The Tears That Will Never Dry Up

I have had Lupus since I was 14 years old, almost nine years now. It takes a lot for me to cry about my health or situation. I mean, I cried endlessly in the beginning when I was first diagnosed, but after that I vowed to never feel sorry for myself, or to cry again. These moments are few and far in between that I can remember the specific moments; when I was diagnosed, when I was hospitalized for flare ups in the early years of my disease, when I diagnosed with Nephritis, and more recently while I was on the natural medicine and off my steroids. In the nine years and with all that I have been through with my Lupus, that was the first time I had cried from the physical pains of my disease, that was when I knew I had to stop the natural medicine and get back on my steroids. Now the reason why I am sharing this is because I had an experience today that really shook me emotionally, and brought me back to feeling vulnerable, as if I was just being told about my Lupus for the first time.

Today I had my six month check up with my Rheumatologist. I had lots of new things to discuss with him, because he wanted to know about my experience with the natural medicine and where my health is now. After I explained how the last 4-6 months have been, he is happy I am back on my steroids. He asked me how I am doing and if I had anything I was concerned about. I mentioned to him I have been having extreme difficulty with my sleep pattern and fatigue levels, and that I was recently involved in a car accident, and am unsure if it is Lupus related or injury related from the accident. One week, it took me 2-3 hours to fall asleep; I would be tossing and turning for hours so frustrated and beyond exhausted. Now this week my fatigue has really kicked in and my sleeping regime is the complete opposite. I have been going to bed around 6pm-7pm, and sleeping for 12-13 hours every other night. I have had to miss work too, because I just don’t have the physical and mental energy to go to work. He reviewed the lab work that I have done since going vegan and revealed that my hemoglobin levels have gone down, and that my diet change may be a contributing factor to my fatigue. I am at a count of 100 for my hemoglobin, when the normal range is 120-150. He did make an effort to tell me that a low hemoglobin count could be due to diet or lupus related, so I will be doing iron deficiency testing with my next month’s lab work. We then reviewed my urine collections and the amount of protein in it; my Neurologist and Rheumatologist are frustrated that I have been on my kidney medication, which is a very strong steroid,  for a year now, and it still has not stopped my protein loss completely. The plan is to now increase this steroid again, and if it reacts negatively with my liver, like it did the first time, we would try a new stronger steroid. Like I mentioned in my first post, treatment is a constant battles of drugs, at varying doses, seeing if there are any negative side effects, and then changing them if there are. I left the appointment feeling very meh about everything. I know ‘meh’ is not a real word, but I don’t know how else to explain how I felt. I just felt so helpless and careless at the same time.

Now I was out for lunch with my mom when I decided to go see her pharmacist to get my medications refilled. I usually go to London Drugs, but the lineup is always so gosh darn long. Plus my mom’s pharmacist is Vietnamese, so it’s nice that he can explain things to her more effectively than I can when it comes to my Lupus. So we walk in and she hands him my prescription, and he says to my mom “oh wow you are starting all these medications at this age??” And she goes, “oh no, this is for my daughter.”

The way he looked at me said it all. It was a look I was so used to getting. I hated that look. It was the look of sadness and pity.

After a brief pause he says “oh wow. I’m so sorry for you. The types and amount of steroids you are on are extremely harsh, it must be very serious.” I looked at him and said “I have Lupus.” He then asks “what have they said about your future?” To be honest, I was speechless. I have never had anyone ask me that question before. I replied, “I mean I just keep taking new drugs and more of them as new problems arise.” He replied, “and has it been getting worse since you have been diagnosed?”, and I said “yes it has.” His last remark was: “well I can only pray it gets better for you with these steroids, otherwise you are looking at more severe treatments like steroid IV injections, or chemotherapy.” At that moment my heart sank completely. I don’t know why. I mean, this wasn’t news to me. The possibility of more severe treatments is something I have always been aware of, but for some reason today it really hit home. I guess, because I have had Lupus for so long now, I sometimes even forget I have a disease. It is when I have experiences with people who find out for the first time, that it brings me back to that day I was fourteen, and alone in the hospital where I was told I had Lupus.

Today has been a complete emotional roller coaster. I had intended on writing a vegan recipe to share with you all, but I couldn’t produce that blog piece with so much weighing on my mind. I realized this was the reason why I made the blog, to share my experience with people, however raw and emotional it may be at times. One thing I know my family and friends can attest to is that I always try to be as positive and optimistic about my health as possible. Talking to the pharmacist today really just put things into perspective for me. Today he just reminded me about the truth-that I am only twenty-three years old and on some of the harshest steroids out there, and that I am suffering from kidney dysfunction. It makes me wonder, what will my health look like in five-ten years? Experiences like this one are just a reminder that Lupus is something I have to struggle with for the rest of my life. Most days I am strong and occasionally think about my health, nothing beyond my regular pains or taking my medications. Some days I am an emotional wreck, feeling discouraged and hopeless. Today is one of those days, and I thought it would be valuable for people to see that I don’t always have a brave face on. Even after all these years, certain experiences can bring me back to the day that changed my life forever.

