Day 52 – Fish Finger sandwiches

I’m deeply tired of drinking cold juice, despite it tasting pretty good these days. It’s the cold I hate. If I were somewhere warm, the temperature above 20 degrees, things might be different. But instead, I have spent most of the winter drinking cold juice, wearing thermals and two jumpers, keeping my thermals on to go to bed, wearing 100% polyester pjs (because cotton just doesn’t cut it), with the thickest wool bed socks ever knitted, a blanket, my dressing gown and sometimes two hot water bottles, just to get to a temperature where I can nod off.

My beautiful wool bed socks, a present from my husband on valentine’s day

I can’t wait for something simple like a steaming hot bowl of pea and mint soup, anything that is nutritious and filling and keeps me warm. The potassium broth tastes delicious and briefly warms me up, but it is like drinking flavoured water for its effect on my stomach and my temperature regulation.

There’s only eight days to go until I reach my goal, so there’s no way I’m going to give up now, but this journey hasn’t got any easier seven weeks in. It feels like I’ve undertaken a very strange experiment, like something Dr Michael Mosley might do on Trust Me, I’m a Doctor except, this time, I am the amusement.

I have had ups and downs with cooking food for my family since the start. Some days it hasn’t bothered me at all, and others it has greatly. Some tasty delights I missed out on today were some of my old favourites pre my histamine issues, so today was a painful day:

Crispy fish finger sandwiches made with fresh, aromatic, rosemary bread.

I do miss a fish finger sandwich with ketchup

A mixed berry crumble, sweetened with maple syrup and cinnamon, topped with a dollop of melting raspberry sorbet.

You can’t go far wrong with a Delia crumble

A Quorn and vegetable noodle soup with a base of tomato and Tamari soy sauce. Simple but delicious.

Day 51 – Apple varieties

Truly yellow apples are rare in supermarkets in the UK, so I was surprised to spot them amongst a sea of red and green in Tesco. These really yellow versions of Golden delicious are beautiful, but sadly they went soft a day after purchase, despite being kept in the fridge so I’m glad they went in a juice!

As I’ve consumed up to forty apples every five days for the past seven weeks, I’ve tried to select several different varieties for my juicing. I do prefer crisp, juicy apples, such as Pink Lady, which was originally bred in Australia and a just-picked Cox, an old British variety, but I have learned that Granny Smith are far the best in a green juice because of their sharpness and tartness.

Interestingly, most of the apples found in British supermarkets now are not grown in the UK because there has been a significant decline in demand for the old British apple (Cox, Russet, or Worcester) in favour of Gala (Britain’s best selling apple) and Braeburn, both from New Zealand. Growers say the reason for this is because tastes in apples have changed over the past 30 years in preference for sweeter, crisper apples. Yet the cost of these newer apples is often considerably more.

I enjoyed by far the best green juice I have had yet today. It was based on Joe Cross’s Green Citrus, but I supplemented the oranges for mangoes and the spinach for choi sum. The result was lip-smackingly good. Twin 2 drank half my glass it was that good!

Joe’s Green Citrus with a twist

Recipe for Green Citrus with a Twist

  • 4 green Granny Smith apples
  • 2 mangoes
  • 12 handfuls of leafy greens e.g. kale, chard, choi sum and romaine (cos) lettuce

I hardly slept a wink last night for feeling cold, and haven’t felt warm once all day, so I made 5 litres of potassium broth this evening with the help of my kind husband, who would much rather have been relaxing in front of the TV.

Vegetable potassium broth

Day 50 – A juice milestone

Fifty days of juice-only and no solid food has been a journey of small steps. I couldn’t have done it otherwise. I’m so grateful that there are just 10 days left to go until I hit my target. It has taken huge restraint at times not to eat, and I never knew I had it in me to face such temptation and to remain so focussed. The strangest sensation has been never feeling overly full or overly hungry, sensations I often experience when I eat.

I went shopping to buy the fruit and vegetables for the next five days this morning. Triggered by six-plus bags of kale in my trolley, I’ve had a number of people over the past few weeks ask me whether I have a particular fondness for kale, and today it was the checkout lady. Laughing, I shared with her the details of my juice fast, which led to a fascinating but brief conversations about health and food.

