Thursday, October 4, 2012

Life with BRCA2

I know I've mentioned it in a few of my facebook statuses, if you keep up with me on there, but in August I found out that I am positive for the BRCA2 mutation.  Here's what that means:

BRCA just stands for "breast cancer," and the 2 is because so far there are two mutations that have been isolated that show a much higher risk of breast cancer.  (The other mutation... can you guess?  It's called BRCA1.)  If you talk to doctors about it, they pronounce it "bra-ca."  Anyway, in case you don't know me in real life, you might not be aware that my mother died very young of breast cancer; she was 32 at diagnosis and 45 when she died.  Primarily because of her but also because there are other breast cancers in our family (such as both of my grandmothers), I was urged to go for genetic screening, and the result is that yes, I do have "the gene," as they call it.  It's actually a mutation on my 13th chromosome (BRCA1 is on the 17th, fyi) on the tumor suppressor gene.

I'm now going to have screenings in the form of MRIs, mammograms, and/or ultrasounds every six months.  I am not complaining.  A mammogram is really NOT that bad, especially when you consider that BRCA2 raises my odds so much.  Some stats:  The average woman has a 12% risk of breast cancer at some point in her life.  Because of the BRCA2 thing, I now have a 60-80% risk; that's what the American Cancer Society says.  The literature from the testing company says as high as 87%.

There aren't many things I can do about this that aren't drastic.  Besides the increased screenings, which, again, I really don't mind, I am being encouraged to consider having a double mastectomy.  I have already decided that if I ever end up with a malignant tumor (so far my lumps have all been benign) that this is the way to go.  However, I am so not ready to do this if I am not sick.  I have a consultation set up with a plastic surgeon on Monday to discuss it, but that doesn't mean I'm going forward with it.  I just want to gather this information now, while I am not sick, and therefore still have time.  I don't want to have to rush into anything down the road if these things become necessary.

What freaks me out a little, though, is how much more comfortable I am becoming with the idea of doing this.  Again, I am not ready to commit to anything.  But I do see this procedure in my future, and I seem to be getting more OK with that fact.  To look at it more positively, I'm looking at it this way:  These are options my mother didn't have.  She had no idea that she had a genetic predisposition (although we don't technically know for sure that I got the gene from her), and didn't have any options for prevention.  Options are good.

On a totally related note, my sister and a couple of friends and I are going to be doing the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk in Hartford on 10/21.  Our team is called Storming the Castle.  If you're local you are more than welcome to join us!  :) 


Here is the page where you can make a donation.  Even a $5 gift helps!  Many thanks to those who have already supported our team.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Mashed cauliflower, and being so much more than a number on the scale.

I had so much to say until I opened this window.  Now...  my mind is blank.  ;)

For the past few days I've been really trying to stick to my healthy eating.  It's NOT easy.  I don't know what's going on in my head but I am having trouble staying away from things I shouldn't have.  I don't have anything here in the house that isn't diet-worthy but I have to leave the house every day, so...  ;)

Tonight I made a batch of mashed cauliflower that I'm going to have with my lunches tomorrow and Friday.  It's so good and you really can't tell it's not mashed potatoes.  I promise.  There are several variations on it, but the recipe I used is here.  It only takes about 20 minutes to whip up.

Monday night's workout was spinning, followed by Zumba!  Last night was nothing, since it was Back to School night at work and by the time I got home I was wiped out.  I have instituted a new policy of not going anywhere on school nights except for the gym, but I have to make exceptions, like for work (last night) and tonight's meeting at the cemetery for our upcoming Lantern Light Tour!  After the meeting, though, another Zumba class.

I have to say that Zumba doesn't even feel like work.  I know I'm getting a great cardio workout but honestly, it's so much fun that I forget about that. 

My next weigh-in is on Monday morning.  I am afraid to get on a scale right now to see where I stand.  Maybe I'll just wait...  ;)  Ignorance can be bliss!

I'm sure by now you've all seen this video of the news anchor in Wisconsin responding to an email about how she's fat and therefore a poor role model for her community, but if not, please watch it.  I love her response.  "And I am so much more than a number on the scale."