Progress Report #7

 

doctor-clipboard PROGRESS REPORT #7

 

 

 

  1. How many days of adopting a vegan diet have I accomplished?
    I am on my 136th day of eating vegan! It honestly feels like it has been longer than four months since I have had any meat. To this day I still have not slipped at all, yippee!!
  2. How do I feel today?
    Today I feel okay. I was involved in a car accident a few weeks ago, so I have been experiencing a lot of stiffness and pain in my back ever since. I  noticed I was getting more stiffness in my joints, specifically in my hands, since the accident. It probably is stress-induced.
  3. How is my energy level?
    My energy level is not great today. I slept for nine hours last night, yet I feel like I could use two whole days to sleep. I have been back at the gym for a few weeks now, which is super exciting. I took a long break from working out and doing any physical activity, because I was in so much pain from being off my steroids. Now that I am physically able to workout, I just have to find time between full-time school, and work. I am hoping that a regular workout regimen will help get my energy level up.
  4. On a scale of 1 to 10, how prevalent are my Lupus symptoms? Joints? Skin? Fatigue? Kidneys?
    My rating: 2-3Joints: My joint pains and morning stiffness have been more prevalent since the car accident, which I am sure is due to stress. I am happy though that I am able to go about my regular routine everyday without any assistance.

    Skin: Since being back on my steroids, the rashes on my scalp have returned. How bizarre! It is something I will bring to the attention of my Rheumatologist when I see him next week. 

    Fatigue: My fatigue levels have been all over the place this week. Most days I am feeling like I need at least another 3-4 hours of sleep. Some days I have had to cancel my plans or errands and take a midday rest to get energy for the evening. 

    Kidneys: The swelling that I get in my legs are back to being very prevalent. It is extremely sensitive to my diet, specifically my sodium intake. It is quite odd that when I was off my steroids I rarely ever got any swelling in my legs from my diet. Now that I am back on my steroids, I am experiencing it more frequently, yet I am still on the same diet. This is something I will definitely mention to my Neurologist when I see her in two weeks. 

  5. Have I displayed any new symptoms? Good or bad.
    No new symptoms to report this week.
  6. How long have I been back on my steroids?
    It has been 49 days and  I am back on my regular dose of steroids now. I am relieved that I am feeling well enough to get back to my usual dose.
  7. Have I learned anything new to adopt in my natural approach?
    I recently started an at home meditation practice. It has been a wonderfully empowering experience. Being that I have a Type-A personality,  I am constantly on-the-go, multitasking, and planning my daily and weekly schedule; it is extremely challenging for me to shut my brain off. I have learned to exercise my mental strength and tune everything out, which is something that doesn’t happen easily for me. I am trying to meditate once a day for 15-20 minutes, either right when I wake up or right before I go to bed. I have found it to be incredibly calming, centering, and relieving. I think that it will really help me alleviate stress from school, work, and life, which will hopefully in turn help my Lupus. 

 

No -Bake Vegan Protein Bites

These vegan protein bites are amazing replacements for your store bought granola bars. You would be incredibly surprised to find out how much sugar and sodium one of those granola bars contains! I absolutely love these protein bites; even if you’re not vegan, they are a great healthy on-the-go snack. I have them as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack, or as a post-workout snack. They pack a lot of protein and fibre per bite, so they can definitely tie you over in between meals. And because I am a tad bit more generous with the chocolate chips, I find that they help curb my cravings for other unhealthier sugary snacks. This recipe makes roughly 8-10 bites, depending on how big you make the balls. I scaled down my recipe, so that you could test it out and see if you like the flavour of my protein bites. If you do, you can then multiply everything by two to make 16-20 bites, that’s the normal amount I make every time I make this recipe. They can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a week, or in the freezer for up to two weeks.


Ingredients:

1/3 cup roughly chopped unsalted, raw almonds

1/4 unsweetened shredded coconut

1/2 cup of quick rolled oats

1/2 cup ground flax seeds (I bought mine in the bulk aisle and noticed they are the same price as the whole flax seeds, so why not get them already ground up to save you the work!)

1/3 cup of vegan chocolate chips ( I prefer the mini chips, I find they bind better in the mixture.)

