Tag Archives: bland diet

BLAND is a Four-Letter Word

24 Apr

I’ve thought about the word “bland” a lot. What I’ve decided is that it’s definitely a 4-letter word although not in the same context as the more obvious 4-letter curse words. You can say “bland” at the Sunday morning church service & not be removed by a deacon & you can shout it out in almost any public venue & not be removed by the bouncer … unless, of course, it’s a quiet setting where shouting is frowned upon. But “bland” still qualifies as being offensive, even if in a subtle or passive aggressive way.

Here’s what the dictionary says about “bland:”

Bland / bland / adjective – lacking strong features or characteristics & therefore uninteresting. Synonyms: uninteresting, dull, boring, tedious, monotonous, monochrome

So if we say someone has a bland personality that certainly qualifies as an insult (even if the person DOES, indeed, have a bland personality) &, to some, qualifies it as a 4-letter word, depending on how they perceive the depth of the insult. The same is true of saying someone has a “bland” wardrobe, sense of humor, lifestyle or is a “bland” conversationalist. Heaven forbid that we should live in a house with a “bland” exterior or have someone (other than ourselves) describe our marriage as “bland.”  Deliver me from spending time reading a “bland” novel or watching a movie with a rather “bland” plot.

So that’s how I decided “bland” is a 4-letter word. It is often more offensive than those other, real 4-letter words that get us kicked out of places or frowned upon as socially unacceptable when we use them.

“Bland,” I think, is also an onomatopoeia. It’s one of those words that sound like what it actually is. The word “bland” just sounds gray or muddy brown & lacks the excitement of words like “exhilaration.”

Now, a “bland” diet is something I’m way too familiar with.  I got too familiar with it for the 5 months I was on one while my doctors & I tried to figure out why I kept waking up in the morning sick with an upset stomach … from the stomach literally to the last silly millimeter of my colon.  The detective work led to a rotten gallbladder but that is secondary to the story. It was miserable & while I struggled through that, the diet of choice for me was “bland.”

 A “bland” diet will sustain life. However, if you’re one of those people who build social events & friendships around dinner out, then “bland” is definitely not going to be your cup of tea. Perhaps the most redeeming quality of a “bland” diet is something I remember from childhood & a friend’s mom who was a lousy cook. If anyone complained about the quality of her meals, she would simply respond, “It fills a hole.” And that’s exactly what a “bland” diet does; it fills you up while keeping you alive with absolutely no frills or fanfare.

So during those 5 months I ate the heck out of grits & rice & green beans, peas, oyster crackers, Jell-O & Animal Crackers. There is most likely a potato shortage in Idaho because of my almost daily consumption & I’m guessing the majority of chicken farms are saving money on mammary supports for their hens. I’ve consumed more chicken breasts than there are chickens & most are currently mastectomy survivors, thanks to my “bland” diet.

In the early stages I’d bake a potato at home & take it with me when dining in the home of friends. In late December we were invited to a restaurant with a number of friends to celebrate someone’s birthday. I wanted to go & told my husband I’d just order a baked potato.   Unfortunately, the dinner was at the ONLY restaurant on this PLANET that did NOT have baked potatoes on the menu &, although we were certain there were potatoes somewhere in the kitchen in that restaurant, they refused to bake one for me. So I sat with my Coke & watched my friends eat the most delicious meals. In addition to that particular restaurant, “bland” sucks.

Easing AWAY from a “bland” diet is challenging. You attempt to add new (old) foods to your diet a little bit at a time, hoping to be able to add them permanently BACK into your list of “CAN EAT” foods. There is nothing more exciting than being able to add a food to your list of those you can once again tolerate. Adding pork tenderloin to my diet & eventually Vanilla Wafers was a time of rejoicing & celebration, even though they were once such an accepted part of my diet. I will never take Vanilla Wafers for granted again.

