LeRoy Remodel: Dream Kitchen Reveal

I was going to write about something else, but then just realized I never posted anything else about our HUGE kitchen remodel from this summer. Considering it took up almost three months of our lives, it deserves to be shown off. And yes, it IS our dream kitchen. It is open concept. It is more functional. It is gorgeous and cozy at the same time. So, here we go!

Kitchen (before)

The kitchen was the biggest frustration for us. It was really outdated and then I went and put a paint color on it that made it even darker (cool, huh?). But overall, it was just so separate from all other things happening in the house. I’m not a gourmet chef so I don’t spend ALL my time in the kitchen, but it was the hub for a lot of our activities…it needed to feel more central to everything else.

Kitchen Remodel - Before Picture 1

Our old kitchen had a very classic footprint of the time. But it was dark and very separated from the living room (the other side of the wall).

 

Kitchen Remodel - Before Picture 2

Alternative view of the old kitchen. The laminate floors aren’t too old, but the cupboards have clearly been in this house since it was built in the late 70s.

Living room/dining room (before)

This configuration bothered me from the moment we bought the house. It’s a very long space and we had a lot of frustrations figuring out where to put the couches and the tv. We settled on this arrangement, but the longer couch butted up against the kitchen wall so you’d still have to walk all the way around the couches to go sit down. It worked fine for two years, but I was looking forward to something that had a better flow and wasn’t so disconnected from the kitchen.

Living Room - Before picture

Typical L-shaped living room/dining room footprint from the 70s.

 

 

Dining room - before picture

RIP Dining Room. You were good for…mostly nothing. Seriously, we only used that space and that table for putting puzzles together. If it’s wasted space, get rid of it!

3D renderings of our new kitchen

We settled on SJ Janis for all our remodeling needs. They are AMAZING. We worked with so many talented people to settle on the final vision of our kitchen. And then the process of constructing the vision was seriously one of the best experiences we’ve had with contractors ever. I completely recommend them!

This is the view from the living room with BOTH walls down. Can you imagine? At the time, it was all just a dream to us.

 

A different view from the kitchen table. No more dining room – just a wide open kitchen that interacts well with the living room.

First days with the walls down

Some fun facts about those first couple days/weeks.

  1. We were in Disney World the week they did all the demo. It was nice not to have to be around for all the dust and debri, but yeah, it was a little nerve wracking knowing we were many states away if something really bad happened. But, all turned out well!
  2. In one of the kitchen walls they took down, they found an actual pile of mice. Yes, you read that. Pile. Of. Mice. We never saw any rats while we lived there so it was an issue the last homeowners/renters dealt with. However, it TOTALLY explains the weird smell that would waft around sometimes during the summer when it got hot and the AC pumped the smells through the vents. MYSTERY SOLVED! Anywho, no big harm done, but so glad we don’t have to deal with that anymore.
  3. Okay, so I may have  flushed pee water on the construction workers literally the first day we got back from Disney. Okay, not maybe. I did. When they removed the ceiling in the kitchen, they found that the pipes from our master bathroom were corroded and not up to code. They were in the process of replacing them and said, “The water is off. Don’t use the water for the next couple hours.” I was working from home, but also running around taking care of errands and really had to pee. I figured I’d go pee but no flush. No harm done! And then my mind wandered, and I flushed…and I heard weird noises in the pipes and there you have it. A sploosh of water fell right down into the kitchen…literally on top of one of the guys working. Mortified? Yes. Were they super nice and understanding? Also yes. They spent the next two hours wet vac’ing the mess I’d made. SORRY SJ JANIS!!!

The first pic we got of the demolition from Demo Days 1 and 2 when we were down in Disney. Look at that floor!

 

Oh my gosh. Almost no walls! Because they took down a load bearing wall, they had to put up some support systems before they had the support beams in place.

 

The 70s are calling. Fun fact, that’s still underneath our current floors. It was so glued on, they couldn’t even get it up. So it’s still there. Giving us good vibes.

Fast forward past the mechanics (cupboards are in)

On HGTV they probably skip past the mechanics to get to what you’re seeing below. Like it’s just demolition and then voila…new floors and cupboards! But in actuallity, here’s what actually happened.

  1. Support poles went in to support the load bearing wall.
  2. HVAC was re-routed
  3. Electric was re-routed
  4. Plumbing was re-routed
  5. Recessed lighting was installed all over kitchen/living room.
  6. Load bearing beam was installed.
  7. Custom island header was constructed and put in place
  8. Almost everything got re-painted (including the new island header
  9. Floor were installed (not finished, though)
  10. Cupboards installed

Blue island and white shaker cabinets are a go!

 

Our challenge wasn’t JUST taking down a load bearing wall. It had a lot of mechanics in it also. The system that we came up with was re-routing everything (plumbing/electric/hvac) above the island and down through the pillars that would support the island. This is where function meets design and it was amazing to see the guys work through these complex situations day in and day out.