1 tsp. of pure vanilla extract

1 tsp. of cinnamon

1 generous tbsp. of raw peanut butter ( I would prefer to use almond butter or cashew butter, but this was what I had on hand.)

2 generous tbsp. of coconut oil

1 tbsp of water (this amount may vary)


Directions:

  1. Mix all your dry ingredients together ( almonds, shredded coconut, rolled oats, and ground flax seeds).20141021_205431
  2. Combine all the ingredients well.
  3. Add vanilla extract, cinnamon, peanut butter, and coconut oil.20141021_205501
  4. Use your hands to mix the ingredients (the temperature of your hands will help the coconut oil melt and blend into the mixture much better than a spoon would).
  5. Combine the ingredients until it is all thoroughly distributed and just holding together.
  6. Add 1 tbsp. of water to start – continue mixing with hands.
  7. The mixture should hold together, but not be sticky. If it isn’t holding together add another tbsp. of water, if it is too sticky add more rolled oats.20141021_211201
  8. Once you reach the right consistency you can start forming your balls!
  9. You can pick the size of your balls, just make sure when forming them to really apply some pressure to ensure they keep their shape.
  10. Store them in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.

no_bake_energy_bites_Closeup

Progress Report #6

The last blog that I posted, I wrote it with the intention of it being my last. With me being unable to continue my journey on natural medicine I figured it made sense to stop my blog, because that was the whole purpose of it- sharing the experience of treating my Lupus naturally. I was overwhelmed with friends and strangers reaching out and encouraging me to continue sharing my story, regardless of the absence of natural medicine. People still want to hear about my journey with veganism and what it is like living with Lupus. I was incredibly touched that so many people had a genuine interest in my story. It just made me realize how something like a chronic disease could bring people from all walks of life together for a greater cause. It is truly inspiring. So for that reason I decided to continue my blog. I want to thank everyone for opening up  their minds and hearts to me. It is an indescribable feeling; to know that I am lucky enough to be in a position where I could possibly help, inspire, or move someone. That is something I will forever be grateful for.


 

doctor-clipboard PROGRESS REPORT #6

 

 

 

  1. How many days of adopting a vegan diet have I accomplished?
    I am on my 115th day of eating vegan, that’s almost four months! I can’t believe I have not slipped or caved into my old meat-eating ways!
  2. How do I feel today?
    Today I feel great. I feel like myself again, as strange as that sounds. The last couple months with the amount of pain I was experiencing, it really got me down and feeling helpless. I would wake up with no desire to do anything, because of the debilitating pain throughout my body. I have always been one to wake up and be excited to conquer my day – I’m happy to say that I am back at that place!
  3. How is my energy level?
    My energy level has been lower than normal the last few days. Some days I feel like I could sleep all day and never leave my bed. I’m unsure if it is solely from my Lupus, or maybe from the change in seasons as well.

  4. On a scale of 1 to 10, how prevalent are my Lupus symptoms? Joints? Skin? Fatigue? Kidneys?My rating: 2-3

    Joints: My joint pains and morning stiffness have improved immensely. I can do everything myself again, like brushing my teeth and tying my hair. It is a great feeling to regain my independence. I still have pains in the morning, but I honestly cannot complain when I compare it to the pain I was experiencing the last couple months.

    Skin: I have noticed a couple minor rashes on my scalp in the last week or so. It is quite odd, because while I was on the natural medicine I don’t recall ever getting a single rash. Now that I am back on my meds I am seeing a few. 

    Fatigue: My fatigue levels have been a bit erratic this week. Some days I wake up feeling like I haven’t slept in days and could go back to sleep for days. I am sure it is my Lupus and my body adjusting to my meds. One of the side effects of my steroids is that it can cause fatigue, and it is something I have been struggling with for a while now. 

    Kidneys: I have not been experiencing any abnormal swelling in my legs from sitting for an hour or more, which I am very happy about. I can now focus during my lectures at school without experiencing tightness in my legs and ankles. I will be doing another 24-hour urine collection test in a month to see where my protein levels are, and if it has decreased at all since starting my kidney medication again. 

  5. Have I displayed any new symptoms? Good or bad.
    Seeing some minor rashes appear on my scalp took me by surprise. I have not had a rash since I went vegan, so it is quite puzzling that once I started my steroids, they reappeared. It is something I will mention to my Rheumatologist (Lupus Doctor).
  6. How long have I been back on my steroids?
    It has been 28 days. I am currently on a higher dose of my steroids, because my Lupus was flaring and my pains were excruciating. It is just for the time being until my body adjusts to being back on meds. Once that happens, I can then talk to my Rheumatologist about decreasing them.

