Southwest Chicken (Crockpot Freezer Meal) (LID)

I’m preparing for the low iodine diet (LID) which I will probably have to start tomorrow (still waiting for the confirmation from the oncologist’s office). Last week, I threw together some crockpot freezer meals to have while on LID. I expected to have been off my meds and not have the energy to cook. I’ll be getting the Thyrogen shots and won’t have to go off my thyroid hormone replacement, but I’m glad I prepared some things ahead of time.

I’ve been writing a food blog for over 8 years now. I’m reblogging a recipe for a crockpot freezer meal I put together. I plan on eating this with LID-safe tortillas and possibly adding salt-free broth to some leftover to make soup.

Update: I used Southwest Chicken leftovers to make a filling for LID enchiladas. They were really good. Find the recipe for LID Enchilada Sauce here.

Southwest Chicken Crockpot Freezer Meal (LID)

Southwest Chicken Crockpot Freezer Meal for LID

On January 30th of this year, I underwent a total thyroidectomy due to papillary thyroid cancer. The surgery went well although it left me with a 6 inch scar on the front of my neck. The next step in my treatment is to ingest radioactive iodine (RAI) to ablate any remaining thyroid/thyroid cancer cells in my body. One of the things I have to do to prepare for RAI is to go on a low iodine diet (LID) 2 weeks beforehand in order to starve any remaining thyroid cells so that they will more readily absorb the radioactive iodine.

The low iodine diet is quite restrictive. Iodized or sea salt (Kosher and non-iodized salt is ok), dairy products, soy products, seafood, sea vegetables, eggs, cured foods, foods containing certain red dyes, any foods containing the previously mentioned ingredients, and most commercial bread products are not allowed on the diet. Basically, I can only eat foods I prepare myself with allowed ingredients. Planning ahead seems like the best plan of action to ensure I make it through the diet at a time when I may be so exhausted from not having a thyroid. Crockpot freezer meals prepared with LID-allowed foods will be helpful.

This Southwest Chicken (I know I labeled my bags as Cilantro-Lime Chicken, but I think Southwest Chicken better describes the meal) recipe is based on a bunch I’ve seen on Pinterest and adapted to fit my needs and taste. It can be served with rice (basmati is best for LID and should be limited) or in a salt-free tortilla (the corn tortillas I buy do not contain salt).

Southwest Chicken Crockpot Freezer Meal (LID)

Here’s what it looks like prepared. Not super pretty, but tasty.

Southwest Chicken

Southwest Chicken (Crockpot Freezer Meal for LID)

Per freezer meal (double, triple, or quadruple the recipe to make multiple meals):
1 pound chicken breasts (skinless and boneless)
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 poblano chile, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 a bunch of cilantro, washed and finely chopped
2 cups frozen corn
1 15.5 ounce can unsalted black beans, drained or 1 1/2 cups black beans, drained
1 teaspoon cumin
non-iodized salt (I use Morton’s Coarse Kosher Salt) and black pepper, to taste
juice of 1 lime

For each freezer meal, place all of the ingredients in a gallon-size Ziploc bag. It’s helpful to label the bag with a Sharpie before you add the ingredients. I write the date and cooking instructions on the bag. Remove as much as air as you can and seal the bag. Flatten out the ingredients and lay flat in the freezer. Once frozen, you can stand the freezer meals up vertically to make more space.

To cook, defrost the freezer meal in the refrigerator overnight. Pour ingredients out into the crockpot. Cook on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours. Right before serving, remove the chicken, shred it, and then return it to the crockpot.

Serve the Southwest Chicken in salt-free tortillas (check label for other non-allowed ingredients) for burritos or tacos or with rice for a rice bowl. Some homemade LID-safe salsa would go perfect with these meal. If you are not on the low iodine diet, you can enhance your meal with cheese, sour cream, pickled jalapenos, etc…. The possibilities are endless.

My Scar 24 Days Post-Surgery

Slowly, but surely, my neck is looking better. I can’t wait for the puncture marks made by the staples to go away. They still seem a little angry. The incision doesn’t look too bad at all, despite being asymmetrical.

