Chicken Hash (LID)

chicken-hash-smI was planning our meals for the next week or so and came across one of my favorite recipes. I  should have prepared this dish while I was doing the low iodine diet (LID). I love it. This recipe is loosely based on one by Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa).  It’s delicious, comforting, and fairly easy to make.  As written, this recipe does not make enough for leftovers.  It’s easy to double the recipe (or just add more potatoes).

Chicken Hash

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
olive oil
non-iodized salt (I use Morton’s Coarse Kosher Salt)
Freshly ground black pepper
dried basil
1 pounds potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 large red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon paprika

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet. Rub each chicken breast with olive oil and season with non-iodized salt, pepper, and dried basil. Bake the chicken for about 30 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then cut the chicken into large dice and set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in a large pot of boiling salted water for 10 minutes, and drain. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, dice them into 1/4-inch cubes.

Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan, over medium-low heat. Add the potatoes in a single layer and fry them for 5 to 7 minutes (or longer), until crisp, evenly browned and cooked through.

In a separate saute pan, heat 4 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes or until soft and starting to caramelize. Turn up the heat a bit.  Add the red peppers and saute on high heat for 2 minutes, until the edges of the peppers are seared.

Lower the heat, add the garlic, thyme, paprika, 1 teaspoons non-iodized salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  Add the chicken cubes to the onion/pepper mixture, and heat through. Add the potatoes and serve.

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My Whole Body Scan Results

I had an appointment this morning with my oncologist to get the result of my whole body scan. I was her last patient of the day and she was running 1 1/2 hours behind. Uggh.

The whole body scan showed uptake of the radioactive iodine in my neck area. That’s good. That’s where we want it. It doesn’t necessarily mean more cancer. It just means there is thyroid tissue in my neck. Even the most skilled surgeon can’t removed 100% of the thyroid, so a little leftover tissue is to be expected. The radioactive iodine should eliminate that over the next few months. Aside from that, there were two vague spots on the left and right sides of my body that lit up. They were too low to be in my lungs and were not on any bones. I have read that it isn’t uncommon for the bladder and areas in the digestive system to light up. After all, the body is working to eliminate the radioactive iodine. I asked her if she thought this might be the case and she said it was a possibility but she wanted me to have a CT scan in two months. Great.

I was hoping to get the “all clear” today, but I’m learning that things aren’t so black and white with thyroid cancer. I really just want to hear the words, “you are cancer free and you will be fine.”

So, now I have two more months to wait. I think my worse fear is that the CT scan will find something else. The challenge will be trying not to dwell on what might be over the next 8 weeks.
On the same day of the CT scan, I will have my first round of blood work and will visit with my oncologist again. She/we are hoping that the thyroglobulin (a protein used as a cancer marker) levels will be very close to zero. If all goes well and it is determined that the cancer is gone, then I will just have blood work done every 3 months to monitor for any recurrence.

At this time, my TSH levels are at .02, exactly where my oncologist wants them. I’m still having some hypo symptoms, so it will be interesting to see where my levels are in 2 months.

I Lost My Sense of Taste

I woke up this morning to a dry mouth and my tongue felt like it had been burned. It’s worse towards the front of my tongue. My sense of taste is almost completely gone now.  It’s been 9 days since I had my radioactive iodine treatment. I thought I was one of the lucky ones and missed out on side-effects (aside from fatigue). Why are they just showing up now? I’m totally bummed about this and hope it doesn’t last long. And, I hope other side-effects don’t show up.

My First Post-LID Meal

I took myself off of the low iodine diet today! I can’t tell you how happy I am. So, what did I eat first? Pad Thai with shrimp! I got an order of Pad Thai from a close-by Thai restaurant and it was fabulous. The portion was ample, so I had Pad Thai the next day too. Yay! Did I mention I was happy to be off LID?

