Life After Thyroidectomy & Parathyroidectomy (with photos)

depression, essential oils, Graves Disease, healing, health, hyperthyroid, hypothyroid, parathyroid, surgery, thyroid, tumor, Uncategorized, wellness

So I recently had a total thyroidectomy and sub-total parathyroidectomy and lived to tell about it.  Below I’ll share with you as many details as I can remember (my memory still isn’t the best, but hoping that will improve in time!) in order to give some insight into the experience for those having this procedure in the future.  If you’re like me, you have been grasping for positive stories online, but can’t find any!  That’s because there are very few positive stories online.  You will mainly find horror stories from the small percentage of thyroidless folk who had a bad experience.

First, I have to mention that I’ve had multi-nodular goiter for many years, and now it was growing downward under my sternum.  It was pushing on my windpipe and would continue to grow if we didn’t remove it.  I also had hyperparathyroidism, which is a tumor on one of your parathyroid glands.  The only cure for hyperparathyroidism is to remove the tumor.  I never had a fine needle biopsy, so I did not know if the goiter, nodules or tumor were cancerous.  I knew it all needed to come out, so we figured (me and my surgeon) we’d find out if it was cancerous once it was out.  And if it was cancerous, we’d go from there.

The surgeon said the goiter was the size of his fist, so my incision would be 3-4″ long.  He  said that you could only see the tip of the iceberg when you looked at my neck.  The rest was inside, and growing downward.  But that it was the reason I was having a hard time taking in deep breaths, and coughed all of the time.  I was ready to get it out of there and move on with my life, so we booked surgery for 4 weeks out.  I could have done it sooner but it would have landed on the week of Christmas, so we waited.

Ten days prior to surgery, I was told I needed to stop taking Advil and all of my herbal supplements.  I hate missing 2 days of supplements (they hugely affect my mood), let alone go completely off of them for 10 days!  It was a bit rough because I relied on those supplements for mental clarity, stomach issues, energy and more.  My head wasn’t very clear at work during those days, but then my mind hasn’t been clear at work for a long time thanks to my darn parathyroid tumor!

Two weeks prior to surgery I went in for pre-anesthesia testing.  They took 5-6 vials of blood to make sure I was healthy enough for surgery.  They like to see where your hormone and calcium levels are.  Makes sense.  My poor nurse.  She was telling me how she has horrible anxiety, and she had visibly shaky hands.  I tried not to look nervous as her shaky hand put the needle in my arm.  In my mind I was thinking “is this for real!?”  Everything worked out, blood was drawn and I lived to see another day.

Thursday, January 11, 2018, (my thyroid and parathyroid eviction day!) was here before I knew it. I’d gotten a lot of prayer from a lot of people, and so I was as cool as a cucumber on my way to the hospital (I was ready to get this thing out of me).  I wasn’t afraid of the surgery as much as I was the recovery and the thought of becoming hypothyroid.

They wheeled me into a prep room where I put on a gown, treaded hospital socks, a gigantic hospital maxi-pad just in case my period came during surgery (why yes, Aunt Flo did come to visit me on surgery day – how thoughtful of her, right????).  They also wrapped massage sleeves around my calves that were plugged in and constantly massaged my calves.  This was to prevent blood clots.  My surgeon came by to say hello and that he was going to go change, and when he was done, he’d be ready for me.

Some people (nurses, medical students?) came to wheel me away, but first put a weird metallic shower cap type of hat on me.  Once I was in the operating room, they exchanged that hat for a knit-type cap.  I am not sure what that was all about…

After moving me to the operating table, they put a mask over my nose and mouth and asked me to breathe in deeply a few times. That’s the last thing I remember before waking up in the recovery room.  It was over before I knew it and I was on to recovery! The surgery was apparently 3.5 hours long, and the surgeon successfully removed the very large goiter and parathyroid tumor, leaving the 3 other parathyroids and vocal cords intact and in good shape.

While I was trying to wake up from surgery, I came in and out of consciousness a bunch of times.  I don’t remember much except that the nurse administering my pain meds wasn’t exactly warm and fuzzy.  I was drenched in sweat – it was dripping from my forehead down into my eyes.  I felt disgusting.  Oh, and guess what?  Aunt Flo came to visit me DURING surgery.  While I was trying to wake up from the anesthesia, I felt stabbing pains in my uterus.  Perfect timing for cramps – they couldn’t give me Advil – only Tylenol.  The Tylenol helped the cramping some, but I could still feel an ache.  Thankfully I’d brought a roller-ball blend of essential oils to ease my cramps!  (A mix of Geranium, Clary Sage, Lavender, Marjoram).

