friend’s mom said to me once, after a particularly bad bout of bronchitis: “You’re always sick.” This mom had overly healthy kids: swim team kids, strapping, tall, kids. I, however, was nowhere near strapping. Oh, sure, I tried to keep up by enrolling in twirling, gymnastics, cheerleading, Girl Scouts, but puny would be a word to describe who I was then. This mom, and others moms had kids who were never really sick other than the usual colds, flus, and chicken pox. On the other hand, my mom (and me) knew illness by the numerous trips/procedures at Texas Children’s Hospital, by the “breathing machine” (nebulizer), the “milk pump” (Kangaroo pump), the g-tube I had until age 10, the asthma, the bronchitis, the pneumonia, the P.E. tubes (7 sets, to be precise) in my ears, etc., etc.
I had (and still do) a lot of feeding/eating problems for a multitude of reasons which will most likely bore you, but let’s just say that I’m all-too familiar with barium sulfate and edoscopies. Several months ago, it was suggested by one of my doctors that I might have a gluten intolerance or allergy due to many similarities I have with Celiac Disease. So, I went off wheat gluten. Lo and behold, I got better. Less allergies, less stomach distension, no migraines.
And then I got busy and lazy about meal planning. And I got sick. I’m not saying what’s going on with me now is 100% gluten related, but the Big G is responsible for inflammation and I’m having serious inflammation issues. On Friday, I’m getting a biopsy on a “nodule” (what a scary word to hear in a voicemail from your ENT doctor) on my lymph node in my neck. This “nodule” arrived (what a terrible guest) after I had an abscess way down in my ear last April as the result of a major allergy attack (thank you, Tuscaloosa and your crazy, abundant ragweed). What began then as an ear infection (which I didn’t know I had because it was so far down, I didn’t feel it) became a night in the hospital and an allergic reaction to the commonly-prescribed antibiotic, Augmentin. The ER doctors didn’t drain the infection, which sat right on the lymph node, but after a CT Scan and MRI confirmed that it was in fact an abscess, sent me on my merry way, antibiotics in hand.
After another round of antibiotics, the infection went away, but the nodule stayed behind. Luckily, it has not grown and after two endoscopies in the past month, my ENT doctor is pretty sure that it’s not a tumor, but that my lymph nodes are inflammed and never went down from the original infection. “Your lymph nodes are doing their job, they’re inflamming in the presence of infection,” he said while I sat in his office last week. He sent me home with a prescription for Cipro, and 1000 mg/a day at that. That’s a lot of Cipro, folks. He also ordered a biopsy to “cover the bases,” though he’s pretty sure it’s not cancerous (pleasepleasepleaseno). The results should be in next Tuesday or Wednesday.
In the meantime, I’ve returned to 100% g-free eating and it has actually helped (like it did the last time). My lymph node swelling has reduced some. My headaches are once again gone. My skin is brighter. I have zero stomach distension when I eat. No heartburn. I’m way less tired.
Eating for me has always been a challenge, whether it was my violent allergic reaction to cow’s milk as a baby (hello, Polycose), having to shoot Ensure (aka The Grossest Thing on Earth) in my mouth via syringe after my jaw surgery (to “expand” my then-tiny lower jaw) for an entire summer when I was 16, or taking on a g-free lifestyle. But I accept these challenges. It makes me appreciate food in different ways. It makes me who I am. I love cooking, and so I love the new(ish, to me) world of g-free (and no egg, low dairy, low sugar, no tree nuts) cooking.
My favorite recipe? My Gluten-Free Spinach, Goat Cheese, & Tomato Pizza, presented here in all of its delicious glory:
Organic Baby Spinach
2-3 roma tomatoes
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Crumbled Goat Cheese
2 Tbsp Shredded Parmesan, if preferred
*you can buy these at Whole Foods and they are the BEST tasting g-free crusts!
1. Preheat oven to 375°. Place uncooked pizza crust on foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle 1 Tbsp olive oil on crust, using a paper towel to “blot spread” it. Spring 1 Tbsp parmesan on crust.
2. Place several handfuls of baby spinach into a gallon-sized Ziploc bag, drizzle in 1 or 2 Tbsp olive oil. Close bag and shake. Spread oil-coated spinach on crust.
3. Place roma tomato rounds on pizza. I like to do circles, but however is fine.
4. Sprinkle goat cheese, then one more Tbsp. of parmesan, and one additional drizzle of olive oil over pizza. Cook at 375° for about 10 minutes, or until crust and cheese are nicely browned.