lungs of steel


But not really....

I wish all the "stuff" showing up in my chest x-rays was steel. Or actually, I probably don't. But I certainly wish it was NOT a bunch of scar tissue called pulmonary fibrosis and pleural thickening.


Pleural thickening is a lung disease that describes a calcification, scarring, and thickening of the lining surrounding the lungs (pleura). My lung specialist and I have no idea why I have this. Like many medical issues, symptoms vary with every individual.

My symptoms:
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling of tightness across my chest (mainly on my right side)
  • General chest pain (again usually on my right side)
For me, this has been a debilitating disease which has substantially altered my quality of life. I am hoping that my lung specialist can help me out a little.

Pulmonary fibrosis is a chronic disease that causes swelling and scarring of the air sacs and tissue between cells of the lungs. The scar tissue replaces healthy tissue and causes inflammation. Ouch! This damage causes your lungs to stiffen and makes breathing more and more difficult. It's interesting to me because this also describes the issues I have with my heart: thickening, scarring, stiffness... So there must be some relation. C'mon doctors!

Anyway, some common and some rare diseases can cause pulmonary fibrosis, but in the majority of cases the cause is not known (idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis). Pulmonary fibrosis can be a mild disease causing few symptoms or it can be a severe and possibly fatal.  (I took this definition directly from the Canadian Lung Association's website)

Mine has been diagnosed as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. FINALLY I am part of a majority. Too bad this is what the Lung Association has to say about this type: Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a disease of scarring in the lungs. The scars in the lungs cause the lungs to become stiff, making it hard to breathe. Over time, the scarring becomes so thick that the lungs cannot take in oxygen.

Here's a picture of a "normal" chest x-ray (courtesy of google images) TOP and a picture of my chest x-ray BOTTOM. The black areas are where air fills in. When you have a chest x-ray you take a deep breath and hold it, so these are images of lungs full of air. Even an untrained eye can see that I don't have much black space. Therefore not much capacity for air. All those little white thin spiderweb type burst things on mine are lung fibrosis. The pleural thickening is along the edges. And as you can see at the bottom left side - it's all white? (the white on the right side on both images is the heart)

So what to do.... (y-know aside from the whole double heart/lung transplant business)

Well, as it turns out, I may be a candidate for a certain type of surgery. I wasn't going to "google" it because that usually gets me all worked up, but for the sake of my post I figured I would. But as I am typing this and already feeling panicked, I have decided not to. So I will simply explain this to you as I understand it. Which is probably just as reliable, if not more, as what I may find on google anyway.

It is classified as major surgery. They "cut me open" (yes that's in quotes because I am actually quoting what my doctor said) and then go inside my lungs and scrape the scar tissue off. Then I wake up, have some Hospital Jello and maybe, say.... go for a jog?

I need to have a few more tests done to see if I am indeed a candidate and to have a risk assessment done. I take blood thinners so any surgeries are a little riskier for me. Not to mention the fact that I am always that 1% of rare people who get that bizarre side effect....

So readers - I'm reaching out to you. I want to know what you think? If I am a candidate should I consider it? Please comment. Don't worry, I know this is my decision. I would just like to hear what others think. Comment as anonymous if you are shy.

A few end notes:
  • My lung specialist is AWESOME so don't judge him from the above quote, taken in context, it was quite funny.
  • I have since found out via my nurse friend that they typically do this type of surgery laparoscopic-ly, so although it's considered major surgery, they may be able to perform it in a minimally invasive way. 
  • Even if I am a candidate - there is no guarantee it would even help because a lot of these symptoms are also the result of my heart condition; the doctors just don't know which is causing more of them - my heart or lungs.
  • The thought of this surgery scares me to death.

I wasn't going to "go there" but here I go: Today is the anniversary of my dad's death. He died when he was 57. He was originally hospitalized for pneumonia and was never released home. I wasn't going to blog and I haven't in a while because - well I took all these really great pictures, but somehow lost them when linking up my phone to my computer. And I'm so disappointed.  But instead, I'll post what I have and if I ever find those lost photos I will add them. So dad this lung post is for you. Thanks for still being such an inspiration to me.

try tea not drugs...


Are you a resolutions kind of person? I wouldn't say I am.

On an unrelated note, I recently decided to:

  • try to live more in the present, 
  • become a vegetarian and 
  • try to keep in better touch with my friends. 

They're not "resolutions," per se, they're more like a promise that I made to myself to start doing something good or stop doing something bad on the first day of the year, y-know?

I want my first blog post of the year to be a positive one, sooooo instead of blogging about some of the tests I had and news about my lungs, I am going to tell you about my recent visit to see a Naturopathic Doctor (or my Voodoo Doctor as my wife and I like to call him).

A part of me has always wanted to see a Naturopath (ND) but a greater part of me has always been scared because it's my heart and lungs that are the issue, versus maybe more common ailments an ND might deal with. I also assumed (tsk tsk) that an ND wouldn't really be able to do much for me - lost cause kind of thing. But I decided to give it a shot, and I am very glad I did.

I went in with my presenting concerns being: sleep problems and lack of energy. I have never really been much of a sleeper, but that got a lot worse post heart diagnosis. Partially because I have to get up to go pee several times a night! And I mean 3-6 times a night, e-v-e-r-y--n-i-g-h-t, so yea, I typically don't get much sleep. It's actually called Nocturia and it's actually extremely annoying. So that's one reason. I am also an incredibly light sleeper so I try to run a fan for white noise and I usually wear earplugs. (Hey... it make sense to me... I guess the fan is my backup plan in case my ear plugs fall out...) And finally -as you all know my crazies - I have anxiety, although that is the least common reason as to why I don't sleep well.

