Shutterbug's Blog

Living with Multiple Myeloma in Hyderabad , India . Random musings .


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My Journey through 2018

As I successfully complete 7yrs after my Stem Cell Transplant (In December 2011) for Multiple Myeloma , I feel blessed and would like to summarize my journey through 2018.

One of the best things to happen this year is that I just had one bout of severe cough and cold and that was the only time I took Antibiotics during the whole year. There were a few times when a cough had just begun and thanks to my Ayurvedic Doctor who gave me a powder which instantly controlled the cough. He advised me to never ever take Antibiotics for a cough. Hitherto I was meeting the ENT Specialist once every few months and I was popping Antibiotics each time. Am sure my ENT Doctor is missing me and wondering what happened to me :)). I have also begun using a mask when I venture out , especially Malls, Supermarkets etc . These masks are a boon. I have also written a post about my adventures with the Mask in this Blog :)

A few months ago I had severe pain and swelling in my right knee . I was advised to take pain killers and antibiotics by an orthopedic. When I discussed with my Ayurvedic Doctor , he gave me Wokvel and said this will prevent any further issue in my knees. My knees are doing great now. I do a few exercises and also give a little oil massage to my knees before sleeping. So far so good.

Visited my Grannys Village near Nellore twice this year. I always look forward to visiting this tiny village.

A wish to visit Pondicherry and Kanchipuram was fulfilled. Didn’t expect to visit Chidambaram and also go on a boat ride among the Mangroves in Pichavaram .

My Uric acid levels have been within the limits but are on the higher side. Currently drinking lots of water, eating cucumbers and gave up meat and eggs.

A Biannual visit to my Oncologist is pending . Did a few blood tests recently and my Globulin Serum levels are well within the normal range.

On the advise of some beautiful people I have incorporated a few activities in my daily routine. I now recite the ‘Vishnu Sahasranamam’ every morning . Takes 25 minutes each morning. The vibrations generated by chanting are supposed to help the body and mind.

I also started doing a ‘Colour Meditation’ advised by my Mentor in my MM journey . This 15 minute guided Meditation by Brahma Kumaris (Youtube) has become an important part of my daily routine in the Morning and Evening. Meditation helps in healing .

Pranayama twice a day is a must. Takes 20 minutes each time. I walk for 10 minutes a few times a week. Some popular Yoga Masters claim that a few hours of Bhastrika and Anulom Vilom Pranayama twice a day can stop Cancer as Cancer cells cannot survive in an Oxygen rich environment. I strongly advise all Survivors to do anything and everything to put a check on the cells.

Having a comfortable time at work which keeps me busy for 9 hours everyday. Thanks to my wonderful colleagues.

Met a lot of friends from school and college all through the year. Attended several events hosted by family and friends like Weddings, house warming , Baby Showers etc.

My spiritual journey continues and I am glad to have come across Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, thanks to our recent trip to Pondicherry. I had bought a few books from the library in Aurobindo Ashram on Healing.
Started reading these books and found great insights into how the Mind/Thoughts can heal a person. Very minute details are discussed which are very practical and can be implemented easily so as to get healed. Through these books am able to appreciate the Spiritual teachings  of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.
‘Intergrated Healing’ is one book which I will review once I am done reading.

Nice to see that the hits on my Blog are increasing. I get visitors from small unknown countries too. This motivates me to post more and hopefully the posts motivate more people.

Wishing all the readers of my Blog a Healthy and Peaceful 2019 !!

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Hyderabad to Pondicherry- Dec 2018

The plan was to visit Kanchipuram and Chidambaram while staying at Pondicherry. There is a direct flight to Pondicherry from Hyderabad. A one and half hour journey which is the best way to reach Pondy quickly. The other option is to go via Chennai and then drive to Pondy by road. One can also spend a few hours at Mahabalipuram which is on the way. We took the flight.

Here is a Summary of our stay in Puducherry.


