A Word (or Two) About Labels

By Rachel Sircy

Canva - Assorted-color Box Lot on RackThis is a subject that I tend to write about quite a bit, but I’m going to devote yet another post to discussing gluten-free food that’s not really gluten-free. I’ve previously written about how even though I’ve been gluten-free for more than a decade, I still have flare-ups and residual symptoms. I’m sure that many sufferers of Celiac Disease out there who have been gluten-free for a while have similar issues. That’s because recent research has found that approximately 70% of sufferers who follow a gluten-free diet are regularly exposed to gluten, either accidentally or intentionally.

Of course, there are always those who have moments of weakness and relapse, but many of the us who ingest gluten do so without our knowledge. The problem is often that gluten-free labels are attached to foods which are not truly gluten-free.

An interesting article I found on GlutenFreeWatchdog.com, cited a recent incident in which a sausage manufacturing company was penalized by the USDA for labeling their pork sausage as gluten-free when it contained soy sauce. Those of us who’ve been gluten-free for a while know the dangers of soy sauce. Yes, there are brands (notably San-J) who do claim to make soy sauce without fermenting their soybeans with wheat. However, most types of soy sauce do contain wheat, including the soy sauce used by this company to make its pork sausage. So, how on earth did this company think it could get away with labeling products gluten-free which were clearly not?

Well, I’ll attempt to avoid summarizing Gluten-Free Watchdog’s entire article, (you can read it here: https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/when-a-regulatory-agency-usda-actually-enforces-the-gluten-free-labeling-rule-and-recalls-a-product-containing-wheat-based-soy-sauce/) but it’s important to note that the FDA allows products to be labeled gluten-free as long as the gluten in their particular product doesn’t exceed twenty parts per million. That’s twenty parts of gluten per million.

Canva - Supermarket RefrigeratorsHowever, someone in the comments section of the GFWD article rightly pointed out that this system of measurement is flawed – and dangerous – for people with serious gluten sensitivities. You see, a company may label a product gluten-free because it has less than 20ppm, but what if a celiac has two servings? Or what if it takes two (supposedly) gluten-free flavor packets to make a recipe? Then, the level deemed “safe” by the FDA has been exceeded.

The real issue, then, as I understand it, is that companies are not really required to state exactly how much gluten is in a product labeled “gluten-free.” So, it’s nearly impossible to judge what is gluten-free and what isn’t.

So, what are we to do in this case? Well, we can try to make the FDA aware of violations to gluten-free labeling. The Gluten-Free Watchdog website is a good place to send anything that seems suspicious. Take a picture of the label and/or give the name of the product and the manufacturer to them via email. They are good about looking into those kinds of things. Also, FoodAllergy.com has an entire article devoted to placing a complaint about a mislabeled product to the FDA. For more information on what to do when you think a product is mislabeled, visit https://www.foodallergy.org/education-awareness/advocacy-resources/what-to-do-when-you-think-a-product-is-mislabeled.

A Sweet Boy Named Wyatt

By Tina Michelle Cameron

wyatt outdoor pictureThis will probably be the hardest blog I have written to date. It is part two of a blog from earlier this month which was about September being Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. You see, I want to tell you about a sweet boy named Wyatt. It is easy to talk about Wyatt; it brings a smile to my face and warms my heart to think about him, but with the smiles, also comes tears. Wyatt Edward Brown was born on October 28th, 2014 to the most amazing parents I have ever met – Ashley and Eric Brown. If you follow my blog or are friends with me on Facebook, then you know that I am a nurse at Lexington Medical Center on the oncology unit. This is where I met Wyatt’s mom, Ashley, as she is also an oncology nurse. Ashley and I became friends while working together which is how I got to know this beautiful little boy.

Sweet Wyatt, as I always affectionately called him, was kind, sweet, funny, smart, and so loveable and loved. He loved superheroes (the Hulk was his favorite), cheering on the Clemson Tigers, playing with his action figures, watching his favorite video, The Hulk vs. Batman, and spending time with his amazing family. He was smart having already learned to read and work an iPad like a grownup at age two.

wyatt and mimi adn gigiWyatt was the strongest and toughest little boy that I had the pleasure of getting to know and love. He would light up a room with his smile and gave the sweetest hugs and kisses. Some of my favorite memories of Wyatt were playing with his toys or just watching cartoons. Another favorite is when they would FaceTime me from Texas or call me during a football game to just say “Go Tigers!” (To mess with me because I am a diehard Crimson Tide fan).

