What’s in a name? Everything to me.

I lied. I promised you the gout saga was over, and largely it is for you, dear readers, but for me it has only just begun. This last episode was my greatest ever. After years of practice, I have finally attained a an A in Advanced Gout. How about that?

My dear Dr. Family is part of a conglomerate of physicians and health professionals in the city known as a primary health network. Her participation in this network facilitates her access, on an as-needed basis, to a variety of specialists for consultation. Last Friday when I stumped her–gifted patients do that to their docs sometimes–Dr. Family contacted the health-network rheumatologist for guidance. From this specialist, Dr. Family gained useful information on gout management. The specialist also noted that, if I felt it would be helpful, she would gladly meet with me directly at some point. Good to know. Now that I have achieved the pinnacle of goutiness, I have become a coveted patient to any self-respecting rheumatologist. No wonder specialists fight over me.

A few days after this consult, the rheumatologist called me to set an appointment. Somehow my stellar achievement in Advanced Gout warranted me an urgent referral. Wow. I felt like I’d just won a 4-year all-expenses-paid scholarship to Oxford. When I called to book in, I was offered my pick of possible appointment times within the next two weeks. I have done so well in gout that I have been awarded the most valuable scholarship ever: immediate access to a specialist.

There’s a reason I’m telling you all of this, beyond my wanting to revel in my rheumatological prowess: I can’t think of a good name for this doctor. I’m stumped.

Basset hound with head cocked, quote: "What's in a name?"If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I take great pride in naming the characters in my stories. Forgive the anything-but-humble brag, but I am proud of my name creativity. There’s Dr. Blood and her entourage of Bloody Residents, Dr. Liver, who evolved into Dr. Fois Gras, and Dr. Heartless, the only doc I’ve ever had who failed me. You may recall Dr. Skeeter, the infectious disease specialist, Dr. Woman, (woman parts), and Dr. Knife (figure it out). Remember Dr. Skin, the kind dermatologist who had, to quote my funny self here, “chosen to spend his adult life examining people’s zits”? Even Jelly has Dr. Animal. Then there are the other non-medical folks: Ms. Making Me Postal at the post office, Ms. Druggie (the pharmacist), and Little Mr. Sunshine, the generous platelet donor, to name a few.

Enter Dr. Rheumy (that’s lame), and I’m stumped. “Dr. Ouch” would suggest she’s hurting me when in fact she’s trying to relieve me of my pain, and “Dr. Gout” would suggest an unduly narrow scope of practice. I have two weeks until my initial appointment to arrive at an appropriate moniker. (Yes, you too can see a specialist remarkably quickly when a mushroom cluster erupts in your finger.)

I welcome your naming ideas, but, because this is my blog, I will make the final decision. Once I’m underground, I’ll relinquish all creative control to you, dear readers. I urge you patience since I may be here for a while yet.

 

 

Out, darn gout: the neverending story

I love Dr. Family, in a patient-doctor sort of way. She is sharp, effective, and compassionate. When I need her, she is there, three days per week. I simply have to plan my medical crises on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

In the past when I’ve called her office needing an urgent appointment, her assistants have slotted me in promptly, usually the same day. But because there are many babies being born amongst her staff, these assistants are largely unfamiliar with me. They do not realize that I never call without a reason, and that, when I do call, I need to be seen promptly.

Last week, in the midst of fretting about Jelly’s health, I was also concerned about my own. My gouty finger was not healing and I decided a call to my trusted professional was overdue. I contacted the office first thing Monday morning and had an appointment within a few hours.

Dr. Family assessed me, and gave me a clear plan of action, which I followed to the letter. It helped but only temporarily. She also told me to call later in the week if I needed further help. So I did, only to be told that the doctor was too busy to see me that day.

I understand. Dr. Family only has so many hours in the day, and as attentive as she is when I see her, she could not slot in another appointment that day. But I still needed help before the weekend, so I asked Ms. New Girl if I might email the doctor a picture so she could give me some direction. I was pushing the boundaries here, but only because I was at a loss.

Tight bunch of tiny white enoki mushroomsI’d love to publish the picture I sent Dr. Family here, but to date I’ve spared you all gruesome images of my ailing body parts. I fear I’d give many of you, my faithful readers, nightmares if I shared the frightening shot of my gouty finger here.

