Updated: Feb 22, 2020
Hi, welcome to my blog!. I thought I would share a little more about me and my family and our nutritional journey.
I am a busy mummy to two wonderful children aged 4 and 6. They really keep me on my toes since one has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), making her a very picky eater indeed, and the other one loves all things sweet!!
Before our angels were born, I had this idea in my head of how I would be feeding them all the best amazing nutritional foods, and how healthy they would be, positively glowing with vitality. They of course would love all the food I would prepare for them, and I just couldn't wait! I had completed a degree course in Nutritional Medicine and just couldn't wait to put my expertise into practice. I had already scoured all the online recipes and books I could find, and tweaked them to make them more nutritious. I had it all noted down, all planned out, it was all going to be plain sailing......
BUT!!!, there's always a but isn't there!
I had trouble with both of my births. Both pregnancies were difficult. I had too much amniotic fluid, had to have a myriad of medication to prevent miscarriage and both ended up in C-Sections after very long and traumatic labours. I was not blooming in my pregnancy
I had a total breastfeeding nightmare with my first daughter due to undetected tongue-tie, and I had contracted flu immediately after surgery. The agony of trying not to cough with stitches, I still remember the searing pain of that. I had to switch to formula milk while on medication, and by the time I attempted to switch back, it was too late. I wasn't producing enough milk and my daughter was used to formula feeds. I felt rejected by my daughter and that I had failed as a mother, and then postnatal depression took hold. A familiar story no doubt for many mothers. Health visitors trying to encourage me to keep trying to breast feed, GP's telling me not to worry about the switch to formula, it was a confusing time. 😒
For several months I wouldn't go out, didn't bother eating properly, the erratic sleep that all babies bring with them, it was a very negative few months emotionally, and certainly not how I had imagined it would be.
It took a long time to accept that my daughters feeding rejection wasn't personal and that she was actually was just fine on formula, and she wasn't ever going to hold it against me. I gradually started to venture out again and start to overcome the depression.
Before I knew it, the time had come for solid foods, I had looked forward to this for so long. It all started out well enough, She would happily eat porridge oats for breakfast and avocado for lunch, and she loved her fruit and veg and her curries, and then, I found I was pregnant again.
Horrific C-section number two!! Second daughter, also tongue-tied, however, this time I was on it, and got it sorted within days and successfully breast fed, hooray!
However, from one extreme to the other, I was over producing milk this time, and baby girl didn't want to stop. Then she started teething at 4 months OUCH!!! Never did I want that 6 month weaning stage to arrive so quickly! The pain of each feed from those last two months will forever be etched on my memory.
A few months after being on solids, both girls decided to throw a spanner in the works on my happy dream of perfect child nurturing, not just with their early teething, but with food sensory aversions as well. Oh joy!!
There were many times when they grimaced at my lovingly prepared food, which not only took an age to prepare, was organic and therefore expensive, but I had also cooked in large batches trying to be a super efficient mum.
They refused point blank to even entertain most offerings, I am sure they had secret discussions about how they would rebel against me.
I had tried all manner of recipes, made faces and shapes with the foods, got them to help making it all, which they loved (oh the mess!!), but still, they wouldn't eat it!.
I hid all sorts of great stuff in sauces, but their expert noses and taste buds seemed to detect it as their plates were carried to the table and they were sat there ready with 'that' look.
I started picking at the left overs rather than throw it all away. The post baby weight which had never quite shifted after daughter number one, started to creep up further.
Late nights, more depression, feelings of rejection again over their refusal of my meals.
There were times when exhausted, I just had to give in and feed them shop bought pre-prepared food and they sat and gobbled it all up, looking all smug at me. As much as it really annoyed me, (can you tell ?!) when I look back now, I realise, it was really no big deal in the grand scheme of things. They certainly wouldn't have starved. I did my best like all mums do and added a whole heap of pressure onto my own shoulders.
I still scrutinised all the labels and made wise food choices for my girls, and continued presenting them with lots of colourful fruit and veggies alongside the food staples they would After researching the SPD condition, the food aversions all made sense. It had been an incredibly stressful time and had taken a while to realise I needed to cut myself and our children some slack . My adrenals were shot with all the stress and my own diet and digestion was terrible. Not only was I not eating nutritious foods, but I wasn't even able to digest what nutrients I was consuming properly because of the late nights and stress.