Once I was more awake, I was put in a real recovery room where I would spend the night.  I’d heard that you are usually in a room with a bunch of people, but I got a single room, with a TV and sink. Not bad! My husband arrived shortly thereafter, kissed me and sat down…and then I don’t remember much of what happened over the next hour or so. I was so out of it – the anesthesia had me foggy and sleepy.

I don’t know if you are aware of this, but apparently some people can’t handle anesthesia and puke after surgery.  Can you guess type I am? That’s right, a puker.  It is a good thing they put a vomit bucket on my lap right away.  If it weren’t so easily accessible, I’d have made quite the mess!  After vomiting, I felt a clearer and less sleepy.  Thank God.

At this point, I didn’t feel any pain in my incision, but I did have a scratchy/sore throat.  The sore throat was due to the breathing tube and camera tube they put down your throat during surgery. They brought me Cepacol lozenges to suck on as I needed them, which numbed the pain a bit.  Other than that, the only other issue I felt was a stiff/sore neck and weakness.  The stiff neck is apparently from how your head is positioned during surgery.  I also had to keep the IV in my hand overnight just in case they needed to use it.  And the massage sleeves were still pumping away at my calves.

Below is a photo of me not long after I puked. Still out of it, but forcing myself to smile…because I can’t take a picture without smiling. It’s just not right. It’s not very often that I will share a photo of myself without any makeup on, so you’ll notice I made this particular photo extra small as compared the rest. 😉

A few hours later I felt much more alert, so I took another photograph.  This time my bandage had been removed and I forced an even bigger smile even though I still didn’t feel so hot.

I was starting to get hungry but could only order from the liquid diet portion of the hospital menu.  Chicken broth and Jell-O sounded the least likely to induce vomiting, so my husband called in the order for me.  It was horrible, but I wasn’t expecting much from a hospital.  You basically get a bowl of broth, with a packet of protein powder to mix in.  It was like eating a bowl of Ramen noodles….minus the noodles.  Allll salt.  I couldn’t even finish half the bowl, but I think that was mainly because I felt too weak to keep eating.

The nurses began giving me Tums to chew every few hours.  This was to provide my body with calcium because my 3 remaining parathyroids still needed to “wake up” and start doing their job.  You don’t want to have low calcium in your blood.  It causes hypocalcemia, and that is very dangerous.  It can even be deadly in extreme cases.

My husband and I watched TV, sort of – I kept nodding off. When he left for the night, I tried to get some sleep – but everyone knows you don’t sleep much when you’re in a hospital. Nurses came in every few hours to give me the Tums, take my vitals, take my blood, etc.

I don’t remember sleeping much, but the night went by pretty quick.  Before I knew it, it was morning and I was hungry.  I ordered an oatmeal and a yogurt and ate about half of it.  A nurse came and gave me my very first Levothyroxine pill, which I was told I would be taking for the rest of my life.  Hello Levo, it’s nice to meet you. We’re going to be lifelong friends…as long as you do your job and don’t jack me up.

At one point before my husband arrived, I got up to use the restroom and got a whiff of my armpits.  Holy mother of pearl…it was horrible.  I don’t know if the hospital gown hadn’t been properly washed after the previous patient, or if a family of skunks had burrowed into my armpits and died.  All I knew was that I needed to freshen up quick – my husband was going to arrive soon and I didn’t want to smell like roadkill.  Thankfully my room had a sink with handsoap and paper towels.  I scrubbed my pits as best I could, and asked a nurse for a fresh gown.  Muuuuch better.  I smelled like a human, and even put on a little makeup.

One of the medical students came in that morning and says to me, “so, now we’re going to take out your stitches.”  What the?!  So soon??  She sort of condescendingly/jokingly made me feel like a baby for being shocked at that statement.  So, since it had to be done, I squeezed a pillow while she plucked each one out and tossed them in a bowl.  It didn’t hurt, but it pinched a little as she tugged on each one.  The last one stung!  It didn’t want to come out!  They remove stitches the day after surgery so that the scar is less noticeable.  Fine by me!