What I’ve learned about “bland” is this:

  1. “Bland” is a 4-letter word & the things we associate with it can seem offensive, if not downright insulting by association.
  2. “Bland” is an onomatopoeia. It SOUNDS like it actually is … gray, muddy brown & lacking in most everything exhilarating.
  3. A “bland” diet will keep you alive. It will keep your stomach & your colon reasonably quiet & you will lose weight. Your cholesterol will take a nose dive & your medical doctor will be impressed, so at least it’s satisfying to someone.

What it WON’T do is bring you joy at dinnertime. It won’t titillate your taste buds & a certain restaurant in our area will not serve you a baked potato because they aren’t included on their rather spicy menu … whether they have them physically on the premises or not.

  1. I’d rather deal with a “bland” diet than nausea, vomiting & diarrhea but not for very long. Potatoes, chicken & Jell-O get “old” quickly & you start lusting after your husband’s roast beef sandwich & that pizza he brought home as a carry-out.
  2. Mealtime is a wonderful thing when you start adding foods to your meager “bland” diet & are able to tolerate them again.
  3. Life is still a beautiful thing, even when infused with a little “bland.
  4. Except for a “bland” diet when it’s necessary, you can always steer clear of those people with “bland” personalities, lousy choices in clothing, housing & spouses.


Sacrificing an Organ ….

21 Mar

I’m convinced, due to my own experience, that we don’t really appreciate food. We probably really enjoy a special meal when we’re out for an evening but even then I don’t think we REALLY appreciate food.

Food – the flavor, the satisfaction of the taste on our tongues, the different textures PLUS the time for social interaction with good friends around a wonderful meal are so important to our emotional well-being … just as sitting down to a rather normal evening meal after a difficult day at work is. When those things suddenly are missing in our lives we are impacted in a variety of ways; not the least of which is a tremendous sense of loss.

I’d been having digestive issues perhaps 1 to 3 times a year since way back in 2009 when I was having chemotherapy for breast cancer. At the time of the first several attacks I simply associated them with the chemo. When they continued the years following the end of that treatment, they were infrequent enough not to cause unusual concern.

For anywhere from 1 to 3 days I was incapacitated several times a year with nausea, vomiting & the associated inconveniences. I could never pinpoint an association to a specific food. When a couple of attacks interfered with something very special I had planned, I finally saw a gastroenterologist.

Diagnosed with acid reflux, I was subjected to all the “purple pills” in the available arsenal of medicines that were known to treat that illness. And I had a gastroscopy that revealed an esophageal condition called eosinophilic esophagitis; an esophageal reaction to an allergen, most likely food. Since I had no symptoms (swallowing difficulties), I wasn’t treated for that. But my attacks of nausea, vomiting & that other stuff persisted, still on a 1 to 3 attacks per year basis. In between attacks I ate what I wanted. It was weird.

Suddenly the last of November in 2016 everything changed. The attack episodes kicked up a notch & I began having an attack every-other-week through December. Now, December is a very important month to me as it probably is to most of us. The food is pretty spectacular at Christmas & throughout the holidays & my birthday is December 31. Not only did I miss most of that because I was AFRAID to eat after a while, I missed the entire winter season while trying to find a reason for the attacks & began a medical odyssey the likes of which I could never have imagined.

Because I woke up first thing in the morning with the attacks, I became afraid to go to sleep.  The GI guy had me sleeping almost sitting straight up because of the acid reflux thing & one of my medicines gives me insomnia. A good night’s sleep became an impossibility.  And I was afraid to eat anything that wasn’t on my increasingly brief list of tolerated foods. I was a psychological mess in addition to all the physical problems.

Our lives changed drastically.

Through January & February I had every kind of “scope” known to man & the medical community. If I had an unfilled orifice someone found a way to stick a scope in it. Everything was negative except for the eosinophilic esophagitis that was asymptomatic. It was frustrating.

I put myself on a very bland diet. Afraid to eat anything other than bland … meaning “good,” … I started losing weight. I figured a little weight loss was a good thing but by the time I made some definite decisions about what to do about the attacks,  I had lost 15 pounds, most of which I didn’t need to lose. My list of tolerable foods was short, my dessert was Jell-O only & my snacks consisted of oyster & Animal Crackers. All crackers & Jell-O & no real enjoyable snack foods made me a very dull girl. I was use to cookies.

