… And Then Cancer Moves Up On My List Of Health Concerns (and why I’m ok with it)

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Two years ago I figured out that a severe gluten intolerance was the culprit of my ill health (as a side note, I’m still awaiting determination if it’s Celiac Disease). By strictly modifying my diet, my ill health improved drastically.

Just over a year ago I suffered a mental breakdown and began treatment for clinical depression. Again, huge results in my mental and physical health after I started on a low dose anti-depressant.

Now, Cancer is on the forefront of my list of health concerns that I need to keep an eye out for. Warning: This is a bit of a long story.

Remember the kids’ story “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day“? The particular day in question wasn’t quite as bad as that … but it was the start of the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week.

I woke up the last Monday of March and it was just one of those days. It was one of those days where I just feel like all I want to do is sit down and cry and there was absolutely nothing that I could think of that had set it off. Once upon a time it was a regular occurrence. Now, it only happens from time to time. I’m not sure what exactly it is that spurs it on … it could be that my anti-depressants were taken too close together or too far apart. Perhaps it was related to my monthly cycle. Who knows what triggered it. I just knew that if I got up and carried on that it would likely pass at some point throughout the day and if not, my mood/state would be reset the following day after waking up after a long nights sleep.

Later on that day I had a message from my mom saying that my dad had went for an ultrasound and something had shown up. The next day, he returned for a CT scan and the results indicated that most likely one of the polyps in his stomach had turned cancerous.

This was not 100% entirely unexpected. My father has a condition called Attenuated Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (AFAP). If left untreated, growths (called polyps) can form in the colon and turn cancerous over time. A regular colonoscopy can check for these growths and if present, they can be removed at that time. My father had his first polyp show up at the age of 40. By the time that he had turned 50 the number had multiplied so rapidly that there were hundreds of polyps in his large intestine – too many to “burn off”. As a preventative measure, he had all but a few inches of his large intestine removed. The following year polyps began forming in his stomach. And similarly, they multiplied to the hundreds. At first there were talks about removing his entire stomach, connecting his esophagus to his small intestine, a process referred to as a gastrectomy . But it would be such a huge impact to his body considering that there was only a few inches left to his large intestine, and in his particular case they expected him to be on a liquid diet and probably have to use a feeding tube. They decided to monitor at 6 month intervals with the intent that they would be able to do the surgery the minute (figuratively, that is) that the polyps started to turn. He was due to go back in a few weeks for his 6 month “inspection” but over the Fall he wasn’t feeling well, having a lot of pain, and that past week he was starting to get nauseated, in addition to the other new symptoms that he was experiencing. That’s when they put him on the fast track for the ultrasound and CT scan.

I ended up calling in to work that Wednesday and said that I wouldn’t be in. I had a lot to process.

My first thoughts were just getting him through his surgery and treatments. Then I started to think about what was to come next. I thought about how his life would be affected by no longer having a stomach (I suspect I inherited my ‘foodie’ personality from him). And then it occurred to me that if I ever do get my restaurant idea off of the ground, that my dad would not be able to enjoy the food that is prepared there. And it made me sad. My dad has always been super proud of my accomplishments and I would hate for him not to experience it in its entirety.

And then my thoughts started to shift from my dad … to my eventual fate.

I, like my dad, am gene positive for AFAP. I’ve known that I’ve had the condition since I was little, due to genetic testing. Screening for polyps started for me while I was still in high school. My dad didn’t get his first polyp until he was 40. By age 50, he had the majority of his large intestine removed. I had my first polyp at age 26. The next year I had my first polyp in my stomach. So I worry, if it progresses at the same rate as my father, will I be looking at the removal of my large intestine by age 36? Or, like with his stomach, could the polyps in my stomach multiple so quickly that I have to deal with cancer and/or have my stomach removed before I hit 40? It was a lot to take in.

Then I started to wonder “What if I get cancer and/or have my stomach removed? What happens to my restaurant dream then??”

This blog has been a component of that dream and I’ve been having so much fun doing it. My blog and dream restaurant is my passion right now. It’s what drives me.

It’s funny. That Monday morning when I woke (before any light had been shed on the extent of the worsening of my dad’s health), I had read an interesting post on Offbeat Home, “I caught that dream that I was chasing. Now what?“. I could relate to the post because: 1) the writer deals with “Imposter Syndrome” and 2) I’ve also been wondering that exact same question. Despite waking up that morning feeling bad from the start, this post was just what I needed to make my bad day feel a little brighter. I felt encouraged that morning to continue after my dream.

