Morning K-Town

One of my June projects has been to start taking the bus to work. I actually take two buses to work. The corner where I get off one bus and onto another is located in Koreatown, more affectionately known as “K-town.” This is the strip mall where I wait for the second bus.

Here is the the reverse angle. There is no bench, so most people sit on this wall. If I were not taking the picture, I would also be sitting on the wall, although I like to sit on the high section of the wall, which is also closer to the actual stop. I don’t know why they prefer the low wall.
Usually, about the time I arrive in K-town I am just beginning to feel hungry and I wish that I had the time to go into this restaurant and try what I assume is the breakfast special. The description is in Korean but it is $4.99 from 6am-11am. While Paul and I eat dinner at Korean restaurants fairly often, I have never eaten a Korean breakfast, so I have no idea what the food would be. I’ve never arrived at this stop so early that I could afford to skip a bus and hang out in the restaurant eating breakfast, but maybe someday I will.

Oh, Baby, Baby, Carrot, Oh!

My snack this week at work has been baby cut carrots with spicy hummus. I recently learned from a co-worker the origin of baby cut carrots:

Once upon a time (like back in the 80s) people could only buy “adult” carrots. They would take them home and cut them, dice them, slice them, etc, in order to put them in their stir-fries, on crudite platters, or in a carrot and pea combo side dish to go with their meatloaf.

But some of the carrots were too ugly to sell. So a guy named Mike Yurosek, came up with a system, (using a green been cutter and potato peeler) to pare the big, ugly carrots into small, cute carrots.

Armed with this new knowledge, as I sit on a bench eating my with my baby carrots and spicy hummus, I find myself wondering if the carrot I’m eating is an ex-ugly carrot. Was it shunned by the other carrots before it became lithe and cute?

I guess it tells my age, that I remember when the grown ups around me were a little bit coy about such things. There was a small amount of secretiveness about dying one’s hair to touch up the gray. People asked, “do you think she’s a natural blonde?” or “do you think those are real?”

It shouldn’t matter of course, I hate to think that I would have the judged the carrot on it’s looks to begin with. It probably says something about me that I waste a gossipy minute wondering if my baby carrots smoothness is its own, or the result of carrot-botox.

Upon return to my desk (but still during my lunch hour, of course) further research reveals that the popularity of baby carrots has exploded to such an extent that majority of baby-cut carrots we eat today were never ugly to begin with, they were just regular carrots.

But that, too, is a little sad, if you allow yourself to think too much about it (which I obviously have). The existence of these clean, cute and convenient carrots that parody actual baby carrots–i.e. carrots which are actually small because of their extreme youth– means that normal carrots no longer seem quite good enough, they feel obligated to mill themselves down to a size and uniformity that frees us from having from having to question our choices or test the limits of our tolerance for disparity.

Happy 2011

Woke up with a great Saturday feeling. No plans today. I will probably read and write in bed for a few hours. I might decide to go to the gym, or an Indian New Year’s ceremony at the Art of Living Center. If I want to–but I’m giving myself permission not to.