Finishing touches

After the cupboards when it in it was like “Okay, why does the rest take 8 weeks? What is left?” Oh, so much stuff left. Again, all that putzy work I feel like they do in 2 days on HGTV. In reality, it takes a LOT of time to do the putzy stuff. The rest of the time was spent doing the following:

  • Puddying and spackling over nail holes
  • Finishing the island custom work – constructing posts for pillars and header beam.
  • Painting island pieces for the 800th time (there were a lot of issues but we finally got it figured out)
  • Installing all lights (and configuring heights of hanging lights)
  • Tiling and grouting
  • Touch ups
  • Installing outlets
  • Countertops
  • Finishing the floors
  • Installing appliances
  • Placing furniture

Our electrician was a great sport. “Can you sit there so I can see where your head is at when someone is sitting at the island?”

FINAL REVEAL

Alright, here we go. Here’s the final vision come to life. No descriptions necessary.

Before and afters

I find before and afters help because the change is so drastic it’s kind of disorienting to people who didn’t live through this every day like we did. So here you go. Before and afters.

So. Worth it.

Overall, we are super happy with our kitchen remodel. This is our forever home and now it finally feels like our dream home! I didn’t mention the budget for this because that’s not very appropriate, but let’s just say we’ll be paying this off for quite a few years. However, it was either live in our old kitchen for a couple more years while we saved up, or start living in our dream home and pay for it for a couple more years.

You may or may not recall, but this was the year of Carpe Diem and getting this kitchen done so we could ACTUALLY use it and not just dream about it was a big part of how I wanted to start the year. And we did!

So here we are. Living the dream. The dream kitchen, at least.

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Going Keto – Part 2: This is definitely not for everyone

Hey all – this is my second post about going Keto. If you’re just tuning in, maybe go check out the first post. It gives a little more background on how I got into this and the basic overview of what a Ketogenic diet is.

Done? Great. Let’s get into this.

Before I get into how to start a keto diet plan, I want to talk about who this diet is for. Again, kind of cringing at the word “diet” because diets aren’t long-term, but that’s the common vernacular so we’ll keep going with that.

So who is this for? To be quite honest, it’s hard to say because it depends on who you talk to. I’m no scientist but I did read through some other people’s experiences with Keto as well as what the medical community is saying about it. And there are a lot of mixed feelings. So I’ll go through what I read and also my take on those things.

Who should try keto?

Most common answer: Those looking to lose weight.

After reading through a bunch of articles, it is clear that people have very strong feelings about this from all spectrums. On the one hand, you have the success stories – people who have used a ketogenic diet to lose weight. They are living proof that it works. They are very passionate that this is “the one true way” (I’m being hyperbolic) and that all other diets are just not worthy.

Then, you have those who are also success stories but take it a bit further “This is how humans were meant to eat. It’s in our DNA.” I heard this a lot with Paleo a couple of years ago. Again, I’m no scientist so I can’t back this up, but again, just showing you that some people are super passionate about this.

Then you have those in the medical community with mixed reactions. There are a few sources that will say, “I’ve done the research and this is by far the best way to lose weight.” But then you have the vast majority of the medical community saying, “There is no LONG TERM research on this. And honestly, if you’re looking to lose weight this is a bit extreme. Focus on a balanced diet with a good amount of exercise and you’ll achieve the same thing.”

Then you have the naysayers who have certain beliefs about the diet that may be misguided – “You can’t eat fat to lose fat.” or “Not all carbs are bad carbs.” or “What is this doing to your cholesterol?”

My take…

First off – a ketogenic diet is not the only way to lose weight. However, it is a low carb diet, so you will lose weight. But it is a lot more strict than other low carb diets. So if you don’t have any other dietary issues or health problems or predispositions, then you’ll likely also lose weight through other means.

Also, if you’re looking to JUST lose weight, I would definitely not start with a ketogenic diet. I think your first line of defense is to take small, manageable steps that don’t feel so restrictive.

  • Maybe start drinking more water in place of other sugary beverages.
  • Take a look at what you’re eating and track where your calories are coming from.
  • Start incorporating more whole foods and less processed items.
  • Then start incorporating some exercise that feels fun and not forced.

If you’re beyond this and looking for a stricter approach with more results…then look into a program like Whole 30 or Paleo or heck even Weight Watchers or Atkins. These are good steps, and maybe that’s all you’ll need. If you’re past this or still not finding something that works for you to see results, then sure, try a ketogenic diet. What’s the harm in trying, right?

But what I am saying is, jumping into keto would be really tough if up until this point you’ve been doing nothing at all. And that would likely set you up for failure. You would see more immediate results, but the amount of time and will power needed to maintain this effort would probably seem like a crazy amount if you’ve never even tracked your calories before.

Second most common answer: Those with gluten/glucose/sugar intolerances

This is where I definitely put up a caution sign so you know that I’m NOT an expert on these issues, just trying to paraphrase what I’ve read.