Imagine a cluster of tiny mushrooms trying to burst through the end of my finger. That’s not as scary as the real thing, is it? I guess you can’t really judge since you haven’t seen the photograph, but trust me, it is.

Upon seeing my miraculous feat of nature, Dr. Family called me promptly but I missed her. Then she diligently consulted with a colleague, who suggested a new course of action. When I called back, Ms. New Girl told me not only to come in, but to stop by my pharmacy along the way to pick up a medication she would be injecting. Saved by the picture.

I’m not Dr. Family’s only patient, and I can’t expect her to fit me in whenever I need her. I could go to a drop-in medical clinic and discuss the matter with an unfamiliar doctor that does not have access to my medical history, but imagine how long it would take to bring that doctor up to speed. Whenever I can, I prefer to return to the doctors’ office where everybody (now) knows my name. Thankfully, Dr. Family agrees.

The injection worked famously. My little mushrooms are slowly disappearing, along with the pain they’ve caused. And so the saga comes to an end.

Green Thumb, meet Red Finger

a few radish sprouts growing

I feel so proud. After a week of building (I drilled two screws in) and seeding (I was deemed competent to seed, after intensive instruction) our vegetable garden, I am thrilled to report our radishes have sprouted. I can’t wait to eat the vegetables of my labour.

I’d hoped to continue to be involved in our burgeoning garden, but a medical complication has arisen: the last joint of my right ring finger is swollen, red, and hot enough to brand you, and even the lightest pressure on it brings excruciating pain. That O I just typed? It hurt like the dickens. So did each L and every period. I considered writing this post as one run-on sentence, but I didn’t have the gumption.

In yet another case of forgetting what I should know by now, I’ve been ignoring increasing pain in this finger over the last few days. The pain is at its worst in the middle of the night, and has woken me from a deep sleep four nights in a row. “What could that be?” I asked my oblivious self. Eureka! It’s gout.

I’ve never experienced full-blown gout in a finger before, although it was numbness in this finger that led to my new gout-busting regimen (recall those unsplittable pills). I didn’t realize how much I used my right ring finger–ah, to be a leftie–until it caused me jarring pain to do so. Brushing my teeth, washing the dishes, anything that involves holding, my ailing finger wants to jump in and help out. I squander considerable mental effort to stop myself from using this finger.

People usually experience gout pain in major lower-body joints, characteristically in the ball of the foot. Imagine searing pain with every step you take, your foot so swollen that your shoes don’t fit. In the past, my feet have usually taken turns being gouty, although sometimes they want the simultaneous privilege of paining me.

So when I finally realized what was happening, rather than jump on the medication bandwagon, I let it escalate for a while longer. What kind of baby uses liver-toxic medication for pain at the end of a finger? This kind of baby. Now that I’ve started self-medicating, I hope the attack will pass soon.

There are several ways I could view this turn of events. I could focus on how painful gout is and how miserable it makes me, misery that is only compounded by the lack of sleep. (The pain is worse at night.) That attitude isn’t helpful, is it? Or I could be hopeful that the new gout-busting medication I’m on, those other unsplittable pills, is working. I knew those pills would make things worse before it made them better. I’ve decided to make this my first gouty step toward eliminating my gout forever.

I’m anticipating one more collateral benefit: for now, I must delegate all gardening and other household tasks, including dish-washing, to J. (Not just pressure but heat exacerbates the swelling, compounding the pain.) J. may especially resent the extensive garden thinning required when she realizes how much I have overseeded. Oh well, she’ll get over it, as will I.

Things I should know by now, but sometimes forget

Handicapped door button

I’ve been going to have my blood taken on a regular basis for 17 years now. After all that practice, you’d think I’d know all there was to know about the process. This is what I know to do following the procedure:

  1. Put pressure on spot where the needle left a wee hole for at least a few minutes to promote clotting and minimize bruising.
  2. Anything that interferes with clotting makes this pressure all the more critical. Consider factors such as being on blood thinners (that was me once) or being low in platelets (that is me now).
  3. Any heavy lifting soon after the procedure, like holding the absurdly heavy lab door open for the person behind me as I exit, is contraindicated because it could interfere with clotting.
  4. Wearing a white shirt to the procedure is just plain dumb in light of my propensity to bleed.
  5. If any of these procedures aren’t followed, I may end up with blood stains on my clothing and/or a bruise.