And I feel healthy–thanks to my friend K!
On Tuesday I felt a UTI coming on, and went to the doctor. The urine test showed up negative for bacteria, so he sent me home with no prescription for antibiotics. This made me very nervous, since the holiday weekend was approaching, the health center was going to be closed. If I was right, and this was the earliest phase of a UTI, I’d up on New Year’s Eve or Day trying to get someone to see me–or I wouldn’t, because I can’t afford it, so I’d just spend the weekend in misery hoping that no permanent kidney damage occurred before Monday. I expressed my worries to the doctor, who reassured me–I could call the next day if I was still having problems, and we’d work it out. I left empty-handed because of this promise–and because I questioned myself. If the test was negative, maybe it wasn’t an infection–even though it felt like one. I hadn’t had a UTI in years– maybe I was mis-remembering something. Maybe it was just an inflammation of some sort that would resolve on it’s own.
I tried to keep telling myself this on Wednesday, although I didn’t feel any better. I decided I really needed a back-up prescription, even if I didn’t fill it. So I called–twice. I got sent via a chain of receptionists and nurse attendants to two different voice-mail boxes. I left messages. I called a third time, the office was closed–ten minutes earlier than their already shortened holiday hours. That’s okay, I told myself, I can call first thing in the morning tomorrow. My assigned doctor had indicated he wouldn’t be in, but the website showed they had hours on Thursday, so I figured I’d just talk to anyone who was there.
But Thursday when I called, I discovered they had decided to close a day early.
Fine. I’d take more cranberry juice tablets. It was my mom’s last day staying at our house, so it was ridiculous to spend it in a random short-term medical clinic–and, what if I was still wrong, and another test turned up negative? I’d have wasted my day for nothing.
But by evening, after dropping my mom at my sister’s house, I had a familiar ache in my back. The infection had traveled to my kidneys. But maybe it was just a back-ache? I stopped off at the CVS for a home UTI test. The dip-stick showed bright purple–lots of white blood cells from trying to fight off an infection. Great. I was in exactly the position I had dreaded–after business hours the night before New Year’s Eve Day, feeling terrible, with now prescription. I wanted to throttle the doctor for being so cavalier, for not trusting me, and for making me question myself. And I wanted to throttle myself for not being so forceful–for questioning myself despite my own experience and my recognition of physical evidence, just because he was in a position of authority. If anything, I should have stopped trusting him when he babbled some stuff about acid and alkaline that didn’t jibe with any of my research–and I do a lot of research! I was mad at him for not looking at my record and making some assessment of me as a patient, realizing that I’ve had one round of antibiotics in eight years–I’m not a misuser. Then I was mad at myself for making that point myself–for not saying, Look, I had cancer, and I turned down chemo, I’m not a frivolous medicine user!
But the time had passed, and now I was in that place…Should I ask our friend who’s a radiologist if she can write a prescription? We hadn’t spoken in over a year, but she and her husband had sent a Christmas card. Still, I hated to put her in that positions…
Eventually, I settled on calling family and friends to see what they had hiding in their medicine cabinets. On the second call, I hit gold–my friend K had seven Septa tablets–expired–from her last UTI. Yes! That would exactly get me through the weekend until Monday, when the clinic would open again.
The doctor’s refusal to give me a prescription to begin with has to do with a very real concern about the overuse, and misuse of antibiotics, which then cause tougher strains of antibiotic resistant bacterias. This is why doctors are loathe to prescribe when the problem won’t be helped by an antibiotic (for a cold that is caused by a virus for example), they ask us to finish each round, and not hoard old pills and try to self medicate later.
The irony, of course, is that what I have learned from this experience is that it doesn’t pay to have unconditional faith in the medical system or the people in it–and that if I ever get prescriptions for anything–pain-killers, sedatives, antibiotics–I will fill them and hoard them for a rainy day, the apocalypse, or the day a friend calls in need on a holiday weekend!
Oh–All that was going down a long road that I hadn’t actually intended. The point I was getting to–is that every brush with ill-health makes me super grateful for good health. And that little bottle of pills on the dresser, from my friend K, makes this day a completely different day from the kind of day it could have been. And I feel gifted by the universe in this regard. A great start to 2011!

Healthy Eating Guidelines

Last week I went to a presentation called Food for Thought: What You Need to Know About Nutrition and Cancer sponsored by Cancer Treatment Centers of America. I was interested in the evening’s presentation because it featured both a nutritionist and a doctor of gastroenterology. As a colon cancer experiencer who has self-treated primarily with diet, I was interested to see what they had to say, and I was hoping that for them to specifically address nutrition as it relates to gastroenterological cancers.

The presentation fell short of the kind of depth I was envisioning, but it was interesting The evening was, without a doubt, a public relations effort on the part of Cancer Treatment Centers of America. I’m not a fan of sell-jobs, but at the same time, I do feel that CTCA would be one of my top options if I were to have to shop for cancer treatment. I appreciate a cancer establishment that at least uses the terms “integrated” “whole person” and “nutrition,” when describing their mission.

Hosted at the Luxe Hotel, the event offered white table clothes, free food, and lots of swag—I now have a canvas tote bag, cute notebook and pen all with CTCA branding. I also received some literature. As I sat in the courtyard listening to light jazz before the presentation began, I looked it over and thought the “Healthy Eating Guidelines” might be worth visiting here. They are all in keeping with rules I have arrived at through my own research and reading in recent years.

Limit “fast foods” and sugary beverages like soda and juice drinks.

