New Patient Questionnaire | Katherine Malmo Ellis

from Gastronomica 8:3

Date: May 17, 2005
Name: Prentice, Kate M.
Birth Date: 7/24/1973
Patient Number: 1354100000004-w

Medical History:

I was a sick baby born to a nervous mother. Back then the doctors told her I was sick because of her high-strung parenting style. Terrible thing for a mother to hear. [OVER] Anyway, I cried all the time. Mom said that if I’d been the first I would have been the last. Eventually they found a doctor who started me on an elimination diet by taking me off all foods except breast milk and adding one food a week. When they were done I could eat green beans, lamb, applesauce, and carrots. I ate so many carrots that I turned yellow. The doctor could tell that I didn’t have jaundice only by looking at my tiny pink fingernail beds.

I drank goat’s milk until I was five but was healthy through high school. In college things got bad again. By bad, I mean abdominal pain, chronic. Chronic diarrhea and gas. Maybe I drank too much in college. I had all the tests, all the oscopies. I wasn’t even sure what they were looking for but I never imagined cancer. I didn’t really know anyone who’d ever had cancer.

After college I got a job working boat shows. I saw the world and ate all my meals in restaurants. Then I transitioned into the technology field, and as my occupation became more stressful, my digestive problems intensified. I believed my symptoms were work-stress related and told my husband-to-be that if I didn’t start taking care of myself, I was headed for something bad—something like cancer—but I didn’t really mean it or expect it, not at thirty-one.

In 2001, I quit my job to get married and take an eight-month, around-the-world honeymoon. We started in Japan and went to China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Tanzania, South Africa, Namibia, and Greece. I took an anti-malaria medication that was also an antibiotic for three months. By the time I got home, I had chronic diarrhea and my body had stopped digesting food.


Laparoscopy – June 1991
Colonoscopy – April 2003
Endoscopy – September 2004

Family Medical History:

Maternal great-aunt who died of ovarian cancer at forty-seven.
Maternal grandfather who died of pancreatic cancer at forty-five.
Paternal great-aunt who died of uterine cancer at ninety-two.

My dad’s always had stomach problems like me. We think I get all this from him, but my maternal grandmother has problems, too, so really it’s on both sides of the family. Anyway, my dad is a stoic Norwegian who never complains and never goes to the doctor. But for some reason, he got a routine colonoscopy when he turned fifty. His doctor said he had the worst colon he’d ever seen—over twenty polyps. But he was lucky. They were all pre-cancerous.

Otherwise, my dad’s always been healthy. Although he used to have bad teeth. They were small and came down squarely on top of each other even in the front. Mom said they were good whale-blubber-eating teeth that couldn’t stand up to the American diet. He had dental reconstruction when he was forty and his new teeth are lovely.

He wasn’t drafted for the Vietnam war because his feet were too flat—no arches. They’re size 13 AAA narrow—long planks, kind of like flippers that make suction cupping noises when he walks on hardwood. My friend Tami thinks it would be super-cool if he could climb walls and, if he had a claw on his heel, hang from the ceiling like a bat. I suppose this isn’t really the kind of history you’re looking for, but I figure it doesn’t hurt to give more information. Anything to shed some light on my current situation.

Katherine Streeter © 2008

My paternal grandmother is in good health, although she got caught in a sliding door at her doctor’s office last week and is having some pain in her side. It’s always something. She has a problem with incontinence and sees a urologist but it doesn’t slow her down much. She still goes to the salon to get her hair done every three weeks. While she waits she reads the royal watcher magazine for updates on the king and queen of Norway. Next month is her ninety-eighth birthday.

My mom has high blood pressure and back pain. She had her vertebrae fused when I was fourteen. I’ve never really had much trouble with my back, but I do have an extra vertebra where my spine connects to my pelvis. It’s shaped like a butterfly.

My maternal grandmother is like me. Doesn’t eat much. She weighs 110 pounds and is coming up on eighty-five years of age. She gets dizzy and sways around like she’s going to fall over all the time. She twirls the end of her cane in the air and laughs like a crazy woman. She refuses to use a walker.