Wyatt was diagnosed at three-months-old with Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue cancer. He had surgery followed by 399 days of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. He went into remission, but then, unfortunately, relapsed – which led to more treatment, radiation, and an extensive surgery at M.D. Anderson in Houston, Texas. Eric and Ashley had to relocate there for three months for his surgery and treatment. This is where they met the incredible Melissa Bellinger who started the A Shelter for Cancer Families organization that provides housing and support to families affected by cancer in the Texas area.

bracelet team wyattAshley and Eric created a Facebook page (TeamWyatt) to keep family and friends updated on Wyatt’s condition. His page has 5,477 followers from all across the world. It is filled with messages of love, support, and prayers showing beautiful pictures of sweet Wyatt and his family. T-shirts, decals, and matching bracelets with the words “No One Fights Alone” were made to show support for Wyatt and his fight. Unfortunately, he passed away on April 28th, 2017.

Just a week after Wyatt passed, and despite their unimaginable loss, his parents held an event to honor Wyatt and raise money for A Shelter for Cancer Families. I was honored to volunteer with the organization and Wyatt’s family, and we raised $10,000 in one evening.

This amazing little boy endured surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments like a champ. He never complained. Wyatt will never be forgotten and will forever be loved by his beautiful family. Despite his life being so tragically cut short at two and a half years old, his parents and family gave him a lifetime of love and adventures in that short time. I know that he is watching over them and his new little sister Emma Ray Hope from Heaven and will forever be their guardian angel.

family picI will always love Ashley and Eric for allowing me to become an honorary member of their family and the time I spent with sweet Wyatt. Ashley, I love you like a sister, a close friend, and the daughter that I never had. Thank you both for sharing your most precious Wyatt with me and the world. To Wyatt, we will continue to fight for more funding and for a cure. You will always be my superhero.  I will always love you and hold you in my heart forever.

#teamwyattforever #noonefightsalone #superhero #hulk #sweetwyatt #ashelterforcancerfamilies

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

by Tina Michelle Cameron

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Gold is the color representing childhood cancer. How I wish that neither of these would exist. Cancer shouldn’t exist—for anyone – adults or children. This statement is coming from a woman who worked for 25 years as an adult oncology nurse. I would love to have to find a different field of nursing to work in – this would mean, cancer doesn’t exist. But, unfortunately, this is not the case.

Image 2Many people think childhood cancer is rare. But, each day in the United States, 43 families will hear the words parents should never hear: “your child has cancer.” It is the number one disease killer of children in the U.S. and the second leading cause of death (after accidents) in children ages 5-14. This means that every two minutes a child is diagnosed with cancer. This is an average of 300,000 kids worldwide being diagnosed each year—does this sound rare to you? This is unacceptable. Something must change. We need to demand more for these precious, innocent children.

I have listed the seven most common types of pediatric cancers. Leukemia is the number one cancer in children followed by Rhabdomyosarcoma, Wilms’ Tumor, Neuroblastoma, Lymphoma, Retinoblastoma, and Brain/Spinal Cord Tumors.

According to the Coalition Against Childhood Cancer (CAC2)* in 2014, of the $4.9 billion budget of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), only four percent went to research for childhood cancers. So, exactly how much is 4%– 4% of a dozen donuts is half a donut; 4% of an 8-hour night of sleep is 19.2 minutes and 4% of a $50,000 salary is $2,000.

Image 3Are you shocked? Has your mouth fallen open yet after reading that? Mine too. Were you also aware that since 1980, there have only been 3 new drugs approved for pediatric cancer treatment? In addition, only 4 new drugs approved for both pediatric and adult cancer treatment. These children are receiving adult-strength dosages to treat their cancers. The NCI needs to put childhood cancers as a higher priority as well as pharmaceutical companies. Many adult cancers receive private funding, this is not the case for pediatric cancers.