Can you tell where this story is headed? Do I still get to tell you what happened this morning when I went to the lab to have my blood taken? It started off well. The needle prick was painless. I placed pressure on my wound following the needle withdrawal and, upon inspection prior to bandaging the spot, I appeared to be clotting well. Then I got up, put my jacket back on, walked through the waiting room, and pushed the heavy outside door open with the same arm that had just been taped up, first allowing the woman behind me through.

As I got outside, I felt a strange wetness on the same arm of my blood draw. “What might that be?” I thought curiously. “Why is my arm feeling increasingly drenched as I walk toward the car?” No lightbulb yet.

I’m sure you know exactly why my arm was wet. I too should have known, but it was fairly early in the morning and all my cylinders were not yet firing. I stood by my car, the unexplained wetness spreading down my arm, at which point the blood made its way beyond my jacket to my exposed hand. I have felt this wetness many times before, yet the physical sensation was not enough to jog my memory; I needed visual proof before accepting that I’d need to do a load of wash that day (or two, because I was wearing a white t-shirt).

With my evidence firmly in hand, I returned to the lab, using the handicapped button to open those heavy doors. I marched straight to the desk to seek help from the phlebotomist. My bloody hand proved sufficient evidence for her rally her troops to clean me up forthwith before I spread my gift of life all over the lab.

Oh well. What’s another load of laundry? Easy for me to say since J. does the laundry. She worries I’ll fall down the basement stairs. The ways I can be a danger to myself are infinite. Oh, and I bruise easily. Let me show you my arm….

Musings on avocado toast

Avocados have gotten a bum rap of late on two fronts. In case you missed it, an Australian real-estate mogul had the gall to assert that the younger generations cannot afford to buy their own homes because they are wasting their money on frivolous items like $19 avocado toast. Needless to say, the social-media backlash was fierce.

Don’t tell me you’ve missed the trendy toast movement altogether. FYI, it’s not all melted margarine slathered on highly processed white bread anymore. The toast I’m speaking of has fancy toppings, including but not limited to avocados, smushed on thick slices of organic sourdough toast. You can order it in restaurants with a variety of additional toppings, at unfathomable prices.

I’ve read about the toast movement but I’ve never gone out to a restaurant in search of avocado toast because I don’t eat out, remember? Since I was placed on a sodium-restricted diet in 2004, I have largely been restricted to reading about the hot new restaurants in town on the internet. Sometimes I salivate at the pictures, but God would punish me if I deigned to consume their wares. Did I mention how much weight I gained on my last vacation, despite my only eating only one pain au chocolate over two weeks? No? Well, let’s keep it that way.

The mogul’s lame argument was countered by a respected business writer at the Globe and Mail. Said writer noted that young people would need to consume over 33 slices of overpriced avocado toast daily to spend the $180,000+ dollars Toronto house prices have risen over the past year alone. Anyone consuming that much avocado toast has a bigger problem than covering her house payments. I suspect a binge eating disorder, but I’d need more information to make a definitive diagnosis.

If these house-less restaurant-going kids decide, instead, to make avocado toast at home in order to save a few dollars, they need to be aware of the second strike against the poor avocado: the potential dangers of avocado-pit removal. According to recent medical reports, a phenomenon dubbed avocado hand is showing up increasingly in ERs everywhere. The injury results from a missed stab at the avocado pit, where the knife slips off and pierces the palm of the hand. These cuts can be deep, and may therefore result in serious infection. A local emerg doc noted that his hospital sees approximately one case of avocado hand weekly.

Thankfully we have socialized medicine in Canada, so that your ER visit will not cost the you anything except your pride. Rest assured the ER docs will view you as one of those earthy millennial types who needed a healthy snack following hot yoga to sustain you through the afternoon.

I’m not that person–I prefer to keep my yoga sweat to myself–yet I confess that I too like avocado toast. I often slather half an avocado on my morning toast, sometimes topping it with an also-trendy poached egg. It’s a surprisingly filling meal. But I’m too cheap to pay $15 for all this rigamarole at a restaurant. I’ll pit my own avocado, thank you very much, very carefully, and pray for no deep-tissue injury since I’m infection prone. Already I’ve cost the health system much more than my share.

Picture of avocado on toast topped with poached egg and herbs

The dangers of dependence: a tale of two doctors

A tree that is unbending is easily broken

Did I happen to mention that my beloved Dr. Family will be heading off on maternity leave in August? The gall of that fantastic physician to place her family ahead of her patients, placing her family ahead of her patients. I was diagnosed with leukemia during her first maternity leave. Who knows what will happen this time she leaves?