Those with certain dietary sensitivities find a lot of success with the ketogenic diet because it is very restrictive when it comes to any kinds of carbs which includes…

  • Sugar…processed (think table sugar) or natural (sugars found in vegetables like sweet potatoes or the majority of fruits)
  • Gluten…many processed foods and wheat-based foods (this is super over-simplifying this category so don’t take this as a complete listing of what gluten really is)

Now, you could still technically have processed sugar or gluten on a ketogenic diet, but because your daily carb count is so low, this is typically viewed as a waste of carbs because these are not parts of foods that are filling…they’re just empty calories. A lot of people on this diet try to stick to unprocessed foods and only allow natural sugars (but even then, a very small amount them) in order to stay under their carb count for the day.

And what does the medical community say? Because this is considered a more niche category of people on Keto, there’s not a lot of commentary, but what I’ve found is that doctors are definitely for a “low carb/low sugar diet” when you do have these certain dietary issues.

My take: I don’t know if I have sensitivities to either sugar or gluten. I mean, it’s likely because a couple people in my family do. But it’s not like I break out in a rash or anything. And I’ve never done any tests on this. So from that standpoint, I don’t know…but I suspect I might have slight sensitivities. But if this describes you, then you should definitely consider going keto. It’s one of the few plans that could really help with those sensitivities.

Even more niche: Those with certain types of diabetes, prone to epilepsy/seizures or issues with nerve damage. 

I know I’m really lumping together some serious issues that probably should be broken out, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that only a small percentage of people on keto actually experience any of these things. Why? Because it’s really hard to find people reporting their experiences with keto from any of these perspectives. Which is kind of why I wanted to start documenting my experiences – because I fall into the category of “issues with nerve damage”.

But I have found some documentation, so this is what I’ve found – mostly from the medical community.

A ketogenic diet has actually been used for over 100 years to help patients with epilepsy/seizures. For diabetics, I’m not sure how long it’s been recommended, but a lot of the same thinking from the low sugar/gluten group also applies to diabetics who have a hard time processing sugar…but in addition there’s more to do with insulin things (I hardly understand the science of that so I’m not even going to try to explain it here). There have been studies on ketogenic diets in rats and small animals to test nerve damage issues, and then evidence from actual diabetics and those who have issues with epilepsy. So basically, for me, outside of testing with rats, there’s not a lot information on how exactly keto helps nerve damage in humans, it just does. And I know…because I’m living proof.

My take: If you fall into this category, then this sort of diet may have already been recommended to you by your doctor, but also, it’s definitely worth considering. A ketogenic diet has “neuroprotective” properties so for anyone who falls in this category, it’s definitely worth trying out. Also keep in mind – this is not a replacement for any prescriptions your doctor recommends. However, I will say, this type of diet has allowed me to be prescription-drug free. And for some diabetics, it has allowed them to reverse their diagnosis and live a life without fear (SOME…don’t mistake that I’m saying this is a fix all for diabetics).

So that’s who keto is for…in a nutshell. I’m sure there are other groups of people who would benefit from this, but you get the point.

Now let’s talk about the next hurdle to get over when considering this diet.

To be really blunt…do you have what it takes?

This is where I try to dissuade you from doing this. First, have you yo-yo’ed in the past with other diets? Are you prone to temptation? Do you have a limited amount of time to spend planning and preparing each week? Are you trying this because you think it sounds interesting, but you don’t really have any super concrete goals you’re trying to achieve?

If any of those sound like you…then don’t. I’m not saying this because I think it’s this super exclusive club thing and you can’t sit with us. No, no, no. Come. Sit with us! No skin off my back! But I’m trying to prepare you for how hard this is. And I think if your reasons for doing this are even the slightest bit wishy-washy, this might not be for you.

If I wasn’t super heavily invested in figuring out nerve damage issues, I would definitely not be doing much with my nutrition. Sure, I might keep doing lower-carb things, but only to a certain extent. I love carbs. I love sugar. I don’t like to deprive myself of good food if I feel like I can sort of balance things out with exercise. You know that shirt “Run all the miles, eat all the donuts”…up until a couple of months ago, that was my personal mantra. I ran to eat whatever I want.

So for me, it took a really REALLY good reason to fully commit to this. If I can run pain-free by giving up some delicious carbs, then that’s something I want to be well-informed about. Can I sustain it long-term? I don’t know. So let’s just aim for three months and see where I’m at after that.

As for your reason? I’m not saying you need to have a serious reason like mine to jump into this way of eating, but there has to be a really good motivator to get you through the long road ahead.

Still not dissuaded?

Here are some of the unpleasant things about this diet (just in case you’re like, yeah this is all still good with me).

  • On average I spend about 8-10 hours each weekend just planning meals for the week and prepping some foods I’ll need for lunches and night when I know I’ll be too busy to cook.
  • Speaking of cooking, get ready to do a lot more of it. I used to cook a couple of nights a week…maybe one real good one, and most from a box or some combo of pasta and protein. Now I cook 90% of our meals from scratch – some of it I can do on the weekends, others I have to do in the morning or after work.
  • I spend about an hour a day tallying up/figuring out what I actually ate and weighing portions out for the future. Some days are not so hard when I actually stick to the plan I made, but most days I have to continue to reconfigure the plan as I continue to change my mind about what I want to eat or am presented with options that were previously unaccounted for (all with the goal of hitting no more than 24 grams of carbs a day).
  • Speaking of carbs, do you know they’re a huge staple of a midwestern diet? Yeah, it’s not the easiest thing to just stay away from carbs. They’re everywhere.
  • That restaurant you love? The friends you always go out with? Prepare to be that person with the dietary restrictions.
  • And what about your family? Are they going to support you? Further more, are they going keto? Chances are, they probably aren’t going keto. Even if they’re supportive, they’re still eating whatever they want. Which means you have to look at temptation every day and make a choice.