To make a long story a little less long, nurse that I am, I started thinking my symptoms sounded a lot like gallbladder attacks so I asked my GI guy to please do a gallbladder ultrasound. He agreed & ordered it but said he didn’t think that was the problem. The results came back “abnormal.” While I didn’t have gallstones, I DID have “sludge.”

It became evident that if you don’t have gallstones the size of Cleveland, very few medical professionals take you seriously. BUT … I was an OR nurse for more than half my life & I KNOW “sludge” can make you very ill. So I pursued it.

Throughout January & February I saw no less than 5 doctors & had enough bloodwork to justify a zipper in a vein if there were such a thing. 3 agreed with me & believed my “sludgy” gallbladder was causing my suddenly very frequent & unpleasant attacks. One said he didn’t think it could possibly be the cause & the 5th. doctor became a fence sitter.

After being an OR nurse for so many years, the last thing I wanted to consider was surgery so I did everything within my power & what medical expertise I possessed to avoid a cholecystectomy (surgical gallbladder removal). The last physician I saw before making my decision was an allergist about the esophageal thing. He tested me for 70 food allergies, all of which were negative & said he believed my problem was digestive & not esophageal or due to an allergen.

So I made the decision to have the gallbladder surgery. Suddenly sacrificing an organ became a small thing in the grand scheme of getting my life back & enjoying food again.

Cascading events …………..

As so often happens, especially if you happen to be a nurse, I ran into a set of cascading events. As I was beginning to lose significant amounts of hair, was very cold & tired – most of which I attributed to the GI attacks, my medical doctor discovered my thyroid levels were extremely low & she began treating me for that; promising I would feel better soon. It couldn’t have happened at a worse time.

For months I had had my annual mammogram scheduled & that came just 3 days before my posted gallbladder surgery. Because of my previous breast cancer, the annual mammogram always fills me with anxiety … anxiety I didn’t need while preparing for surgery & dealing with significantly lower thyroid levels but I’m a tough old girl & made it through … stressed to the max but very glad the mammogram, at least, was negative.

The Dominoes continued to fall. Once those darned things get started, you just can’t stop them & I still had some unpleasant cascading events ahead. I could not have imagined ….

Surgery, thankfully, went without problems. When I was dressing to leave the hospital I realized I had a terrible sore throat so I asked the nurse to take a look. With flashlight in hand, she reported that my uvula (that little hang-down thing in the back of our throats) was red & very swollen. The injury was due to intubation prior to surgery. She spoke to the anesthesiologist about it & they sent me home sucking ice chips. The post-op discharge pain medicine seemed to decrease the throat pain as well.

Saturday morning, back home, after breakfast I noticed something in the back of my very sore throat … coughed it up & found out it was the tip of my uvula, so traumatized that it simply sloughed off. This would ONLY happen to a nurse … sigh.

I just realized there’s no way I can make this a short story so my apologies to those struggling along with me.

Day 2 post op …

After lunch, which was difficult because of the uvula discomfort, I attempted to “keep things moving” & did quite a lot of straining. This resulted in a colon bleed of fairly significant proportions. My doctor sent me to the ER on Sunday evening. After being examined & seeing 2 doctors I was admitted to the hospital.

It occurred to me that I am older … not as resilient … & that I didn’t really want to die. I had the gallbladder surgery in an honest attempt to be able to do nothing more than eat again. Mortality due to a colon bleed seemed anticlimactic, yet absolutely possible & my stress level went up to “arc weld.”

I was hospitalized for almost 3 full days, none of which I was fed anything but IVs because the looming possibility of surgery was always right there with me. I saw 4 doctors (one was my original surgeon, thankfully), 2 nurse practitioners who were wonderful & one surgeon “on call” who suggested I might have to have my colon removed as a last resort. I told the nurse in no uncertain terms that he would not TOUCH me.

I had blood work no less than 2 times a day & a full assortment of x-rays. If I don’t glow in the dark it’s a miracle.