My husband arrived that morning and we watched a little TV until the nurse came to get me ready to head home.  She gave me a prescription for Levothyroxine and post-surgery instructions to rest, drink lots of water, take 4-5 Ultra Strength Tums (1,000 mg) per day for the next week, etc., etc.  We would discuss more at my 1 week follow-up appointment. I was given the go-ahead to get dressed and was able to leave around 10:00 a.m.!  Couldn’t wait to get home – I missed my kitties…and my pajamas.  A very nice nurse took me down to the hospital entrance in a wheelchair.  Whee!  It was the most fun I’d had in over 24 hours.

It was about 20 degrees and snowing that morning, and there was ice covering our parking lot, so my husband took my arm and lead me into the house.  Then he led me to the couch – where I would spend the next couple of weeks watching cable and movies.

I felt pretty good the next morning, and so I was able to take a shower.  But not without packaging and taping up my neck real nice so that the water didn’t soak the steri-strips.  And not without the help of my husband.  Here’s a lovely photo of me pre-shower:

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It felt so good to wash off all hospital odor from my body – especially being able to wash my armpits the correct way!  A little water ended up seeping in and touched my incision area, but all-in-all it was a productive first shower.

Below is a photo of my incision 2 days after my surgery.  It wasn’t looking so bad for only 2 days!

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We purchased a bunch of applesauce and yogurt so that I could eat smooth foods for the first few days.  But, by the 3rd day or so, I was tired of it and so we ordered pizza.  My throat no longer hurt and I was ready to eat something tasty!

On the 4th day post-surgery, I felt pretty good.  I had some irritating leg cramping, and so the nurse called in a prescription for Rocaltrol, which was an active form of Vitamin D. It seemed to help the cramping a bit, but it came back here and there.  I had to keep rubbing a blend of essential oils to relax my legs.  It helped, but I didn’t want to keep doing that every few hours!  Eventually it subsided and the cramping stopped.  I think part of the cramping was due to inactivity.  Sitting on the couch for 4 days wasn’t good for circulation or my leg muscles.  I got up and walked in place for a bit and that really seemed to help.

My sister came to visit me on my 4th day post-op.  We ended up talking too much, and I started to feel something swell in my throat.  It felt like there was a little ball in there.  I freaked out and thought I was having one of the bad side effects from the Rocaltrol (“throat swelling”), so I called the nurse.  She assured me that it was only due to the thick muscle that they had to cut in order to remove my thyroid.  Apparently it gets “angry” for being disturbed, and that it would eventually go away.  As I relaxed and stopped talking so much, it faded away.

Below is a picture of my 4th day post-op incision.  It was healing up pretty nicely:

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As the days progressed, it was easier for me to get around and do a few small chores, without lifting anything over 10 lbs.  But I tried to do as little as possible, and lie on the couch as much as possible.  You know what?  Cable TV stinks.  They replay episodes over and over and OVER.  I was incredibly bored.  I literally spent most of my mornings searching On Demand for movies, without actually deciding upon one.

I don’t remember what day it was, when I got the surgical pathology results, but when they came in, it showed that everything was BENIGN!  Praise God!

Below is a photo of my incision on my 5th day post-op.  Just a couple of days before my 1 week post-surgery appointment with the surgeon.  He would be removing my steri-strips, and I couldn’t wait to see what it would look like once they were removed.  It was looking pretty good already!

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I saw my surgeon a week after surgery for my 1-week follow up. One of the medical students removed my steri-strips and I checked myself out in their mirror.  It wasn’t looking so bad!  It felt less tight, but I still felt like my neck was pulling if I moved my head around.

A few of days later, my incision was looking even better. See the photo below. Some of the scabs had come off with the steri-strips when they removed them.

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At this point (10 days post-op), I started to do what my surgeon told me to do.  And that was to gently massage Vitamin E oil above and below the incision for 2 minutes at a time, twice a day for two months.  He told me that it was better to rub it above and below, versus on top of the incision, and that it would heal beautifully.

The Vitamin E oil I had at home was incredibly sticky, so I switched to rosehip seed oil and a blend of essential oils: helichrysum, frankincense, lavender and a skin blend that my company makes.  I think the steri-strips irritated my skin because it was very sensitive all around the incision.  Knowing how potent essential oils are, I decided to back off of them for a day, to let the sensitivity/redness go down.