I don’t talk about Dr. Family much because she is, in some ways, a peripheral member of my care team. By necessity, I spend more time with my specialists than with her. She has always diligently reviewed my file before I do visit, though. She is an astute diagnostician and has cared for me well over the years I have known her. She has arranged for excellent coverage during her two prior leaves.

Her upcoming departure for baby #3 happens to coincide with Dr. Blood’s leaving for her year-long sabbatical. That’s a lot of change at one time for a change-averse gal like me. Thus I considered becoming completely overwhelmed when I first saw Dr. Family’s baby bump, but I’d recently reached my fretting threshold over Dr. Blood.

That’s how I decided to approach to Dr. Family’s leave differently. I recalled my shutting my practice temporarily–unlike me, my clients had no opportunity to ready themselves for my departure–and how, unsurprisingly, my clients survived without me. I’d expect no less of them.

As a clinician, I am always walking a tightrope between assuring my clients they can rely on me when they are distressed and encouraging them not to become overly reliant on my support. From the outset, we discuss those supports available to clients outside the occasional hour that we meet. I’d never want a client to think he needed to talk to me and only me in a crisis because that would set him up to be overly dependent on my care.

I’ve always known I’m not the only psychologist in town. Other highly competent clinicians jumped in when I got sick because they had to. I redirected clients that asked; others muddled through in their own way. Some clients may have ditched therapy altogether to see how they’d do without a therapist’s support. I trust they managed well.

Those who transferred to someone new may have had to share their story from the beginning, which is certainly harder than returning to someone who knows them. Nonetheless, unexpected change like this can be good for clients. I may have missed something or focussed excessively on one domain when they could have used a different kind of support. I realize my former clients may have found a therapist who was better suited to care for them. Sometimes a client reaches an endpoint with a psychologist and a new perspective is beneficial.

If my clients can survive or even thrive without me, maybe I can do the same with my new physicians. I’d hate to become a needy patient, and I trust both my physicians will find solid interim replacements. Who knows? Maybe the change will give my flexibility muscle a good workout. I may even learn that there’s more than one doctor in the world who can keep me alive. That would be reassuring.

Splitting hairs over splitting pills

In Friday’s post, I suggested today’s story would fall under the “Believe It or Not” category. You might prefer to place it in the “Too Much Boring Detail” category, but that’s how we differ. I will temper the mind-numbing detail if you’ll pretend to be captivated by my story.

Immediately following our trip, I had planned to start on my new gout-busting medication. The drug was curiously not at the pharmacy when I visited, however. I was under the mistaken impression that my doctor had called the prescription in, when in fact the paperwork was in my dedicated pharmacy drawer, which is perpetually overflowing with pill bottles and granny pill cases and prescriptions and blood-work requisitions.

Upon realizing my error, I returned to the pharmacy, prescription in hand (Visit #2). Rarely do I wait for drugs–I don’t like to rush the professionals–but I was eager to start on these pills, so wait I did. Within 15 minutes, I headed home, pills in hand.

The prescription said I was to take one half pill daily, possibly increasing to full pills depending on the outcome of blood work. Sounds pretty straight forward, doesn’t it? I thought so, until I opened the bottle. This is what I saw:

Green pill, egg shaped, shown on both sidesHow does one split a pill this shape, with a rock-hard coating and no dividing line? Beats me. So I headed back to the pharmacy, pills in hand (Visit #3), and said, “Ms. Druggie, how exactly do you expect me to split these ridiculous tablets?” Ms. D. said she had not looked at the pills before handing me the prescription and had no idea how anyone would split them. She willingly agreed to do so for me.

Have I written before about my pill-splitting refusal? If a pill needs to be split, I expect the pharmacist to do it for me. That pharmacy has made many thousands of dollars from me alone over the years. (Pity the pharmacist having to deal with a patient like me.) I believe that splitting my pills is the least a pharmacist can do to thank me for her secure employment.

pill splitter with split pills insideMany a pharmacist has tried to dissuade me from my entitled stance, however. One showed me how easy it is to split by hand the one pill I’ve long taken that is unavailable in my needed dose. Another suggested I buy a pill splitter to make the job easier. Easier for me or easier for you, dear pharmacist? Need I remind you I have no room for a pill splitter in my pharmacy drawer? Oh, yeah, and petit point and teeny weeny origami are not in my wheelhouse. Neither is pill splitting.