I realised today that I need to start thinking about my transition back to eating and look up Joe Cross’s plan on how to do that. I’ll still be having mainly juice initially before eating begins to take over again, but I’m interested in the contents of what I will be eating and whether my histamine intolerance will mean a few substitutions.

Omega juicer review

My Omega juicer is certainly worn in now, and has accumulated a few juice stains around the auger and jugs. It took a battering after a peach stone accidentally got mixed up with the chopped fruit and the auger attempted to crush it, denting the filter so it is now a little out of shape and the machine makes a new noise! However, it hasn’t let me down once, and that is quite a relief.

There are a few things I think could be improved. The waste matter jug and juice jug would be better attached to the juicer. Because they are loose, I’ve had a few accidents with a produce bowel hitting one of the jugs and knocking it away from the chutes, causing spilt juice or dropped waste matter. The jugs could also do with being covered, as when inserting food like chopped kale into the mega mouth opening, pieces of kale or other foods often drop into the fresh juice. Apart from these minor adjustments, I remain impressed.

Smoked salmon and broccoli pasta

I cooked my all-time favourite pasta dish, smoked salmon and broccoli pasta, for the kids and my husband for their dinner. I love smoked salmon and this dish doesn’t disappoint as it provides the pasta with a strong salmony flavour and lots of saltiness. The recipe was shared with me by my housemate and good friend many years ago now and it has remained a household favourite. I add-libbed with frozen peas today, as often the boys leave the broccoli, but surprisingly I found there were clean plates all round.

Stir-frying the veggies and smoked salmon in rapeseed spray oil

Since I was diagnosed as histamine intolerant in July 2018, I haven’t eaten any fish at all, as unless it has been freshly caught and immediately cooked it contains high levels of histamine. I was found to have hardly any diamine oxidase (the enzyme which breaks down histamine in my gut) which means I have to avoid all foods high in histamine to avoid a number of unpleasant symptoms, two of which are brain fog, and severe abdominal swelling. Of all the histamine containing foods, of which there are pages to avoid, I miss fish the most.

Smoked salmon and broccoli pasta with a shallot, garlic and oat cream sauce

For dessert, the twins and I had whipped up a batch of chocolate and marshmallow rice crispy slices. My daughter like them a lot and wanted me to make some more for the next school Bake sale, but the boys were less keen and had instead one of Grandma’s mini fruit cakes she had packed for us for the journey back to London.

Chocolate and marshmallow rice crispy slices

Day 49 – Roast chicken dinner

Sunday roast is a tradition in the Yemm family, and my daughter adores Grandma’s roasts. So it was no surprise when a cooking challenge appeared on her list of homework options that my daughter chose to cook roast chicken dinner, and there really was no better person than Grandma to guide her through the process.

For a very special treat, as it is out of season, Grandma has sourced some frozen Whinberries from her friend so that they could make a Welsh Whinberry Tart. This is my absolute favourite tart, which I had never tasted until I first dated my Welsh husband. The berries only grow on acid soils, are usually found on mountains, and in areas where it rains a lot. The perfect combination is found in Abertillery in South Wales.

A Welsh whinberry tart

Dinner was a huge success with my daughter at the helm and Grandma by her side. My daughter was so proud of herself afterwards, and so were we, amazed at how capable a 7-year-old she is.

Dishing up roast chicken dinner

I enjoyed my juices, but was grateful that despite dinner taking hours to cook, the food took just minutes for everyone to eat!

Bon appétit!

Day 48 – Grandma and Grampy’s

A pre-6am wakeup call from number one son started our day in Abertillery with a groan, but thankfully my husband and I had a day in Cardiff to look forward to while Grandma, Grampy, Auntie, Uncle and cousins had fun with our kids.

My rucksack was heavy with a day’s worth of juice as we caught the train from Llanhilleth to Cardiff Central for a rare day out. It was a noisy, packed train, and we added to the din, talking, uninterrupted, all the way there. It was a thoroughly enjoyable 40-minute ride through the valleys.