What to see –

Beaches

View of Promenade Beach and the walking path from the Terrace of Le Cafe
Le Cafe and the Walking Path along the beach.
The Rocky , noisy Promenade Beach
Serenity Beach

There are four well known beaches namely the Promenade beach , Serenity beach, Paradise beach and Auro beach. We were able to spend an evening at the Promenade and Serenity beaches. Promenade is good for a nice long walk along the road at Sunset. Lots of rocks placed on the shore to prevent erosion. Serenity beach is good for spending some time in the water. Lots of fishing boats parked here. If you are adventurous try some surfing here. The sand is nice and white and the place is quite clean too.

Whitetown This is a part of the town which was colonized by the French and has several buildings (Official and Residential) built in European Architecture style . This area is adjacent to Promenade beach. One can take a stroll around the area to appreciate the architecture , visit the numerous restaurants, cafes , art museums dotted all over the place. Several villas have been converted into Heritage accommodations and have a colonial ambiance. The restaurants serve excellent French Cuisine.

Aurobindo Ashram

The building is quite big when seen from the outside , but once you go in your movements are restricted. Lots of containers with flowering plants greet you as soon as you enter the path leading to the Samadhis. Haven’t been to a place which is as calm as this place though there were a lot of people paying their homage at the Samadhi , which is made in marble and beautifully decorated with a lot of fragrant flowers . Several foreigners paying their respect and several others sitting nearby in quiet complemplation only to be disturbed by the shrieks of parrots. They have a bookstore with books translated from French into several Indian and Foreign languages. Books compiled by disciples from the various speeches given by Shri Aurobindo and the Mother. I bought books that were related to Healing and found that the gist of the writings are very useful for those who want to help / heal themselves in a Spiritual way.

Churches

There are several churches in Whitetown. We stopped at the Lady of Angels Church while going on a tour of Whitetown in a Rick.

Temples

Among the several Temples in Pondicherry we visited the Manakula Vinayagar temple in Whitetown. This is a popular ancient temple which a few centuries old and was revived in spite of several attempts by the french to demolish.

Street Shopping Every town has a few streets that are popular for cheap goodies. Nehru Market is supposed to be very popular and is crowded on Sundays. Our Cab driver told us that Vehicles are not allowed in these streets on Sundays. One can also do some shopping just outside the Vinayagar Temple.

Where to Stay –

Hotels / Villas / Homestays etc are available and one can choose as per their convenience. Several French Villas are converted into Boutique Hotels and do have a restaurant. There are several options closer to the beach too. We stayed in a Hotel as we preferred an elaborate Buffet Breakfast 🙂 coz we would be travelling the whole day and were not sure when/where the next food stop would be.

Where to eat –

Lots of South Indian Restaurants if you wish to try the traditional Tamil/Chettinad food. We went to Karai Chettinad and the Shrimp curry there was awesome. One must try French Cuisine at the several restaurants in Whitetown. Had Dinner at the open air restaurant in Le Dupleix. The food was too good with Live music.

Vegetable Ratatouille. A yummy dish with lots of veggies in a silken gravy and rice.

Auroville

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The Golden Globe . Matrimandir .
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One of the huge Banyan trees near Matrimandir.
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The Boutiques near Visitors Center
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One of the placards displayed in the campus.

A major attraction in Puducherry after the beaches and Whitetown is Auroville. Its a half day trip 10km up north of Pondicherry. As we reached the visitors centre we learnt the tickets to enter Matrimandir were sold out. One has to buy tickets in person. It was a disappointment but it appears they want people to visit the place two times. We watched the Intro video at the visitors center and started walking towards Matrimandir which is 1km from the VC. I preferred taking the battery vehicle which caters to those with kids and elders. I requested to let me go in the vehicle though I didn’t belong to either of the groups and they obliged 🙂 . On our way back I preferred to walk. The place is a young artificial forest , 20 sqkm ,with a variety of trees. The path is beautiful and shady. Only Bicycles and Bikes are allowed inside the campus. Highly advisable to rent a Bike/Bicycle to go around the campus. The Boutiques near the VC, which have a beautiful display of handicrafts and hand made items. Clothes, Crockery , Lamps , processed foods made with Organic produce like jams , snacks etc. We also visited the famous Auroville Bakery . One should stay and spend a few days at Auroville to get a feel of the place and for the mystery of Auroville to be revealed.

