Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup

Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup (640x465)

I just got the results from my latest blood tests and my thyroglobulin level has gone up. I have the stupid anti-thyroglobulin antibodies that make the tests unreliable, but my oncologist feels the level shouldn’t be going up. So, I will definitely be going back on LID and will take a tracer dose of I-131 in order to have a nuclear whole body scan in March. I’m freaking out about it right now. The thought of a recurrence of my thyroid cancer is terrifying. I’m not even a year out from my total thyroidectomy. It’s a long time until March. A long time to wait and worry. But since thyroid cancer is not considered a “medical emergency” I don’t have much choice.

I’m going to try to do more to prepare for the low iodine diet better this time. If I start compiling recipes now, I’ll have an easier time later. I’ve been making this soup a lot lately. It’s so easy and tastes so good. A one cup serving comes in at about 90 calories. I’m a big fan of adding toppings to my bowl of soup right before I eat it. Diced avocado, more fresh cilantro, and/or crumbled tortilla chips (Lay’s does not use iodized salt) are LID-friendly additions to this soup.

Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup

2 chicken breasts or 4 chicken tenderloins (about 1 pound)
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 small poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 cup frozen corn
14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes and juices
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
8 cups unsalted chicken broth
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Add all the ingredients to the crockpot. Cook on high for 3 to 4 hours or on low for 6 to 8 hours.

My Scar – 6 Months Out

My scar continues to look better. There are some days I don’t even think about it.

This picture was taken 6 months from my surgery date.

My Scar at 6 Months

LIVESTRONG at the YMCA

I went this week to sign up for the LIVESTRONG Program for adult cancer survivors at the YMCA. It’s a 12 week program designed specifically for cancer survivors who are in that transitional period after completeing treatment.

I had been telling my husband that I wished there was some kind of program that would help cancer survivors rebuild strength, stamina, and muscle mass. I also need help losing weight. I have gained 17 pounds since my surgery. Anything to boost my non-existent metabolism would be helpful. I can’t afford a personal trainer and I’m too tired to do it on my own. I found out about the LIVESTRONG Program at the Y when I went to find out more about scheduling a mammogram at the one of the local hospital’s websites. I tried not to get too excited. It seemed too good to be true.

The lady I met with at the Downtown YMCA in Columbia, SC was amazing. She explained the program and asked me questions about my health. She asked me to tell my story. She listened. She acknowledged that I am a different person emotionally and physically since my treatment. No one has really done that before and I really needed to hear someone say that. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be accepted into the program because some people don’t consider thyroid cancer to be a real cancer. She told me that I shouldn’t discount my cancer because I didn’t have to go through as hard of a treatment as others. I wanted to hug her! She even introduced me to a guy who worked the front counter who was also a thyroid cancer survivor. I got to chat with him a few minutes. It was the first time I had met a thyca survivor face-to-face. So, overall, a very positive experience. The program starts towards the end of September. I go in next Tuesday for an intake and physical assessment with a trainer who has been trained by LIVESTRONG to work with cancer survivors. I’m so excited to get started! Oh, and it’s FREE!!

Here’s a link to more information about the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA Program.

Here’s a link to a map to help you find a LIVESTRONG at the YMCA Program near you.

Also, here is a video about the program. Have the tissues ready.

Squash Hash Browns

Squash Hashbrowns (640x480)

Breakfast is a perfect meal to add more veggies (ahem, and this time of the year, squash) to. Actually you could have these squash hash browns as a side dish for any meal. They are super yummy and yummy is good when you are on LID. If you wanted to add some minced onion along with the potatoes, that would be good too.

Squash Hash Browns

1 pound of potatoes (whatever variety you like or have on hand), scrubbed clean, peeled if you want
1 yellow squash, ends trimmed
1 zucchini, ends trimmed
2 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
olive oil (or your favorite oil)

Using a food processor or grater, shred the potatoes. Squeeze as much moisture out of them as you can. I dump them out onto a large clean kitchen towel, wrap them up and squeeze. The less moisture in the potatoes, the crisper they will be.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a (cast iron) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes, season with Kosher salt and black pepper, and let cook. Let the potatoes cook, stirring occasionally, while you are preparing the squash.

Meanwhile, shredded the yellow squash and zucchini together and squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Again, I put them in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze. Add the minced garlic to the cooking potatoes and then the shredded squash. Season with Kosher salt and black pepper, add more oil to the pan if you feel like you need to, and even the mixture out in the bottom of the skillet.

Cook until the bottom is crispy, about 6 – 8 minutes, and then using a spatula, turn the hash browns over and cook the other side until crispy. Admittedly, I have a hard time leaving hash browns alone while they are cooking. I’m constantly stirring and turning them. My thought is that they will get crispier. Do it however you like. Once the squash hash browns are browned and crispy to your satisfaction, they are ready to serve.

Warm Barley Salad with Swiss Chard (LID)

Warm Barley Salad with Swiss Chard (640x465)

I made this simple salad using the last of the Swiss chard from my garden. Although I am no longer on LID, I realized this salad would be acceptable for the low iodine diet. The Swiss chard turned the barley a pretty pinkish color. Barley is one of my favorite grains and I am always looking for new ways to add it to our diet. Barley has lots of fiber, so this salad is very filling. I was thinking that the next time I make it, I will add some cooked lentils and maybe even some finely chopped celery.