My sister is two years older than me and pregnant. She loves data. Statistics really turn her crank. That poor kid of hers. Anyway, she used to have a problem with chronic yeast infections. Oh, and, she has what we call in our family moist lid disorder (MLD). Even with the use of only super-light, non-greasy lotions and lots of powder, her lids are too moist to hold eye shadow. After only a few hours all the color ends up collected in the creases. I know this sounds trivial, and mld affects such a small number of women (the data isn’t available, but I’m sure it’s small), but let me tell you, the beautician who did the makeup for her wedding didn’t think it was such a minor thing. Finally we settled on a wet shadow that dried completely on her lids. She just had to hold her eyes closed for about five minutes. Other than MLD she is perfectly healthy.


Mold, weeds, dust, tobacco, pollen, and Neosporin (it makes me faint and really freaks my mother out). [SEE ATTACHMENT]

I don’t eat gluten—wheat, rye, barley, kamut, spelt, any of those guys. I’m not sure if I have celiac disease, if I’m truly allergic, because I cut gluten out of my diet a year before I was tested. When I was tested, my results came back negative because there was no gluten in my system to cause any damage. I’ll probably never know if I’m just intolerant or truly allergic. I do know gluten makes me sick. I read that some European doctor thinks that one out of every 110 people has celiac disease and most of them just don’t know it. I went to a support group and met this woman who was so allergic to gluten that she had to quit her job. She worked in a health food store where they also baked bread and she couldn’t inhale the flour in the air. I also read that women with celiac are 50% more likely to develop breast cancer. Whenever I think of that, I think of the nurse who told me that there was an 85% chance my biopsy would be negative.

No soy either. I am allergic to soy. It gives me terrible diarrhea. It’s kind of an anaphylactic reaction. I get all hot and tear my clothes off while I’m on the toilet. I start to hyperventilate and I think that I’m dying. My gastro doctor says it triggers the fight or flight response. My body hates soy and decides to fight. Get it all out of the system at once.

I don’t eat peanuts because they’re a legume like soy. I eat some tree nuts, but walnuts make my tongue feel prickly—my grandma has the same problem. We think it’s an allergy. Almonds. Almonds are good. They’re the only alkaline-forming nut. Americans eat too many acidic foods and it’s hard for the body to heal when its pH balance is acidic, so I always try to eat a lot of alkaline-forming foods like almonds, bananas, and broccoli.

I’m allergic to yeast and really sensitive to bacteria found in and on food. So of course I stay away from yeasts in breads and beers and I don’t eat vinegar. That means no condiments, salad dressings, seasonings, or anything like that. I don’t eat any raw foods unless I can peel them. I don’t eat any leftovers that are more than forty-eight hours old. Or anything uncooked, like salad or sushi or that bad bag spinach, all slimy and coated with bad bugs. I eat local foods when I can. Raw foods from farmers’ markets are okay as long as they’ve been picked in the last forty-eight hours. Foods that have been shipped are picked too early and not as nutritious. They also can be covered in sulfites. Sulfites cause headaches and maybe cancer in lab rats. But if my lump isn’t cancer then what is it?

I asked the pathologist who did the biopsy: if it’s just a calcification how did it get there? He said that I should remember that breast cancer is really very treatable these days. That’s not what he was supposed to say. I know he knows. He can tell just by looking at my retracted nipple. Maybe that makes my chances more than 15%. Now that I say that, I remember the other doctor’s face—the one who did the ultrasound—when the nurse said eighty-five, he gave her this look, a sideways glance. He knew it too. They all knew.

Anyway, dried fruits are covered with sulfites to preserve freshness. And they’re full of sugar—natural sugar but still … Fruits are bad. Not just because they’re eaten raw and I can’t cook them, but because they’re full of sugars that the bad bacteria in my small intestines feed on. Except lemon. A little lemon juice in my tea is okay. It stimulates the production of digestive enzymes and is good after a meal. Chamomile tea before bed is good too because it’s calming, but it makes me pee at night. I don’t add honey. I mean, if I have to, if I really want it, I add some honey. Honey and maple syrup are easier to digest than refined sugar but still a form of sugar so I try not to eat either one. If I don’t have chamomile, then I have some ginger tea. Helps digestion.

At Thanksgiving, for a special treat, I made a pumpkin pie without sugar, just a little honey. Not only was it terrible, but it was ugly too. My mother said it was so ugly it had to be homemade.