How to travel within Puducherry –

Several modes of transport are available. Most youngsters rent a Bike/Bicycle which is actually very comfortable as the traffic is quite less compared to other big cities in India. Several Online Bike Rentals are available and there are a lot of choices. Ola cabs service is good. At the end of a trip , Ola drivers will invariably ask you if you have other plans to travel around Puducherry. When we told them about our plans to Kanchipuram and Chidambaram ,they quickly arranged a cab for a reasonable price compared to the prices quoted by a travel agency. There are autos too plying around but I haven’t seen too many.

I will definitely want to visit Pondicherry again to spend time on the beaches , walking along the streets in Whitetown , eating Chettinad food and French cuisine and also spend more time in Auroville .


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Stir-Fry Vegetables with Chickpeas

There are times when I crave for a lot of veggies. I quickly stir fry whatever veggies I have , sprinkle salt, pepper, lime juice , Olive oil and enjoy a hot bowl of veggies. This is one such day and here is what I dished out. Luckily I had soaked Chickpeas in the refrigerator too which I added to the veggies.

Here is the recipe for Stir-Fry Veggies with Chickpeas –

Ingredients :

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Boiled Chickpeas – 1 Cup (soak dry chickpeas overnight and add a little salt while boiling)
Assorted Vegetables – 2 cups of Veggies (3 to 4 colourful varieties)
Salt – As per your taste
Pepper powder – As per your taste
Garlic pods – 3 chopped pods
Extra Virgin Olive Oil : 1 tablespoon
Any other cooking oil : 1 to 2 teaspoons
Lemon juice : 1 spoon

Method :
1. Add oil to the pan .
2. Add the chopped garlic before oil gets very hot. Stir fry for 30 seconds.
3. Add all the chopped veggies and stir till the veggies are partially cooked.

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4. Add the boiled chickpeas and salt . Stir till the veggies are cooked but not soft. The chickpeas too will get slightly roasted and that makes them yummier.

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5. Remove from the stove.

6. Add pepper powder, drizzle lemon juice and Extra virgin Olive oil . Stir all the ingredients well.

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A nice hot bowl of Stir Fry Vegetables with Chickpeas is ready to be served.
A very filling, nutritious and yummy dish which can be had as dinner too.

Choose vegetables that are colorful. Red / Yellow/ Green bell peppers, Purple cabbage , Green Broccoli or Asparagus, White Baby corn / Cabbage , Carrots  etc. Select a few that are in season and to make the dish colorful and appetizing.

Include roasted or Boiled peanuts, roasted sesame seeds if you wish.


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The Mask

mask cartoon

Nothing shady about the title 🙂 . Nothing to hide 🙂

Am sure I reminded you of ‘The Mask’ and Jim Carrey 🙂

This post is all about how the ‘Mask’ has become one of the most important accessories  during the last 9 months.

My ‘Mask’ is now a constant companion from the moment I step out of the house.

Having struggled with frequent Sore throat problems and dust allergies followed by Antibiotics all these years, I wanted to check if  a Mask would help me stay away from these issues. I invariably end up with a Sore throat if I inhale any kind of dust .

Before I went ahead and bought a mask, I did some research on the internet on the varieties of masks that are available.

Long ago I had read about how an N95 mask can protect the wearer from viruses .

I also learnt the difference between a Respirator and a Surgical Mask.

A Respirator protects the wearer from the environment. Learnt that the N95 Mask is a Respirator.

A Surgical Mask protects the Environment from the wearer of the Mask, so that the wearer of the mask doesn’t transfer any unwanted viruses/bacteria to others.

Bought one N95 Mask that appeared simple , lightweight and comfortable to wear and not too expensive , on Amazon. There are several varieties that one can easily buy online.

Unfortunately I was unable to wear this beyond 5 minutes. Felt suffocated and it was too tight on my face.

simple respirator

The above image is a simple N95 Respirator that I tried.