Pad Thai

I was never given instructions by the oncologist to go on LID. I’ve had a strange experience with this doctor and her practice. I have been given no information or instructions for anything. No one has returned my many calls over the past 3 weeks. They took a long time to confirm my Thyrogen and RAI dates and I only got those confirmed because I actually got through to a scheduler in the practice one day a week before my RAI. The Nuclear Medicine Department said my dates had been set for over two weeks. Ugh. To say I’m not happy with the practice and the oncologist and their treatment of me is an understatement. Maybe I expected too much when I thought I would get some kind of guidance through my cancer treatment.

On the days I went in for my Thyrogen shots, I had lots of questions. Many were answered by the people in the Nuclear Medicine Department. They have been wonderful in this regard. When I asked about how long I needed to stay on LID after RAI, I was told I needed to ask my doctor. Ugh. So I started calling and trying to get someone, anyone to answer my last minute questions. I finally get a chemotherapy nurse to call me back a few hours before my scheduled RAI. Of course she didn’t know anything about RAI and LID. She said she would ask my doctor. She did call me back to say my doctor wasn’t sure and that I should stay on it until my whole body scan. The whole body scan was scheduled 10 days after I took the I-131 pill. I’m sorry, but fuck that! I was not going to stay on the diet another 10/11 days. The thought of having to be on LID the whole time I was in isolation was soul crushing.

Since my biopsy in December, I’ve done a lot of reading about thyroid cancer and all the things involved. I feel I have a very good understanding of LID and why it should be done. It basically helps with the uptake of the radioactive iodine. The uptake of I-131 happens in the first 48 hours after taking the pill. By the third day, the vast majority of the I-131 has been eliminated from the body. I feel there was no reason to stay on the diet for more than three days after RAI. I didn’t find any literature indicating the diet needed to be maintained for (or had anything to do with) the scan. Almost everything I read said the low iodine diet could be stopped 24 – 48 hours after RAI. I waited 72 hours. I should be all good. : )

RAI

Radioactive

I got 100 mCi. (well, actually 99.7 mCi.) of radioactive iodine (I-131) yesterday. So far, so good. Honestly, I don’t feel bad at all. The stress and anticipation in the weeks and days beforehand were WAY worse than the RAI.

I was scheduled to get my first Thyrogen shot on Wednesday morning. I was so nervous. I drove myself to the hospital, checked in at Registration, and then headed down to the basement to the Nuclear Medicine Department. They took me back upstairs to get blood drawn for a pregnancy test. Then I was sent back to the basement to wait for the results. Not pregnant. The nurse technologist went over all the rules and I had the opportunity to ask even more questions. The people in the Nuclear Medicine Department  have been so good about answering any and all of my questions. I was a little bummed that I wouldn’t be able to meet the my new best friend, the Nuclear Safety Officer, in person. I was able to speak with him on the phone on two occasions and he gave me so much information about I-131 and how to keep others safe while I was radioactive. All the information really helped to ease some of my fears. Anyway, after more questions were asked and answered, another nurse came in and gave me the first shot in my hip. It stung. I kind of got a little dizzy, but I think that was more from the anxiety than the shot. The nurse wanted me to sit for a minute, but I just wanted to get out of there. By the time I got to my car, I could feel the effects of the shot in my muscles, especially the gluteus maximus. I was tired and my muscles were achy for the rest of the day. I was still able to get outside with my 4 year old and fly kites. By that evening, I was feeling better.

Thursday’s Thyrogen shot went much better. The same nurse gave me the shot, but it didn’t sting going in this time. My muscles were slightly achy afterwards, but I felt okay in general. I picked up my mom from the airport later that afternoon and spent the evening getting my things prepared for isolation.