Thursday, September 27, 2012

And so I'm back.  :)

I haven't written much lately...  I'm not sure why.  I had a lovely summer, including a great vacation, and then a rocky August and September.  Plenty of material. 

I'm determined to get back on track with my health, though.  I was doing so well with my diet for a long time and lost 75 pounds.  I've gained a few back at this point...  I need to get on this again and start losing weight in earnest.  I ultimately want to lose 107.4 pounds, which I know I can do if I stick to my program.

Part of the reason I'm doing this is to stay on track, and this blog will include recipes and recaps of my workouts for the day.

My recipe guidelines are pretty strict.  As you may know, I have two protein shakes a day for meals, kind of like Slim-Fast, but medically supervised. I also have some protein bars, lots of water, and lots of vitamins.  For my solid meal, I need to stick mainly to protein and veggies.  Here are the nutrition guidelines for any recipe I make from scratch or any frozen dinner I use:

300-500 calories
5 grams of fat or fewer
30 grams of protein or higher
Honestly, I don't remember how much sodium...  But there is a limit to that.  I will have to look it up.  ;)

In any case, I have amassed a list of recipes that I can use that fit the bill, and I don't mind sharing them.  :)  I don't take credit for them, since I don't really create my own recipes very often.  When I can remember the sources of them, I will let you know that too.  :)

The one I published on Facebook last night is also below.  I got it out of The Busy Mom's Slow Cooker Cookbook by Jyl Steinback, which lists the nutritional information for all of the recipes. 
I snagged a bunch of recipes from there and haven't tried most of them yet.  ;)

This is Cranberry Chicken, which I made for the first time this weekend to bring to brunch at my sister's house.  It went over really well, and I still had half a can of cranberry sauce left over (the perils of living alone) so I made it again.  :)  I don't like letting things go to waste!

Cranberry Chicken

Serves 6

1 cup sliced onion
1 ½ lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup whole-berry cranberry sauce
1 tbsp beef bouillon granules
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp prepared mustard

Spray inside of slow cooker with cooking spray. Place onion on bottom of slow cooker, place chicken breasts on top. Combine remaining ingredients and mix well. Soon cranberry mixture over chicken and onion and coat well. Cover and cook on low heat for 6-8 hours or high heat for 3-4 hours.

159 calories, 1.1 g fat, 55 mg cholesterol, 371 mg sodium, 9 g carbo, 1 g fiber, 25 g protein

Since it's so low in fat and calories, I have two servings, and it still fits nicely into the requirements. Today I had it with a green salad for lunch at work.


And in other news...  Last month I got some test results that indicated that I am positive for the BRCA2 gene, one of the two that have been isolated for a high risk of breast cancer.  This does not mean that I have breast cancer; I do not.  What it means is that I will have to go for a lot of screenings and really stay on top of it.  There is so much to say about it already from the blogs and articles I've read and doctor appointments that I've already had.  However, right now, I need to get changed and go to the gym, because spinning starts soon, and I need to work off some of the stress.  Last night, by the way, I went to Zumba.  :)  


Enjoy the chicken!  Let me know if you end up making it.  I love it!  Love it.  :)  Cranberries are so perfect for fall.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Book Club Brownies and Funfetti Fudge


OK, NOT that I am supposed to have either one of these things, but I did make them this past week and I may have sampled each one...

This month, my book club read The Future Homemakers of America by Laurie Graham. I'd call it historical fiction/chick lit. One of the fun parts of this book is that the author included a recipe here and there. Some of them, like the one for the eels, I'll pass on, but on page 37 she gave us the recipe for Betty's Best-Ever Brownies. Since Betty was one of the best homemakers in the book, they were bound to be awesome. I made them and brought them to the discussion. :)

Betty's Best-Ever Brownies

2 sticks sweet butter
4 eggs
4 ounces powdered chocolate
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup sifted flour
1 teaspoon McCormick's vanilla extract*

Heat the oven to 350. Grease and flour a large baking pan.
Melt the butter over a low flame, stir in chocolate and set aside to cool.
Beat eggs and sugar until pale and creamy. Fold in the chocolate mixture and blend carefully. Gently add the flour, pour into pan and bake until just set (20-30 minutes).
Leave in pan until cool. Cut into squares for serving.