Parents are terrified of losing their child to this horrible disease, but must also still deal with life—work, other children at home, financial worries, as well as watching their child be sick with nausea/vomiting, pain, diarrhea, mouth sores, hair loss and other side effects from their treatments. Children that survive cancer often face lifelong problems from their treatments. These problems can range from breathing problems and difficulty walking to sight, hearing and heart issues. Many of these children can become traumatized from everything they go through. So, even though the treatments are over, their journey is still not over. They will have the fear of it returning.

Image 1Parents should not worry about losing their job, their home, their car or getting behind on bills because of the financial burden that cancer treatments cost. Many parents must create a GoFundMe page, so they can stay with their child in the hospital or be with them for their lengthy treatments. This should not be. We as a nation need to stand up for these children and do better. We need to ensure more research funding goes to these children. They deserve more than 4%.

*Credit for cancer statistics given to Coalition Against Childhood Cancer and the National Cancer Institute.

Summer Road Trip Series: Part VI God’s Protective Hand

By Marianna Boyce

God had graciously paused a thunderstorm to grant us a couple of hours at the Grand Canyon for some breathtaking views. As we were walking to the car after a phenomenal sunset, Gerry mentioned his throat was sore, so our son, Cody, drove the eighty-mile trek back to Flagstaff. The heavy downpour resumed as we were exiting the park.

Gerry dozed in the front seat while I searched my travel app for room availability at Little America Hotel. I fell in love with this eclectic little place during our visit in 2015, but wouldn’t you know, there would be no vacancies this year. The one reservation I should’ve booked months in advance, I didn’t. Being on a whirlwind road trip, I wasn’t sure the exact day we’d arrive—until today.

Rain 2I was disappointed, but more so, I was concerned when every familiar hotel lining Flagstaff’s main thoroughfare also showed no vacancy. Not sure where to go, Cody stopped for gasoline while we determined our next course of action. I ran inside the store to purchase Hall’s cherry-flavored cough drops for Gerry. Clouds were still pouring buckets of water on this crisp, dark night, so I was drenched and shivering, laughing uncontrollably at myself as I jumped back into the car. Gerry also chuckled at my misfortune but appreciated the nice gesture in my attempt to make him feel better.

I finally found a room available at a Hampton Inn further north of our current location. I asked Gerry for his wallet in order to book it. God, on the other hand, had a different plan.

In transit, I pulled out our Chase credit card and entered the requested information into my iPhone. We’d had this card for more than twenty-five years and never had any problems; yet tonight, it declined—four times in a row.

God’s unique warning in something as simple as this declined credit card is no coincidence.

No longer in the tourist section of Flagstaff, we slowly drove through the relentless rainstorm finding ourselves amidst their local nightlife district—clearly the wrong side of town for us. I’m not sure if there was a college or university close-by, but the young, raucous crew was having a blast, unconcerned about the downpour and thunder clapping around them. Most were beyond tipsy as they entered and exited local bars, so we wasted no time turning the car around to head in the opposite direction. I’m sure the hotel further north of this little party district was a nice one, but we were suddenly okay with our current ‘declined credit card’ situation.

Rain 1Our energy levels were completely depleted. I dreaded mentioning there were no hotels south of us for sixty additional miles. Gerry stated we’d be heading south in the morning anyway, so why not get a head start? We both did our part keeping Cody alert as he navigated unfamiliar roads in the deluge of falling waters from the sky. I’d never seen so much rain in my entire life. The drive from Flagstaff to Sedona was quite treacherous. Little did we know, it was the beginning of monsoon season for North America.

Monsoons originate in Mexico. They quickly form when seasonal shifts in wind direction create an entirely different type of weather pattern. These nasty storms push into the southwestern states and are quite dangerous—especially with flash flooding. We were oblivious to the seriousness of the monsoon winds and torrential rain. God saw fit to safely guide us through it all.