  7. Have I learned anything new to adopt in my natural approach?
    I have started experimenting more with cooking vegan dishes. It really curbs any cravings I may have for dairy, fish, etc. when I recreate one of my favourite meals, with a vegan twist of course! This way I don’t feel so deprived and limited in my food options. Recently I made a vegan fried rice and a vegan spicy lemongrass pho with mushrooms and tofu. I will share some of my recipes in future blogs!

 

A Brief Pause

The last few weeks have been a complete whirlwind of emotions, events, and discoveries. I have been tested and pushed to my wits end entirely: physically, mentally, and emotionally.I have had such conflict with myself, in what I want now and what will come to be.  I started along this path of natural medicine and veganism, assuming this would be one long straight path. I mean- I did a lot of research and educated myself as best I could with the resources I had available to me. I wasn’t going into this completely blind. I  never could have anticipated the path I was on would turn into a bendy and windy road that had no clear direction. I am at the point in my journey where I am experiencing the worst symptoms of my Lupus that I ever have in the last eight years. My arthritis has gotten out of control and is completely debilitating. I cannot brush my teeth, wash my face, or even lift a cup on my own. I struggle to sleep at night, because the pain keeps me up. I can’t roll over in bed, or even pull the blanket up if I feel chilly. I have hit complete bottom in my journey. I am at the stage where I am physically unable to do my basic routine, and get through a normal day.

It is at this point I have to throw the towel in.

I have endured so much pain in the last month, it is honestly unbelievable to me that I didn’t crack earlier. It is now time that I listen to my body, and not choose to be naive or selfish in my treatment plan with my Lupus, because I want to experiment. At the end of the day, as much as I want to find a natural cure for Lupus; I do have a real and serious chronic disease. That is a fact that I cannot overlook or make light of.

Please know that this is an extremely difficult decision and realization to come to; it is definitely the most humbling experience I have had. I have cried countless tears, had major breakdowns, and was pushed to the edge more than I could tell you. It was not an easy decision and not something that sits well in my mind and heart. I am extremely stubborn, prideful, and an overachiever in every aspect of my life. My friends know too well that when I set my mind to something, I am committed beyond the means of normality. This experience has really shaken me and made me realize what you take away from an experience is not strictly black and white – not just a success or failure. Once I set my mind to something I have to come out in the end succeeding in whatever it is. I do not accept failure or excuses, and I am my toughest critic. I am the individual who will put all her eggs in one basket, give it 150%, and come out accomplished. I do not want this to come across in a condescending or arrogant tone, but that is what my young adulthood life has consisted of. I commit myself fully to something, whether that be a new job/career, education, or hobby, I work extremely hard, persevere, and come out conquering what I set out to do. The natural journey I started three months was absolutely no exception to that. I went all in; I went completely vegan overnight and began natural medicine almost immediately. The reason why I do everything whole-heartedly is because I never want to live with an ounce of regret. I will only accept a failure in life knowing I did my absolute best. This experience has really changed the way I had initially viewed this journey and life. My goal was to reverse or cure my Lupus naturally, if that was achieved then I succeeded- I was a winner. With everything that has happened in the last few weeks I have done more self-questioning and self-reflection than I ever had.

I had to sit down and really think, “What was my end goal?”. Was it to be off my steroids? And at what cost? At the cost of experiencing pain every second of every day?

I had an appointment with my Nephrologist earlier this morning. It was an extremely eye opening meeting. She showed me my lab results for my kidney function over the last year. She explained when I was first diagnosed with nephritis, my protein levels in my urine were ten times the amount of a normal person. It took about a year and new medications for my protein levels to go down by a third, but I still was not in the healthy or safe range yet. Then we looked at my lab results from last month. My protein levels were at the worst they had ever been, and were twenty times higher than a normal person’s. This news was startling. I mean- I knew I was experiencing the worst pains I ever had, but I didn’t know internally that my body was experiencing the same thing. She explained that if I were to continue on this path and leave my nephritis untreated, it could do permanent damage to my kidneys. This could lead to treatments such as dialysis or transplants a few years from now. She was extremely honest and reassuring when she explained that her goal and my Rheumatologist’s (Lupus doctor) goal was to not have me on steroids forever. They are well aware that there are negative side effects to the long term use of these drugs. They do their absolute best to treat me, without overexposing me to drugs. She wanted me to understand that when my Lupus is flaring I need those drugs to get it under control. An untreated flare could manifest itself and I could be ten times worse than when I started. She explained that once my Lupus was in remission and stable for at least two years, then obviously they would want to taper the steroids and eventually get me off. This was very reassuring to hear that my doctors were looking forward and planning for the future. She explained that at the end of the day, if my Lupus is flaring and I do not treat it with the proper medications, it will only backfire and cause more damage to me and my health in the future. What resonated the most with me is what she said about the likelihood of me having children. If I am not healthy, I will not be able to carry a baby, or even become pregnant. I need to consider my future and what the consequences of not treating my Lupus might look like.