I tried a few things to help me sleep over the years: the ear plugs and fan as mentioned, nothing to drink after 7pm, meditation, yoga, reading, not reading... without much success. My inability to sleep peaked this past fall, so for the first time I requested prescription medication from my family doctor to help. It did, but I never really felt rested the next day. It wasn't a strong dose, and I certainly didn't experience a 'hangover' effect as some people do; but even though I slept through the night - which was very exciting - I would still feel tired the following day.

My second presenting concern with the ND was my lack of energy - directly related to my sleep problems, anxiety and to my heart and lung problems.  Really, I'm quite the catch.

I was really impressed with my experience at the Naturopathic Doctor's office. He was very patient and kind. After the assessment he emailed me his prescriptions along with a few dietary recommendations. (More blueberries - yay! Oh, and more olive oil - do not try adding it to smoothies. Trust me.)

I now have some herbs that I drink as tea at night an hour before bed to help me sleep:

This tastes better than it looks.
 And I have a tincture that I mix with a little water and drink once a day to give me some energy.
This, unfortunately, tastes worse than it looks.
It's been over a month now and I can proudly say that I have a regular sleep cycle, for the first time EVER, and my daytime energy has improved significantly. I'm really happy and feeling pretty fine! Drinking tea is perfect for me because I love tea. And as it turns out, the word 'tincture' is really fun to say, so that's another bonus. My family doctor is also on board, and my blood work has been great.  And it's great to be able to get rid of one of my pharmacy prescriptions. I'll choose tea over pills any day!

eggnog cinnamon buns - our new tradition


Eggnog. I just can't seem to get on board with it. I don't like the colour, the taste, even the name! My wife, on the other hand, loves the stuff. Surprisingly though, she is very very picky about which brand she likes. We used to get her favourite brand in Alberta at one of the local grocery stores, and last year we found it at Costco here in Ontario. But this year - so far we haven't had any luck. Yesterday we picked some up from Costco, but - much to my wife's dismay - it turned out to be the type she does not enjoy.

We don't like to waste food/drinks - my wife is much worse than me for this. There has been a running joke with her since about grade 6 that she will eat a.n.y.t.h.i.n.g. It's funny, because it's true. And as a self-proclaimed picky-eater, we are an interesting team!

So back to the eggnog; I wanted to use it up. We've always wanted to start our own Christmas tradition but haven't come up with one yet. My family used to share mimosas while sitting around opening gifts on Christmas morning, but that's not really what my wife and I are into. A friend of mine eats pumpkin pie for breakfast on Christmas morning - I love that idea but my wife doesn't like pumpkin pie (that is also shocking). We have carried on a tradition from her family. She is one-eighth Dutch so we do eat a chocolate letter every year - but really? That's not enough!

I was inspired by both wanting to come up with a new tradition for us, and not witnessing my wife drink eggnog that she doesn't really like. I decided to think of a creative recipe that used eggnog. And in searching I found this great idea from one of my favourite bloggers, Emma, from A Beautiful Mess.

Well folks…. here it is, and I must say these are sooooooOOOooo delicious!  I literally ate one 10 minutes ago, hot from the oven. And they're not vegan or even healthy, for a change!

The Buns

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup eggnog
1/4 cup milk (I used 1% because that is what we had but I think whole milk would be best)
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/3 cups of flour (I used white)

Melt the butter over low heat on the stove. Remove from heat and stir in the eggnog, milk and sugar until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the yeast and stir a few times, then let it sit for 8 minutes.

In a separate bowl mix together the flour and the salt.
Pour the yeast mixture in a bowl and slowly add the flour and salt to it while stirring. Combine well. Then stir in the eggs. Once mixed, mine was quite sticky but once I started kneading it, it got better.
On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for 8 minutes (or until the dough is smooth and elastic) - longest 8 minutes of my life, but so worth it.
Transfer dough to a large, lightly oiled (I used a little olive oil) bowl, turning dough until covered with oil.
Cover with a cloth and set aside in a warm, non drafty spot and let it rise for 2 hours. It will double in size.

Cinnamon Filling

1/3 cup melted butter (I microwaved it)
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar

Put cinnamon and sugar in a tupperware container and put the lid on it and shake it to combine. (If your brown sugar is hard you can microwave it to soften it up)
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a rectangle.
Brush the butter over the surface and sprinkle on the cinnamon and sugar. I left a bit of a border around mine.
Now roll the dough, fairly tight, lengthwise. They bake better with less air bubbles. Once you have it all rolled up, pinch the seam so it stays together while you cut and bake them. A serrated knife works best so they don't get squished.
I cut mine by cutting it in half, then half of the half and so on until I had 16 even-ish sized buns.

I then placed them, cut side down, in a buttered baking dish and brushed the top with some of the melted butter left in the dish I used to microwave it in.

Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes. I have a convection oven though, so if you don't, I suggest trying 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees, or until tops are a golden brown colour.

Eggnog Glaze - this is where most of the eggnog flavour will come from

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of eggnog
2 cups of icing sugar

Mix the eggnog and vanilla together then slowly add the icing sugar while whisking it until no lumps remain. I wanted mine to be heavy so I used a whisk, but if you want it to be more like frosting and light and fluffy I would imagine that a hand held beater would do the trick.

Pour the glaze over the warm cinnamon buns and serve.

Hello breakfast on Christmas morning!