Recurring Bell’s Palsy?

A week ago, I was eating breakfast and tried to smile.  Something didn’t feel right; the right side of my face didn’t respond normally.  My mouth wouldn’t pull up into a smile completely.  I had movement–I could blink and I could move my cheek and mouth muscles somewhat, but there was definite muscle weakness.

I already knew/know it’s not stroke; the muscle weakness is limited to my face.  Language, math, and perception centers of my brain were all functioning pretty normally except for taste.  About a week earlier (two weeks ago now), I stopped being able to taste on the right side of my tongue.

The last time something like this occurred was 12 years ago when I was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy.  At that time, I had 100% paralysis on the right side of my face: no blinking, no mouth movement, no muscle tone, nothing.  The first symptom back then was also loss of taste on half my tongue, but it progressed to paralysis overnight.

I went to urgent care and there are some things that are not consistent with Bell’s Palsy: the weakness versus paralysis and the rate of progression.  I have full or nearly full control of my forehead and eye muscles, so the right lower quadrant of my face is most affected.  Bell’s Palsy recurrences are not common, either; estimates show them at < 10% (  There are some things that are consistent with Bell’s Palsy: the radiating pain along my right cheekbone, loss of taste on one side, reduced tearing in my right eye, and it’s on the same side that was affected before.

The typical treatment is prednisone + antiviral medications.  I’m now finishing my 2nd round of high-dose prednisone this year–and I ache all over!  That will fade.  I have an appointment with a neurologist in 2 weeks to try to determine what is the most likely explanation–additional diagnostic tests are likely to be needed in this case.  In the meantime, we’ve done the best treatment we can if it IS Bell’s Palsy.  If not, at least my face isn’t getting worse, though the muscles DO fatigue easily when chewing dinner (and I have to chew on my left side if I want to taste anything).

The worst parts of having Bell’s Palsy before were not being able to blink or to stop drooling–I’m not suffering either of those.  However, I can’t puff up my cheeks with air.  I just make fart noises.  It makes me laugh.

I’ve heard that a lot of people who have Bell’s Palsy are too upset to go out in public. I seriously doubt anyone would notice that there’s any problem.  I don’t look like my face is melting off.  Therefore, whatever this is, for now, I can deal with it.

Nutritional Showdown: Steel Cut Oats vs Rolled Oats

How many of you have seen, read, or heard that steel-cut oats are healthier for you than regular oatmeal?  I know I have.  I assumed that there must be some sort of nutritional difference between the two: more fiber perhaps, or just less processing.  Recently, as part of my weight-loss efforts, I tried a fridge oats recipe.  Since I didn’t have any regular (rolled) oatmeal on hand, I figured I’d be extra-healthy and substitute the steel-cut oats that I did have on hand! Yay me! Bonus healthy points!

After a week, I learned that I don’t love fridge oats.  I prefer my oatmeal warm.  The super-chewy texture of the steel-cut oats was also not so much awesome.  I wondered just how much of a difference there was. Observe:

Quaker Rolled Oats vs Kroger Steel-Cut Oats
Quaker Rolled Oats vs Kroger Steel-Cut Oats

Now, I understand that it’s very difficult to read those nutrition labels from the photos. Allow me to transcribe:

 Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats Steel-Cut Oats
 Serving Size 1/2 cup 1/4 cup
Calories 150 150
Total Fat 3 g 2.5 g
Saturated Fat 0.5 g 0.5 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1 g 1 g
Monounsaturated Fat 1 g 1 g
 Cholesterol 0 mg 0 mg
Sodium 0 mg 0 mg
Total Carbohydrate 27 g 27 g
Dietary Fiber 4 g 4 g
Soluble Fiber 2 g 2 g
 Insoluble Fiber 2 g 2 g
Sugars 1 g 1 g
Protein 5 g 5 g

The only measurable difference is serving size.  The steel-cut oats have the same nutrition, just more densely packed.  My roommate commented “but steel-cut oats keep me fuller longer!” Yep–you’re eating twice as much food in the same volume!  Of course you’re fuller longer!

But, you argue, Look at the fat!  There’s a half-gram difference in total fat! Why yes, that does appear to be true.  However, when you look at the distribution of those fats, they’re identical, and 2.5 rounds up to 3.  Thus, that difference is probably either a trace difference or rounding difference, therefore, nutritionally NULL.

Oh–one other important (to me) thing: regular rolled oats cook in about 1 minute in the microwave in the morning.  I do not have to soak them overnight to make them chewable.

I’m going back to my regular rolled oats.


I won my DietBet!

