#match4lara

I have a phobia of blood. Silly, when I am a female with monthly female cycles (well, nine-weekly, thanks to running my pill back to back).

The first time I realised I had a phobia of blood, I was working in a nursery and a kid had a nose bleed. Prior to this, blood had just been one of those things that other people dealt with. But when it was my turn to step up to the plate, I freaked out.

A few years later, I tried to donate blood to help get me over this ridiculous phobia. But as I walked into the donation centre, I started to freak out. The relief when they told me they had no spaces was overwhelming. I think what freaked me out the most was how sterile and clinical it all seemed, despite being held in a school hall.

I had to have my blood taken last year to test for coeliac disease. I have the kind of veins that refuse to pop out, and it took the seasoned nurse a fair few times to get the blood to actually flow. So long as I didn’t look at what was going on, I was fine, but the experience still freaked me out.

But this phobia and my failure to donate blood has always annoyed me. I want to be able to donate blood, but I just cannot man up enough to do it. When I accepted I was never going to be able to psych myself up enough to be a blood donor, I registered as an organ donor instead. At least I was doing something.

Which is why I am still shocked that I found myself signing up to the Anthony Nolan stem cell register yesterday morning. What prompted this outpouring of selflessness? match4lara. She is a 24 year old of mixed heritage, who needs a stem cell transplant due to leukaemia. Reading the blog of a girl with cystic fibrosis, Tor, prompted me to sign up to be an organ donor. Reading about Lara did the same.

I guess the thing about being a stem cell donor is that you know that you are directly saving a life that a lot of people couldn’t help. It’s not like being able to receive type O blood, but about having someone who is a genetic match help you out. The fact that 90% of white Britons will find a match whilst only 40% of ethnic minorities will is awful. I can’t help on the ethnic minority front, being white British (with a hint of Italian), but every little helps, as they say!

So, if you’re between he ages of 16-30 and feeling generous, why not sign up over at Anthony Nolan and try to conquer your phobias like me?

Nikki x

Nous Sommes Paris

I realise I haven’t blogged in a while, apologies! Life has been relatively drama-free so I haven’t had much to write about, but I really ought to get back into the habit of blogging.

Anyway, this is just a quick repost of something I put on Facebook earlier:

Atrocities happen the world over, every day. I think we’re all well aware of that. It’s not that people don’t care, it’s that people are desensitised to it.

A terrorist attack in a peaceful country like France is unexpected and thus shocking. A suicide bomber in one of the many war-torn countries in the Middle East? Not so much.

There is only so much death and destruction the human mind is capable of comprehending – this is why a photograph of a single dead child washed up on a Greek beach stirs the heart more than images of thousands of dead Syrians; we are incapable of comprehending such evil and desperation on such a vast scale. It’s why so many didn’t see the Holocaust when it was happening right under their noses.

If we were to devote the same amount of energy to every single tragedy that happens every day the world over, we’d soon suffer from emotional fatigue. It is simply not possible to deal with it without going mad.

I’m a pacifist and my heart breaks with every single war-related tragedy I hear about, but surely it is understandable to feel more emotion for a stable country with which we share so much; culture, ancestry, history.

No human life is worth more than another, but you cannot blame the human mind for instinctively empathising with one group of people more than another.

Nikki x

Gluten. Gluten everywhere.

a1wrcx

I haven’t been writing here much recently because, honestly, not much has been going on in my life! The job is going well, my love life is non-existent, the puppy is now a year old and has calmed down considerably… things are constant.

One thing that has changed, however, is me seeking a diagnosis for what I like to call my ‘uncooperative tummy’. For years I have had ‘tummy issues’; without delving into detail, I am sure you can imagine what this consists of! Earlier this year, I was getting a bit fed up of my stomach bloating up by 2 inches every evening (yep, I measured!) and the constant gnawing pain in my gut. So I did what every 20-something hypochondriac does and googled that shit. Wheat came out as the top cause of tummy issues, so I cut it out. To no avail. What I had done was replace wheat with rye bread, so after a few weeks of trying this approach, I did some more research and cut out gluten. Now this wasn’t an easy decision, as I had recently discovered I quite like the taste of ale, but ale doesn’t like me. So fast forward a month or so and lo and behold, the stomach aches had vanished. The bloat was still there, but not quite as drastic. I hadn’t had a tummy ache in weeks. I was onto something!

Then I did what I always do, and became obsessed. Just cutting out gluten wasn’t good enough for me, oh no! I have PCOS and had read that the best diet for those of us with a stubborn metabolism is the ketogenic diet. I did this for about 6 weeks, and I lost a few pounds and all was dandy. Who doesn’t like living on eggs and steak and butter? Well I’ll tell you; me. As delicious as this diet is, another medical problem I have to add to my myriad of medical problems is LPR. LPR (Laryngopharyngeal Reflux) is acid reflux where you don’t get heartburn, but instead get an insanely burny throat and post nasal drip. It’s not great, especially since I like to sing! Since April I’ve been on Lansoprazole twice a day which seems to keep it bay. Or rather it did, until I upped my fat intake for the ketogenic diet. So to make the burny feeling go away, I slowly eased myself out of keto; kept my diet low carb but lowered my fat intake too.

