This was the third crossword puzzle I had published in the Independent Weekend Magazine. Thanks to Mike Hutchinson, Independent Crossword Editor and the newspaper for allowing me to publish it.
Low-Fat Minestrone Soup
This soup serves about six people and on average portion will contain less than 1 gram of fat and saturated fats. There is no cholesterol in this (as it’s meat-free) and the pasta and veg give you a good level of fibre from the pulses. For people who are recently by-passed, it purées well and is also good for introducing veg back into your diet after surgery.
1 onion, chopped
1 leak, sliced or diced
1 stick of celery, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 cloves of garlic crushed
Small tin of butter beans (if you like them!)
1 pint (600ml) chicken stock
2 cans of chopped tomatoes (14oz size)
2oz peas, fresh or better, frozen
2oz very small pasta shells or small macaroni tubes
Salt and black pepper to taste
The soup does freeze well so large batches can be made and used as and when necessary, so ideal for those of us solo patients. Next time I make a batch, I’ll include some pictures!
Yes I know, I did promise…… But things happen. Life happens. I really admire those lovely people who manage to keep updating almost daily, I just can’t. However, I’m going to try and do a weekly update with odd extra bits when I feel I need to shout about something. I feel really guilty as I know that a number of visitors were following my progress and I should have kept you all up to speed with things instead of just using Facebook or Twitter. Sorry.
So where were we? Well, on the weight front, I’m now down to 19.5 stone, which is just over 13 stone from my heaviest weight during 2010 pre-bypass. It hasn’t been easy as I’m still having problems with food intake. Although by now I thought I’d be eating a reasonably normal low-fat sensible and small diet, I have found I can’t tolerate chicken and solid meat like steak. I also find veg like broccoli difficult, although I have to say that they weren’t really my favourite.
Things culminated in a trip to hospital a few weeks back when I had eaten some stew I had made from stewing steak. I thought I had tenderised it and cooked it to death, but a piece of it seemed to lodge somewhere in my inner plumbing and I suffered the consequences. I suspect that on the day I was admitted I cleared it by vomiting and a subsequence gastroscopy revealed inflammation in my pouch.
Since then I have had a fairly bland diet. I followed advice and went right back to basics eating soups and puréed things for a few days and now managing mainly simple things using minced beef, pork or lamb. I’m doing a food diary again and will share this in the near future, along with hopefully some comments from my Dietitian, the lovely Vanessa.
The other problem I have encountered health-wise that has caused lots of difficulties is that of kidney stones. Around Christmas last year I started to feel quite a bit of discomfort and pain. A subsequent admission to my third Holiday home at Huddersfield Infirmary revealed the presence of a number of renal calculi (kidney stones to you and me!). I had one lot of surgery just before Christmas which removed four stones from my left tube; stents were placed inside to help with passing them. I then had further surgery at the end of January which removed a few stones from my left kidney. Two lots of lithotripsy removed some of the stones from the right tube and kidney. However, I still have a large 2 cm stone in my right kidney that has resisted all attempts to destroy it, and I now face surgery at the end of the month to get rid of it.
I’m a bit puzzled about the number of stones now removed (around 12-15) and still to shift; my last x-ray/scan revealed that I have the beginnings of new ones in the left kidney as well. After my bypass surgery I have to take a number of daily meds which include iron and calcium supplements as my body no longer produces adequate quantities. I also take vitamin supplements and eat Brazil nuts to maintain selenium levels. Hopefully the surgery at the end of the month will reveal more.
After the second kidney op, I found that some bladder problems that had been around for a while intensified and I now have to wear a catheter, which is a real inconvenience, and has depressed me somewhat. A few weeks back when I was in with kidney pain, we tried to remove it, but the problems without it outweighed the ones I have with it. So for now, it’s back in and making me a bit miserable.
Another thing that happened late last year was that I suffered a couple of minor blackouts; nothing major, but I was referred to a neurologist as a precaution. I saw the neurologist back in February and he advised me to stop driving. Despite my protests, I agreed and advised the relevant authorities. This also meant sending back my Motability car. This probably affected me more than the illness issues and I struggled with public transport. Luckily, many of my friends and family rallied round so I was able to go to play bridge and so on. I am so grateful for everyone who helped me. After undergoing a couple of scans that the neurologist requested, he cleared me, but wanted me to see a cardiologist. I did this last week and he cleared me, identifying that some medication I was on to reduce my blood pressure at night and help my kidneys, was actually already on my meds list. Consequently I was zonked out a lot of the time. No that we have stopped this, I feel much better and am trying to enjoy life a little more positively.
My lymphoedema seems to be reasonably stable at the moment although th fluid pouches at the top of my legs are still quite large. The stat dose of antibotics I have been taking seems to have kept the cellulitis I used to frequently get at bay. I’m still having my legs bandaged with some gentle compression and hope to see my Lymphoedema Specialist Nurse, Tracy, in the near future.
Still awake? On with a bit more. As most of you already know, I had to give up work around six years ago and manage on Incapacity Benefit and Disability Living Allowances. Our wonderful Government decided to move people on IB over to a new allowance called ESA. However this is being carried out by a private company, ATOS. There have been many stories in the newspapers about most claimants being turned down and then being forced to appeal. Because the company is paid on results, like the odious and seriously useless A4e, who are supposed to care for my ‘employment wellness’ they fail most people in the hope that they don’t appeal further. I have heard stories of people with serious and terminal conditions being told they are fit to work and losing their allowances. During February I received the form and summons that I was being moved off IB. I filled in my forms with the help of the Welfare Rights Advisor from Pennine Housing and sent the form off, along with letters from my GP and counsellor detailing my exact state of health. After almost three months, I was
surprised to hear that my application had been processed and I was being placed in the Support Group, which means I receive the new ESA allowance, a combination of IB and Income Support. I have to attend regular meetings once or twice a year to maintain my ‘work focus’ (rest assured, Mr Cameron, the moment I can go back to work, I will do so!). I also used an excellent website called Benefits and Work (http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk ). If you are in a similar position I’d strongly recommend you subscribe to the site, and seek help from one of the support services such as Citizens’ Advice or Welfare Rights to ensure your application is fully checked and supported. Gather and include as much evidence as possible, and I know it’s easy to say, but don’t go over the top with your claims, but tell it the way it is. That seems to have worked for me. Feel free to contact me if you are in the same boat and I’ll try and offer a little advice. Likewise I am always happy to talk to you if you are thinking of weight loss surgery.
Apart from all that, anything else? Well, I’m still single although I haven’t really made any attempts at trying to date or meet people because of everything else going on. I’m still friends with Paul whom I saw for a while last year, and although he is still special to me, we’re just friends. I’m enjoying my bridge, the football referee assessing hasn’t really happened this year because of the illnesses. Quiz setting has been enjoyable with close contests in both Todmorden and Bacup Leagues. I have been doing a little crossword setting with a puzzle that is 50% mine on Big Dave’s Crossword Blog (http://bigdave44.com/2012/06/02/prize-puzzle-june-2012/) as the Prize Puzzle for June (you have till Saturday to enter!). I’m also in the Independent this Saturday with the General Knowledge Crossword. I’ll post more about the social life over the next few days.
Right, I think that’s me up to date for now. I’ll try and post things more regularly and let you know how things are going. I’ll try and get some new pictures of life around here over the next couple of weeks.
Oh, I’m pleased to say that the cardiologist I saw last week cleared me for driving and after talking to Motability and the DVLA, I was able to order my new car today, so I’ll be mobile again soon. Thanks to the two organisations for being so helpful as well.
Ye! I’m doing an update, so watch this space!