Despite reading that post and feeling better about my bad day, after receiving the news of my father’s predicament, it fast-tracked my future-fears of battling cancer myself. In addition to that, I started to worry about what would happen if I had to have my stomach removed. Would I even want to continue to develop this blog and/or my restaurant dream if I were unable to partake in the pleasures of food? Or, if I did achieve my dream restaurant, would I come to resent it??

Then I started to wonder “What if I can no longer enjoy food? Will I become a social hermit?”

I thought about how we love to entertain and its always based on food. True to Newfoundlander form, we’ve always been known for our “kitchen parties”. For this reason, our new home is being designed with our kitchen as our focal point of the house. It’s where we will spend the majority of our time. What if I start to despise those kitchen parties because I would feel out of place because I can’t enjoy dining with my friends?

My not-so-final thought: “Should I give up on my dream?”

This was a lot to digest for one day. I felt lost and I felt like I should give up on my dream rather than face the possibility of my dreams eventually being crushed. I had an overwhelming feeling of “what’s even the point?“.

Then I received an email response to a previous request to do a guest post on my blog. They said that they wanted to do a post on Celiac Disease and Depression, and that they had found my blog by doing a Google search. I think it was what I needed to snap me back out of the funk that I had found myself in. I started this blog as a means to help others through sharing my experiences. By labelling my blog “Food Allergies Etcetera”, the etcetera portion has allowed me to delve into the topic of mental health. And I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from people who have read my posts related to mental illness because they could truly identify with what I had experienced, and they found that they now had someone else who knew what they were personally experiencing. So what, if at some point I may not be able to enjoy food and share in foodie experiences. Perhaps this blog will morph into something else that is useful to others … perhaps it will serve as a connection point for others with AFAP/FAP, or perhaps it will be a vessel to share my future story of cancer prevention and/or survival.

On the first Friday of April (funny how April just happens to be cancer awareness month), my dad received confirmation that, since his last 6 month inspection, he had cancer in his stomach. His GI surgeon advised that he would not be doing  the gastrectomy at this time and that chemo was the better treatment option. A referral was made to see an oncologist, to discuss chemo. Things have moved very fast and it’s already been just under three weeks since he started treatment and he is doing well with it. Other than being fatigued, he’s not felt sick, has no pain, has stopped losing weight, has regained his appetite and is able to enjoy food just as he always has. And best of all, he still has a full head of thick hair that any 58 year old would be envious of 😉. Hopefully this is an indication of the effectiveness of the treatment!

It’s been a month since that horrible, no good, very bad day … but since then, I’ve stumbled across this article about a young woman in her 20s who decided to have a gastrectomy, and it was quite positive. I also found the No Stomach For Cancer website which has a lot of valuable information, including this overview of a Gastrectomy (You’ll find a lot of useful info related to life during and after a gastrectomy. Just hover over “Gastric Cancer” at the top menu, then hover over “Life Without a Stomach” and you’ll find 4 subpages). In addition to this, I was connected with someone (who I’ll be meeting in the coming weeks) who also decided to have a gastrectomy because she knew that stomach cancer was imminent (due to genetic markers) and she claims that the surgery saved her life (in addition to many other of members of her family). I think she will be a huge resource should I ever decide to go that route in the future. As a result, I’m starting to feel that although having a future Gastrectomy would be life altering, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

My final thought: “You know what? … this situation isn’t as bad as it sounds”

I know the information that I’ve laid out in this post is a bit much to take in … and it sounds like a sad story. But I’m not letting it manifest that way for me. I know our family can beat this. I had a bit of an epiphany moment and its really helped me to deal with the whole situation:

Everyone has their expiry dates. If my eventual fate was to be hit by a bus and killed in a months time, I’d have no idea … And would go on living as if I had years to accomplish what I want to accomplish in life, only to be cut short of those accomplishments. Now I get to live as though I don’t have all the time in the world, it will motivate me to be healthier, appreciate life more and make the best of it.

I wouldn’t come out and be as cocky to say “bring it on!” to cancer … but if it happens to me I’ll be ready for it. I live a relatively healthy life, and am consciously aware of my physical and mental states. I’ve learned over the years that I need to listen to my mental and physical needs. If something seems to be wrong, I’ll immediately arrange to have it checked out. Perhaps in the years to come I’ll be pro-active and have a partial or full gastrectomy, if it looks like it will reduce my risk of developing cancer. I’m upbeat and positive and have an amazingly huge support network in my life, including a fantastic local-gone-national Non-Profit Organization called Young Adult Cancer Canada. I’ve been supporting this group since I’ve discovered it in 2009 and take comfort in knowing the fantastic support that they give to young adults dealing with cancer. I’m not in despair by the recent series of events … I am motivated and I am ready for whatever life has to dish out to me! 🙂

Have you, or someone close to you, had a gastrectomy, been affected by stomach/colorectal cancer, or are a cancer survivor? If so, care to share any advice?