I love Cardiff’s unique Victorian and Edwardian Arcades which nestle right in the heart of the city. The seven arcades house over 100 independent cafes, bars and shops and there is so much to see, so we spent most of our time enjoying these few streets.

The market place was bustling, and I enjoyed watching row upon row of Welsh cakes being made and baked on a traditional bakestone. When I was able to eat wheat, I often used to snack on these as they don’t usually contain milk, which I became allergic to after the birth of my daughter.

Traditional Welsh cakes or bakestones as they are also known

We bought ten of the delicious goodies to take back with us before moving on. The smells from other interesting-looking food stalls filled the air and made me wish even more that I didn’t have another twelve days to go.

Only eight made it back to Abertillery

For lunch, my husband chose a large, cool-looking bar called The Alchemist, which was decorated accordingly with potion bottles. The one and only thing I could order on the menu was a smoking three-mint tea, which turned out to be the most impressive tea I’ve ever had. It arrived in a small class measuring jug, billowing smoke. I was instructed to wait until the smoke died away before pouring the tea through a tea-strainer into my vintage tea cup.

Dry-ice adorned three-mint tea

A couple of ladies at the table next to us shared that they had spent more time stopping for food and drinks rather than the planned shopping because there were so many tempting options in Cardiff. Shopping is certainly much less fun when food is not on the menu! But there was a juice bar in the Arcades, a health food shop which sold coconut water and plenty of other distractions to keep me occupied instead.

My husband had spicy chicken fajitas which were stunningly presented and tasty and filling too, he said. For dessert, he ordered a changing colour cocktail which arrived in two conical flasks which he was told to add to a glass of dry ice, one flask at a time. Magically, the liquid changed colour from clear to blue to pink. We had a wonderful time and feeling refreshed we set off to the main shops to hunt for a pair of smaller jeans for me!

After some successful shopping, the next stop was afternoon tea in the Barker Tea House in High Street Arcade. It was beautifully decorated with comfy brown leather armchairs, wood panelling, and vintage wall paper. It was a little painful watching my husband spread strawberry jam and clotted cream on his scones, but it turned out that he didn’t think his scones were up to much, and would have much preferred one of mine! Flattery helped the food-envy, but only a little.

Vintage afternoon tea with a beautiful accompanying cast iron teapot

We arrived back in Abertillery to find the boys tucking into large slices of Grandma’s delicious-looking Victoria sponge. Grandma makes great cakes and pastries and always has a treat in store for when we visit for the weekend. The boys finished their slices and promptly asked for more!

Grandma’s dairy-free Victoria sponge

We ended the day with a trip to Maxime Cinema in Blackwood, where astonishingly cinema tickets are £3.50 all of the time. We saw Fight with My Family, with Vince Vaughn, Dwayne Johnson, and Nick Frost, which was a great movie – laugh out loud funny and entertaining.

Back at base, there was only my dessert juice left to drink. I took a sip and promptly spat it out. Taking a whiff of the remaining liquid in the bottle to confirm my suspicions, it definitely smelt as bad as it tasted. It was off, but why?

Day 47 – Juice to replace IV drips

As I was clearing up the morning bedroom debris, I could hear down in the kitchen my daughter instructing Alexa to play one her favourites: Fire Starter, followed by Boney M’s Daddy Cool. That’s a sure way to guarantee a smile first thing. I arrived in the kitchen to find three similarly happy children bopping away and singing to the music, their breakfast bowls almost empty.

I’d juiced until nearly midnight last night so that I can go away to my parents-in-law for the weekend without having to lug my juicer and all the produce. I woke feeling unusually tired and lacking in energy this morning, and I’d felt really hungry all day yesterday so I had been sipping left over juice throughout the day to keep the hunger-pangs at bay.

Juice ingredients for a couple of days

In a mug I added some chopped ginger and topped it with three-quarters boiling water to a quarter cold water and left it to diffuse for a short while. Five minutes later it was ready to drink. I felt a little better after rehydrating. My breakfast juice was called Cabbage Patch. I’d had this before and it was grimace-inducing, so I’d made it this time with kale instead and it was far better, but still not one of my favourites.