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Once the sensitivity healed up, I began using organic calendula oil, which is very soothing to skin, along with a with a drop of copaiba essential oil.  This didn’t irritate my incision, so I kept doing it every day from this point forward.

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It’s now been 4 weeks since my surgery, and the photo below shows my scar looking a lot darker and more pronounced than it did a week ago! I’m not sure if this is because I haven’t used a scar-diminishing essential oil, such as Neroli on it, or if I stretched it out somehow?  I think when I took the above photo, I may have had the “skin toning” feature on that blurred out skin imperfections!

Now that the incision is sealed and healed, I’m going to start massaging Neroli oil into it 3 times a day.  I don’t want it getting any darker than it already is.  I bought the reusable/removable Scar Away silicone patches that everyone keeps talking about, but am holding out using them because I want to use Neroli oil as much as possible.

Now that it’s been a month since my surgery, and I’m back at work (returned after 3 weeks), I am feeling pretty good.  Some days I feel achy/fatigued, and other days I feel fine.  My main complaints are moodiness and depressive episodes, anxiety, fatigue and some body aches (feeling like I have a fever), cold feet and restless legs.  The cold feet has been improving a bit over the last week or so.  I’ve had depression and anxiety for over 20 years, so I am not sure either of those will ever improve.

I don’t think I’ve lost any extra hair, and I have only gained 3-4 lbs (but I’d lost that exact amount right after surgery, so I guess I’m just getting it back by eating too much junk food!).  I believe my surgeon said they would probably be increasing my Levothyroxine at my next appointment in 2 months.  I am hoping once they do that, my hormones will regulate and the remaining symptoms will improve.  I’m currently taking 100 Levothyroxine, and 2 Calcitrol +D supplements per day.  But that may change at my next appointment.  I’m staying positive because the surgery was a success, so I know that future healing will be a success as well.

So far, at 4 weeks post-op, some of the symptoms that I used to have due to my hyperparathyroid tumor have begun to improve.  Such as:

  1. Frequent urination (I go much less often – almost normal now)
  2. Extreme thirst/dry mouth
  3. Brain fog/confusion (feeling somewhat clearer and able to focus better)
  4. Breathing better (no more goiter pushing against my windpipe!)
  5. A tad more energy
  6. Joints not as achy when sitting still for too long

I’ve read that it can take up to 6 months to really notice improvements in symptoms after removal of a hyperparathyroid tumor, so I must be patient like grasshopper.  It will come in time.  I am praying I am one of the success stories of those who do great on synthetic thyroid hormone and can feel completely normal again.

If you’re about to have this surgery, please make sure you have a fantastic surgeon.  Make sure you have help for the first few days post-surgery.  And be sure to get a lot of rest, drink lots of water, and give yourself time to heal.  Don’t rush back to work if you don’t have to.  I pray your surgery goes well and that you have a positive story to share as well!

God bless!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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To Become, or Not to Become, a Certified Aromatherapist?

aromatherapy, aromatic, certification, essential oils, Uncategorized

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So, I’ve been a rep with a very well known essential oils company now for over 3 years.  While I get loads of education and information from them, I figured it was about time I take that leap and go one step further in my botanical education to become a Certified Aromatherapist.

I’ve always tried to educate my customers as much as possible with information on how to safely use essential oils and help them figure out which to use, but now I can do it with much more confidence and knowledge.  I really thought I knew enough about oils to get by, and what I didn’t know I’d just ask my team or Google it.  I mean, Google has the answer to all things, right?  😉  I joke.  What I am now learning is that becoming a Certified Aromatherapist gives me much more opportunities and abilities than I ever had before.  There are various types of work you could do with this title, besides sales, and I cannot wait to find my niche.

For those of you who love learning about oils, or even do it as a business, I highly recommend getting certified.  You will have the education and certification to back up what you are telling your customers.  You will feel even more empowered to take your health into your hands.  And you will just feel more confident as you explain essential oils and their benefits to others because you will understand the science behind them.  I truly think all sales reps of essential oil companies should become certified before teaching customers.  I think there’d be a lot less mishaps with oils than there are because customers would be getting the correct information.