Thanks for reading. As you may or may not have noticed, I recently took a short hiatus from blogging. I have a feeling that for the time being I might continue with this break or at least not blog as actively … although there is potential for some guest posts to pop up from time to time.

Also, positive thoughts are appreciated for our family at this time.

xo

Krista

They Love Me, They Really Love Me: How Friends & Family are Adapting to My Gluten Intolerance

I couldn’t resist misquoting “The Mask” who misquoted Sally Fields’ 1985 Oscar Acceptance speech. I thought it was fitting, because my family and friends obviously love me enough to put up with and cater to my gluten intolerance.

Here are a few examples:

  • If I’m dropping my Guy to work and as he’s about to give me a kiss as he exits the car, he’ll shout “Wait, I just ate a glutenous breakfast sandwich!!” as he turns to kiss me on the cheek instead.
  • They call me up to check on items before using it in dishes if I am heading to their house for a meal.
  • For those who now have a good handle on what naturally has gluten and what doesn’t, their attention has now shifted to ways in which cross-contamination can occur in prep.
  • They tell me about, send me links to, pick me up a sample of any new gluten free products that they see.
  • They forward me gluten-free recipes, or even surprise me with gluten free cookbooks.
  • They have started modifying their naturally containing gluten recipes so that I don’t feel left out!
  • They keep their cupboards stocked with gluten free snacks (in the event that I pop by and I’m hungry).
  • They offer to let me pick a place that they know that I can get good gluten-free options at when we dine out.

The biggest challenge has been for my family back home in my small rural hometown, Twillingate (which had a rough population of just over 2400 people as of 2006). Because it’s a small town, there’s not a lot of options when looking for food alternatives and often food has to be bought at the closest “large centre” (i.e. Gander, with a population of roughly 11,000 in 2011), which is roughly a hour and a half drive away. So, this year when I travelled home for Christmas, I came bearing my own bag of gluten-free goodies: canned soup, wraps, Nourish bread & bagels, toaster-bags, Cashew Lärabars, Kind Fruit & Nut bars, plus additional supplies to make gluten-free cookies during my visit.

The first night that I arrived I asked my mom what was for supper and she was so proud that she had made a separate Mac & Cheese without the Ritz Crackers. When I asked her where she picked up the gluten-free pasta she looked at me with the most mortified look and said “But, you can eat macaroni ….. !? ….. I’ve heard you say a dozen times that you’ve had pasta for supper” and I smiled as I looked to her and said “I can eat gluten-free macaroni”. Poor Mom was devastated that she had been so careful to make my meal safe for me to eat, only to discover that it was completely made of gluten. She said that she figured that it would probably take her all of Christmas to get over the fact that she didn’t have a safe meal for me when I got home that night. I told her that I had brought some gluten free groceries with me and that I could very quickly open and warm a can of soup. After supper she scored brownie-points when she broke out some Chocolate Mice (cookies) that she had made for me (not sure what they are? Check out this recipe on Rock Recipes). She had picked up some Gluten Free Rice Krispies, had checked the chocolate chips and other ingredients for sources of gluten, and even had went so far to buy a brand new jar of peanut butter so that she didn’t have to worry about glutenous crumb-contamination in the jar!) They were delicious and I probably ate 7 (no joke!) that first night!! Mom also had my Aunt G pick up a package of President’s Choice Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies when she was in Gander so I also gorged myself on those as well over the holiday when everyone else was eating homemade cookies.  The next day my mom made a delicious pot of homemade soup which fed me for several meals while I was home – Mom’s homemade soup is one of my favourites! I thought that I had left a pack of Glutino table crackers to go with the soup but I must have finished them off the last time I was out or brought them back to the city with me. I will have to remember for the next time I pack my GF grocery bag! 🙂

When I stopped by my mom-in-law’s the next day I discovered, that she had discovered, that one of the local grocery stories starting stocking Udi’s gluten-free products in its freezer section. She had picked up Udi’s GF white sandwich bread (which I actually hadn’t tried up until this point because we never really did buy much bread before I went gluten-free), Udi’s GF Cinnamon Rolls (which I also hadn’t tried up until this point), and also had picked up a pack of gluten-free flour when she was in Gander earlier that month.

One night my Aunt G had invited us up for supper. She made ham, baked and scalloped potatoes, as well as marinated carrots. My aunt remembered that the tomato soup in her recipe for marinated carrots contained gluten so she made me a version that she substituted with ketchup, brown sugar and vinegar. She also remembered to take out some scalloped potatoes before she added the cream of mushroom soup which contains gluten (she had no idea that you can get gluten-free cream of mushroom soup in St. John’s, so for the next time that I’m out and she makes it, I’ll be sending her out some GF Cream of Mushroom Soup so that she can make one casserole dish of gluten-free scalloped potatoes instead of fooling around to make different versions). And to top it all off, Aunt G had also picked up President’s Choice Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies for me as well!