Since beginning this journey, I never cease to be amazed by the almost instant change in energy and mood I can feel after a juice, and this morning was no different. After drinking my first juice, my energy levels went back to normal within a minute or two, as the massive dose of micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes quickly circulated in my bloodstream, like a natural IV drip, revitalising my body.

Yesterday, my neighbour had arrived bearing a gift of several large organic beetroots, which she’d found in a local organic green grocers. Beets are the heart of a red juice and form the main ingredients in a potassium broth. A Beet-ini juice was on the menu for dessert for the next day, so I combined one beautiful beet with a mango (instead of two oranges) and an apple. The result was absolutely delicious!

Beautiful organic beets

Day 46 – Bubble and squeak

We received a friendly welcome from staff at St Mary’s Hospital Paediatric Allergy Clinic. We’ve been there so many times over the past 6 years that the staff know the kids well. The Outpatient Department provides an excellent one-stop shop service providing children with all the services they need to meet their needs, including specialist nursing, dietetics, speech and language, and medical, so you never quite know how long the appointment will be because it depends on the child’s needs.

My daughter saw the department Professor of Allergy who said he was relieved that she had survived accidentally eating half a packet of peanut M&Ms last year, as her allergy scratch test showed she was still highly allergic to peanuts and egg – no surprise there!

Interestingly, Forrest Mars, the creator of peanut M&Ms and owner of many Mars confectionery, including Snickers, never got to taste his own creations as he was allergic to peanuts.

Arriving home four and a half hours later, the wafts from the kitchen smelled tummy-grumblingly good. Mum and Dad were having home-made bubble and squeak burgers topped with dry, pan-fried Violife block cheese. Yum, yum, yum. You would think that 46 days in, food wouldn’t bother me so much now, but that isn’t true. Some days are just as hard as the first day I started this fast, and I just have to walk away, juice in hand.

The day of temptation continued at tea-time, while preparing the kids and friends a picnic tea of mini filled pittas, corn on the cob, vine tomatoes, spicy tortilla chips and Kettle chips and dips, followed by cherry compote (my favourite) and ice cream. “More, more!” came the cries after the compote. I found my hand reaching for a tortilla chip – agh! I had an extra juice and still felt hungry, so had some potassium broth as well and thankfully began to feel slightly better. It’s odd for me to feel hungry.

Melting a potassium broth portion to curb food envy hunger pangs

Day 45 – Celebrating juice, justice and spring

What better than a late morning breakfast and natter with a dear neighbour, who is recovering from surgery, followed by an impromptu juicing session, and the arrival of my parents to the boys’ joyous ‘Grandad!’, ‘Nanny!’. We all shared in an orange juice made from carrots, apples and ginger, which left us all licking our lips with pleasure. It was so smooth, sweet, spicy, warming and delicious. The brightness of the colour alone was enough to put a smile on our faces. A future staple, for sure. 

Justice

Our party was interrupted by a phone call from a firm of solicitors called SPG Law, an American firm I had contacted to ask about Product Litigation for Mesh. This is where a legal case is against the manufacturer, as opposed to the NHS. SPG Law’s American partners have represented and obtained compensation for over 15,000 women in the US and have already won over $1 billion in compensation for these women. I would be joining a mass production litigation case against American Medical Systems who were the manufacturer of my Trans-Obturator Tape (TOT). My medical negligence case and a product litigation case could run alongside each other with cooperation between the two legal firms. 

Image result for photograph of a transobturator tape
Hooks used for blind insertion of a TOT through parts of the body full of nerves and blood vessels

I was a little cynical at first, as I’ve joined mass product litigation groups before with 500+ other women and we were all dropped suddenly 18 months ago. We were then passed to a couple of other firms, but yet again found ourselves dropped a couple of months later. The difference this time is that SPG, through their American partners, already have experience under their belts and that gives me greater confidence, so it will be interesting to see where this goes.