Sounds fun, huh? Okay, it’s not all drudgery.

Here are some of the benefits of going keto…

Summarized from this post on Ruled.Me

Benefits that most people experience…

  • Better brain function
  • A decrease in inflammation
  • An increase in energy
  • Improved body composition

As alluded to above (and expanded here), it can also help those with the following health issues…

  • Epilepsy
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Type 1 Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Chronic Inflammation
  • High Blood Sugar Levels
  • Obesity
  • Heart Disease
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
  • Fatty Liver Disease
  • Cancer
  • Migraines

Alright, still interested in giving this a go? Great! The next few posts will be for you. I’ll get into the nitty-gritty of what you need to know to get started as well as some very important tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.

A year (and a week) ago today…

last chemo

One year (and a week) ago, I was finishing up my 12th and final round of chemo.

 

It’s been exactly a year (and a week…sorry…got busy with Thanksgiving and hit pause on this) since the last round of chemo was injected into me. So much has happened in the past year. It’s taken me a really long time to process everything and I’m not even done yet. And because of that, I haven’t been blogging as much as I used to. Every time I felt the urge to blog, it seemed too personal or too fresh and it just wouldn’t make sense without more perspective.

I’ve tried writing this post about 10 times, and still it doesn’t feel right to talk about.

The one thing I will say, though, is that people told me that my life would change after cancer. At the time, and for the longest time, I didn’t believe that.

Trust me, I tried to keep it all the same. And for the first couple months it worked. Because it’s easy to slide back into the things that comforted you when things are going smoothly.

But eventually some things started not going smoothly. And it was in those moments I found myself finally believing that I was, indeed, different.

And that’s all I can say at this point. That I’m different.

To expand on that is not easy. Seriously, I’ve re-written this post over and over trying to figure out the best way to lay it all out. And I just can’t. Part of it is I don’t want to reveal it all. Part of it is I don’t want your pity. Part of it is I don’t want your judgement.

Overall, the past year was not what I expected when I walked out of my last chemo. But it was the year I got. And it had many ups and downs.

I wish I had some bright, happy bow to wrap around this past year so that other people in similar situations could find some hope. But I don’t have that to offer. And I think that’s okay too. We all deal with this in our own way.

All that’s left to do is move onward and upward.

Going Keto – Part 1: How this all started

I hate diets. I’ve always hated them. But I’m also not a “well-balanced” person where I eat all the right foods and exercise the right amount.

No. Historically, I’ve been of the belief that if you workout/run enough, you can eat whatever you damn well want. And historically, my body was somewhat okay with that. I say somewhat because let’s be real with the fact that I’ve never had a “cut” body physique, but this methodology has helped me stay within my comfort zone – hovering around the 25-26% BMI level.

Well ladies and gents – my body is NOT holding on to that belief system anymore. I’m sure a part of it is just age – I can’t keep eating crap like I did in my 20s and expect things to just magically work out. But a part of it is SURELY because my body has gone through some pretty big changes in the last year.

Trust me, I TRIED to keep up this belief system. I did this the first half of the year. Starting in January, I got my butt back in the gym and started training for a half marathon that would take place in June. My lofty expectation was that by training for a half marathon, I would easily lose the 16+ pounds I had put on during treatment.

To be honest, only some of that can be attributed to the drugs…most of it was the fact that I eat a TON when I’m nauseated and apple crisp was my best friend. No shame in that! You do what you need to do to get through it! Anyway, back to the matter at hand. 

As I re-entered life outside treatment, working out and getting in shape were things I knew I could control and work towards. So I did what I always do – committed to working out 3-5 days a week, focusing on building my running endurance, and rewarding myself with carby deliciousness.

After the half marathon in June (which, we’ll get to in a minute), I weighed in to see my results…and the good news was that I had lost 6 lbs and gained a lot more muscle. The bad news was, I was nowhere where I thought I should be after training that hard for a half marathon.

All of my knowledge from the past failed me. Well, not completely, but it wasn’t working as well as it used to. If I couldn’t shed that weight training for a REALLY big event…then what could I do to shed the weight?

So yes, the obvious answer was, “Duh – look at what you’re eating!”

So I did. In late July and August, I started tracking everything I was eating and focusing on making simple changes that I knew were better – i.e. less processed food, more foods cooked at home, whole foods – fruits, vegetables, grains, etc. and then also focusing on creating a calorie deficit – more calories out than in each day.

These guidelines were a good starting point, and they helped me drop a couple more pounds, but it didn’t feel like something I could maintain long term. I was always waiting for that next meal or snack and felt hungry constantly. Also, I was still trying to run a couple days a week and was now lifting weights once a week (so I could focus on being tone, not just flabby and thin).