I was so excited to see my family finding ways to accommodate my intolerance. Both my mom, aunt, and mom-in-law pride themselves on making our favourite meals when we come home and they finally felt like they could cook for me again 🙂

My mom-in-law (or “Mama Sheila” as I like to refer to her) used the gluten free flour to make Homemade Stew with “Baked Pudding”. For those of you who aren’t sure what I’m referring to when I say Baked Pudding, I stumbled upon this recipe (we call it baked pudding but she calls it a biscuit/pastry).

Mama Sheila didn’t use these exact recipes but I assume that they were very similar. I’m pretty sure that she substituted the gluten-free flour for the regular wheat flour in the baked pudding. Normally when you make something with gluten-free flour you add a binding agent (such as guar gum, among others), but the like-for-like substitution seemed to work out just as good. Generally we lay the baked pudding on a plate, and then pour the stew over the baked pudding and let the gravy soak into the pudding. Veggies, gravy, baked pudding …. what more could a girl ask for?

One of our Christmas traditions that we’ve established over the past 5+ years is that we (my Guy and I) will open Christmas presents at my house first thing on Christmas morning and then we drive on over (to the opposite side of the harbour) to open presents with his parents. A few years back (several before I went gluten free), Mama Sheila made a “Breakfast Strata” for the first time and it was absolutely delicious!! The Breakfast Strata has since become a part of our Christmas morning tradition, and so she was able to use the Udi’s GF bread and the GF Rice Krispies to make me my very one Gluten Free version. Basically it’s bread, eggs, ham, peppers, cheese, a few seasonings and topped with Rice Krispies. We’ve agreed to only have it on Christmas day so that it remains extra special!

Breakfast Strata

Can you say Om Nom Nom!?

Unfortunately Mama Doreen (i.e. my mom) had to work most of the time that I was home for the holiday. So, where I could, I stayed at her place to maximize my time with her before she headed to, or after she got home from, work. On the mornings that she had to get up early and head to work, I ended up having breakfast (or in some cases, brunch) at Mama Sheila’s. One morning my dad-in-law, or Papa Garry as I like to refer to him as, made me Gluten Free French Toast using the Udi’s bread. One morning I had a simple breakfast of fresh fruit, greek yogurt and Udi’s toast. The final brunch was a huge family effort. If there’s one thing that the Guy family are good at – it’s brunch! Gluten-Free pancakes, turkey bacon, hash brown patties, and Mama Sheila even discovered some gluten free maple sausages that were delicious!! 🙂

Xmas Breakfast

Christmas was a gluten free success but our trip was short. My Guy had to head back to work on the 27th so we were on the road again on Boxing Day to head back into town. I had a few days to get ready for the arrival of my BFF, Jenny, from Toronto who came baring gluten-free chocolates … which included two boxes of Coco Mira Crunch in Mocha Latte and Dark Chocolate flavours … That girl knows that way to my heart!!

My guy’s Aunt Marguerite has been making lovely gift baskets ever year and we she always gives us an awesome one every year for Christmas. Throughout the year she’ll collect things that are of interest to us (some examples: BBQing or meal prep gear for Rob, cake decorating or gluten-free items for me) and in the Fall she’ll arrange them all to make a fantastic basket! This year she had a box of President’s Choice Gluten-Free The Smart Cookie, a box of Chocolate Chip Quinoa cookies and Cinnamon Quinoa Crunchies from GoGo Quinoa. Other goodies included chocolate, homemade pickles, homemade jams, as well as some non-GF items for my guy and a pack of dog treats for our Lakeland Terrier, Jax.

Christmas Basket

Aunt Marguerite also invited us over for a meal during Christmas while her daughter Corinne and family were still visiting from Calgary. Not long after I went gluten free back in 2011, I found out that Aunt Marguerite’s other daughter, Renee had also went gluten-free. As a result, Aunt Marguerite has become very knowledgable in preparing gluten-free meals. When we went for supper I discovered that she had made a roast with gravy made from cornstarch in lieu of regular flour; had made baby carrots and peas which were naturally gluten-free; a creamy mashed potato dish in which she checked all the ingredients to ensure that they were gluten-free; a broccoli casserole in which she grated up Udi’s Gluten-Free Hamburger Buns to use as a crust; and to top it all off she made me a big batch of gluten-free chocolate cookies (which I am still enjoying as of today)! It was a fabulous meal 🙂