With the bad experience of wearing an N95 mask , I wanted to try the surgical Mask . If a Surgical Mask can stop letting viruses go out while we breathe/talk then obviously it can stop viruses from getting in too 🙂 . With this conclusion I bought a few normal surgical masks. These are very light and so comfortable to wear. Hardly any suffocation. I liked wearing these even if it meant that I appeared like hospital staff who forgot to remove the mask after leaving the Hospital 🙂

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I now keep a bunch of these in the car seat back pocket.

I began using these when visiting public places like Supermarkets, farmers markets, Malls and Movie theatres . Initially I did feel a little awkward and tried covering my Masked face with my Dupatta/chunni.

A Dupatta/Chunni is like a long scarf worn over the shoulders.

Very soon I felt the Dupatta was restricting my head/facial movements. Stopped using the Dupatta and felt relieved and free. It is not my problem if people are uncomfortable looking at my masked face 🙂 🙂

There are times when I travel through dusty roads and in spite of sitting in a car I felt I should be using a Mask . All the vehicular pollution was making me depressed. I was sure that some of the polluted air was entering the car too. I didn’t want to take any risk of being exposed to any kind of dust.

Very soon I was wearing the Mask everyday on my way to work and back home even while seated in the car :).

I soon started noticing the benefits of wearing a Mask. I haven’t experienced a Sore Throat and Bronchitis issues ever since. It’s been 8 months since I started using a Mask.

I always carry a few Masks in my handbag too. These are disposable Masks which I discard every 2-3 days. Initially I was buying Masks in 10s from the local Pharmacy. Very soon I bought a big box of Disposable ones online and now I don’t have to worry about running out of them. They are very affordable and effective.

I wish more and more people begin using these Masks thereby protecting themselves and also  not transmitting viruses to the environment and those around us.

A lot of men and women in all the cities in India are using Handkerchiefs , Dupattas/ Chunnis to protect themselves from pollution. I sincerely wish that those to see me will be inspired to use these disposable masks  🙂


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Appetizer : Cucumber bites

This sunday I wanted to make a quick snack using readymade Canapes. I had bought Monita canapes from the supermarket a few days ago.

I remember my Mom making a yummy recipe using the same Monita canapes when I was a kid. Mom had learnt the recipe from a cookery class that she attended about 30 yrs ago . I did not want to ask Mom right away.

I started checking out some youtube videos for Canapes. I did not find any recipe that appeared similar to what Mom used to make.

Meanwhile I ended up watching canapes made with salted biscuits , toast, crackers , cucumber etc.

I liked one simple recipe and I had all the ingredients at home.

However, this recipe is more of an appetizer rather than a snack.

Here it is –

Ingredients :-

-Cucumber peeled and sliced into half centimeter thick pieces.

-Greek yogurt

-Salt

-Pepper

-Tomatoes sliced

-Cut cheese slices into squares or use grated cheese

-Mint / coriander leaves / parsley for garnish

 

Procedure :-

Curd/Yoghurt is usually watery and hence cannot be used , it has to be thick.

Place the regular curd in a strainer and let all the excess water drain.

Add salt n pepper to the thick curd.

Slice the tomatoes.

Place a little Yoghurt on top of each of the cucumber slices.

Place a slice of tomato and a couple of pieces of cheese on the yoghurt.

You can also use grated cheese instead of cheese slices.

Garnish with a mint leaf or coriander leaf .

 

You can also add chopped jalapenos and olives to the yogurt mixture .

A bright , colorful and healthy appetizer is ready.

This is my first canape recipe and I am definitely fascinated by Canapes. There are loads of recipes on the Internet. Numerous varieties of canapes can be made in a jiffy to treat your near and dear ones 🙂 .

Get creative !


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My Kitchen Garden

Rains are finally here and I am excited to do some serious gardening. I do not have a lot of space for plants ,but I hope to make maximum use of the available space and will be using containers too. I will also be using home made compost and pesticides. Basically trying to grow the organic way 🙂 .