I was scheduled to arrive back at the Nuclear Medicine Department on Friday at 1 for my RAI. I was not as nervous as I had been on Wednesday. The nurse went over all the rules again, had me sign a Patient Agreement stating that I would take the following precautions:

1. Sleep alone for the next 4 days.
2. Stay out of work for the next 4 days.
3. Maintain a distance of at least 3 feet from others for the next 4 days.
4. Kissing and sexual intercourse should be avoided for the next 4 days.
5. Avoid contact with young children and pregnant women. Do not hold young children or allow them to sit on your lap. The thyroid glands of children and developing babies are more sensitive to the effects of radiation. Pregnant women and young children should vacate the home for the next 4 days. Maintain a distance of 3 feet for an additional 3 days.
6. If you are pregnant or think you might be, notify your physician immediately. If you are planning to become pregnant in the near future, discuss this with your physician prior to this treatment.
7. If you are breastfeeding, STOP. Continuing to breast feed may cause hypothyroidism or ablation of the infant’s thyroid gland.
8. For the first 24 hours, drink fluids in moderation. After 24 hours, drink plenty of fluids to assist in the removal of radioactive iodine circulating in the bloodstream.
9. Wash your hands with soap and water after each visit to the bathroom for the next 4 days.
10. Flush the toilet 2 or 3 times after each use for the next 4 days.
11. You must have sole use of a bathroom for the next 4 days. Rinse the bathroom sink and tub thoroughly after each use.
12. Use separate eating utensils and wash them separately for the next 4 days.
13. Use separate towels and washcloths. Launder these items and personal clothing separately from those of other household members for the next 4 days.
14. Do not travel with others by automobile for longer than 2 hours for the next 2 days.
15. Do not ravel by airplane or mass transport for the next 2 days.
16. Avoid foods that may leave saliva contaminated trash (BBQ ribs, apples, etc.) for the first 2 days.
17. Double bag your trash for the first 2 days and hold for 10 days before allowing pick up or disposal.
18. If hospitalized within the next 4 days, notify the physician and/or staff that you have received this treatment.

After the agreement was signed, the nurse technologist called for the I-131. A guy from the Nuclear Pharmacy rolled a cart into the adjoining room a few minutes later. On the cart was a small metal container. The nurse technologist paged a radiologist. A few minutes later, the radiologist came down, went over my file and spoke with me. He was really nice and joked about how I’ll soon be glowing green. He gave me a little more scientific info about I-131, asked if I had any more questions, and then signed some papers. The nurse technologist brought the little container into the room where I was seated. The canister was heavy. I wish I had been able to get a picture. She opened it and removed a vial that contained the I-131 pill. She poured the pill, which was about the size of an herbal supplement capsule, out into a little plastic dosage cup and had me take it with some water. She and the radiologist waited a few seconds to make sure I had gotten the pill down. No problems. I gathered my purse and she escorted me to the door and pointed me in the direction of the elevators. As I walked down the hall, she outstretched both of her arms to her sides and reminded me to stay 6 feet away from people. I dodged people as I made my way through the halls of the hospital and out to the parking garage. I didn’t feel any different physically, but it was very strange to know that I was radioactive and a danger to others. So surreal.

Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto (LID)

Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto

I made this risotto while I was on the low iodine diet, but you don’t have to be on a special diet to enjoy it. My husband and I both thought it was delicious. This can easily be made to be vegetarian/vegan by using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.

Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto

3 cups unsalted chicken broth
1 bunch (about 1 pound) fresh asparagus, sliced in to 1/2-inch pieces
4 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 ounces mushrooms (button or baby bellas), cleaned and chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
non-iodized salt (I use Morton’s Coarse Kosher Salt) and pepper, to taste

In a small saucepan, heat the unsalted chicken broth to simmering.

In another saucepan, cook the sliced asparagus in salted (with Kosher salt) boiling water, until crisp tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet with a heavy bottom, heat 2 tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil over medium-low heat and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the Arborio rice, stir to coat with oil and sauté with onions for about 5 minutes to toast the rice. Add the chopped mushrooms and continue to sauté until they soften. Add 1 cup of the heated chicken broth, stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring until the rice has absorbed the broth. Add another 1/2 cup of the stock, stirring often until the rice has absorbed the broth. Continue adding the broth (about ½ cup at a time) as the rice absorbs the liquid and the pan becomes dry, until all the broth is absorbed. This should take about 20 minutes (the risotto will become creamy). As you are adding the last bit of broth, add the drained asparagus and cook until all the liquid has been absorbed. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, season with non-iodized salt and pepper, stir to combine, and serve immediately.