*Notice that she doesn't tell you when to add the vanilla. I added it after the flour.

This recipe was so rich and lovely. It was much more satisfying than making brownies from a box, and I have to say it didn't take much longer. It's kind of dangerous for me to have this recipe, actually, because now I will be tempted to make it again. And again... and again...

The other recipe I made this week was Funfetti Cake Batter Fudge. Clicking its name will bring you to the blog of another foodie/blogger. (Not sure I can call myself either a foodie or a real blogger at this point, but it sounds good.) I made the fudge for a Christmas party hosted by one of my friends from work. Notice that the girl who created the recipe includes 1/4 teaspoon almond extract. It's not much, but if you don't like the taste of almond, it totally overpowers this recipe. I think next time I make it, I'll skip the almond flavoring. The other party guests seemed to enjoy it, though. Let me know what you think. :)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Chicken with Creamy Mushroom Gravy

I a very fond of my crock pot. I like cooking, but this makes it easier to cook and still get other things done. Last year at the library I checked out a book on healthy crock pot meals. I'm sorry that I don't know the name of it... But I copied out the recipes that fall into my guidelines. This is:

Chicken with Creamy Mushroom Gravy

1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp. garlic powder
3/4 tsp onion powder
1 3/4 cups nonfat chicken broth*
1 10 3/4 can low-fat cream of mushroom soup
3/4 cup evaporated skim milk

Spray the inside of slow cooker with cooking spray. [I used EVOO from my Pampered Chef sprayer.] Place chicken breasts in slow cooker; sprinkle with garlic powder and onion powder. Combine broth, mushroom soup, and evaporated skim milk in bowl and mix well. Pour soup mixture over chicken. Cover and cook on low heat for 8-9 hours.

*The last time I made this, I felt like there was way too much sauce. I actually only used one cup of broth this time and I liked the way it came out much better.

172 calories, 2 g total fat, 538 mg sodium, 26 g protein

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ruby Tuesday Blackened Tilapia


Now this was good.

I discovered Ruby Tuesday's Blackened Tilapia last month. It's just a tilapia fillet with their Cajun seasoning, topped with mango salsa. I went back for it a few times. :) SO good! But I can't afford to eat at Ruby Tuesday every night, so I figured I'd just see how easy it would be to make something comparable at home.

I found a bottle of Cajun seasoning at TJMaxx, of all places. I just spritzed the olive oil on, then sprinkled the seasoning liberally. I put it in my new Pampered Chef stoneware pan, and when it was almost done, the pan broke in half. In half! Aren't those things supposed to be indestructible? This was the first, and I guess last, time I'll use it. Anyway, I was able to quickly put the fish into a Pyrex pan to finish the cooking.

Pardon its appearance in the photo to the left. It was a lovely color, as you can see. :) I can't seem to locate my good camera, so this was taken with my iphone. The fish fell apart on the way from the Pyrex to the plate, which is just a sign that it's done! And you can see someone's nose and whiskers at the top of the photo, so you know I had to take it quickly and then whisk it away. I am an expert at defensive eating.

Anyway, it was so good. Maybe a little better because I had to deal with broken stoneware and avoid being stalked by Mittens and her radar nose. I'm not sure if it's quite as good as Ruby Tuesday, but it's good enough to keep me happily eating it at home for about 1/4 of the price.

Monday, December 5, 2011

3-Ingredient Meatloaf.


3-Ingredient Meatloaf

This is my latest experiment. It's another Biggest Loser recipe, and it didn't change my life or anything, but it was easy to throw together after work one night. Turkey, barbecue sauce and feta. You can find the exact recipe by clicking above. I'm sure I'll make it again, but I'll probably switch it up, which will defeat the purpose of it only being three ingredients. ;) Maybe some finely chopped onion, or using the spicy version of the barbecue sauce or something. There you go.