Thursday, December 8, 2011

Diagnostic Discontent

The following is a long rant about my recent medical problems.  If you don't care and are just here for the cake, please scroll down.

****Medical Rant****
For those of you that have been paying close attention to my health, you know that things have been going really poorly for my body this year.  There was the anemia episode, the rolled ankle, the countless colds and viruses, the many reproductive system issues, cervical dysplasia, and all the fainting episodes.  Well, now I have more to add to the list.

For four weeks I have been feeling really miserable.  I'd had a sore throat, headache, swollen lymph nodes, fevers, chills, and fatigue on and off for 3 weeks.  Last week I started getting really dizzy and almost passed out on several occasions.  After some coaching from my boss, (who is like my stand-in dad at school), I decided to go to the health center last Thursday.  I went in for flu-like symptoms, and they diagnosed me with a serious kidney infection.  Once they put me on an antibiotic, I started getting really dizzy and developed serious lower back pain.  They gave me a follow-up appointment the next day, and saw that my bacteria levels went down, and assumed that the antibiotics were working.  I was in bed pretty much for four days straight.  I found out 4 days later that they were wrong in the kidney infection diagnosis, and once I stopped the antibiotic, the dizziness went away, but the back pain did not.  They decided to do some blood work to test for a few viruses on Monday.

I patiently awaited the results until yesterday, but the pain was so bad I decided to give the health center a call.  I was told that the results still weren't in, but they could give me an appointment the next morning if I was OK to wait until then, and I agreed.  Half an hour later, I was NOT OK, and was crying on my floor in pain.  I finally had my wonderful friend, Annika, accompany me to the emergency room.  It's not that I was unhappy with the health center, the two doctors I'd been seeing were great, but I wanted to be somewhere that had the machines and equipment necessary to do some real tests. 

We were told it was going to be a 2-3 hour wait, so I let Annika go back to campus.  It's finals time and everyone is extremely busy, so no one really has time to just wait around in medical offices with me.  When I was finally seen, I was told that I had mono again, and that my back pain was probably just a pulled muscle.  I argued with the doctor and nurses and told them I didn't believe either diagnosis, but realized I wasn't going to get anywhere.

I went to my health center appointment this morning, and the doctor told me that all my blood work was normal.  The hospital lab technicians were just incompetent and didn't realize that they were seeing the old mono in my system from two years ago.  Luckily, the health center doctor believed my pain and sent me back to the hospital for CT scans.  I drove myself over there, did the scans, and was back in time to go to class and take an exam.  Awesome.

After my exam I went BACK to the health center for the thousandth time.  The only thing my scans showed was inflammation and swelling in my small intestine.  They have no idea what's causing this, so now I have to see a G.I. specialist for, you guessed it, more tests!  Luckily the doctor was finally able to prescribe me something that would keep me comfortable.  The 550mg Naproxen she gave me earlier today didn't touch the pain, and since I am allergic to the intermediate pain medications, we had to move to straight narcotics.  She wrote me a script for codeine, but unfortunately no pharmacy in Middletown has it in stock.  Go figure.  Then I had to drive back to the health center to get another script, and now I am taking Oxycodone.  Yay!  It did a lot for my pain, but unfortunately didn't do anything for my discomfort/feelings of puffiness in my abdomen.  Oh well, I'm grateful for some improvement!

Anyway, I'm sure you're sick of reading about my issues.  I just really needed to vent somewhere.  I'll get to the cake now.

******CAKE*******
This year is Wesleyan's third year of Relay for Life.  Two years ago, in our first year, there were really just three of us that put the whole show together.  It was Emma, Ann, and myself: the three musketeers.  Last year when I went abroad and then had all my family and personal issues, Emma and Ann really carried the torch and picked up my slack.  Now, Emma is going abroad to Copenhagen next semester, and Ann and I are both seniors.  We decided we wanted to do a little something for Emma to say thank you for all she's done for Relay, and to say goodbye, since we won't see her again because we're graduating.  Of course, I always say everything with food, so I decided to bake a cake.

Unfortunately my medical instability didn't leave me with a lot of time or energy to bake, so I really had to just throw it together.  I wasn't very creative with the recipe.  I decided chocolate was easiest and since I was in the holiday spirit, I would just jazz up the frosting with a little peppermint.  I made the cake Tuesday night to soothe my frustrations with my body, and decided I'd frost it Wednesday before our meeting.  Unfortunately, I wasn't planning on ending up in the ER on Wednesday.  The whole time I was sitting on the bed waiting I was thinking, "hurry up people!  I have a cake to frost!"

As soon as I got back from the ER I got to work making the frosting and threw the cake together.  It's not the prettiest thing I've ever made, but for a throw-it-together-because-I-don't-feel-well-and-have-no-time cake, I think it turned out alright.


Devil's Food Cake with Peppermint Buttercream
Recipe adapted from Better Homes & Gardens New Baking Book


Cake Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsps baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
1 1/3 cup cold coffee

Cake ingredients- minus the vegetable oil.  Don't really know why that's in this picture...
Whisk together the dry ingredients (not the sugar).
In a separate bowl, beat the Crisco for 30 seconds until it's smooth and even.
Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until combined.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
Add the dry ingredients and coffee in thirds alternately.  Stir together on low after each addition.  Do not over-mix.
Grease two 9" cake pans liberally, then dust with cocoa powder.
Bake at 350°F for 35-40 minutes.  Cool in pans on wire racks for 15 minutes.  Remove from pans and leave on racks until cool.

My Favorite Buttercream- peppermint style
 
Frosting Ingredients
1 stick unsalted butter (room temperature)
1/2 cup Crisco (vegetable shortening)
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tsp peppermint extract
2-3 Tbs milk (I used soy)

Beat butter and Crisco together for 1 minute until smooth.
Add confectioners' sugar and extract all at once.  Beat on high until smooth.  Slowly add milk, one Tbs at a time until frosting reaches a spreadable consistency.  Do not make it too soft or it will fall down the sides of your cake.
Cake Assembly
Cut off tops off cakes until they are flat.  Use a large, serrated bread knife that it is at least the length of the cake to ensure an even cut.
Put a small layer of frosting in between the cake layers, so each cut side is in the frosting.  Then plop a big glob of frosting on the top of the cake and then spread it out and down the sides.

Purple is a the color of Relay, so I decide to write in purple frosting.  I hurriedly piped some stars around the bottom, and then ran off to my meeting.  I was late, but I don't think the committee minded too much.  I did bring cake, after all...















So thank you, Emma, for all you've done for Relay the past 2 and a half years, and thank you for being such a wonderful friend.  I hope you have an amazing semester abroad.  You will be sorely missed come April.

Love and cookies,

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