Monday, August 31, 2015

Breast Biopsy-What To Expect When You're A 'Fraidy Cat

I'm going to share this experience because it might help someone who's anxious about finding a breast lump. 

I've had lumps come and go since I was 20. They are fibroademonas which are not cancerous. In Asian women, these type of lumps are common. Because of my age and no family history of breast cancer, I have annual ultrasounds to monitor them.

My largest lump grew 2mm this year and is painful. I've dismissed the discomfort but I still worry it could be cancer. 

My consultant said that because I'm over 35, it's standard practice to have lumps biopsied to be 100% sure they are not malignant. 

I'm afraid of anything intrusive but the pain can be so intense it shoots through my arm. It's hard to believe that anything benign can cause it so I reluctantly agreed. 

I took a gung-ho approach to the needle biopsy which I've dreaded for years . I arranged for it to be done straight away. 

They found two new lumps under an ultrasound. Since all lumps have the same appearance, they only biopsied the largest. I was told that if this lump was a fibroademona, the others would be too. 

Although I can handle some pain, I was sensitive to what was happening and it set my anxiety levels off. Logically after the anaesthetic, you shouldn't be concerned.

The consultant worked with the ultrasound to find the right spots to jab. He said he can feel my heart pounding under the scanner. 

After the anaesthetic, the most painful part, I had two syringes take in fluid and tissue. There is a loud pop when they're full. I didn't dare to look or ask questions when I felt a warm liquid dribble down my chest. The consultant assured me that everything was fine. The whole procedure took 10 minutes.

The sample taken was about 30ml of clear yellow fluid and tiny bit of tissue. It was not as gruesome as I imagined.

A nurse pressed down the area with tissue and applied bandages. She told me to keep it dry and not to do any heavy lifting. 

"Can I still do Zumba tomorrow?" I asked meekly. They said yes.

My nerves were rattled but they calmed down as I left the hospital. The anaesthetic wore off. I was sore but glad it's over.

As the doctor warned, I bruised and the area was swollen after two weeks. It wasn't too uncomfortable.

Thankfully I was confirmed that the lump was a fibroademona. It might still grow. Because of my age it's not likely to disappear like the ones I had when I was younger.

The consultant said no further monitoring is necessary but I still have to check for new lumps.

I was grateful for the weight being lifted off my chest (so to speak!). My ta-tas are cancer free and the unpleasantness endured was completely worth the confirmation. 

If I had to do it again, I wouldn't be such a 'fraidy cat. 

Weekend In Konstanz and Tubingen

We visited friends in Tubingen, a university town in south Germany. From Stuttgart airport we drove to Konstanz, almost a 2 hours away and situated at the Swiss border. 

Grant and I welcomed the sight of the countryside and the fact that we were out of London. I could felt myself "decompressing". This part of Germany is peaceful as there were farms everywhere. It was also quaint how many apple trees were growing in the area. 

When we arrived in this city, known for it's university, lake and proximity to Switzerland. In fact the latter helped save Konstanz in WW2 because the Allies couldn't distinguish it from Swiss territory at night. Therefore it was not bombed and has a well preserved old town. 

We had to hunt for parking because on weekends Konstanz is busy with Swiss shopping cheaply  over the border. A tip is to avoid coming on Saturday mornings if you're driving.

We walked up the cathedral, Konstanzer Münster for a 360 degree view of the city. 

The beautiful, albeit busy lake of Konstanz. 

Rain was coming which was bad news for our friends camping that night. It was fine for Grant and me because we had a hotel booked nearby. There was hesitation to stick to the plan (rather than stay the night in Konstanz) but we're glad we did because the rain held up and Grant and I got to stay in a hotel nestled in a forest. This is the Danube River which flows outside our balcony.

This is stock photo of Hotel-Gasthof Neumühle. The staff wore traditional German clothes. Isn't the location stunning? Our room was huge. It was so comforting after a long day on the road, we didn't want to leave.

We spent Monday exploring Tubingen. It's a lush green town with the Neckar river running through it. This was taken at the castle, Schloss Hohentubingen. 

Memorable foods on our trip. Rumpsteak with dreamy garlic butter, pan fried fish and Flammkuchen. Also the refreshing Apflelschorle-cold apple juice mixed with fizzy water. On a hot day, this local drink hits the spot!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

4 Water Kefir Making Rules You Can Break

I've been making water kefir for months and my grains have "graduated" to a tall Kilner jar. The grains have been through cycles of experimentation with sugars, feedings and fermentation times. Along the way I've discovered that you can break the so-called rules when making water kefir.

So despite what some people have said not-to-do, my grains have lived happily ever after, producing delicious fizzy drink. So here's what I've done and my grains have lived to tell the story.

1) Use tap water.  
I live in north London where the water is hard and routinely chlorinated. I ferment in water from my Brita filter. If I've accidentally overfermented/underfed, the grains smell a little like puke. Yes it's gross but fixable. After a long rinse in water from the tap in a sieve and a detox (I'll get to that part next), they are back to normal.

2) Starve them for a while. 
In fact when I went away for three days, my grains were sitting in filtered water and nothing else. I was giving them a detox after I over fermented and the water kefir was smelly and foamy on top. They survived and after the first sugar water ferment, they went back to normal.

3) Use metal utensils.
The warnings about metal and water kefir are overhyped. I use a metal spoon and sieve and my kefir grains are fine.

4) Use white granulated sugar. 
I've seen blogs calling for unrefined sugars like rapadura, turbinado and sucanat. It costs of bomb if you're constantly fermenting. Some insist on organic sugar which is just as refined as non-organic sugar. But white sugar is still food for the grains and sometimes you have to switch to it if mineral content is too high. Basically refined sugar is ok in the short-medium term. Now I use cheap and cheerful golden granulated sugar and jaggery (evaporated cane juice).