DB2015-BeforeAfterThis was one of the most difficult things I’ve undertaken–second only to quitting smoking. I don’t like sharing photos of myself really any time, but I’m choosing to share my before and after pictures this time because I’m proud of the progress I made. Real, measurable progress.

In this bet, I’ve learned a few things about what it takes for my body to lose weight, how fast, what’s acceptable, and what undoes my progress the worst. I learned that I do stress eat more than I thought. Or, at least, I tend to make significantly less healthy food choices. I learned that I still love cooking and I will never be able to follow a “meal plan” because it’s not me. If someone invents the “foodie’s diet” please let me know. I’m happy to save calories on breakfast and lunch in exchange for a delicious dinner (and maybe dessert).

I also made my 5k bet! My final time on my Santa Claus Shuffle was 37:18, which is WAYYY below the goal of beating 39:51 from 3 years ago. I can honestly say I’m in the best shape of my life.

One of the most important learnings wasn’t mine, this time. My boyfriend finally, FINALLY, has learned to become supportive. Instead of suggesting pizza, he bought me whole-wheat pita pockets. Instead of making fun of me and offering me a cracker for dinner, he came with me to my 5k races this year. That means so much to me. It might actually mean more to me than my own weight loss. I haven’t quite sorted out my feelings on any of this.

Right now, my feeling is seriously in the realm of WHERE DA FOOD?! It’s Christmas Day and I WON!

New Year’s Resolution Complete: Santa Claus Shuffle 5k!

Official Race Results.
Official Race Results.

I did it! I did it! I did it!  Not only did I beat my former best time of 39:52 on a 5k, I did so by about two and a half MINUTES.  I finished the 2015 Santa Claus Shuffle 5k in 37:18 (official time).  Thus, I completed one of my New Year’s Resolutions.

As usual, the Santa Claus Shuffle was held in early December in Portsmouth, VA.  Three years ago, my friend Carrie suggested we run it together–and we set our first pace and time.  The next year, we also ran–though not as well.  Last year we missed the race because I was recuperating from surgery.  This year, I expected to be running it alone–Carrie moved back in January–but much to my surprise, she was in town and met me at the race start!  We didn’t stick together during the race, but we both set new best paces and times.

Race tracking by Microsoft Band
Race tracking by Microsoft Band

Ric was there at the finish line. No video this time–he missed it because I was significantly earlier than expected (gee, darn)! I also don’t have any official race finish photos or anything else except my personal favorite: the post-race celebratory banana photo of Carrie & me.  Yes, that’s a snowman-Dalek.  I did NOT want to run in costume this year, so settled for the most Christmassy short-sleeved T-shirt I had!

Carrie & Me!
Carrie & Me!

Healthy Moments Challenge Day 3

Today’s challenge was deceptively simple: eat veggies at every meal.  I interpret that as meaning at least one serving of veggies (not just a garnish).  In this case, the two health challenges I’m doing directly conflicted with one another!  The planned breakfast for the FitGirlsGuide 28-day jumpstart has cherries, but no vegetables.  I expect that’s going to happen occasionally.

Embracing the “progress, not perfection” mantra, I grabbed a handful of baby carrots with my breakfast and skipped my snack during the day.  Normally, I’m quite happy to incorporate vegetables into my eggs.  Especially onions or shallots.  Also tomatoes.  And maybe spinach sometimes.  I like the combination of tomatoes and eggs–especially something like salsa!

For lunch, veggies were already included: 1 cup of roasted vegetables.  Mine was  a mix of roasted pumpkin, carrots, and onions (because that’s what I had on hand when I started the challenge).  There’s also a handful of steamed kale in there.

Dinner also already had vegetables included: the pita pizza party called for mushrooms, bell pepper, and spinach in addition to the marinara sauce.  I found that I really missed onions on my pizza.  I also think that next time I try that recipe, I might put the toppings IN the pita pocket since mine slid off and made  a horrible mess… but still a fairly tasty mess.  If it had been photo-worthy, I’d’ve taken a picture for this post, but nooooo….

Fuyu persimmons, one of several varieties and definitely NOT a vegetable.

Special bonus round: tonight’s meal was also to be accompanied by a half cup of fruit.  I had a persimmon.  If you’ve never had a persimmon, they taste like jam and they’re heavenly.  My spousal substitute just had a bite and I swear I think his eyes rolled back in his head–and he’s a carnivore.  You can learn more about one of my favorite seasonal treats over at the Botanist in the Kitchen!

Healthy Moments Challenge Day 2

Today’s calendar item on the Healthy Moments Challenge was to try a new workout.  My very first thought this morning was

…does surviving a migraine count as a workout?! Today is gonna be a loooong day….  🙁


Some days I wake up with migraines.  Sometimes they tend to cluster, and I get one every week, a week apart.  I’ve never figured out what causes them.  I was able to get through my day thanks to Excedrin, but the pain hasn’t really gone away.