Now around this time it was my birthday, and I work in an office. There were cakes. There were lunches out. There was BEER. My diet went out the window. And slowly the bloat returned. The stomach aches made a reappearance. Other things I won’t mention started to happen again. I was not a happy bunny. So I manned up, and visited the doctor.

My doctor was convinced I had IBS. I was a ‘textbook case’. But because of the NICE guidelines, I was tested for lots of other things. Which wasn’t fun, because I have a blood phobia. But I was determined to get to the bottom of it! Fast forward to two weeks later, and I’m sat in my doctor’s office as she says that I tested negative for coeliac, thyroid problems, inflammation (which could indicate chron’s), anaemia, and my immune system response was as it should be. There was nothing wrong with me that they could test for, so thanks to my symptoms and my results on a gluten-free diet, I was diagnosed with IBS with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity. Woooo. Don’t you just love that catch-all diagnosis of IBS?!

In a way, I’m a bit skeptical for testing negative for Coeliac Disease as I didn’t actually eat gluten for the 8 weeks prior to the test; I ate it for maybe three? But I felt so shit eating it that I just couldn’t wait to get it over and done with. There’s a lot of research coming out about NCGS; some link it to FODMAPS, which I don’t think is my problem as when I was doing keto I ate a LOT of garlic and cauliflower. Others believe that gluten intolerance is a spectrum, with NCGS at one end and coeliac at the other. Some don’t believe NCGS is a real thing, but all the major charities and research centres recognise it, including Coeliac UK, National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, Celiac Disease Foundation and  the University of Chicago’s Celiac Disease Center. Whatever it is, I know that I need to avoid it. To celebrate my not being coeliac, mom and I went out for dinner and I had a burger. Since then I have had constant stomach issues, and this was 5 days ago. (My mom also had the burger and was fine, so no, no boar burger food poisoning!) Feeling like this is so not worth the taste of bread, as delicious as bread is!

So in light of this diagnosis and my new way of eating, I think I will try and keep this blog updated a bit more. I’m lucky that I’m not coeliac, but the treatment is still the same, and in a way I feel like my body must be telling me something when you look at the way it reacts. I’m not doing this to be trendy; nothing is more embarrassing than asking a bored waitress the ingredients of everything on the menu. And I really like Guinness’ West Indies Porter! That I can’t drink that ever again (unless I want to feel like shit for a week) is punishment enough. I admit it could be another component of grain, as I don’t think I can tolerate oats either (currently testing this one out), but I still have to avoid the same stuff so does it really matter?

Wish me luck!

The Genographic Project

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with my ancestry. Where I come from, who my ancestors were, what connections to other countries we have.

What I do know isn’t very interesting. My dad’s mom was from Dublin, but she was brought up by nuns and we know little of her family. Esther Mary O’Connor; what a perfect Irish name. Her mother’s maiden name was Taaffe, and aside from the street she was born on (I have a copy of her birth certificate), we know nothing else about that side of the family. There are rumours that her brothers were involved with the IRA (what fun!), but it’s all just speculation. My dad just never thought to ask the questions that come to me, and she died in the ’80s, when I was a baby.

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Graduation!

This is a cross-post from my blog about my experience with The Open University: Open All Hours.

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Graduating in front of my favourite bar: apt!

So that’s it. I’ve done it. All done and dusted. The end of an era!

Despite finishing my degree last year, I only graduated this past Saturday (November 23rd) because of when the graduation ceremonies were. I wasn’t that bothered about going but boy, am I glad I did!

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492.

So how did I cope with my first fasting day on the 5:2 diet?

I’m not gonna lie. It was hard.

I was fine in the morning; I had 2 satsumas and a cup of tea and I had my game face ON. I had lunch at 3.30 with my mom which consisted of this lovely mushroom stroganoff. But then what I feared would happen, happened. The time between lunch and dinner is always the time where my rational mind leaves me and I become ravenous, and yesterday was no different. I had to have a couple of snacks (a few almonds, a slice of lean ham) to keep me going! Then I got light headed, lost all concentration and got a headache.

For dinner I had a stuffed red pepper with veggies on the side which did actually fill me up quite a bit. And just before I went to bed, I had a miso soup that everyone on the forums raves about. Ugh, it’s gross. Really, really gross. Too salty and too seaweedy. Never again!

So I made it through the day having consumed 492 calories (give or take a few, calorie counts vary wildly online). I had a cracking headache by the time I went to bed but I’ve woken up with a sore throat this morning so it could be completely unrelated to the fasting. I live in hope! I think next time (Monday) I will try leaving all my calories until the evening. Although I’m not entirely sure how it will work as I’m going to the theatre to see Derren Brown. Ahh, I’ll play it by ear.