Dinner at Aunt Marguerites

Rob won a turkey at his curling club and decided to give it to our good friends Darren and Tracey to smoke on their Big Green Egg. Sadly, like many of the other meals that we had over the holidays, I forgot to get a photo of the smoked bird before Darren carved it. Rob made a gluten free dressing using Udi’s white bread and I had made asparagus and “turnip fries” to bring out as well. When we arrived to Darren & Tracey’s we found that Mitch and Felicia were also there and Felicia was busy peeling carrots and potatoes which we quickly boiled as Tracey made gravy using corn starch (as I had forgotten to bring out some gluten free flour with me). The meal turned out lovely and Darren & Tracey were awesome enough to smoke the turkey and have us out for supper, despite the fact that they were recovering from colds. Such troopers!! 🙂

New Years Dinner

This was only my second Gluten-Free Christmas, and I have to say that it was incredibly delicious and absolutely perfect thanks to my super-awesome family & friends! xoxo

Care to share any ways that your friends and family have successfully adapted to your gluten-free or food allergy-free lifestyle?

Trading One Island Dining Experience for Another

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Last week we vacationed in Prince Edward Island (PEI) via Nova Scotia. It was a great break! We flew into Halifax on Friday morning and my guy, Rob, met up with his buddies to drive to Moncton for a Curling Bonspiel while our friends Sheena & Chris picked me up to stay with them for the weekend at their home in Upper Tantallon.

Not being sure of the ease of dining out gluten-free in PEI or the Upper Tantallon area while in Nova Scotia, I made sure to bring my own gluten-free snacks and relied on internet searches for ideas of where to eat out. One of the sites that I heavily relied on was The Celiac Scene.

My usual Saturday morning routine when home in Newfoundland is to go to the St. John’s Farmers Market early in the morning to ensure that I get some good gluten-free goodies before they are all sold out. Sheena had asked if I wanted to go to the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market on Saturday morning and I just assumed that she was just being polite on account of her knowing that I enjoy heading to my local market on Saturday mornings. Turns out that she also likes to spend a couple of hours at the Market! I was super excited to enjoy some girl time together in addition to enjoying the market 🙂

Halifax Seaport Farmers Market

I had no idea how big the Market would be. There were two levels and possibly close to a hundred vendors. I was tickled pink! Here I am enjoying gluten-free gelato. Not sure if you can see but there are 3 aisles of vendors plus another level of vendors on the top.

Selwood Greens Kale ScrambleWe spent a good two hours roaming through and had breakfast at a green/organic vendor called Selwood Green. I had a Kale Scramble with local bacon, and a local greens salad which was delicious. They even had gluten-free bread, however they do use it in the same toaster as regular bread. I decided to try it out to see if I would react. The potato-millet bread tasted delicious and it came from Schoolhouse Gluten-Free Gourmet which is a vendor at the Market. I didn’t grow a gluten-baby from the cross-contamination, but my stomach did feel a bit upset. I wasn’t entirely sure if this was due to trying Kale for the first time or if it was due to gulten crumbs from the toaster. I decided to pick up a loaf to bring to PEI with us, and ended up using the same toaster at the cabin. My stomach was upset most of the week so I now suspect that I even have to avoid  using a toaster that has been used to toast glutenous bread. First when I went gluten-free, I was able to tolerate this, however over the past year my stomach has become even more sensitive and I am now going to have to start using Toast It Bags. For those of you living in the St. John’s, NL area – You can purchase these at the Nourish Gluten-Free Bakery in Paradise.

Coffee Crisp Hot ChocolateWe considered having a fire in the backyard on Saturday night and we went to the grocery store to pick up some ingredients for S’mores. That’s when I came across this multi-pack of Hot Chocolate.

I haven’t had Coffee Crisp since going Gluten-free and after a quick perusal of the ingredients (and a later consultation with Nestle), I discovered that the mix was actually gluten-free! I had some that night and it was FANTASTIC!! It tasted just like eating a Coffee Crisp!! 🙂

Sheena had arranged for us to rent a cottage in Rocky Point, PEI. We drove to Moncton on Sunday afternoon to pick up Rob and then crossed Confederation Bridge into PEI. It was the first time that I had been back to PEI since I was little. We got to the cabin around 7:00 that night I loved how the owners had decorated it – lots of bright colours, bold and funky patterns and a mixture of retro and rugged furniture/appliances.