It was near the end of this where I was getting frustrated and started doing more research around macros. I had read a couple guidelines posted for what I should focus on for my body weight, activity level and goals, but I didn’t really know much more about it. For example, in the FitBit app, it was saying I should aim for 40% carbs, 30% fat, 30% protein. And the fitbit app was great in the beginning because that’s where I was tracking all my food (and activities) and it would automatically calculate my percentages for me based on the foods I put in. For a couple weeks – I focused on hitting these ratios – that meant bringing my carbs down significantly, and with that I lost another pound or two.

But I wanted to learn more about macros because I had read quite a few more articles around why it’s important to focus on the right macro ratios for your body. But what was appropriate? Should I focus on macros that would allow me to run faster? Or focus on macros that would help me shed those pounds?

In all this confusion, I decided to take the matter to my brother – who had recently gone on his own nutritional journey. He’s always been the healthy, athletic type (he even played for Purdue in college!), so I knew he’d be able to help me sort this out.

It was him who introduced me to the idea of a “Ketogenic diet” – and with the words “diet”, my guard was immediately up. I didnt want a trendy, fad diet. I wanted a long term plan to follow. But I listened.

I’m not going to go into all the details of the ketogenic diet – I’ll save that for the next post – but in a nutshell, it’s a diet that brings your body into a state of “ketosis” – where instead of your body burning carbs for energy, it burns fat. So it’s literally a fat-burning diet…WHEN you’re in ketosis. Getting to that state? Well, that takes some work, which again, I’ll get to in another post.

So I’ll skip to the point – I did some more research on Keto and the big premise was SUPER low carb, high fat, moderate protein. Like, if I put even a teaspoon of sugar in my coffee – that’s it. That’s my daily carb allotment. So, it’s definitely NOT an easy change.

But, I’d started to see some results after cutting my carbs back so I thought, I’ll give it a try. No, I wasn’t going full on keto, but I would strive to cut my carbs back even more. For my body, it was recommended that I have no more than 24g of carbs a day. I decided to compromise at 50g of carbs (roughly 15 – 20% carbs for the day vs the 40% I was currently at).

I was able to fully commit to this for the entire month of September. The first two weeks I lost 5 pounds. I was SHOCKED (I know some of it was water weight). But then it plateaued there. The next three weeks I weighed in at the same weight each time.

I thought…maybe keto wasn’t for me. But also, I wasn’t really doing keto. I was doing my version…”keto light” because it was too hard to figure out how to eliminate even more carbs than I already had. On the plus side, though, with the high fat content, I was NEVER hungry. There were days where I would only have 1400 calories and think “How am I not hungry? This is amazing!”

So even when I wasn’t full on doing Keto, there were benefits. But there were also drawbacks. My runs had gotten increasingly harder. My temperature was rising. My blood pressure was up. And I’d started feeling pain in my neck and back similar to when I was first diagnosed with cancer (okay, not that severe, but like the beginning of what I felt then). I, at first, did not relate these symptoms to Keto. My 9 month checkup with my oncologist was coming up, and I had a long list of 20 reasons why I thought the cancer was back.

However, after laying everything out for them – they had a very different view. It likely wasn’t cancer – but a combination of anxiety and diet changes. The anxiety – they had ways for me to deal with that. The diet, though? Their conclusion was that I needed more carbs if I was going to continue to run and lift weights as much as I was.

It made sense.

So that day, I started eating a lot more carbs. And you know what happened? I actually lost one more pound, my runs got better, and the pain in my back and neck went away. But those were all short term benefits.

After a couple weeks of eating healthier carbs and not trying to be too hard on myself, the weight crept back. I was up 3 pounds and felt hungry all the time. But at least my runs were going well!

The other bad thing that happened? My neuropathy returned. Now, I don’t think I’ve touched on this too much, other than in my post about the half marathon, but I have some lingering nerve damage (neuropathy) in my hands and feet from some of the chemo drugs I had to take. During everyday life – it’s not that noticeable. I mean, I notice it in the form of my hands, arms and feet falling asleep if I stay in position too long, but it’s more of an inconvenience. The everyday part is something I can live with. What really grinds my gears is how it impacts my running. If i’m running 3-5 miles, it’s fine. If I run over 5 miles, it feels like I’m running with a rock in my shoe…and then it progresses to feeling like I’m running on glass. So for the half marathon, that was the biggest issue. I had the stamina for the race. I had the energy for it. But my feet were in constant pain after about mile 6. I didn’t get the time I wanted, and it was the first time I thought, “Maybe I shouldn’t do long distance races anymore.” Which was a very sad thought.

Fast forward to September.

What I realized is that I’ve been feeling that subtle neuropathy pain every day since I stopped chemo…except for in the last month. The month that I went “keto light”. Which then made me wonder, could there be a connection between going low carb and improving circulation/neuropathy? As it turns out – there is. A lot of diabetics who have peripheral neuropathy (which, I don’t have diabetes, but my neuropathy symptoms are similar to theirs) go on a low carb or ketogenic diet in order to improve and/or diminish their neuropathy symptoms.