24 Days Post-Op

First Visit with the Oncologist

I met with my oncologist for the first time on Friday. I was a bit nervous. I was afraid she might turn me away.

When my surgeon told me he was referring me to an oncologist for the next step of my treatment, I was a little worried. I have heard that oncologists don’t usually deal with thyroid cancer unless it is a more serious case (with distant metastasis, was more advanced, or is a type of thyroid cancer that is harder to treat – like anaplastic or medullary). I was afraid the oncologist would turn me away and send me to an endocrinologist. I have had a terrible experience with one of the few endocrinologists in town and have heard bad things about others. I asked my surgeon and he assured me that the oncologist would treat me because people have not had much success with endocrinologists in this area.

I arrived at the South Carolina Oncologist Associates (SCOA) building and was kind of overwhelmed. The building was huge and the parking lot was full. So many cars. I finally found a parking place and made my way into the building. It was surreal. I couldn’t believe I had an appointment with an oncologist. There were so many people in the building, many who were obviously a lot sicker than I am. I almost felt guilty that I have the “if you had to get cancer, this is the one you want” cancer and others have to suffer so much with their cancer. SCOA was a well-oiled machine. The process was easy and everyone was so nice. They sent me from one station to the next. Check-in, insurance info and payment, lab for blood work, vitals station, and finally the exam room.

I liked the doctor and her assistant almost immediately. She was thorough and was obviously acquainted with my case. She had spoken with the surgeon and had all my reports. She had a plan of action outlined and explained why she thought radioactive iodine (RAI) was the best next step:

  • I’m older (41)
  • there was multifocality (I had two different types of thyroid cancer, each in a different lobe)
  • my cancer had advanced beyond the thyroid.

The last one was news to me. It was my understanding that the cancer was contained in my thyroid. She said it was just barely past the thyroid membrane and in the fatty soft tissue. The surgeon had removed it. RAI should get any remnants of thyroid tissue and thyroid cancer. Okay, you talked me into it.

While we were there, she called to order Thyrogen shots for me. I will NOT have to be off my thyroid hormone replacement medicine in order to receive RAI. I’m so happy about that! I was dreading having to go off my meds for 6 weeks (plus it would take approximately 6 weeks afterward to get the meds back in my system and start feeling better). I’m already tired and experiencing hypo symptoms. I can’t imagine getting through the days feeling worse. I will do the low-iodine diet two weeks prior to RAI. She did a quick exam, was concerned that I may be having hypoparathyroidism symptoms and had the lab run my calcium. My calcium levels came back perfect, although I am currently taking a calcium supplement. I was tested on Wednesday by my surgeon and was off of the calcium supplement. I haven’t heard anything and am curious about those results.

The last part of the appointment was spent trying to schedule the RAI. The hospital and insurance company do not want to admit me and let me stay the first 3 days of my isolation while I’m radioactive. They want me to take my RAI and go home. I can’t do that! I have children and pets and no place to isolate myself at my house. They asked if I had friends or relatives that would take me in. Um, no. All of our family are in Texas and my friends have children of their own. And even if they didn’t, who would want a radioactive person in their house? We had to leave before things were squared away, but the lady that was trying to schedule things assured me she would fight for me. Yay! She said she would call me Monday to let me know the details. Right now, I am tentatively scheduled to take the first Thyrogen shot on March 12th, the second Thyrogen shot on March 13th and to be admitted into the hospital the next day for the RAI. Hopefully, I won’t have to take my sleeping bag and camp out in the hospital waiting room or better yet, at the Blue Cross Blue Shield offices. I’d be sure to wear a radioactive sign.

radioactive

 

Descending

I have been feeling pretty good post-thyroidectomy until about 3 days ago. I think I’m starting my descent into hypo Hell. I’m still on my meds, so I’m really worried about how I will feel once I get off my thyroid hormone replacement to prepare for RAI. I’m so tired. My muscles are sore and weak. I’m feeling blah. I teared up watching the Winter Olympic female figure skaters today. Uggh. I haven’t felt this tired in a while. It reminds of some periods in my life where I realize now my hypothyroidism was not being adeaquately treated. I know I will make it through, but I’m dreading it. My appointment with the oncologist is tomorrow.