I managed to find a delightful room in Sedona at a Holiday Inn using my handy-dandy travel app, but in order to book it, we needed that pesky little credit card. Surely, it had been flagged for suspicious activity, so I suggested using another card. Gerry, however, was adamant in using the one rejected earlier. With a smirk on my face, I shook my head the entire time thinking it would decline again. This time, he verbally called out the card number, expiration date, and CVV code, as I re-entered them into my iPhone.

I quickly sat straight up in my seat, dropping my phone in the process. I wiped away the smirk as my eyes widened and asked, “Wait—what? What’s that expiration date again?”

Gerry’s calm reply was, “October, 2020.”

Fumbling for my phone in the darkness, I giggled and said, “Honey, no wonder the card rejected earlier. I was giving the expiration date as September, not October. What was I thinking?”

I’m almost positive Gerry rolled his eyes as Cody burst out laughing. We were all clearly amused for the bone-headed moment I had earlier as I tried booking a room in northern Flagstaff.

When we entered the parking lot of our hotel in Sedona, we quietly sat in the car for a few moments. Mesmerized by the rain now gently falling from the heavens, we listened to the soothing sound created on the windshield, but the hypnotic state we were all experiencing could’ve also had something to do with our sheer exhaustion.

Selfie With RocksAs we laid our heads on the fluffy white pillows and drifted off to sleep that stormy night, we were all comforted, knowing every single detail unfolded exactly as it should have. Without God’s protective hand, who knows what we may have encountered otherwise.

He had clearly spoken—not audibly, but God was present the entire day. From the splendor and beauty of the sights we’d seen to the minor inconveniences we needed to block our so-called, brilliant plan—He was attentive to our every need. As always, He had everything under control. God reminded us of how our way is not always the best way. When things don’t go accordingly, it may be for our own good. God’s protection thousands of miles from home was His priority for my family—I’m absolutely convinced of it.

I was elated departing Sedona the following morning on a beautiful, sunshiny day. We were less than six hours from the sole purpose of this entire road trip. It would be our final destination before heading back to the Palmetto State of South Carolina, and I could hardly wait…

Delivering Happiness – A Second Time!

By Maddie Shumpert

I was blessed to welcome my second daughter, Riley, into the world earlier this summer. As a second-time parent, I felt a little more prepared, informed and ready to grow our family than perhaps I did the first time around – and that’s part of why I chose to deliver my baby at Lexington Medical Center.

My older daughter Parker was born at LMC four years ago and we had a wonderful experience. So, when we were getting ready to welcome our second child, I had fond memories of the first birth experience but wanted to make sure I considered all my options. I am actually a nurse at a different hospital so, in many ways, it made more sense for me to deliver there. But I knew that LMC had just opened their new tower with an entirely new Labor & Delivery area and Mother Baby nursery area and was interested in what that offered.

We opted to take a tour of the new North Tower and were completely blown away by the new facilities. The rooms seemed much larger and more accommodating for our family. But what was most impressive and was a real factor in our decision was how kind and welcoming the LMC staff was to us. From the moment we stepped in the door, we saw smiling faces who made us feel at home and welcomed. In addition, I’m lucky to have a few friends as LMC employees. They had been part of my first delivery, which was an awesome experience, so I was looking forward to having them be a part of this one too.

Delivery teamAs my scheduled delivery date drew closer, we had lots to prepare and a little bit of anticipation, because we had kept the gender a surprise. But I genuinely was excited to deliver my baby at LMC. I delivered Riley via a scheduled C-section with Dr. Garrick, who rearranged her schedule to accommodate the shifts of my friends, so they were able to join us again. The entire LMC team made my c-section delivery very special and as comfortable as possible. After delivery, the nursing staff was like a part of our family, helping to capture images of this incredible moment where my best friend was able to tell us that we had another daughter. That’s how we got this amazing photo, with this awesome clear drape, of me and my best friend just moments after Riley was born.

clear drapeOne of the other main differences in this second delivery was the skin-to-skin experience that I was able to have with Riley. Once she was born, she really never left my side, and the nursing team made that possible. We were able to bond immediately through that experience and I will always cherish that special time.

My experience at LMC was truly the best delivery I could have hoped for and was such a special beginning for our daughter’s life. I am so grateful for all the care and attention we received!

Football Fandom. To Be or Not to Be…

By Shannon Boatwright

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them.