Warm Barley Salad with Swiss Chard

1/2 cup pearled barley
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small bunch Swiss chard, washed and chopped (I use the stems, but you may remove them and reserve for another use)
juice of 1 lemon
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

Bring the barley and 3 cups of water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the barley is tender, about 30 to 45 minutes. Drain in a colander. At this point, I like to rinse the cooked barley with water and let drain completely.

In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until tender. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the chopped Swiss chard and cook until wilted. Stir in the cooked barley. Squeeze the lemon juice over the mixture and season to taste with Kosher salt and pepper. Drizzle with a little extra olive oil, if you wish. Serve the salad warm or at room temperature.

CT Scan and Results

ct scan
I had CT scans on Wednesday to check on the two vague spots that showed up during my whole body scan. Good news! The CT scan showed nothing was there. It also didn’t show anything else and my oncologist gave me the thumbs up. I would have really liked to hear the words “you are cancer-free” but I’m figuring out that is not the way this works.

This was my first time having a CT scan and I didn’t particularly enjoy it. They ran an IV in my arm, made me drink a big cup of thick liquid (I got to choose the flavor – vanilla – and it didn’t taste too bad), and then had me pull my pants down to my ankles after I got onto the table. I was asked to raise my arms over my head and was told someone else would come in to inject dye into the IV. I was moved through the scan once and then a guy came in, put a heavy cover over my chest and injected the warm dye into my IV. I could feel the warmth rushing through my veins and to my pubic area and down my legs. Freaky. It kind of felt like I peed myself. So strange. I was moved back through the scanner as the machine told me to breathe in and hold my breath. I got lightheaded and my heart was pounding. I got that fight or flight feeling. I felt like I was going to puke. I thought I might be having a heart attack or a reaction to the dye. Of course, it was just a panic attack. Fortunately, the process didn’t take very long and I was back in my oncologist’s office shortly after. I hope I don’t have to do those scans very often. No fun.

They did blood work at this visit and I haven’t heard back about anything other than my TSH, which was .0104. It’s suppressed and where she wants it. I was expecting it to be higher because I’m having a plethora of hypo symptoms, including gaining 13 pounds since the surgery. Even though I discussed all the symptoms I’m having (sore, tight muscles, joint pain, weight gain, dry skin, shortened menstrual cycle with heavier bleeding, fatigue, etc…) the doctor doesn’t want to change my dosage. The new normal. Yay. I’ll probably hear back about my thyroglobulin levels next week. I’m hoping they are close to 0.

I had an appointment on Friday with my surgeon. He’s still not completely happy with my scar and did not release my from his care. He said he’s going to keep me for at least 1 year and possibly even longer. I will go back to see him in August.

You Are

You Are

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Scar Update

The puncture marks from the staples are finally starting to  fade. The scar is also, ever so slightly, starting to flatten out. I have an appointment with the surgeon in about 2 weeks. I’m hoping he will be happy with the way the scar is healing and finally release me.

This is what my scar looks like today. It’s been about 15 weeks since my thyroidectomy.

Neck May 16, 2014

Gee Your Scar Doesn’t Look Terrific

I had another follow-up appointment with my surgeon today. I was hoping this would be my last visit to him. He was running two hours behind. He wasn’t happy with the way my scar looked. There’s still a lot of redness (especially where the staples were) and it itches a little bit. He thinks it should look much better and asked if I was putting anything on it that would cause a topical reaction. I have put a hydrocortisone cream on it from time to time in hopes that it would help with the itchiness and redness. It doesn’t seem to make much difference. He wants me to come back in 6 weeks.

As I was leaving his office and getting into the elevator, I caught my reflection in a mirror. I was flushed on my neck and chest. I have rosacea and tend to flush quite often, especially if I’m nervous or upset (or drink wine, eat spicy foods, am hot, etc…). I was probably flushed because I was annoyed that I was paying a babysitter $10 an hour while I sat in a lame waiting room waiting for two hours to see my doctor. : )

So, here’s what my scar looks like today. I’m 10 weeks post surgery.

photo (17) (480x640)

Bamia (Okra with Tomatoes and Chickpeas)

Bamia (Okra with Tomatoes and Chickpeas)

This is an Egyptian vegetarian dish that I absolutely love! I’m a big okra and chickpea fan. When I can get it, I use fresh okra, but frozen okra works just as well. Using frozen okra and canned (unsalted) chickpeas instead of cooking my own makes this a very quick meal. I use two cans of chickpeas (drained), but three cans would be good too. I don’t usually have parsley around, so I use cilantro instead. I serve Bamia with Basmati rice.

Bamia (Okra with Tomatoes and Chickpeas)

2 cups chickpeas, soaked overnight
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 lb. frozen okra (or fresh small okra)
1 28-oz. can no salt added tomatoes, drained
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 cup unsalted vegetable broth (I use 1 cup of water and 1 Rapunzel vegan unsalted vegetable bouillon cube)
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley

Place chickpeas in a medium saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to medium-low and gently simmer until chickpeas are tender, 20–30 minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Cool beans in cooking liquid. Transfer beans and liquid to a large bowl and store, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Heat oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add okra and cook, stirring once or twice, until it turns bright green, about 3 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes and cumin and cook for 1–2 minutes. Add stock and lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover, reduce heat to
medium-low, and cook until okra is soft, about 35 minutes.

Drain chickpeas. Add to okra mixture, cover, and cook just until chickpeas are heated through, 5–10 minutes. (Chickpeas should still hold their shape.) Add parsley, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and serve warm with rice, if desired.

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