  • This is a good one. I’m not sure if by fast foods in quotes, they are talking only about McDonalds and the like, which certainly should be included. But I would prefer it to also include “fast sugars”—these are also called “simple sugars,” as opposed to “complex carbohydrates.” These are white bread, fat-free ice cream, anything with the word “syrup” in it’s list of ingredients—all simple carbs that turn to sugar and release a fast burst of glucose into your bloodstream. There is a relationship between reducing sugar and fighting cancer, which I will discuss in a future post.

Choose a diet rich in plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables whole grains, and beans.

  • Yes, yes, yes. For some reason when I read these kinds of lists, the “don’ts” always stands out more than the “dos.” But the fact is that if we followed this one piece of advice, most of the other recommendations here would be automatically included. Plant-based foods tend to be high in fiber and complex carbohydrates, low in simple sugars; they offer nutrition and anti-oxidents. If you are an alkaline/acid diet person, plant-based foods usually fall on the alkalizing side of the chart.

Limit red meat consumption to no more than 4 meals per week. Also, limit portion to 3 ounces per meal, which is about the size of a deck of cards.

  • This is something I really try to adhere to—although I tend to apply it to meat of all colors. Without being a vegetarian, whenever there is a decent vegetarian option available, I will tend toward that, and when I choose an animal protein, I try to reverse the normal plate layout, so that vegetables comprise the main portion and I “garnish” with meat.

Avoid processed meats as much as possible (deli meats, hot dogs, sausage, bacon, etc)

  • This is a fairly easy one for me, although it makes it harder to make a quick sandwich from a lot of writers/production office fridges. Barring extreme hunger, the only big temptation is bacon…because bacon is delicious. If it is served at a dinner party draped across a piece of chicken, I will usually eat a limited portion. But I don’t go to that many dinner parties. I might also mention here though—that along with these meats, I also try to keep my non-organic chicken to a minimum. It is often framed on restaurant menus as the low-fat option, but the amount of hormones and antibiotics present in conventional chicken is something I think we are just beginning to discover, not to mention ethical considerations. So this again, is something I’ll eat a few ounces of if it is being served by someone I know—after all, it’s being made with love—and that’s got to be nutritious!—but I don’t buy chicken from grocery stores or restaurants unless it’s organic, and even then, there’s usually a vegetarian choice I like just as well.

Avoid or limit alcohol

  • I drink maybe a couple times a year. I don’t have a lot of in-depth information about alcohol, but I believe people who say it’s not good for someone in my health situation. My dad had pancreatic cancer twice in his life, and in both cases it was preceded by an increase in his normal drinking habits for a period of time. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not. Generally, if you’re not in a high-risk group, alcohol messes with your glucose and insulin levels in some way, and that as a result of your body reacting to the alcohol as if it’s a poison. So limiting that seems wise.

Limit salt-preserved, salted, or salty foods.

  • I love salt, but don’t think I overdo it. My feeling is that the biggest culprit is “sneaky salt,” which is when you look at the back of packaged food and realize that your soup has a thousand milligrams of sodium. Fast foods are also infamous for their salt content of course. I will eat a bag of McDonald’s french fries with about the same frequency as I drink alcohol. I’m not sure what the relationship is between cancer and salt, so I may do some research and do a future post.

Eat more high fiber foods such as 100% whole grain breads and cereals.

  • I will be the first to agree—colon health is really important! Maybe because I am hyper aware of digestion, I feel like I hear so much about fiber all the time, but beyond “pushing things through” what does fiber actually do? Well, it also can reduce blood sugar and cholesterol. And it reduces your risk of cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. And

Choose vegetable oils such as canola or olive oil and use sparingly. Limit fatty foods, especially animal fats.

  • Olive oil is great. Canola oil has some caveats. I heard a great lecture once about the relationship between the kinds of fats we take in and cancer, deserving of a future post.
All the italicized guidelines are quoted from “Healthy Eating Guidelines” by Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

Bigger Better–and Carcinogenic?

One last article of interest concerning the salmon. A certain growth hormone is greater in the GM salmon. A little bit probably won’t hurt you, they say…but the author points out that a lot of little bits–occurring in other parts of our food supply–can combine to become more than just a little, and could then cause harm.