Once we were done exploring the cabin, we headed into Charlottetown to find something to eat. We landed at a place called Gahan House Brewery which had gluten-free items identified on their menu. Most of the options were seafood, which I’m not a huge lover of but I do like Salmon and settled on that. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they had a cheesecake that was on the menu that was considered gluten-free. I let Rob have a couple of bites of it before I curled my arm around the perimeter of the plate and pulled it in close to my body to shield it from Rob’s reach. Rob let out a high pitched “Raaarrrrn” (think: squealing cat noise) and I asked if he could blame me, considering that I haven’t been able to eat cheesecake at a restaurant in a very long time. He nodded and said that I had a good point, but he continued to eye my plate.

Monday morning I got up super early before everyone else and decided to read my book out on the veranda. It was soooo relaxing, especially when the hummingbirds would come by and drink from the feeder :). The book I’m reading? It’s called The Procrastination Equation ….. I bought it in May and only started to read it on the plane … a sure sign that I need to be reading the book, 😛

Once everyone else got up, Rob made breakfast for us (complete with Mimosas!). Then we went to a few outlet shops and did a little bit of shopping in downtown Charlottetown. We stumbled upon the menu for Redwater Rustic Grille and I discovered that they offered Gluten-Free PASTA!! I was ecstatic!! I’ve only ever been able to enjoy gluten-free pasta at home, made by myself. This surely would be my new favourite place! 🙂 I also had a delicious Gluten-Free flatbread as an appetizer!

The next day we went looking for a place that we had seen on The Celiac Scene for lunch, only to discover that I didn’t really fancy the options, instead we stumbled across a place called Globe World Flavours which had better gluten-free options identified on its menu. I discovered that they also served gluten-free pasta as well but I opted for Pad Tai instead, and it was delicious! That night we picked up food for a BBQ and had a few drinks on the deck. All the good food (and the golf for the boys) knocked us out early that night.

The next morning the boys went golfing again and Sheena and I decided to try out a nearby beach. It was a very tidal beach so there were a couple of sandbars and there were many people there digging for clams. The wave action had also left a ripple effect in the sand. We put down some towels and started to read our books but the sand was still somewhat wet and started to seep up and make us wet. It was also windy and I’m super-prone to ear aches so we had to call it a morning. We then decided to head to Pizza Delight for dinner (as I can order gluten-free pizza there) and brought some pizzas back for the boys to enjoy once they were finished golfing. That night we decided to relax at the cabin again. I had a headache (from sleeping in various beds, as well as a flight and a long drive) so I slept most of the evening only to wake at 10:00 and discover that everyone else was ready for bed :S

Thursday we were supposed to drive back to Halifax but due to the lack of getting in the ocean or a pool we decided to book a cabin in Cavendish and hang out there for the day. On the way we popped into the PEI Preserve Company because Sheena had read that they had a café with gluten free options. While checking the place out, I discovered that they had Gluten-Free ice cream cones. I hadn’t bought an ice cream cone since going gluten-free and I had one with maple espresso ice cream. It was delicious and I was so excited that I requested a photo to be taken. We got to the cabin, dropped off our gear and decided to take a drive through the main stretch of Cavendish so I could revisit the places that we frequented on our family vacations when I was a kid. …. Everything seemed so much grander in my memories. We roamed through the Boardwalk, drove past Ripley’s Believe It or Not and the Wax Museum, drove past where Rainbow Valley used to be, popped into Cavendish beach for an hour, and grabbed a quick lunch all within the span of a couple of hours. And I thought, how did we spend a week to two here when I was a kid? Again, the place seemed much larger in my memories. I was glad that we had spent the majority of our week in Rocky Point because it appears that Cavendish is really a family vacation spot. … or a golfer’s spot. Rob counted 4 golf courses in the span of a kilometer — while wiping the drool from his chin 😉

We then spent the remainder of our afternoon in the pool and hot tub before getting cleaned up and heading back to the PEI Preserve Company for supper. It’s always a good sign when they decide to put the dessert on the front page of their menu. I decided to try their potato and bacon pie which was in a garlic cream sauce. It was delicious! And I actually had options for dessert! I was hoping that I could have the Bailey’s Irish Cream Cheesecake for dessert but they didn’t have any available apparently. Then she said that there was Strawberry Shortcake which was gluten-free so I decided to have that because I didn’t know when I would be able to enjoy such a dessert while dining out again.

The next morning we went back to the PEI Preserve Company for breakfast. And it was good. They offered Gluten-free bread but when I asked she said that it is toasted in the same rotisserie that they use for regular bread. I figured that this was fine but when it came out, I could see a lot of crumbs on the surface on it so rather than risking a swollen and uncomfortable “gluten baby belly” and being sick for the whole ride back to Halifax, I decided to skip the bread. Which worked out because it turned out that they had made more Bailey’s Irish Cream Cheesecake and I had room in my belly to eat it …. despite it being before 11:00 in the morning.