I do eat coconut. It’s fattening, which can be a good thing because I’ve been losing weight so fast. It contains caprylic acid and has anti-fungal properties to keep that candida in check.

An allergy test showed that I was allergic to eggs and bananas, too, but my nutritionist says that everyone my age shows up as allergic to eggs and bananas. She thinks it’s because the vaccines we got as children were egg and banana based and now our bodies still carry the antibodies for those foods, but we’re not really allergic. I don’t seem to have a problem with either unless the eggs are undercooked—like soft-centered poached eggs. Then my nutritionist says that the risk of salmonella is too great. Even people who don’t have problems with yeasts and bacteria—like my husband—shouldn’t eat undercooked eggs. So I have mine scrambled.

I don’t think I’m allergic to dairy, but I’m not sure. Sometimes I eat yogurt. Usually whole-milk organic yogurt without growth hormones. When I was in Germany last year I lived on that wonderful European yogurt. Well, yogurt and carrots. I had a hard time getting enough vegetables so I bought a peeler in Hamburg and kept a peeled carrot in my pocket in case I got too hungry. I was there with my husband who was on a business trip, and we stayed in a fancy hotel. I got some funny looks when I walked across the lobby gnawing on a carrot from my pocket. Anyway, plain milk gives me acid reflux. I thought the ultra-pasteurized milk would be okay for me but that causes indigestion, too, so sometimes if I really need a milk substitute I use almond milk. No soy, of course, and the rice milk has .05% barley. Not a risk I’m willing to take. Cheese. I love cheese. It’s one of the foods that I miss the most. But all that bad bacteria. I mean that’s all cheese is—rotten milk. My body can’t handle that.

But I just don’t know if I should believe myself anymore. Or if I should believe doctors anymore. I feel like they’re keeping something from me. When I asked for the results of my mammogram they said they couldn’t tell me. They said they didn’t know, that I’d have to talk to my doctor. Oh, they knew.

So you may be wondering what I do eat besides coconut milk and yogurt. When I’m done with this form I’m going to eat my gluten-free, soy-free, alkaline-forming, organic food bar with flax seeds, bio sprouts, date paste, and 3,000 mg of Omega-3 fatty acids. At home I eat a lot of steamed vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, it gets a little old, but my body seems to be able to digest these foods. It’s just that I’m so hungry all the time. I try not to eat too much corn because sometimes it makes me gassy. I don’t think I’m allergic, it’s just hard to digest. I do try to eat brightly colored foods because my naturopath says that they have good cancer-fighting properties. Good antioxidants. But no matter how hungry I am, I never eat beets. I can’t stand them.

The nurse from my doctor’s office called today, and she said that I have to come in to get the results. That must be bad. They don’t tell you to come in if the biopsy is clean. Maybe this lump has really been my problem all along. This book I’ve been reading says that some medical professionals speculate that a lump may be in the breast for six to eight years before it is found. That would mean this all may have started when I was twenty-three. Maybe I’ve been looking in all the wrong places. And if my biopsy is positive then this has been my problem for a long time. This must be it for me.

Health Habits:

Tobacco use: Never
Alcohol use: Never
Recreational Drug use: Never
Caffeine: 1 cup green tea/day

Reason for your visit:

Some say a visit with a breast surgeon is premature since I still don’t have the results of my biopsy, but I’ve been waiting for a week and thinking a lot about what’s wrong with me.

I’ve got this node here on my neck, on the left side. It takes a second to find but it’s there. It’s hard most of the time. Do you think the cancer has spread to the nodes on my neck?

Also, I read in this natural health magazine that fingernails can be an indicator of your overall health and that clubbing of the nails can mean you have cancer in the lungs. Well, breast cancer can spread to the lungs, and I have these little things on the sides of my thumbnail. Little bits of skin that get calloused and I can pull them out. They leave little holes. I think it’s spreading. We should act quickly.

So even if the lump turns out to be benign, I want it taken out. Because, see, one grandma still needs to go to the urologist and the other needs some more homemade soup because she’s sick again and my sister’s having a baby and my husband and I, we’re going to Paris in the spring. So I’d like you to scoop it out or scrape it off or maybe just take the whole breast. Do whatever you need to do so that it’s gone and I don’t have to go through any of this ever again. Thank you.

Emergency Contact: Peter Prentice 206-555-8706