Despite that, I did my workout–and I love it when I can have something serve dual functions.  Today’s abs workout was simple.  I even had a helper.

Every single time I tried to lean back (to get a better picture) my kitten crawled up further.  This also complicated accomplishing pretty much all of the abs workout.

This is supposed to be about my experience with this, so today’s experience was a combination of brain-pain and “obviously the human isn’t busy enough if they’re exercising.  It must be pet-me time.”


What I really want to know at this point--does your pet "help" you with your workout(s)?

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From Here to Eternity (5k race)

The sign that started it all...
The sign that started it all…

Earlier this year (in the summer), I realized that my running shoes were getting seriously worn out.  I finally decided to go get new ones.  Ironically, that same day, I saw signs for a 5k race event that was absolutely perfect for me: a 5k run through the Elmwood Cemetery, at twilight, a week before Halloween.  I signed up that night.

Shortly after, I started practicing for that 5k. I know the technical term is training, but I’m not an athlete and “training” seems too serious for a non-runner (me).  Finally, on October 24, 2015, it was race day.  I did opt to run in Steampunk costume. Laughably, nobody thought to get a picture of me BEFORE I was all race-sweaty, so you’ll have to wait to see my Halloween pictures (coming soon).

The run through the Elmwood Cemetery in Norfolk, VA (Oct 24, 2015). Image route from my Microsoft Band; blue = slowest, red = fastest.
The run through the Elmwood Cemetery in Norfolk, VA (Oct 24, 2015). Image route from my Microsoft Band; blue = slowest, red = fastest.

Honestly, it was harder going than I expected, partly due to the clothing and partly due to the irregular surface (gravel path and grass).  Despite that, I set a reasonably good pace, but I did end up walking some to catch my breath.

However, my boyfriend and my Mom were there to cheer me on (thanks!) and my boyfriend got video of me crossing the finish line:

My final official finishing time was 39:56.  That was 20th in my age group (30-39), right about in the middle.  I was 5 seconds short of setting a personal record! Although that’s immensely frustrating, I have another race coming up in December to fulfill my New Year’s Resolution goal.  On the plus side, it’s my first race medal!

Finisher's medal and race bib
Finisher’s medal and race bib

Gallstones & Surgery

I’ve been debating for weeks about whether to blog about this.  I’ve decided to tell part of the story: the less personal part.  Starting in early September, I was experiencing pretty severe pain in the right upper quadrant of my abdomen.  It was about the severity of broken bones, and was enough to make me feel nauseous.  Given the location of the pain, I was fairly sure it was in my gall bladder.

The gall bladder normally stores bile, which is produced by the liver.  Bile is what helps to emulsify fats from the diet so that you can digest and absorb them.  The liver also produces cholesterol.  Sometimes this process and the bile-cholesterol balance becomes imbalanced, which can cause the bile to start to become really concentrated and then it precipitates, forming gallstones.

Those things can HURT.   But why the pain?  After a meal (about 30 minutes later), the gall bladder contracts and squeezes some bile into the digestive system.  If you have a gallstone, it squeezes that, too.  That tends to hurt.  If the gallstones are small enough, they may be squeezed into the bile duct, which can be dangerous and very painful.  If the bile duct becomes blocked, the gall bladder can become inflamed and swollen.  This inflammation can spread to the nearby liver and pancreas, which can become life-threatening.

My gallstone was diagnosed by ultrasound.   Fortunately (or unfortunately), it isn’t that small.  It’s big.  It’s actually an inch in size, and that is  8 times larger than the duct–so it’s physically impossible for this thing to pass on its own.  Therefore, surgery is required.  Because it is physically too big to get lodged in the bile duct, my stone isn’t life threatening and won’t become life threatening, so my surgery is considered “elective.”

This has meant some fairly significant delays in getting treatment.  I’ve been in nearly continuous pain for about 2 months now, and that is only partially managed by my prescription for Norco.  Now for fun drug talk: Norco is a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen (Tylenol).  Vicodin is also a combination of the same two drugs, but the ratio of hydrocodone to acetaminophen differs a bit (same amount of hydrocodone, more acetaminophen in Vicodin).  The TV show House made popping Vicodin look almost normal.  House is an idiot.  Vicodin/Norco isn’t particularly effective as a painkiller for me (Darvocet, propoxyphene + acetaminophen, was better, but the FDA took it away).  On top of that, Vicodin/Norco isn’t particularly psychoactive for me: I don’t get any warm fuzzies, or high, or anything out of it except moderate pain relief.  I don’t think I’d ever become addicted to the stuff.  Again, House is an idiot.