After breakfast we headed back to Halifax and got to Sheena & Chris’ around mid afternoon. We cleaned up and went downtown for supper and ate at a place called The Carlton Music Bar and Grill. There I enjoyed several glasses of delicious Sangria and another pasta dish! This time it was an amazing chicken fusilli in a cream pesto sauce and the others all agreed that it tasted so good that it didn’t taste like it was gluten-free. For dessert, there were two gluten-free options and Sheena just happened to order the other one (some sort of chocolate almond or possibly hazelnut torte) and I had a mousse that was chocolately/mocha/hazelnut (although apparently it wasn’t quite memorable enough for me to remember exactly what it was).

At one point while eating dessert, the following conversation occurred:

Sheena: “This kinda reminds me of those chocolately balls you eat at Christmas”

Me: “Ferrero Rocher?”

Sheena: “Yeah, that’s it”.

Krista: <Inserts fork into Sheena’s dessert (very stealthily), pulls plate across table, quickly samples without permission> “I haven’t been able to eat one of those things since going gluten-free!!!!!!!”

<This is the point where they all stared at me as if I was a starving seagull…>

And I can confirm that Sheena’s dessert was a tasty one 🙂

The next morning we went to the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market for Round Two. We went back to Selwood Greens for breakfast and roamed around the vendors. I enjoyed some gluten-free Biscotti flavoured gelato from Foxhill Cheese, among some other goodies. Then we headed back to Sheena & Chris’ so we could get ready for our friend’s wedding that afternoon. It was the wedding of Rob’s best friend from high school, Michelle. We hadn’t seen her in a long time to it was nice to see her get married and to be able to chat with her off and on throughout the evening 🙂

Rob has always said that he wants to do a cross Canada trip for a vacation some year and I’ve always said that I would love to make that trip into a “restaurant tour” where we pick different restaurants along the way and plan our route around it. This trip felt very much like a snapshot of what that trip would be like. In order to dine out, we had to do research beforehand (which usually involved consulting The Celiac Scene scene, and in some cases, Urban Spoon for ideas), locate the restaurant of choice and finally enjoy a good gluten-free experience.

Did I honestly expect to have such a fantastic gluten-free dining out experience considering that we would be visiting an island that is roughly just under 1/4th of the population of (and over 70 times smaller than) Newfoundland?  Well …. no, not in my wildest dreams. Gluten-free dining out is relatively new to the St. John’s area and has only popped up in the last couple of years. Considering that PEI’s capital city, Charlottetown, is about 1/3rd of the population of Newfoundland’s capital, St. John’s – I didn’t have high hopes for a lot of variety and suspected it was likely that I could end up  being sick from cross-contamination at least once if not more. To my surprise, the Charlottetown dining scene was far more evolved when it came to gluten-free menu development. At first I wondered if it was because PEI was a small population and that many people were choosing to remain in PEI rather than relocating after post-secondary, and therefore a prevalence of a Celiac Disease in the province. But then Sheena had mentioned that PEI has a highly acclaimed culinary institute, and it’s likely that many new chefs are incorporating dietary restrictions into their menus after just learning about it. There were also many occasions where other dietary restrictions were identified on the menu such as dairy-free and vegetarian, which I always love to see 🙂

All in all, it was a fantastic vacation. I find that being in nature resets/rejuvenates me, and it was great to hang out with our friends, see other friends get married and enjoy some fantastic food! For the first time since going gluten free I felt like I had a real “Foodie” experience again. It was awesome. And therefore it is only fitting that I share with you this video that I stumbled upon during the trip:


Have you ever had poor expectations for an adequate dining experience during vacationing, only to discover the most amazing meals and/or restaurants?

Until next time,

Krista

p.s. Did anyone else automatically start singing the “Schoolhouse Rock!” theme song when you read the words Schoolhouse Gluten-Free Gourmet??

How Our Wedding Indirectly Inspired Food Allergies Etcetera

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In a nutshell:

Wedding. Depression. Medical Leave (for said Depression). A Restaurant Idea. A trip to Winners. An online Business Plan Course. A Blog.

So exactly how are all of these related, you may ask?

Up until we got engaged, I dreaded the thought of getting married – I would shutter at the thought of a traditional wedding. I like being unique and true to myself ….. a real roadblock when it comes to a traditional event. Once I realized that I was ready to get married, I decided that I would plan the wedding just the way that we wanted it: relaxed, fun, bright and colourful – and just as much about showing others a good time as having a good time ourselves.