LID Day 14: Mushroom Asparagus Risotto

Today’s Thyrogen shot went better than yesterday. The same nurse gave me the second shot in my left hip and I barely felt it. I did experience some fatigue, sore muscles, and muscle weakness (much like yesterday), but I was able to get on with my day. We picked my mom up from the airport. She will be here for 13 days to take care of my sons and our house while I’m in isolation.  Tomorrow is the big day. I’m nervous and hope everything works out.

What I ate today:

Breakfast:  coffee with non-dairy creamer
Lunch:  Mushroom Asparagus Risotto
Dinner: leftover pinto beans, Tostitos, and salsa
Snack:  unsalted nuts and dried fruit

Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto

LID Day 13: Tostadas

It Always Seems Impossible

I got my first Thyrogen shot this morning. I was so nervous. A nurse technician in the Nuclear Medicine Department spent some time going over the rules of being radioactive and allowed me to ask all the questions I could think of. Then she brought in a nurse who gave me the shot in my right hip. I will get tomorrow’s shot on the left side. The shot stung going in and by the time I got back to my car, I was feeling it down my leg. I took an Advil and was able to go on with my day. I was tired, but managed to push through and even flew kites with my 4 year old. It feels great to have the first shot over. I go back in the morning for the second shot.

I fell back on some foods I prepared ahead of time and froze. I cooked a variety of beans (chickpeas, black beans, and pintos) and froze them in plastic bags in 2 cup portions. I also had LID spaghetti sauce prepared ahead of time and frozen in 2 cup portions. I highly recommend doing that, especially if you are having to be off your thyroid replacement hormone.

What I ate today:
Breakfast: Coffee with non-dairy creamer
Lunch: Tostadas with pinto beans, lettuce, tomatoes, and salsa
Dinner: Pasta and LID Spaghetti Sauce

Tostadas

According to some sources, certain types of beans (pinto, kidney, etc…) are not allowed on LID. Other sources say they are fine. Black beans are considered to be okay, so if you are not eating pinto beans, use black beans instead.

corn tortillas (baked or fried whole until crispy)
cooked pinto or black beans, smashed with a fork or potato masher, heated
shredded lettuce
diced fresh tomatoes
prepared salsa
sliced avocado, fresh jalapenos, and diced onions would also be good

Spread the warmed beans on the crispy corn tortilla (tostadas). Top with shredded lettuce, diced, tomatoes, and prepared salsa. Add sliced avocado, jalapenos, and/or diced onion, if desired.

Cucumber Salad (LID)

Cucumber Salad

1 English cucumber, washed, ends removed, and halved and thinly sliced
1/2 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
non-iodized salt (I use Morton’s Coarse Kosher Salt), to taste
fresh herbs, like dill (dried dill also works well) or cilantro, minced (optional)

Toss the sliced cucumbers, onions, and jalapeno in a bowl. Combine the vinegar, water, and sugar and then pour over the cucumber mixture. Season with non-iodized salt and herbs (if using) and mix well. Let the cucumber salad sit in the fridge to marinate for at least an hour before eating.

LID Day 12: Cucumber Salad

I have a lot going on today to prepare for my upcoming treatment, my isolation, and my mom’s arrival. I got up and threw the contents of the bag of the Southwest Chicken Crockpot Freezer Meal (I defrosted it in the fridge overnight) that I prepared a couple of weeks ago into the crockpot. I turned the crockpot on low and let the mixture cook for 8 hours. I’m glad I thought ahead and prepared some food for days when I wouldn’t feel like cooking. I served the Crockpot Southwest Chicken over brown rice and topped it with salsa.  This Southwest Chicken would totally be good as an enchilada filling too. I hope to have time to make enchiladas with the leftovers.

What I ate today:
Breakfast: Coffee with non-dairy creamer
Lunch: Leftover tacos
Dinner: Crockpot Southwest Chicken over rice with salsa and Cucumber Salad

Products I used today:
Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice Whole Grain Brown

Southwest Chicken

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