 

There is no question for me. I end them. Yep, I could not care less about football. Heavens to Betsy, what is wrong with me!?!?!!!???!!!! I’m a Southern girl and deep down I could not care less about football????? Oh, the horrors!

Ok, so I’m getting a bit dramatic here by using a Shakespeare soliloquy from Hamlet to reference my disdain for football season. But bear with me, ‘cause I know I am not alone. I may not be surrounded by people who are in my camp of dislike, but I know they’re out there. I have internet, I’ve read blogs. There are other people out there who share in my suffering. Yes, I know Hamlet is contemplating life versus death in this gorgeous, deep soliloquy, but work with me here. I’m looking at it from a different point of view and well, I AM a drama teacher so excuse me for not being able to resist integrating a little Shakespeare, as I do think he’d consider the whole football shebang absolutely ridiculous.

Cheerleader

Now, all you football fans, the psycho ones included, don’t get your panties ina wad, I have respect for the sport and am not trying to diss anyone. I’m just simply stating that IT’S NOT MY THANG. And nowadays, I’m not ashamed to admit it. I was a cheerleader in high school and I loved the environment of cheering on others. As I grew up, I recognized I love the coming together, the passion, the partying. Would I rather tailgate than actually watch the game? You betcha. I’m not gonna let a bunch of 20 something year-olds ruin my day because they couldn’t complete a truly complicated pass to win a game.

That daggone game they’re playing is HARD. So, when relatives and/or friends are screaming at the TV because their player did not succeed in whatever play…let’s just say, it’s all my sarcastic self can do not to yell in their obnoxious face, “You get out there and do it yourself, you overzealous dingbat!”  Sorry, it’s just one of my pet peeves when it comes to humanity. Of all the things to fuss about and most humans waste their energy on something they themselves could never do, something that is literally just a game.

And let’s just consider for a quick moment the fact that I’m a teacher and the reality that football players (college and professional especially) are treated like absolute rock stars, yet teachers – THE ANGELS WHO GROW, INSPIRE, REACH & TEACH ALL celebrities and rock stars – don’t get paid squat compared to these football people. We don’t get a quarter of the notoriety, AND we are grossly underappreciated… well, it’s enough to boil my blood. Do we sacrifice our bodies like a football player? Not necessarily, but we certainly sacrifice our sanity, our health and time with our families.  Those of us who give over 100% to the profession of teaching absolutely make incredible sacrifices. So why is the world so backward? Why are teachers not being interviewed at press conferences and being hailed as superstars? Why aren’t teachers being paid millions for literally growing and inspiring good humans who contribute to society?

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. A society of backward nonsense. That to me is the world of sports to a degree. No one in their right mind can deny the ridiculousness of it. Again, does this mean I have any disrespect for the people of sports and their awesome hard work? Absolutely not, my admiration is huge. I just wish teachers were awarded the same respect, admiration and monetary worth.

Carolina FootballSo… back to my point, do I personally enjoy the football fandom? Not really, nope. Do I sometimes laugh at it? Yep, can’t help it. But hey, to each her own. If getting all worked up, raising your blood pressure and screaming at the tv or field brings you joy, then I’m all for it. If the Gamecocks are playing the Tigers, will I hoot and holler for the Cocks? You betcha. Will I enjoy the drinks and food more? Probably. I admit it, my world will not end if a team I like loses a game. As I lose my husband, my best friend and other people in my life to football fandom, I’ll keep moving forward and enjoy the passion in the game, and try to keep the big picture from completely ticking me off and instead, just let it continue to be a character study in the absurdities of humanity.

Shakespeare QuoteDo I take arms against this sea of troubles? Nope! Totally not worth it. There are too many humans who are completely and utterly taken with the game. Instead, I stay nobler in the mind and just suffer a bit.

Here’s to surviving this season of football fandom and here’s to hoping the food and drinks are really darn good! As Shakespeare says so well, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts…”   😉  😉

Go Team!