I got a few Chilli saplings from an Organic Store that I visit often. I was surprised to see a few chilli saplings sprouting on their own in my little patch. A few dried/ripe chillies from my chilli plants in the previous season must have got into the soil and were hiding there till the right moment 🙂

Removed the whole Mint patch that I had and planted fresh stems from a bunch of Mint that I got from the store. The previous patch was getting sparse and started drying up. I harvested the leaves several times during Summer.

My Malabar Spinach is growing well. I grew them from the seeds of a lone plant that I had. I have already harvested the leaves twice and is ready for harvesting again.

I successfully made my first batch of Organic Compost during the recent summer months. I have started using this compost for my plants. Feeling good .

Thankfully my plants are not infected with any pests as of now.

I also put a few pieces of ginger and Turmeric in the soil. Got to wait and see how well they do.

I am also experimenting with Coriander cuttings. Replanted a few root cuttings from a coriander bunch that I got from the store. Growing coriander from seeds is a long and slow process. Hope this trick works though I am not confident it will work. Will probably sow the seeds directly in a couple of days.

I sowed seeds of Bitter gourd , Ridge gourd , Snake gourd and cluster beans . I see that a few seeds of cluster beans have sprouted , the rest haven’t . Don’t really know the reason. Either the seeds are not good or I watered a lot. Will continue to sow them again and again until I succeed.

Also sowed a few seeds of Khatta palak (Hindi) or Chukka Koora (Telugu) .

Will also sow Fenugreek/Methi seeds in a day or two . These seeds sprout real fast.

Watching a seed sprout,  the first leaves , the budding , the flowering , the fruits/veggies growing bigger and finally the harvesting , all the activity makes me more energetic . I feel like I am absorbing Energy from nature. I look forward to the next morning to see how they are growing. There is an underlying hope when you are into Gardening . No wonder my Doctor told me to do some Gardening way back in 2012 🙂 . 

That’s it for now. Will post pics of how these babies are doing , in a few weeks.

 


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To Reveal or not to Reveal

Having been diagnosed with MM in Oct 2011 and come a long way ,  a thought often arises in my mind as to whether I should reveal/discuss my condition with whom I spend a considerable amount of time.

A lot of people around me , at work , friends and relatives already know to some extent. They may not know exactly what I have been through. However my observation is that no one ever asks me any direct questions. Many of them come to know through various channels but prefer not to talk about it. 

Either they dread talking about this topic or they feel they shouldn’t cross a certain limit as health is supposed be a private matter or they don’t start the topic because I don’t encourage such a discussion or people are engrossed with their own stuff.

Whatever be the reason , I am quite comfortable with the way things are happening around me….ignorance is bliss 🙂

I myself have been through similar situations in the past , much before I was diagnosed, when I came across people who were diagnosed with Cancer and I would be terrified to even look at them. So , here I am , having survived Multiple Myeloma and writing from the other side :).

hmmm , what goes around comes around !!  

When someone asks me how I am doing , I give a big smile and tell them ‘I am doing well, thank you’. There are a few confidantes at work, with whom I share information about my tests, my medications etc . I also update my Boss who has a lot of interest in matters related to health / Alternative treatments and gives me some advise too.

There are a few online friends from school and college with whom I feel happy to share the status of my health.

Apart from my parents, brother and sister I do not discuss with any others in the extended family. Of course , hubby is a constant support 🙂

There are times when I feel tempted to share the link to my Blog with everyone at work, extended family and with all my classmates  from school and college. I guess I am not yet ready to openly declare…maybe some other time. I can already sense that a few are staying away from me and it is ok. 

I shouldn’t be thinking too much about who knows and who doesn’t and concentrate more on enjoying the present moment. 

The best part of this blog is I can let out all my feelings and share my MM journey and other random events in my life.

So glad I am finally stable. 

A few readers (MM patients/caregivers) of my Blog get in touch with me and I am more than willing to listen and encourage them. Gives me immense happiness to know that I have made a difference to them. I hope to get more opportunities to do my bit to humanity.

 

Life seems much more meaningful now.