Again, it made sense. Sugar is an inflammatory. Carbs are basically forms of sugar. The lower carb you go, the less you’ll have to deal with inflammatories. Also, it should be noted, that a lot of people dealing with cancer are told to go on a ketogenic diet because, again, cancer feeds off sugar, so by eliminating that you could improve how your body fights cancer (but I’m not a doctor, and please don’t do this unless a doctor tells you to!)

You still with me? I know. It’s a lot. 

So now I was at a crossroads. Clearly their were benefits to keto and going low carb…but at the same time, there were also negatives that I experienced that I wasn’t excited to go back to (again, noting that I never went FULL ketosis). I continued to look for other options.

I started with trying to eliminate all added sugars, and just allowing sugars that were naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables that I loved. The result – I lost a tiny bit of weight and I felt better, but my neuropathy was the same as it had always been.

Then I did the above, but I started taking supplements that were recommended for neuropathy. After two weeks – I felt good overall, but nothing had changed with my neuropathy…and I was starting to get a lot of acne (I don’t know why this happens to me with supplements, but I saw this coming).

So I started looking into the keto diet again. What was the process like? How long would it take my body to go into ketosis? Is it something I could maintain long term? Would I see a change in my neuropathy? All questions that needed answers.

I knew my neuropathy would likely get better, but what about my other symptoms? Would I have to make a choice between neuropathy and back/neck pains that made continually question whether or not I had cancer? It was a lot to process.

But as I continued to research, I read up on this thing called the “keto flu”…basically when you lower your carbs and you are trying to get to ketosis, your body is on the struggle train. It is holding onto those carbs for dear life and is trying to figure out how to make energy with so few – and also trying to figure out what other reserves it can use for energy. For a person going through this – it can be awful. It can feel like you have the flu. Your energy is low, you have headaches and body pains and you’re craving sugar BIG time. This is also your body’s way of trying to trick you back into the carb-alicious life. “You can’t survive like this! Turn back!” And many people do! They’ve fallen for the trick. The ones that persevere, though, will get their body into ketosis and all of a sudden their body will understand that they can use the fat stores and balance will be restored. Their energy will return, they won’t be craving sugar, and all of those body aches and pains will go away.

I thought about all of this. In my quest to lower carbs, but not at keto, was I actually trying maintain in that “keto flu” space? Because that would explain all of the body aches and terrible runs I’d had. If I would have just pushed through and gone to full keto – would all of those negatives go away? Including the neuropathy? Signs point to yes. But I still can’t be for sure because as I’m writing this, I’m on day 4 of going keto again and it’s too early to tell (I’m definitely not in ketosis yet).

So now – my mission is different from when I started out at the beginning of this year. First of all – I’m in my “comfort zone” so if i don’t lose anymore weight it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Would I mind if I lost some more weight and got more fit? Absolutely not, but that’s not the mission anymore. The mission has now become – how to eat healthier AND reduce my neuropathy symptoms. If I can manage my neuropathy, I might just be able to run long distances again.

So that is the hope. Full keto. Low carb/high fat/moderate protein. Manageable neuropathy. Once again – a long distance runner.

All of that will, hopefully, lead to a happy and healthy Jamie.

This was part 1 of “Going Keto” because there is SO much more to tell about this journey. The next posts on this will focus on how to get started/plan for keto, keto hacks, and what to expect if you go down this path. 

Light the Night TONIGHT!

It’s happening, people.

My hair is purple (okay light lavender now after a couple washes).

I’m gathering up glow sticks.

The weather is clearing up.

It’s time to…

LIGHT THE NIGHT

This is my last shout out for you to join us or to help us fundraise. Cmon, it’ll be fun!!!

DO IT!

Okay, peer pressure over with. Here are those details again if you need them. Also, I plan on being down there by 5:30. Hope to see you soon!

Here is the fundraising page
(and also where you can join the team)

And here are the details for the event:

When: October 5, 2017

Where: Veteran’s Park, Downtown Milwaukee WI

Team Name: #KissCancerGoodbye

Light the Night…and Kiss Cancer Goodbye!

Hey everyone –

Jamie here. But you knew that. I mean, my name is on the website. Anyway, it’s that time of year again. It’s…

LIGHT THE NIGHT!!!!

WOOOOO!!!! woo.

What’s so awesome about Light the Night? Let me break it down for you.

  1. It’s a yearly event where a ton of people walk in honor of their loved ones, friends and family who have been impacted by blood cancers like Leukemia and Lymphoma. We walk in honor of those who have survived, and in memory of those we’ve lost.
  2. Last year, I was in the middle of my own battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma while my friends and family walked in my honor. Because I was neutropenic, I wasn’t able to attend. But this year I’m SUPER pumped to go and join in on such a special event.
  3. Every year, my friend Andrea goes out of her way to organize a great group event and encourages everyone (even dogs!) to come out and walk with our team.
  4. This year, the team is aptly named, “#KissCancerGoodbye” and I can’t wait to link arms with some other cancer survivors and know what it really means to do just that!