Stars Can't Shine

Second Post-Op Appointment

The bad weather held out long enough so that I was able to make it to my appointment with the surgeon today. Thank goodness! I was ready to get the 38 staples in my neck removed. It was a bit uncomfortable as he removed each staple, but I felt much better afterwards. The incision doesn’t look as bad as I thought it would, although my neck still looks a little shocking. The doctor didn’t put gauze over my incision and I had to walk out into the main office full of people. Lovely.

38 staples out

I could feel people staring. I didn’t care, though. I had just gotten some good news. My surgeon had the final pathology report. The lymph nodes he removed during the surgery were clear of malignancy. The samples from the neck tissue around my thyroid were also clear. I think he also said that the samples taken from the thyroid around the nodule didn’t contain cancer. I can’t remember the details. I wish I had a copy of the report to be sure. I’ll have to remember to ask the oncologist for a copy. It appears I caught this thing early, but I’m cautiously optimistic. I will have a full body scan in 6 to 8 weeks. When that comes back clear, I will feel much better.

I also found out from the pathology report that I have the follicular variant of papillary thyroid cancer. It was located in the right lobe of my thyroid and measured 1.4 cm. A microcarcinoma measuring 1 mm was found in the left lobe of my thyroid and it was pure papillary thyroid cancer. I am so glad the whole thyroid was removed. I will have to undergo a radioactive iodine treatment (RAI) in 6 to 8 weeks to ablate any remaining thyroid tissue.

Another interesting piece of information contained in the report was that my thyroid was severely damaged due to Hashimoto’s disease. Hashimoto’s is an auto-immune disorder that attacks the thyroid. It is the leading cause of hypothyroidism in the United States. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism 12 years ago. I have been tested for Hashimoto’s in the past by two different doctors and was told by both I didn’t have it. Hashimoto’s tends to cause a rise in certain thyroid antibodies and mine were never elevated. I also never had typical Hashimoto’s symptoms. Even though it wasn’t previously detected, it apparently did a number on my thyroid. My surgeon said my thyroid was shriveled and hard, almost rubbery. I am so happy it is gone. My thyroid was rubbish and I expect I will feel much better now that it is out of me.

I’m 11 days out from my thyroidectomy and honestly, I feel pretty good. I’ve been able to keep taking Synthroid (although I prefer Levoxyl and can’t wait for it to be back on the market). I think I have an advantage since I was hypothyroid and on meds before having a thyroidectomy. I hope that means I won’t have to adjust my dose much. I’m not looking forward to getting off my meds to prepare for RAI. I can’t imagine how terrible I am going to feel.

I was scheduled to meet with the oncologist on the 13th, but the appointment was cancelled because of ice and snow. The appointment was rescheduled for the 21st. I will know more about the next steps then.

My Neck 5 Days Post Thyroidectomy

I’m 5 days out from my total thyroidectomy. I saw my neck/incision/scar for the first time today. I thought I was going to pass out. Wow!

Here’s what my neck looks like:

2-4-14 Thyroidectomy Scar

How’s that for a battle scar? My husband said it looks like I survived a Columbian Necktie.

Sneak Peak of My Post-Surgery Neck

It’s been 4 days since my total thyroidectomy. I got a sneak peak at my post-surgery neck today. Horrifying. I haven’t even seen the whole thing, but my husband has. He says it’s not symmetrical and he thinks that is going to drive me insane (I’m a bit OCD). We will see. It may not bother me at all.

sneak peak neck

I’m feeling a little better each day. I was totally unprepared for the level of exhaustion and weakness I am feeling. So grateful that my mom is here to help with the house and kids. She amazes me.

Saw my surgeon today. He had not received the final pathology report yet. I’ll have to wait another week. I’ll feel better once I find out that it has not spread to the lymph nodes. His office set up an appointment for me to meet with an oncologist next week. I’m cleared to get my incision wet and take a shower tomorrow. I’m happy about being able to shower again. The little things.