No, dear pharmacist, I don’t have the time or patience to split my own pills. I’m busy picking them up from two pharmacies, sorting them into two different daily pill cases, and remembering to take them on schedule. I deserve to have a life the rest of the time, don’t I?

Ms. D. graciously took the challenge on, decimating seven pills in the process and stopping before she destroyed any more. So much for her high-tech pharmacy-grade pill splitter.

Did I mention that was Visit 4? How could I possibly find time for pill splitting? My headstone will read: “She died splitting her pills.”

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Young girl holding lips closed, as if zipping lips

I am returning to the fold after the longest hiatus I’ve taken since initiating the blog. I’ll skip asking whether you missed me because I don’t want to know. I missed writing, but I didn’t have anything to say, so I didn’t say anything at all. I look back on all my grasping-at-straws posts with shame.

We are now back from vacation. Let’s say the trip was not Facebook worthy, even though I lack a Facebook account. I had no beautiful pictures or inspiring moments to share, and, failing those, no great insights or lessons learned. I was too busy trying to keep dry and warm amidst the torrential rain, the pounding sleet, and the gale-force winds.

We travelled into a disaster zone, a bracingly cold and unpleasant spring in la belle province. While we wandered the streets of Old Town, fearing that our umbrella would do a Mary Poppins at any moment, flooding displaced two thousand residents from their homes. There’s something discordant about enjoying the splendours of the area knowing so many people were being profoundly affected.

Maybe that wasn’t it at all. Maybe it was not having Grover, who stars in so many of my vacation pictures, with me. But he would have been so scared by the wind and the rain and the sleet and the snow (yes, there was snow, in May), and he doesn’t own a raincoat to protect his blue fur from the elements. It’s best I left him at home.

We needn’t factor in the exhaustion of trying to think and speak in French. Let’s just say that, beyond understanding French menus, food labels, and public signs, I failed abysmally at speaking and oral understanding. I am in awe of people relocating from foreign lands who master our language.

No, my silence was mostly due to utter exhaustion, I’m afraid. Usually, the excitement of exploring a new place keeps me awake and alert. (That, and the hyperstimulating morning coffee.) When I go away, I leave fatigue, and leukemia, and all those worries I usually carry around with me, at home and pretend I’m healthy for the duration. I crash once I return home. But this time, for whatever reason, fatigue insisted on joining us.

Baby screaming (shot of head only)In fact, I was so exhausted that, to stop my falling asleep on the way to the airport, we moved up our return flight by a few hours. A nap on the plane, and I’d be fine, I figured. I was all ready, earplugs in hand, and then the screaming started. No, not mine, that of the baby one row back. She started wailing before take off and kept it up past landing, with only a few short breaks. I kept telling myself, “I’m sure I was that child” so as to keep myself calm. By flight’s end, my exhaustion gave way to giddiness, which, thankfully, the harried mother could not hear over her screeching daughter.

And so, dear readers, now that that baby and I have parted ways, I am catching up on my sleep. I will be back to regular posting soon. Stay tuned for a “Believe It or Not” story about my day with my pharmacist. It’s truly ah (awe? ugh?) inspiring.

Fatigue is a many-splendoured thing

I’ve been struggling with more fatigue than usual of late. I should be napping daily, and on the days that I don’t, despite my best efforts, I spend part of the day in a fog. Last Monday, I napped before my volunteer shift so I’d be able to serve soup safely.

Despite my fatigue, I dragged myself out of bed this morning so I could write this post. If I let myself, I could return to bed and sleep for another few hours. My self-denial does not allow for the stimulating effects of caffeine. I am hoping writing will get my brain cells firing.

I try not to belabour you with stories of my fatigue day in and day out. I’d hate for your reading to put you to sleep. And I don’t want you to view me as a whiner. But since people often ask me why I’m tired, I thought I might list the known reasons here.

  1. Medical factors:
    1. Leukemia (I expect you to know that one)
    2. Polycythemia (maybe less obvious)
    3. Liver disease (yes, my sick liver makes me tired)
    4. Related to C, pharmaceutically-induced low blood pressure
    5. Several other medications with those little warning stickers on the bottle, “Do not operate heavy machinery….”
  2. Environmental factors:
    1. Bedroom is too hot/too cold/not just right
    2. Pesky songbirds that awaken early in these parts
    3. Pesky dog who takes her cues from the pesky songbirds
    4. Stanley Cup playoffs

Let’s focus on 2D, since the playoffs, however transitory, are currently compounding the chronic fatigue caused by medical factors (1A through 1E). Now that Calgary is out, I am rooting for the Edmonton Oilers under duress. They are making a notable run for the Stanley Cup. Now in the second round, they continue to play brilliantly, despite last night’s loss.