My mom seemed to find it easy, cowbag that she is. She seems much more determined having someone do it alongside her, and it works both ways. I can’t let her down!

I promise this blog won’t turn into ‘Nicola’s diet diary’, so I will shut up on the subject for a while unless I lose like, a stone in a month 😉

Ciao for now!

Nikki x

Tomorrow, I attempt something scary…

Dr Michael Mosley

So I’ve never been skinny. I’d say I’m average sized (but short, alas!) I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome at 14 which basically means it’s harder for me to lose weight and I’m at an increased risk of diabetes and infertility – unless I maintain a healthy weight! (I actually don’t know much about it. I’m very lucky in that it has never affected me in any major way.)

I was put on Metformin at 14, which is a tablet they prescribe to diabetics. It maintained my weight for ten odd years until it started making me very, very ill. Constant headaches, tummy aches, digestion problems – you name it! One day I came off it, and within a month I’d lost a stone and have maintained that weight loss ever since.

I then started working out intermittently and dropped a dress size (my weight stayed the same, I guess because of building up muscle?) but now I’ve sort of plateaued.

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Äventyr i svenska. (Adventures in Swedish.)

Genuine Swedish chocolate bars.

I learn Swedish. I go to classes and everything. I’m not entirely sure why, but hey, it keeps me out of trouble. (Actually, I am sure why: once upon a time I developed an unhealthy obsession with Alexander Skarsgård which lent itself to a slightly more healthy obsession with Sweden and I still entertain ideas in my head of being swept off my feet by a tall Viking type. Also, it’s high-LAR-ious to listen to.)

Of course, Swedes speak English a bajillion times better than I could ever hope to speak their tongue, so it’s all in vain to be honest. But I try!

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Blogs you need to follow.

I love finding a new blog or site that blows me away and is worthy of a place on my RSS feed. Here are a few of my favourites. Because sharing is caring!

TwistedSifter
Some of the most fabulous photos to ever exist. They will fill you with awe, guaranteed.

Scouting NY
I have never been to New York but it’s on my Bucket List. This blog is run by a movie location scout who posts about unusual places and spaces in New York. It fascinates me and if you know of any similar blogs about other cities, please let me know!

Mental Floss
‘Where knowledge junkies get their fix’ – what more need I say? This site is why I know so much pointless crap.

BootsnAll
A site filled with travel articles for both the round the world backpacker and those of us who can’t go anywhere without at least four plug sockets.

Separated By a Common Language
Written by an American linguist who lives in England, this blog highlights the differences between our shared language and theorises how the differences emerged. One for the language geeks!

Zen Pencils
Famous quotes comic-ised. I’m not normally one for comics or motivational speeches and a lot of these don’t appeal to me but when they do, they really work. 

Cake Wrecks
I only really check this blog out on a Sunday because then they post the most amazing feats of wizardry. Every other day they just post really bad looking cakes.

Damn That Looks Good
Food I wish I could eat, but have to be content to simply stare at. 

PostSecret
An oldie but a goodie that surely everyone knows by now. Each Sunday, new secrets are posted. It’s an odd mixture of art and gossip.

The Oatmeal
Another one most people know of, devoted to funny cartoons/comics.

xkcd
Comics for geeks! (I don’t get all of these. You probably won’t either.)

Twaggies
Funny tweets illustrated.

Cracked
If you like lists, humour and learning pointless shit, you’re going to love this site.

And another staple that has recently had a huge overhaul is Digg. Previously a site that started to become overrun with conspiracy theorists, Digg has changed hands and is now much more carefully curated, featuring articles for everyone.

Attempt #1,235

Yes, this is my umpteenth attempt at keeping a public blog. Yet this one will work. This will be my blog to end all of my other blogs full of five-odd posts.

I hope you like the title of my blog. It was inspired by this:

So, if by some random miracle you have stumbled upon this not knowing who I am, then I shall introduce myself:

I am Nikki. My real name is Nicola Jayne, but no one ever calls me Nicola so it’s slightly pointless telling you that.

I am exactly twenty four years and six months old – tomorrow.

I like hideously sweet fruit flavoured cider, learning Swedish, eskimo kisses and dance music.

I do not like spiders, people who don’t listen the first time I tell them something, Renaissance art and Eastenders (too shouty).

I work part time at a museum as a tour guide. Not any old tour guide; a ghost tour guide. However, I do not believe in ghosts. If I did, I couldn’t do my job. (I have seen weird things but I put them out of my mind, for I do not like the realm where the laws of science appear to have no influence.)

I study with the Open University, but I have almost come to an end. If you are interested in knowing anything about my OU experience, please read this blog. I also used to study at Kent but dropped out in my second year. I studied Drama and spent a year and a half making cardboard box forts and standing on the streets of Canterbury next to a classmate dressed as a toilet paper mummy. Apparently it was art.

Well, I think that is a good enough introduction! I intend to update this blog sort of regularly, so please do stop by again soon.

Nikki x