Do I want to take the all natural path and experiment for now, with the risk of damaging my kidneys and possibly other vital organs? Or do I take my steroids until my Lupus is at a better place, and pray that one day I will be in a good place to healthfully get off my medications?

I left my appointment today being able to make a better educated decision about my treatment plan. It was hard to hear the real facts and results of my tests, and to be told my Lupus was not doing well with the natural medicine. But it was exactly what I needed to hear; I needed affirmation that I had hit rock bottom and I had to do something about it. I have made my decision and plan on staying on my steroids until I get my Lupus under control. It was not what I had intended I would be doing at this point in my journey, but it is the right thing to do. I have to respect my body and look past my pride, and just understand that this is what I need to do for the time being so I can live contently. I am not viewing this as a failure, or even that I am giving up. I have chosen to be responsible and look at the bigger picture. I need to do this for my future, and as impatient as I am, I need to be patient with my treatment and my Lupus. I have come out of this experience having learned so much about my Lupus and myself – that is something I will never forget. I am happy to say at least I tried to take the initiative to do something for my Lupus; it was a completely empowering feat. I don’t think this will be the end in terms of natural medicine for me, but for now it is a brief pause in a lifelong journey of treating my Lupus.

Confessions – Part I

This week I was faced with a moral dilemma. One I thought I would not have to face for a few months…informing one of my many doctors of the new treatment plan I had created for myself, and how I had stopped taking all my medications and steroids altogether.

My next appointment was with my Nephrologist (my kidney doctor) in November. I was hoping by that time I would feel a lot healthier and fully adjusted to the natural medicine; where I could be sharing only all the positive changes that have come about from my natural approach. Unfortunately I received a call from her earlier this week informing me that my latest lab test results showed a large amount of protein in my urine. To give you a bit of background information, my lupus affects the lining of my kidneys-this is called nephritis. In a normal functioning kidney it filters out strictly waste like urea and ammonia. Unfortunately in my case with nephritis, the walls of my kidneys become inflamed where they begin to excrete needed protein from the body into the urine. Loss of necessary protein due to nephritis can result in several life-threatening symptoms. Since discovering my nephritis I have been on medication to help build the lining of the kidney,and reduce the amount of protein being excreted. So when I received this call from my Nephrologist telling me my protein levels were high again, I was deeply saddened. I had stopped my medications for only two months and my body was already telling me I needed them to function properly. My doctor asked me if everything was alright and if I felt well.  I was completely caught off guard by her phone call-I was not mentally prepared to tell her about all the changes I had made, and how I had stopped taking my kidney medication. I was scared to find out how she might react; whether she thought I was absolutely crazy for doing this, or just irresponsible and stupid for stopping my medications.

So…

I didn’t say a thing.

She wanted me to repeat the lab work again, and if the results were the same she was going to change my kidney medication. I left the phone conversation feeling scared, disappointed, disheartened, and clueless as to what I should do. Do I tell her about the new treatment plan? And if I do, what if she tells me my nephritis is getting worse and that I need to take my medication? I was not prepared to give up on my natural medicine just yet. I felt terrible for lying and not being honest right then and there, but I was not prepared to tell her my secret.

I gave myself a few days to recoup and think about how I was going to deliver this information to her. I wanted to be prepared to explain, educate, and prove to her why this natural approach was the right thing for me to do. When I finally had the conversation with my doctor, I have to say I was completely thrown off by how supportive she was. She explained to me that it wasn’t uncommon for Lupus patients in my age range to be looking at alternative medicine knowing that they would be on medications for the rest of their lives.  She thanked me for being honest with her and having the courage to tell her. She supported my decision and wanted to follow me more closely in the next few months. She said that currently she isn’t too concerned about me getting off my kidney medication, if I really wanted to. She is more worried about my future, and what no kidney medication could manifest to five-ten years down the road. She is concerned that if damage is done to my kidneys because of the absence of medication, it may not be reversible. She also mentioned how my state of health five-ten years from now will dictate if I am able to conceive and healthy enough to carry a baby. Her last point really resonated with me.