I had so much fun planning our wedding. And the day turned out perfect! It truly was an awesome day, not only for us, but for everyone who attended. It was so awesome in fact, that OffbeatBride.com did a feature on our wedding story. Please read our story here so that you get a bit of the background story of how our wedding led to Food Allergies Etcetera. As you would have come to learn from the “What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?” section, it was after our wedding that I realized that I need to be more creative and be able to work on something that I’m truly passionate about. At the time I realized that my current job wasn’t igniting a passion in me like I had come to realize that I needed. For a while I felt quite lost…. To the point that I stooped into a deep depression. Realizing that I had a very comfortable life, a well paid job with security, and the fact that I wasn’t satisfied with it made me feel like I was being a spoiled brat who couldn’t be grateful for what was placed in front of me. And these negative, self-defeating thoughts (which were fueled by the depression) only caused me to sink even further into depression. It was a very nasty cycle. But a secretive one at that. There were few who I had let in on my dark little disease, until it got so bad that I had a severe enough mental breakdown to make me not mentally or physically fit enough to continue working (I’d had many mini-breakdowns almost annually for the past several years, but none were of this severity). My doctor had written me off on medical leave for a month. I hadn’t dreamed that I would have lasted for two full months.

While I was on sick leave my doctor had started me on a mild anti-depressant. I had no idea what I was in for in that first month. I knew there would be side-effects but didn’t realize that I would have zero energy during the day while unable to sleep at night. Sleeping was one of those things that I said that I did best. Now, all of a sudden I wasn’t even good at that anymore. But I was told that I would feel worse before I felt better while waiting for my body to adjust to the meds. In the beginning I could barely pull myself from the couch I felt so bad. I’d spend my days alternating between playing iPhone games, scanning through Facebook, and imagining a restaurant where I could go to eat that catered to people with food allergies so that I didn’t have to worry about getting sick. What a wonderful place that would be! If only it existed 😦

Once I hit the 1month mark, I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor. I figured she was going to suggest that I was well enough to return to work (I was starting to adjust to the medication, after all). To my surprise, she said that I was only just starting to adjust to my meds and that it’s not until week 7, 8 or even 9 before I could expect to feel the full effect of the medication. I walked in feeling a bit stressed about the idea of returning to work, but walked out more relaxed because I knew I still had more time to adjust to my medication, as well as focus on some self-awareness/self-help reading. One of the books that I read while I was off was “Be Your Own Life Coach” by Jeff Archer. I found this book to be very helpful.

One day when I was feeling a bit better I decided to take trip to the mall to do some errands. I decided to pop into Winners to check out (what I jokingly call) the “Freaky People” aisle (the one with all the Gluten-Free, natural/organic products). Once I was in the store and was on my way to my aisle, I happened to walk past the kitchenware section. My eye caught a glimpse of a “Happy Blue” metal stacked dessert stand and I thought “That would look fantastic in a restaurant ….. I should buy that”

…… I could swear that I heard a record needle fall off of it’s record at that exact moment. I didn’t have a restaurant!! What was I thiking?!?

It was like I had an epiphany. That idea that I was dreaming up in my head for that restaurant that I was dying for to open, the one that catered to people with food allergies – maybe this was my sign that I was meant to be that person to open it! And with that, I found my passion. My drive. I couldn’t stop talking about my idea. And people were starting to notice how excited about it I was. My hair stylist once commented to me, after going on and on about it for a half hour, that “I haven’t seen you this excited since you were planning your wedding. And your eyes light up the same way when you talk about it!” Her comment not only made me smile, it also made me feel warm and tingly on the inside …. Like a sign that this is the direction that I am supposed to move in. When I think of my future restaurant, I see a world of colour and happiness. And content. 🙂

So, knowing that I couldn’t just jump into the restaurant business, I decided to take my leave from work to complete an online course on writing a successful business plan. And also to learn what dietary restrictions local people have and the challenges that they are faced with when trying to eat out – ergo, the Food Allergies Etcetera blog. 🙂

At the end of the 2 month leave, I returned to work on an ease-back period. My responsibilities were altered after it was realized that it was the area of work that I was previously doing that was causing such a personality clash for me. I could do the line of work, but it was such a stretch for my personality and natural line of thought that it was draining the life out of me. I was so good at hiding what I was going through that no one at my place of work had the slightest idea of how much I was suffering, mentally. After my leave I was honest with them and they were able to modify my scope so that I was working on projects that came more naturally to me. As a result, I’m back to working full time and enjoying it, but I’m still working on my blog in my spare time. Eventually, I hope to develop my restaurant idea, find someone to manage it for me, and put my plan in motion. Until then, I’m going to continue blogging and help those around the city find places that give them delicious options, despite having dietary restrictions. And I’ll continue to dream up colourful ideas for my restaurant, “Etcetera”! 🙂

Copyright: Charla Maarschalk – Charla.ca