My surgery is  a laparoscopic cholecystectomy (removal of the gall bladder).  One of the most common questions I get is whether there are other treatments.  For gall stones, not really.  You can’t blast them with ultrasound and break them up (well, you probably could, but you might also damage other nearby tissues like your liver and pancreas).  Even if you do break them up into small enough pieces to pass, that’s going to mean more (excruciating) pain, and they’re almost guaranteed to come back.  There are drugs that can dissolve smaller ones, but mine is far too large for the drugs to be effective.  They can also take years, and once you stop taking the drugs, the stones return.  The only viable treatment option is removal of the whole offending organ.  As it turns out, it’s more of an accessory organ; it’s not critical for life or functioning.

To prepare for my surgery, I’m trying to get my weight into the normal BMI range, assiduously taking my vitamins, and keeping my skin moisturizes (this should reduce scarring).  I’m trying to keep my bowels running smoothly because it seems to reduce the pain I have, but a side effect of Norco (or any narcotic) is constipation.  I’ve watched a video of the procedure so I know what will be happening while I’m out.  I’ve met with my surgeon, and I fully understand what to expect and what will be happening… and I’m still very apprehensive.  I have a fear of hospitals (nosocomephobia), which is surprisingly common: according to a recent report by Women’s Health magazine, it’s one of the top ten fears, and 15% of people have trouble with hospitals.  I’m not sure how accurate that statistic is, but they cite the NIH, so that gives me some confidence.  In the meantime, I’m trying to prepare for my class absences and other anticipated issues and trying to keep my mind off the issue.  It’s getting harder.  My surgery is set for November 6.

WARNING: The video below contains blood and body organs.  It’s not for everyone.  Feel free to skip it. Continue reading “Gallstones & Surgery”

Resolutions: 3rd-Quarter Check-in

  1.  Financial:  I’m having a difficult time with this one.  Some months I’ve managed to keep to the $100/month budget, others I was over, and others I was way under.  My cats have been unanticipated expenses this year, too.  Overall, though, I’m working toward getting my student loans out of hock, my car payment caught up, money in savings, and a 401k by the end of the year.  Some of that will still be in-progress (student loans will be ongoing forever), but the rest will be doable!  I feel kinda good about that.
  2. Physical: I’m nowhere near my target weight loss goal.  I can’t get there unless I lose a leg.  I have greatly improved my fitness this year so far, and I am running my first 5k in December (jogging, really, but it’s a start), and I hope to do that ONE mile in under 10 minutes before the end of the year.  I will push on that.  I’m doing the Jillian Michaels’ 30-day shred.  I’ve worked out more this year than any other, and I’ve changed my diet more, too.  I guess I just wasn’t consistent enough.  I know that this summer I had a setback with a hip injury that knocked me down for 12 weeks, and I lost a lot of ground… that’s honestly not an excuse, but it did not help me progress toward my goals.  I got sloppy.  It happens to most people.   At this stage, I’m now at the heaviest I’ve been all year.  I’m sticking to a brutally restrictive diet and tough exercise regimen (Couch-to-5k and the 30-day shred both) and at this point, hope to re-achieve my low weight for the year.
  3. Beauty:  I’ve continued to make efforts on this, but not as consistently as I could.  I still have my hair in a bun a lot (because it’s quick, easy, and controls my hair).  After the 2nd haircut I decided I couldn’t heat style my hair as much because the split ends were seriously bad… and without that, frizz is not a style.
  4. Be nicer to my cat: poor Mickey.  She’s having a really bad time of it. Her eyes have quit producing tears, she was scratching bald and bleeding spots in herself… nicer is a relative term.  She’s on daily eyedrops/cream (which she hates) and a prescription diet (which she’s convinced is starving her to death) and at this moment she has laryngitis.  I’ve probably spent over $1300 in vet bills.  Her vaccines are up-to-date.  I still love my kitty to pieces and we snuggle every night.
  5. Photo-of-the-week: this is the one last section I need to work on updating!  There are some missing weeks, but I’ll be posting as many as I can.  I don’t think I can hit 95% though.  Some pictures were apparently lost due to technology-issues, but really, I think that was one or two photos.

Photo of the Week: Week 28

Hip X-Rays

I apparently injured my left hip doing something.  It’s unclear what, exactly, that might have been, but I went in for x-rays (it hurt worse than any of the fractures I’ve had).  My whole life, I thought my hips were messed up–but they’re really, truly not!  I have perfectly normal hips!  YAY!