Fast forward a few years, and all was going ok, I had started to eat more healthily again, and into a better routine with the girls and they were doing ok. I was thinking about going back to work after being a stay at home mum, our older child was changing schools and the youngest was starting nursery and we were about to start a major home improvement project, when, BOOM!
My husband was diagnosed with Leukaemia!!
We never saw it coming, there was a stay in hospital for my husband following a chest infection and a rash that had lingered but despite lots of blood tests, all was clear. We had continued being a normal busy family getting on with life as you do. My husbands rash was still there after 6 months and so he was finally sent for an immunology test at Oxford. The weeks passed and we had forgotten about it all.
It was a warm Friday evening in May, we were sat the the kitchen table having just finished dinner, the girls were laughing and we were discussing a family party which we were attending the following evening.The phone rang and my husband answered it, it was a doctor from Oxford. I remember looking at the clock and thinking 7pm was an odd time for a phone call from hospital.
My husband left the table and stood by the kitchen window staring out and he was saying "yes" a lot. They had found something in his blood, and he had to see the GP first thing Monday morning for further tests. The consultant had pressed home the urgency of it all to my husband. Of course the whole weekend was spent worrying. We went to the family party, but unable to pretend we were having fun, we left early. That weekend was just the longest ever. We didn't actually think it could be cancer but knew it must be quite serious.
Finally Monday came,the GP called my husband before he had even got to work telling him to go straight to hospital for urgent blood tests, I felt sick, what could it be?
I rang to find out where Haematology was, and as soon as I was told it was in the MacMillan unit, I think I knew. I dropped the girls at school and was going to head there afterwards. My husband had to have a blood transfusion immediately and a bone marrow biopsy. He was told the devastating ......diagnosis while he was on his own!! I got the news on the phone from one of the nurses. I was furious and numb at the same time. They only thought to ask my husband if he needed someone there with him, after they saw that he had gone into shock.
It was just like those TV adverts where everything slows down and you feel completely isolated. Leukaemia? what even is that? can it be cured? how did it happen? what happens next? Can our children get it?
So many questions but at the same time, we were too scared to ask, we were terrified of the answers.
Everything then moved so fast. My husband was admitted within a few days for eight long months of intense chemotherapy cycles, followed by a Stem Cell Transplant from an amazing selfless donor from Germany. We weren't told that much, and had to take each day at a time. I shaved my husbands hair off before he went in so it wasn't too much of a shock for him and the girls when he lost all his hair.
My husband had to be admitted pretty much for the duration of his treatment with the odd week at home. There were long spells when he couldn't have visitors because he had no immune system, or when we had colds which seemed to be every week in winter.
There was no phone signal and so we could only communicate on wifi calling which dropped every 5 minutes.
It was absolute hell, I can’t pretend it wasn't, despite everyone around me telling me how well I was coping, I was a crumpled mess inside. I was a suddenly a single mum trying to deal with the trauma of what my husband was going through, what may lay ahead for us, and trying to keep strong for our children, who actually were just amazing and resilient through all of it.
I was in auto mode putting on a brave face and carrying on. Two months after diagnosis, during summer, friends and family were going on holiday, while I had to cancel ours. Families were out in the sun enjoying life and doing normal family things - bbq's, fetes, picnics. I could hear happy music playing from passing cars, but I felt so incredibly sad.
It felt so weird that all this was going on and yet our life was completely on hold. I felt guilty to take the children anywhere for the day while their daddy was cooped up in that stuffy sweltering room in his bed unable to leave, and feeling so sick. I took lots of photos everyday of whatever the girls were doing and how the building works were going, and spoke to him as much as we could, we tried to be normal, but it was about as far from normal as could be.
I couldn't show how I felt, I had to be strong but I was absolutely terrified. I had to continue with the school runs and the girls homework, shopping and bills, all the usual life stuff. On top of the utterly surreal nightmare we had been thrown into, we had workmen all over the house for 6 weeks, scaffolding over the house, no roof, skips on the drive, dust and rubble on the stairs. Workmen arriving at 8am before the school run, building supplies, paint, tiles deliveries...looking back, I honestly don't quite know how I coped at all, but I suppose you just do.