The Oilers’ performance should be of no matter except (and this is a big “except”) their games have been taking place late in the evening. Because I am a devoted hockey pool member with players selected by my beloved (my love for hockey only goes so far), I am invested in how well all teams are performing.

(For the benefit of those who do not know what a hockey pool is [primarily my family], I choose the well-performing players from teams I believe will have success in the playoffs. [Liar. J. chose my players.] Players are eliminated as their corresponding teams are. By retaining the most players through the final round, I have the best chance of winning the title.)

So I’ve been staying up late watching hockey and counting my points. Thanks to J.’s wise selections, Annie’s Agitators is currently second, neck and neck with Jesse’s Water Wings. J. lags well behind, having chosen an inferior team for herself. (I take credit for my success, despite J.’s doing all the heavy lifting.)

But, let’s not forget the compounding role of factor 2C: Jelly, never an avid hockey fan, sleeps through long evenings of our rooting for the underdogs. She startled awake once to J.’s raucous cheering after a goal, but the rest of the time she has slept soundly through our deriding the referees. Jelly would never manage to awaken with the birds if she stayed up with us to watch. Perhaps I should follow her lead?

Basset hound Jelly sleeping in awkward twisted position

 

A simple recipe for poisoning your loved one

Picture of pasta with cheese and pepper

Two years ago, J. celebrated her birthday in the ER, where I had gone to seek urgent medical attention. I made the one day of the year that’s supposed to be all about J. all about me. After spending several hours ignoring my symptoms, I could no longer deny their seriousness.

I’ve since succeeded in avoiding hospital visits on J.’s birthday. Last year I left my cancer at home and celebrated J’s birthday in her favourite London pub. This year, staying healthy was a piece of (birthday) cake, for me at least. I have been the picture of health for a chronically ill person.

J.’s birthday this past Saturday started out like any other day. I had carefully planned a special meal for her. I chose not to tell J. what was on the menu so she wouldn’t try to simplify the offerings.

I then carefully gathered my provisions. On Friday, I made sausage and bean soup because soup always tastes better on the second day. I planned to make the pasta and dessert on Saturday.

At dinner, J. enjoyed the soup and the pasta so much that she even took seconds. Then she had her first bite of the Portuguese custard tarts I’d laboured over that afternoon. She left the rest of her tart untouched while I scarfed mine done. She became increasingly quiet, and then she abruptly fled the dinner table.

J.’s using the facilities during a meal is not unusual. Her kidneys are so healthy that she pees hourly. I found it odd when she did not returning promptly to the table, however. I waited and waited, and then I went in search of her, only to discover she had spent the last 20 minutes ridding herself of my carefully cooked dinner. She was so sick that night that she couldn’t even watch her beloved Oilers clinch Round 1.

Ever the catastrophizer, I was sure my special meal had poisoned her. I reviewed the meal ad nauseum. I was sure I’d cooked the sausage meat properly. Yes, I’d adequately heated and then cooled the soup. I’d baked the custard tarts, with their six egg yolks, long enough. And then I considered the fresh pasta. Was there salmonella instead of semolina in the flour mix? (Recalled flour is all the rage lately, but E. coli are the offending bacteria.)

The cheese did have a bit of mold on it, which I cut off before grating, but did I miss a spot? How dangerous is moldy cheese anyway? Turns out some molds are fine–Brie cheese is made with mold, for example–but others molds can make you sick. Then I learned that some molds have a toxin that is precursor to liver cancer. Oh great, I gave J. cancer on her birthday.

Before you throw out all your cheese like I did, consider this: people don’t react to food poisoning as quickly as J. did, according to my wise neuroscientist friend. And despite my questionable immune functioning, I didn’t get sick. Perhaps it wasn’t my cooking after all.

Once I’d determined I hadn’t killed J., J. told me that she’d been feeling off all day. Sorry to hear that, honey, and please excuse my huge sigh of relief.

 

P.S. Turf that green cottage cheese pronto.