Cherry blossom

There are signs of spring everywhere. The crocuses have been up for a few weeks, the daffodils opened their yellow heads in the park last week and this week the trees lining our street have suddenly displayed the prettiest of white and pink cherry blossom. It’s so short-lived, but it has to be my best moment of spring. The twins thought it had snowed as every tree is surrounded by white or pink little flowers, which the ‘green parrots’ (wild West London parakeets), have plucked off the trees.

In true spring clean fashion, I’m now considering the addition of a bowel cleanse to my juicing regime to give myself the maximum benefit from my remaining two weeks of fasting. Tomorrow is certainly not the day to begin as my daughter and I have two hours of commuting going back and forth to St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington to see her immunologist. Toilet near misses are bad enough with drinking so much fluid, let alone having to worry about the rear end as well!

Day 44 – The benefits of breathing

I arrived at my pilates class, to find the focus was on breathing. This is one of the greatest gifts of pilates I think because the breath is such a great healer, pain reliever and stress reducer. Thank goodness we do it automatically. But, when we do it with focus, it is truly amazing what benefits it can bring.

A short while later I was listening to Twin 2’s speech and language therapist tell me soberly that he is now more than one and a half years behind his peers with his language and cognition, which is half his lifetime, and that this isn’t normal for a nearly 4-year old. She advised me that he needs assessment for further support and that the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) will need to be involved. My heart sank for many reasons, as heart-stopping memories came flooding back.

The twins’ story

My twins were born prematurely at 29 weeks (11 weeks early), with no good reason for their early arrival. The delivery room was only just ready with two incubators, two neonatal doctors, two midwives, an obstetrician and my husband in scrubs, which he was soon asked to take off as he kept being mistaken for the lead obstetrician.

Twin 1 arrived in a rush and needed resuscitating at birth. He was then transferred to an incubator and put on continuous positive airways pressure (CPAP). His health began to decline a couple of days later, but thankfully due to the expert watchful eye of neonatal nurses who spotted this change, we were called early one morning and told he likely had sepsis so had begun antibiotics straight away. He was very small and scrawny, but he survived and thrived, and since leaving the neonatal unit he really hasn’t looked back.

Twin 1

Twin 2, who looked strongest in the beginning soon began to develop breathing difficulties, and having been taken off CPAP and oxygen needed to go back on to oxygen and high flow pressure. I witnessed his ups and downs for weeks on end and was eventually told when he was a few weeks old that he had developed chronic lung disease (which is irreparable damage to the lungs, usually caused by ventilation at birth). He would only outgrow his breathing issues as his lungs grew as he got bigger. The damaged part would then increasingly become less of an issue.

Twin 2

I’d watch the monitors as his breathing rate and heart rate would drop and then continue to drop. Sometimes I’d be running around the neonatal corridors looking for the nearest doctor and nurse to come and help me stimulate him. On five occasions, we could not stimulate him to breathe and he had to be resuscitated. The worst time was when he stopped breathing for over five minutes. He went deathly grey, floppy and lifeless and I thought he was dead. I was next to his bedside but the next few minutes felt like I was watching a film in slow motion. I was helpless to help him which felt awful and all I could do was will him to live. When his little lungs started to rise and fall again and his flesh regained some colour, the joy that filled my heart was the most all-consuming I have ever felt, and then the effects of shock set in.

Twin 1 on left, Twin 2 on right

A group hug with those life-saving nurses and doctor and my Mum is one of the sweetest memories I have. Shortly afterwards, my son’s nurse sat down to write in his notes, and I noticed her hands were shaking violently. I knew then, it had been a very close call. This wonderful nurse not only saved his life on this occasion, but she did it twice more. After the fifth event, I couldn’t take any more and insisted that the doctors increased my son’s high flow and oxygen to stablise him, instead of persistently trying to wean him off the support. They listened thankfully, and that was the last time he needed to be resuscitated.