My original surgeon … the voice of reason in that cataclysmic void … assured me that even though no one could find the source of the bleeding, it would resolve itself. I was counting on him knowing exactly what he was talking about. Around mid-day on Tuesday, that’s exactly what happened & I was discharged from the hospital … given a clear liquid diet & 5 more pounds lighter.

So now I’ve been home a week & the gallbladder surgery was 11 days ago. My husband took a week of vacation to stay home with me but he is back at work now. This week has not been without its difficulties but I believe we may have finally turned the corner sometime on Sunday night.

I’m better …

I’m still taking special care about my diet, mainly because of the colon bleed & not wanting to eat something that would kick off an episode of nausea & vomiting. Heaving is not on my dance card until my gallbladder has healed a bit longer.

Was it all worth sacrificing an organ? Yes … if everything works eventually & I can eat like a normal person again, it was.

As I’m slowly introducing different foods into my diet, I’m looking forward to the day when I can eat a full meal filled with diversity & shared with friends.  Someone gave me a case of Cadbury Crème Eggs, which is the light at the end of my tunnel & my goal for full recovery.

Gallbladder surgery is a simple thing these days. They use a scope through buttonhole incisions & most people are back at work in just a matter of days. But I DO caution you no matter what you’re undertaking medically or surgically if you happen to be a nurse. Dominoes & cascading events follow us around like flies on a pile of very ugly stuff. Do your research & make sure whatever course you’ve decided to follow, you are prepared for events that seldom happen to “normal” people. We usually survive because being a nurse has made us not only tough, but REALLY tough. Just be prepared … this can happen to you.

20 pounds slimmer as of Sunday, today I’ve finally gained a pound. My butt is gone & I miss those curves in my jeans & in the mirror. 6 months ago I couldn’t have imagined hoping to gain weight. In the grand scheme of things, I guess it’s all relative.


Building Character

7 Jan

If drama, like adversity, builds character, then I’ve got enough “character” to last a lifetime. When you get a sustained bunch of both at the same time, well, I’m not sure what that builds, but I’ll let you know.

I think it all started when I didn’t get my flu shot. I haven’t gotten the flu but I think not getting the shot is when things started to go south & this winter became “The Winter of My Discontent.”

I kept forgetting to make an appointment with my doctor’s office to get a flu shot & I definitely was NOT going to the same local pharmacy where I got the shot last year. The pharmacist who “administered” my shot also administered to me, as his captive audience, tales of his divorce, child support & what lessons he learned from his dad as a growing boy. It wasn’t that his stories were dull. On the contrary, they might have been spell-binding were he not sticking a needle in my arm. At the end of the injection he removed the needle & kept talking while continuing to squeeze my arm. I quickly stuck my finger over the injection site & applied pressure to keep the serum from leaking out & running down my arm … as it had started to do just as the pharmacist began wrapping up his tale. I didn’t want to run the risk of getting THAT particular pharmacist again unless I had a free afternoon & most of an evening.

November was a flurry of activity. Our club was planning, & eventually constructing our float entry for the local Christmas Parade. As club president, I was right there “constructing” while also planning the Annual Christmas Party for our chapter & I was looking forward to an early December cocktail party.  I’d bought a fabulous new dress.

So I didn’t get the flu shot but the last of November, when I’d planned to make an appointment to GET the flu shot & didn’t, what I DID get instead was a month-long attack of a G.I. condition that started in 2009 … way back when I was getting chemo for breast cancer. I’m used to getting those attacks several times a year but this one started on November 30 & lasted the entire month of December.

Fortunately, as truly miserable as the attacks are, they were spaced so I was able to be in the parade, go to our club’s Christmas Party & eat a wonderful Christmas dinner, minus my homemade pecan pie that would have had Martha Stuart drool with envy. Missing the cocktail party was disappointing but one out of several wasn’t bad.