 

School Lunches, Gluten Free

By Rachel Sircy

Last post I wanted to remind all of us to be mindful of the food allergies that other people might be suffering. It’s important to keep our friends and even our teachers in mind when we pack our lunches because food allergies are becoming extremely prevalent. Now, though, I want to turn my attention to those of us who have to pack gluten free lunches for our little (or not so little) ones. 

My daughter – whose name I don’t divulge on the internet, so I’ll just call her HRH (short for Her Royal Highness) – doesn’t exactly have to be gluten free, but I do. We are homeschooling, but we have a homeschooling co-op where we meet with other parents and students once a week. Because we have this one school day per week (and because I have to attend school with HRH), I have to think about packing my lunch own lunch as well as hers. I also have to think about how to avoid cross-contamination when packing (and unpacking and eating) our food. 

Now, I’m a person who likes to cook and who believes that there is only one really safe way for celiacs to eat, which is to make whatever you eat yourself. I have only just begun to realize how difficult this truly is when you have to prepare meals that need to be portable and finger-friendly. For those of you who are sending your children to public or private schools, getting your child’s school lunches together must be like trying to prepare for five picnics every week. So, I thought that this week, I’d try to share what I’d learned (and some new ideas, too) about how to do gluten free lunchtime shortcuts. Here are a few: 

  1. My first piece of advice is to keep things fresh. Fresh fruit and vegetables are naturally gluten free, and most are finger friendly. I am personally a huge fan of celery, dipped in ranch, soy or sun butter, gluten free guacamole or gf hummus. You can make the hummus or guac yourself at home and then just pack individual servings, but there are also several brands of both guacamole and hummus which are gluten free and some of which come in individual packages. I personally am a big fan of the Aldi brand of guacamole that comes in individual servings. 
  2. You can also make sandwich or cracker spreads ahead of time and dish them up in individual servings. Since gluten free bread is hard to eat without toasting it, and since it doesn’t last long after you toast it (it gets this weird, gross chewiness to it that makes you feel like you’re trying to eat rubberized bread), I simply don’t mess with it. Crackers work just fine for most sandwich spreads. Multigrain chips work with pimento cheese, as do Glutino Brand gf bagel chips. I make pretty good chicken salad that is delicious with crackers. I would give you the recipe, except that I don’t use one. I simply boil and shred a couple of boneless skinless chicken breasts and add in chopped green onion, celery, toasted pecans and dried cranberries (Ocean Spray claims that its plain Craisins are gluten free, but beware because the trail mixes, etc., containing Craisins are NOT). I don’t use a whole lot of mayonnaise to bind everything together, but of course, I never use anything other than Duke’s. (P.S. If I take this mix to school, I leave out the toasted pecans.)
  3. Don’t forget there are safe gluten free companies out there pre-packaging food for us! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I think Enjoy Life Foods is the best all-around brand for any group get together because they make sure their food is free from the top 8 allergens. So, if your kid likes peanut butter, pack him an Enjoy Life Sunbutter bar. They are gluten and allergen free and I think they’re pretty tasty. 
  4. If you’re packing a gluten free and a non-gluten free lunch, make sure that you don’t try to do everything at once. Don’t have gluten free bread or crackers out while you’re making wheat toast or slicing banana bread or something. Crumbs can make a celiac sick, so avoid them at all cost. Pack the gluten free lunch first. And with any spread (like a soy or nut butter spread) mark the spread gluten free before you even open it so that all family members will know that gluten free precautions apply to this particular jar. I keep a sharpie in the kitchen drawer just below the snack cabinet for just such a purpose. (I label all gluten-contaminated jam and nut butter jars “contaminated” so I’ll know not to use them). If my husband and daughter have to use my stuff, they know the drill – Dip out what you want with a clean teaspoon or tablespoon. Seal the jar back up and put it in the cabinet or refrigerator. Then take a knife and spread what’s in the spoon onto your wheat bread. Voila! Gluten free with ease. 

If you would like more variety, let me recommend Beyond Celiac’s webpage for kid-friendly gluten free snacks and appetizers (they also have a few pages dedicated to gf recipes for kids lunches – although frankly, I thought they seemed a bit too grown up for a school age kid). Visit : https://www.beyondceliac.org/gluten-free-recipes-categories/appetizers-snacks+for-kids/