We had a short reprieve until Twin 2 was 10 weeks old and his health took another nose dive. This time his tiny body swelled to twice its normal size, he couldn’t feed and started vomiting green bile. In the early hours of the morning, we received a phone call from the lead consultant who asked my husband and I to come into the hospital as soon as possible. Our son needed an emergency transfer to another hospital with surgical neonatal expertise. All the arrangements had been made and they were just waiting for the ambulance.

As we arrived onto the neonatal unit, a concerned consultant we had not met before informed us that our son would need to be fully ventilated for the transfer by ambulance, so I was asked if I wanted to hold him as he was intubated. I watched as a junior doctor I didn’t much care for struggled to do the task for a long while, until one of the ambulance crew became annoyed and took over and managed the task in seconds. I was filled with absolute horror as my little survivor then struggled for the longest time to breathe against the artificial ventilation, with his eyes looking at me pleadingly. My heart banged so painfully in my chest as I witnessed all of this, and I don’t expect the memories will ever fade.

Instead of some horrendous life-threatening stomach necrosis, which the neonatal team thought he might have, our son actually had two strangulated hernias. These were resolved with an emergency repair the next morning, and I made sure it was with stitching and not mesh.

A few days later our son was transferred back to the warmth and kindness of Queen Charlotte Hospital Neonatal Unit where he was soon well enough to go home, joining his sister and brother, and we could begin life as a family of five.

Inflammation and preterm birth

I was meant to have mesh removal three months after the twins were born, but because of their early arrival and Twin 2’s ongoing ill health, I didn’t have the surgery until the boys were two and a half years old, and over this time my symptoms increased to the point where I was experiencing all over body pain, like having slept on concrete, just weeks before my first surgery.

I talked about the twins premature birth with my mesh removal consultant, who replied that it was highly likely that the chronic inflammation caused by my immune response to the mesh was a contributing factor in their early birth. Ever since hearing this, I have found this thought extremely distressing, as it means that mesh could be to blame for the months each of my sons fought to stay alive in the neonatal unit and the ill-health Twin 2 has suffered ever since. This includes his shocking number of hospital admissions with bronchiolitis (of which he had 13 admissions in just six months after being discharged form the neonatal unit), a paralysed vocal cord (potentially carnage from the ventilation he needed), dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), breathing difficulties and asthma, mild white matter brain damage because of his prematurity, and his language, speech and cognition delays. The thought that mesh is the root cause of all of this trauma still triggers painful tears every time and much anger that not only has mesh caused me life-long harm, but it is leaving a legacy with my child as well.

So to overcome the pain, tears and anger, I do a lot of focussed pilates breathing and today was no different. I left the school in shock and sat on the sofa and breathed deeply. Breathing helps me destress, it helps me manage physical pain, and it is a healer – it helps me to forgive and to let go of all my molecules of emotion. It was the scientist Dr Candice Pert, who 20 years ago coined this term and gave her book the same name. It’s a fascinating exploration of how every cell in our body communicates with each other and holds onto emotion.

Day 43 – Dreaming about food

There is nothing better than a cajun chip, that is if you fancy chips and like spice of course. I was preparing some for my parents arriving later in the week and going through the method with my daughter.

Method for Cajun Chips:

  1. Peel and chop as many potatoes as you’d like into chips. You can use sweet potato instead if you prefer or do a mix and match, which is what I do. You can leave skins on or off depending on taste as well.
  2. Take a medium-sized freezer bag
  3. Add a tablespoon of rapeseed oil or olive oil,
  4. Add a heaped teaspoon or two of cajun spice, depending on how much heat you like.
  5. Add the chips to the bag. Hold the bag at the top and shake until the chips are evenly covered in oil and spice.
  6. Sprinkle the chips onto baking tray, and place in the oven at 200 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or freeze ready for another meal.

I usually eat them with a bubble & squeak burger, and salad or, before my wheat allergy days, with a Clive’s pie and petite pois. Yum!

Ready to cook Cajun chips

I’m fast making a list of all the things I’ve missed most and what I’d like to eat first. Surprisingly, everything I have craved throughout this journey has been healthy, savoury food as opposed to sugary and sweet. Long may that continue afterwards! I live in hope.