It has always been a dream of mine to be a mother. I knew at a very young age that I wanted to have babies and lots of them! If I were to find out in the future I was not healthy enough to carry a baby-I don’t know what I would do. I would be beyond devastated that the great gift of life that women could give, I could not. There is no way I can imagine my life and future without kids. A lot has been on my mind this week, whether or not to continue my journey knowing what my Neprologist said. I will be seeing her in two weeks to discuss what the effects of abstaining from my kidney medication might look like, and a new treatment plan that I will morally feel good implementing.

Dinner at Yew

I recently found out that the Yew restaurant in Downtown Vancouver offered a vegan menu. I had been there a few times before enjoying their regular dinner menu, but I never noticed they had a completely custom vegan menu as well. I was beyond excited to try the menu and it was very fitting for date night with my boyfriend this past week. He works out of town and is home every two weeks, so when he is here we try to plan one nice date night where we go out and enjoy great food and great drinks. We are big dorks and get super dolled up, on any given date night he’ll be rocking suspenders and a bow tie, and I will almost always be in a dress and heels. Our usual date nights consisted of either dinner at Gotham’s Steakhouse, Joe Fortes, or Blue Water Cafe. All these restaurants had wonderful food, and I would normally have a 16oz rib eye steak cooked medium rare, or a miso glazed sablefish. So planning this date night was a lot more challenging. I had to find somewhere that my boyfriend would be able to have his perfect ribeye steak, that didn’t leave me with only a salad as a vegan dinner option. Yew restaurant was the perfect spot for us! The regular dinner menu covers all the various proteins; steak, chicken, and a vast array of fish and seafood. I am so happy I discovered this, because now when I want a delicious vegan meal it won’t have to be at a restaurant that is entirely vegan. Click here to check out the vegan dinner menu! 

I started with their delicious tomato salad ($12). It was one of the best tomato salads I have had even prior to me going vegan. Normally I always opt for the tomato and mozzarella salad, or a caprese salad at any restaurant. The Yew tomato salad was their take on it. I was very happy with it and it didn’t leave me longing for the fresh mozzarella that usually accompanies it. The tomato salad was tossed in a light lemon vinaigrette with a sweet balsamic reduction. On the side was an arugula pesto, which was to die for! It was garnished with pickled cucumbers and fresh basil, which just gave every bite that much more flavour. The plating of the dishes were so beautiful, they were intricately crafted and looked like pieces of art. I know the saying is “people eat with their eyes first”, well after my eyes saw how pretty the plate was I didn’t even want to eat and mess it all up!

For my entree I had the cashew cream pasta ($20). Honestly, this was the best pasta dish I have ever had-hands down. I rarely order a pasta dish at a restaurant, or even cook pasta for that matter, but this pasta dish was loaded with mushrooms so I just had to give it a try! I was stunned by the creaminess and richness of the sauce, I hadn’t tasted anything so rich since going vegan. I could’ve sworn there was a ton of cream and cheese in the sauce, because of the velvety texture. I was shocked that they were able to get that creaminess strictly from a cashew puree. I was literally on the moon when eating this pasta. The sauce had a smoky flavour from the roasted cashews and the mushrooms added a hearty earthiness to the pasta. Everything just worked so perfectly together.

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Now to finish my grande meal off on a sweet note I had their one and only vegan dessert, the chocolate tort ($10). After having this dessert I completely understood why they only had one vegan dessert, because nothing could compete with this tort. It was absolutely heavenly. The tort was the perfect consistency for my liking, almost like a chocolate truffle cake. Where the chocolate is set-it’s still smooth and creamy, but it has a little bit of a bite to it. Paired with the tort was a raspberry sorbet and raspberry chia seed compote. You honestly can never go wrong pairing berries and chocolate together. It was the perfect marriage. Ever since I had this tort I have been craving it every day! It will be my new late night dessert run if I’m downtown and can’t fight the cravings.

The restaurant itself is absolutely beautiful. The decor is modern, clean, yet warm and not pretentious. Our server was extremely nice and professional. She was very curious as to why I went vegan-normally I never share the fact that I have Lupus with people I know, let alone complete strangers! For some reason she made me feel very comfortable with sharing that part of me with her. After I explained to her my reasons, she said she was truly inspired and moved, and that she wished me the best of luck on my journey.

rsz_yewrestaurant_feb2614_024           yew-restaurant-dining-room2-photo-460x330

I highly recommend the Yew restaurant for anyone wanting a meal that will have your taste buds singing. It was an unforgettable meal. For all you vegans out there who struggle to find a a fine dining restaurant that offers delicious vegan dishes, Yew should be your go-to!