So, with all of that said, I encourage you all to come walk with our team, or consider giving a small donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Here is the fundraising page
(and also where you can join the team)

And here are the details for the event:

When: October 5, 2017

Where: Veteran’s Park, Downtown Milwaukee WI

Team Name: #KissCancerGoodbye

 

Hope to see you there!

p.s. I’ll be writing some other posts very soon. I promise!

Super random updates

Every time I come here to write about a particular topic, I run into the fact that I haven’t blogged here in a while and that I can’t just talk about one topic when you have no context around that topic so then I end up writing posts that are really just life and “what I’m doing now” kinds of updates which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but just letting you know that that’s why I’m always writing “update” posts as of late.

(And yes that was the most ridiculous run-on sentence ever.)

So anyway – here is another round of updates. One of these days I’ll get around to actually writing in depth on a topic.

Jackson’s birthday – he’s 5!

Little man has been waiting FOREVER (his emphasis) to turn 5 and it has finally arrived. Well, to be clear, the day he turned 5 was full of fevers and puking causing us to cancel his birthday party in the Milwaukee area. But alas, he got better and the next weekend when we were heading back from Duluth after the half marathon (see next topic below), we stopped in the Hudson/New Richmond area and had a proper birthday party for him complete with cousins, outdoor games, presents and cake. This year’s theme was PJ Masks. Finally, a party without Ninja Turtles! 😉

Half marathon = SUCCESS

In mid-June my friends and I ran a half marathon along Lake Superior and through the streets of downtown Duluth in support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma society. We were able to do this by being a part of Team in Training. The weekend, overall, was a success. Lots of family time and friendship love before, during and after the half marathon. We stayed in a great AirBNB on a beautiful lot overlooking a gorgeous lake (one slight con was that it was 40 minutes away from Duluth where our race was taking place, but other than that it was awesome), and we got to hear the stories of other LLS survivors and see how much money we had all collectively raised for the organization. It was GREAT!

The half marathon part of it? The optimist in me wants to say it was nothing short of amazing given where I was at this time last year. But the realist in me wants you to know that it wasn’t all hearts and flowers for me, personally. The run, itself, got REALLY hard after about 6 miles because I have some lingering nerve damage in my toes – a nasty side effect from one of the chemo drugs I was on during treatment. In the grand scheme of side effects, it’s SUPER minor. But when you run 13.1 miles, that minor side effect turned into something pretty nasty feeling when I was trying my hardest to run the entire course…only stopping for water breaks. I was kind of a Debbie downer at some points farther along the course when coaches would run up and ask us, “How are you all feeling?” Lindsay and Sarah had jubilant “EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!” answers (okay, they didn’t say that, but that was basically the tone…which IS awesome). My typical response was, “Well I feel like I’m running on glass…but there’s nothing to be done about it, so I’m just going to keep going.” The coach would give a weird look and respond with, “Are you sure?” and I’d just nod and manage through gritted teeth a, “I’m fine. Really, it’s fine. It’ll get better when I’m done.”

And it did get better when we were done. My toes forgave me once I wasn’t pounding them against pavement continuously and I savored the moment with friends of accomplishing my first half marathon and my first race since before treatment.

And to all those who donated to the cause, thank you for your contributions!

Kitchen remodel is nearing the finish line

This one is short because I’m not showing the good pictures because I want it to be a surprise, but we are less than two weeks away from finishing our kitchen. THANK GOODNESS. Living through a remodel of this scale is not easy, and our patience has been tested many times, but we’re getting there and soon I’ll be able to show the before and after pictures. And you are gonna be floored. Stay tuned!

So I built a chatbot. Go try it out!

Okay – this is where things get a bit random. I built a chatbot! You may be thinking, “Cool! Wait, what’s a chatbot?” And that’s a great question. In the most general sense, it’s like chatting with a computer program instead of chatting with an actual human.

There are a lot of different levels of chatbots. At one end of the spectrum the chatbot can process anything you say and give you a response. Think – IBM’s Watson that has built up an extensive knowledge base and can even best human’s on Jeopardy. That is NOT what I built.

On the other end of the spectrum you have chatbots that can handle simple inputs from the user (you) and give you a pre-programmed response that has been built into the system. That’s more like what I built.

But me explaining it is probably not going to paint the best picture so go try it out. You can either use this link to get started and a new window will open up with a chat screen (that’s where you interact with the chatbot), or you can go check out the website I built for it to live on – www.AirFilterReminder.com and click on “SET REMINDER” to get it going through there.

You can also launch it in Facebook Messenger if you’re really savvy. When you’re in the Messenger app, click on the “Discover” button in the lower right-hand area of the app and then search for “Air Filter Reminder” and you should see the bot come up. There’s also a lot of other bots in there from other companies. Try them out! You’ll get to see the new wave of conversational commerce that will likely be a part of your world in the near future.

One thing to keep in mind is that this bot is in testing which means any feedback you have would be much appreciated in order to make it better in the future. The site is also pretty fresh too so there’s not a lot of content on there yet. But that will be coming in the future also.