To make a long story short, I’ve spent a lot of quality time recently with my gastroenterologist. He has had a thoughtful look at all of my bloodwork (normal), biopsies (normal) & my anatomy literally from the inside out. With one more test left to do I’m hoping to find a resolution to this on-going problem because I simply don’t have another body part or square inch of flesh … inside or out … to be examined. I can only hope …

I’ve lost 12 pounds during this on-going experience & my diet has mostly consisted of BLAND  … grits, potatoes, rice, oyster crackers, green beans, Jello & an occasional chicken breast baked in the oven – no seasoning, no marinade. I wouldn’t recommend this as a weight loss program. I’m starving! I hope the “babbling pharmacist” is having a better month.

So things settled down to a routine … kind of bland like my diet … until last weekend when I was standing at the kitchen sink looking out the window. I noticed our neighbor walking what looked like a new white, kind of fat dog on a leash. The animal took off at a trot past the mailbox, pulling on the leash, headed across the street seemingly intent on terrorizing our across-the-street neighbor’s dog. She yelled, ran into the yard & scooped up her dog while the woman next door pulled on the leash. I was thinking how our next door neighbors really didn’t need to add yet another animal to their menagerie. Their 2 dogs (that seem more like 10) have not stopped barking since they bought the house next door a year & a half ago.

I kept watching & noticed that the animal on the leash was not a dog at all … wasn’t even vaguely canine, but was, instead a white pig. Yes, of course I blinked to see if I was seeing what I was seeing … you don’t even have to ask me that question.

I called Willy on the intercom & told him about the pig. His response was, “You’ve been sick a long time & I’m sorry it’s affecting you like this.” I told him to come upstairs & see for himself, which he did & eventually admitted that it was, indeed, a pig. For at least 30 minutes we went from window to window with cameras trying to get a photo of the porcine pet, but to no avail. That pig is way talented at staying behind the shrubbery & avoiding the paparazzi.

I’m not really sure, even considering the shock value, that a neighbor walking a pig on a leash is “drama,” but it does speak volumes about how little it takes to amuse Willy & me. I’m blaming that mostly on my being sick for a while & us not getting out much lately. Mostly I’m blaming it on that pharmacist & his rather annoying stories that have kept me from getting my flu shot & probably included a pig on a leash somehow.

Jumping ahead to our biggest drama lately … Last night Willy started a fire in the woodstove in our family room. It snowed all night last night & half of today so the air was heavy & dense & a gusty downdraft forced a rather huge cloud of smoke out of the stove around the closed door. It was a freaky thing. I started closing doors to keep the smoke from reaching our smoke alarms but was too late & that awful alarm went off, piercing the night & sending the cat as far under the bed as she could go. We have ADT Security & Fire Alarm Protection but with no call from ADT I figured I’d disarmed the system in time.  Willy had turned on ceiling fans & opened a window.

But much like that old familiar, recently read story, “The Night Before Christmas,”  I disarmed the alarm & was turning around when a fireman landed on our porch with a bound.

ADT had called the fire department & they responded immediately.

We invited the fireman in, told him our story & while he was in the family room checking out the stove, a second fire department vehicle arrived followed by the hook & ladder truck; lights twirling & blazing, lighting up the neighborhood. Thankfully, there was no siren. That would have certainly disturbed our neighbor’s new pig.

Everything checked out, we apologized & the fire department (half of them were in front of our house) said they would rather respond to something like that than a real fire.

I finally coaxed the cat out from under the bed with cat treats. She’s a pussy for a treat.

This morning I heard from a couple of neighbors who realized what had happened & who let me know they were glad there wasn’t a real fire. I told them it was the pharmacist’s fault & advised them never to let him give them a flu shot.

So I’ve been thinking about drama & character-building & here are the conclusions I’ve come up with:

  1. My glass is half FULL – we didn’t have a fire
  2. ADT really ROCKS!
  3. I got to do most of what I wanted to do at Christmas, even though I was sick
  4. My beautiful cocktail dress will look even better on my 12 pounds slimmer body even though my face looks like a refugee
  5. If you THINK you see someone walking a pig on a leash, even if you can’t get a picture & you’re not drunk, it probably IS a pig on a leash
  6. Most cats are pussies for treats
  7. I have enough character to last several lifetimes
  8. AND … Never EVER get a flu shot from a pharmacist who is a story-teller, even if he’s walking a pig on a leash at the time.