Progress Report #5

 

doctor-clipboard PROGRESS REPORT #5

 

 

 

  1. How many days of adopting a vegan diet have I accomplished?
    I am on my 65th day of eating vegan. This week has gone very well in terms of my diet. I have gone back to my regular completely green eating post PMS. 
  2. How do I feel today?
    Today I feel well. I am feeling rejuvenated this week and optimistic about my health. 
  3. How is my energy level?
    I feel energized today. I have been out and about in the beautiful sun doing errands and enjoying myself. My energy levels have been quite consistent this entire week.
  4. On a scale of 1 to 10, how prevalent are my Lupus symptoms? Joints? Skin? Fatigue? Kidneys?

    My rating: 7

    Joints: My joint pains and morning stiffness have still been very prevalent this week. I have a lot of difficulty in the mornings doing small tasks that require my arms, hands, and walking. Although the upside this week is that I haven’t woken up in tears from the pain, so that is a win for me. Whether that means the pain is subsiding, or my body is just becoming more tolerant, I am unsure. Skin: Skin and scalp looks the same, whoop whoop! 🙂

    Fatigue: Fatigue has not been bothering me at all this week. I have no complaints in this department. 

    Kidneys: No new signs of swelling anywhere.

  5. Have I displayed any new symptoms? Good or bad.
    The stiffness in my knee that I developed as of last week is still continuing to bother me this week. I struggle to walk around my house in the morning without some padded slippers on.

  6. How long have I been off my steroids?
    It has been 62 days.

  7. Have I learned anything new to adopt in my natural approach?
    I went to Finladia Pharmacy a couple weeks ago to see if there was anything I could take to help ease my joint pains my Lupus had been giving me. The Homeopath I consulted with suggested starting with supplementing the basics. I explained to her my situation and how I was taking natural medicine. She was happy with my decision to stop steroids, start natural medicine, and become vegan. She explained that with natural medicine there was a rebound effect, that it would get a lost worse before it got better. This was comforting to hear this from a Homeopath, because I was experiencing the worst of my Lupus that I ever had. She mentioned that when transitioning to natural medicine the immune system had to be in good health and strong to help with the process. I could see why my body was suffering so much from the change, because Lupus is an autoimmune disease. My immune system has always been weak, so made sense why I was experiencing so much pain. She suggested taking an omega-3 and Vitamin D supplement to help boost my immune system. I have been taking these vitamin supplements for a week or so now. I’ll give it at least 3-4 weeks before I report whether or not it is helping with my pains and overall well being. Here are the vitamins I have incorporated into my vegan diet: 

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Top 10 Pantry Staples

Here are my top ten vegan pantry staples:

  1. Quinoa: It is such a healthy and nutrient-rich grain. It is so easy to make and transform into a salad, an entree, or a side dish. I like to cook my quinoa in vegetable broth with a couple bay leaves to add flavour.
  2. Apple cider vinegar: I love to use this in all my homemade salad dressings as the sour component. Apple cider vinegar is also used in natural remedies for heartburn and detoxification.
  3. Almond milk: I never was a big milk drinker before going vegan. I realized I don’t mind the taste of almond milk as much as I did cow’s milk. I like to add it to my green smoothies, or just as a liquid to mix with my raw protein powder.
  4. Flavoured tomato sauce: I have found some really great tasting pasta sauces to add to my pantry. I have tried a roasted garlic pasta sauce, wild mushroom, an arrabiata, which is a spicy tomato sauce. It is extremely easy to add fresh herbs, garlic, onions, and vegetables to add more depth to a jar of pasta sauce.
  5. Brown rice pasta: I always have brown rice pasta on hand, usually a fuscilli. I like to have pasta with a hearty vegetable broth with beets, carrots, and celery. Or I like to make a vegan pasta salad using fuscilli brown rice pasta.
  6. Italian blend seasoning: It is a blend of dry herbs that includes rosemary, basil, oregano, thyme, and sage. It is so nice to have it on hand to flavour sautéed vegetables, starches like quinoa or couscous, and vinaigrettes.
  7. Canned chickpeas: I usually always have at least 2-3 cans in my pantry. It is one of my favourite legumes and provides a good amount of fibre to any dish. I like to toss chickpeas in my salads and pasta salads.
  8. Maple syrup: This is one of my new loves! I use maple syrup to counterbalance the tartness from the apple cider vinegar in my vinaigrettes. I also use it in my fruit salads as a natural sweetener.
  9. Extra virgin olive oil: This is the one product I would recommend spending good money. You can definitely taste the difference between a cheap and expensive olive oil. It is important to use a good quality one because it adds a dimension of flavour to your vegetables when sautéing or roasting, and to vinaigrettes.
  10. Sweet potatoes: I love roasted sweet potatoes. It is so easy to make and all I use to dress it  is a good olive oil and italian seasoning. You can also boil or steam the potatoes and then turn it into a sweet potato mash flavoured with vegan butter and garlic.