So that’s it.

That concludes a month’s list of random updates. Hope your summer is going well!

A year ago…

Yesterday was the anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. My “cancerversary,” if you will.

Here’s what my life looks like today…

  • I haven’t seen a hospital in months.
  • I get a lot of restful sleep.
  • I take zero pills for anything. My only drug is coffee.
  • I can move a lot without getting tired.
  • My temp is never over 98.6.
  • I enjoy a couple drinks a week (always in moderation).
  • The only question I have about my health relates to how soon I can drop the weight I put on during treatment (and it’s more of a rhetorical question that can be answered by how diligently I workout and eat right).
  • A week from tomorrow I’ll be running my first half marathon in over two years.
  • Tomorrow my son turns 5.
  • My hair is short and bright blonde and most days crazy looking.
  • We have a dog.

These are all things that are very different than how my world looked a year ago.

This is how my life looked a year ago…

 

  • I was actually being discharged from my second stint in a hospital after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (Well technically they first diagnosed me as Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma…but the final pathology report said Hodgkin’s).
  • I couldn’t sleep lying down and had to sleep sitting up in a recliner.
  • I was on Advil 24/7 for all the pain in my back and neck.
  • I got winded going up the stairs or taking a shower or moving too much, in general.
  • My temp was never below 99.8 (a low grade fever) and I bounced between night sweats and chills constantly.
  • I hadn’t had a drink of alcohol in months for fear of how painful it would be.
  • I was grateful that I had an answer to the questions that had plagued me about my declining health for the last 6 months, but also not too thrilled that it was potentially one of the worst things ever.
  • My son was just about to turn 4.
  • My hair was long and thick and gorgeous.
  • We did not have any pets.

Obviously, my life is trending in the right direction. Which is amazing. And I continue to focus on the things that will only make this life better.

  • Spending lots of time with friends and family.
  • Making an amazing home that I love to spend time in.
  • Finding new roads in my professional path that drive me to learn more or increase my current skill set.
  • Being in control of my health and getting back to running.
  • Snuggling with puppies. Oh man, there is so much more of this in my life now and I love it!
  • Writing, writing, writing.

So yeah – in a nutshell – things are pretty good.

I had a lot more I wanted to say, but it’s a beautiful summer day and I don’t want to spend it glued to a computer anymore. Also, I have a party to prep!

As always, thanks for tuning in.

I’m writing…I’m just not writing here.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on here. It’s certainly not because I don’t have anything to say. I’ve always got something to say. But right now a lot of the things I want to say are either too personal and go into a journal or have to do with things that may be outside the audience I’ve built here. Which, to be honest, it’s hard for me to pinpoint who exactly my audience is at current and that’s why I find it harder to write things on here. Are you reading because…

  • You’re interested in writing or content strategy?
  • You know me personally?
  • You’re following along with experiences I’ve had throughout my cancer treatment and now post cancer?
  • We work together or used to work together?

It really could be any of those things and that’s why I’m struggling with what to write because whatever I write may only interest a small subset of my audience.

So while I figure out what this site is and what I want it to continue to be, I thought I’d at least point you to some other things I recently wrote…like within the last 24 hours (sometimes I just have a lot of thoughts and they need to come out one on top of the other). Maybe they’ll interest you. Maybe they won’t. But I’ll let you decide that.

Thanks for checking in!

My recent articles…

LinkedIn article on the book “Deep Work” and how I’ve used it to progress my career

Medium article on how to build a product even if you don’t know how to code 

Life check in

I have a couple posts in the works, but I just haven’t had the time to sit down and complete the thoughts I have, so those will be another time. This is yet another “life check in.” …i.e. pictures of me and the fam. Enjoy!

A couple weeks ago when the weather was unseasonably warm (thank you global warming…sorry polar bears), we went for a hike at the local nature center that’s next to Lake Michigan.

 

This look? It’s not a happy look. My scalp was burning. Ahh, the price you pay to color your hair.

The finished product…lavender hair! Hey-o!

Better picture so you can see that it was actually purple…for a total of four days. Seriously. It was all washed out before the next weekend rolled around (more proof below).

I just had to take a picture of this place – it’s where we had our reception for our wedding, but it’s got new owners and the banquet hall part is now this AMAZING restaurant complete with a polka band and servers in leiderhosen. So cool! If you were there, hopefully you realize that it looks NOTHING like it used to.

He’s breaking all the rules when it comes to couches. He might even be part cat. The jury is still out on that one.

Told ya! This is literally five days after it was lavender. Now it’s platinum, and I’m embracing my inner disney villain some days.

Same picture, but this is just to prove to “some people” (cough, Jake, cough) that my hair IS growing and it does NOT look the same as it did in November.

I just want to take a moment to admire this woman’s dress…puffy sleeves and all.

Do they know dentistry? Sure. Is English their first language? Maybe…maybe not. (This was a coloring book my son got when a dentist came in to talk to their class).

Practicing with his new toothbrush. Sure, he has to open the cupboard doors and stand on the ledge to see what he’s doing, but he’s resourceful like that.