My mum, was my rock, always there to listen and help out. The girls adore their nanny.
The girls loved the daily hospital trips to visit their daddy, and to be able to chat to the nurses, get sweets and take daddy's temperature and blood pressure. The nurses were amazing, they all fussed around the girls.
Then winter came with all the usual coughs and colds.
We had to avoid playdates, public places and even trips to the supermarket had to be carefully planned. We became acutely aware of people, especially children in shops coughing without covering their mouths. Our home and car had alcohol gel and bacterial wipes all over the place. If we caught a cold, we could not visit my husband since he had no immune system. A simple cold could easily turn into a chest infection or pneumonia. Of course once the girls were at school we had no choice, the colds came thick and fast and we had to stay away from the hospital for weeks.
Christmas time arrived and we made the best of the situation. My husband had been transferred an hour away to Oxford to prepare for a stem cell transplant. We had taken a few decorations, some cards and a mini Christmas tree for the hospital room since we knew Christmas would mainly be spent there instead of at home.
The girls still enjoyed the visits despite being so far away. There was a huge Christmas tree in the family room laden with chocolates, candy canes and crackers! and the nurses again fussed around the girls.
The fantastic team at Churchill hospital in Oxford allowed my husband to come home for Christmas day to see the girls open their presents, but he had to return Boxing day for very intense chemotherapy treatment and a stem cell transplant. Even so, we knew how
lucky we were to be able to have him home even for a few hours. It made a huge difference to us all as a family to get some time together and we knew once he went back, he was in for such a rough ride, yet it was the only way to get to a cure.
During that time, with the daily hospital runs straight from school pick up, healthy eating was a certainly a challenge.
Actually, in truth it went out the window. It was easier for me to just skip meals and then binge eat late at night when the girls were at last asleep in bed. I made the effort for their meals, but even so, our regular mealtime pattern was non-existent. I was going to bed late and getting up early, I felt exhausted both physically, and mentally.
The stress of our situation, our children starting a new school, and a loft extension in full swing, certainly added a few wrinkles.
It has been a crazy journey for all of us, that's for sure.
Finally, mid January, eight months after that shocking diagnosis and a gruelling terrible final phase of chemotherapy and the stem cell transplant, the day came that we never thought would arrive. It was so exciting for the girls to make that final trip to the hospital at Oxford and get the best present ever....daddy coming home!!
I drove straight from school pick up to Oxford with the girls. They both carried the Christmas decorations and presents, and led their daddy out of that ward. We didn't look back!
Now one year on from diagnosis, we are truly blessed to have my husband and our children's daddy back home, and in remission. We can get back to some normality at last.
Our dietary choices have since become even more important to us, to be able to combat the toxic effects of all those months of chemotherapy, and the multitude of drugs which my husband still has to take daily. Anti-inflammatory foods, plenty of antioxidants and healthy gut flora promoting foods are top priority for my husband along with rest, less stress and cleaner living. It will be a long road to nutritional recovery, but we've already started.
In addition, I have had to re-address my own nutritional balance which no doubt took such a battering at that time of such stress and dietary abandonment.
I was suffering with stress induced reflux and adrenal fatigue once again. I was anxious and irritable all the time, I was suffering with fatigue and a low immune system. and since sleep is a restorative process within the body, playing an important role in the balance of psychological and physical health, I needed to get back into a proper bedtime routine again. We have had to become more mindful of our diet generally, and although we can still enjoy treats, we choose much more wisely.
We are back to life now with new hope and recovery for us as a family, and so eating a varied, balanced healthy diet, sleeping and resting well and trying to keep stress at bay is really important for us and for our little angels with their ongoing dietary quirks!
We will forever be grateful for the wonderful staff on ward 22 at Milton Keynes Hospital , The Macmillan nurses for their support, for the brilliant amazing team at Churchill Oxford hospital, and of course the Anthony Nolan Trust who found my husband a 10/10 match from a selfless lady in Germany, without whom, my husband would definitely not be here right now.