Progress Report #4

This week has definitely been the toughest week I have experienced since going vegan. I have been struggling physically, mentally, and emotionally. The pain I am experiencing is by far the worst joint pains, muscle stiffness, and all around soreness I have ever had. I think my pains have gotten more severe due to the natural medicine. The Naturopath I saw in Vietnam warned me the first couple weeks would be extremely difficult on my body, because it was detoxifying and trying to rid of all the diseased cells. Also, he mentioned that if I didn’t stick to the strict diet regimen it would conflict with the medicine and make me feel worse. To remind you all of the food restrictions I am on while taking the natural medicine; no fried food, no toasted food, no baked food, no grilled food, no artificial colouring, no soy sauce or any dark sauces, no bread, and no meat of course. I do have to admit I have had some fried foods and some soy-based sauces. This diet regimen is one of  the most challenging things I have ever put myself through. I had a few moments where I broke down and cried, only because I felt so limited in my food options. Going vegan overnight was already a challenge in itself, and now I have a whole other list of food items I can’t eat. At some points during the week I just wanted to give up. I wanted to stop restricting myself and just go to any restaurant, and be able to order anything off the menu. Luckily for me, at every breaking point my boyfriend and my friends reminded me of exactly why I was on this journey and why I needed to persevere. I had to push through and go completely out of my comfort zone, because what I was comfortable with before (taking steroids every day for the past eight years) got me nowhere in my Lupus treatment, and the steroids started to affect some of my vital organs. I had to remind myself this was my only option if I wanted to see a positive change in my future and in my health.


 

doctor-clipboard PROGRESS REPORT #4

 

  1. How many days of adopting a vegan diet have I accomplished?
    I am on my 53rd day of eating vegan. This week I had to deal with the tail end of my PMS cravings. Luckily I was able to kick those hormonal cravings to the curb and continue eating vegan.

  2. How do I feel today?
    Today I feel a bit better than I had felt the last few days. I think the fact that today is my day off from work as well really allows my body time to rest and reenergize.

  3. How is my energy level?
    My energy level seems to be the most consistent change that I have noticed since going vegan. I haven’t seen too much variation in my fatigue levels. I can definitely tell that my energy has gotten better since going vegan, and it is just a matter of time before I feel at my optimal level.

  4. On a scale of 1 to 10, how prevalent are my Lupus symptoms? Joints? Skin? Fatigue? Kidneys?My rating: 8

    Joints: Over the past week my joint pains have been excruciating. I have been waking up in tears from the amount of pain I experienced in the mornings. It has been so bad that I literally cannot roll over in bed, or lift my blanket without wincing in pain. I struggle to open doors and do just about anything with my hands and arms in the morning.

    Skin: Skin looks the same and again no signs of any new rashes 🙂

    Fatigue: Fatigue has not been as prevalent this week as it usually is. Ensuring I get enough sleep has been a major contributor to my energy level throughout the day.

    Kidneys: Still no signs of swelling, hoooraaay!

  5. Have I displayed any new symptoms? Good or bad.
    This week I noticed I was getting stiffness in my knees a lot after a long shift at work. I experienced a lot of shooting pains in my knees, swelling around my knee, and tenderness in my feet. My feet would be so sore from work that the next morning I would barely be able to walk on my hardwood floors without wearing padded slippers. I am hoping my knee pains subsides soon, because it has made it extremely difficult to work when I am on my feet all shift.
  6. How long have I been off my steroids?
    It has been 50 days.
  7. Have I learned anything new to adopt in my natural approach?
    I recently looked into starting a vegan B-12 supplement. Vitamin B-12 contributes to the production and maintenance of red blood cells, and it plays a key role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system I know there is a lot of debate whether or not a vegan needs to supplement this, or whether they can get it from a plant-based diet. After all the research I did, I felt as though supplementing is what I agreed with. I purchased the Now Brain B-12 supplement for $7.99. There are 100 servings in the tiny bottle. Make sure when purchasing a B-12 supplement it has the word “Methylcobalamin” on the label. This ensures the vitamin is an easier absorbed form of vitamin B-12. The pills are lozenges, so they just dissolve underneath your tongue. I have been taking the vitamin supplement for a few days and can definitely see a difference in my energy level. When you are vitamin B-12 deficient you may experience signs of weakness, tiredness, and light-headedness. Those are the symptoms that I noticed, which is why I looked into a supplement. I am very happy to be incorporating this into my natural pursuit.

 

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