As for certification courses, there are multiple levels of certification.  And my school also has extra courses to further your education in various specialties.  My school of choice is, of course, approved by NAHA and is taught mainly by Jade Shutes.  Jade has been studying essential oils for over 20 years, and has studied in France, among other countries.  She is very knowledgeable and she makes it very easy to learn.  Her love of plants and natural alternatives is evident, and she loves to teach.  The audio and video clips make it easy to sit back and listen from the comfort of your own home.  The school’s Facebook page is for students to interact with each other and to ask questions of their instructors.

So, what school is it?:  The School for Aromatic Studies.  Click here to be directed to their website:  The School for Aromatic Studies.  I am taking the first foundational course online (as stated in the photo above), and so I can go as slow or as quick as I want.  It’s perfect for me because I currently can’t memorize/study much as my parathyroid tumors cause memory loss and brain fog, so it is very hard to take an exam when you forgot almost everything you read!  Once my surgery is over, I’m hitting the books and finishing my certification – and I’m going to slay it!! 😉  Also, if you have a full time job, the online courses are great because you can fit it in whenever you have time!  You will have to complete some case studies in order to complete your certification, and so you will need some family and friends who are willing to be your guinea pi test subjects. 😉

If you have any questions, I’m always available to answer questions.

Blessings,
Karen

 

 

 

Hyper-parathyroidism & Multi-Nodular Goiter = Total Thyroidectomy & Sub-Total Parathyroidectomy

Uncategorized


To skip to this blog and see read about the actual surgery and recovery (with photos), click here:  Life After Thyroidectomy & Parathyroidectomy.


As you may have read in my previous blog, I had Grave’s Disease (hyperthyroidism) as a teenager, and had toxic multi-nodular goiter (which is, in a nutshell, an enlarged thyroid with nodules on it, that produces too much thyroid hormone).  After taking PTU and Synthroid medications for about a year, and not seeing any changes, my doctor decided it was time for the Radioactive Iodine Treatment (“RAI”).  RAI is a large radioactive pill that they drop down your hatch while donning special gloves to protect themselves from the radiation.  They don’t want it to touch your mouth, and can only touch your throat enough for you to swallow, due to its radioactivity.  Sort of scary…not gonna lie.

For the following 3 days, I was to flush the toilet three times each time I used it.  I could only use plasticware and disposable plates when I ate and I couldn’t sit next to anyone who was pregnant.  Yikes!! I didn’t glow, nor was I green, but apparently I was dangerous to an unborn fetus outside my own body!  This whole ordeal was meant to stop my thyroid from overproducing thyroid hormone. And, it worked! For the most part…

All was well in the thyroid department for the next 23 years – or so it seemed.  My goiter stopped overproducing thyroid hormone, which was great, an and added bonus was that my thyroid didn’t become hypo (which normally happens to patients who have this treatment).  I think the goiter even shrunk a little after treatment.

Now, rewind to about 10 years ago. I began experiencing annoying symptoms that no one could explain.  My leg muscles were always cramping.  My anxiety had gotten worse. I was extremely fatigued, often depressed, and rarely wanted to clean my house or go out with friends. Over the years, more symptoms were added to the list.  Below is my running list of symptoms (the list isn’t conclusive to the actual disease – there are a few others that I never acquired – thank the Lord):

– extreme fatigue (even brushing my hair poops me out)
– GERD (acid reflux) (diagnosed and taking Omeprazole)
– depression (let’s not even go there)
– anxiety (waking up every morning with a nervous stomach ache, fears, inner shaking and sometimes hand tremors)
– hair loss (pony tail? more like a weathered paintbrush)
– brain fog/confusion (bosses think I’m an airhead)
– memory loss (I’m apparently a very large goldfish)
– frequent urination (I should set up my work computer in the stall)
– constant thirst/dry mouth (drinking so much water makes frequent urination even frequent-er)
– dry, scratchy eyes (some mornings, my lids literally are stuck to my eyeball)
– stomach issues (let’s not even go there)
– hoarse/scratchy throat/voice (no, not the sexy kind – the phleghmy, groggy kind)
– trouble sleeping (due to frequent urination all through the night)
– irritability (sorry, hubs!!  I’ll be normal soon, I hope!)
– muscle & joint aches (I’m only 39!)
– frequent headaches (sort of dull, and sometimes daily)

Over the years, my previous doctor would test my thyroid hormone, to see if my thyroid was over- or under-producing thyroid hormone.  The results always came back normal, and so I assume the doctor (and possibly friends and family members) thought my bodily complaints were all in my head. I mean, I constantly Googled my symptoms, always trying to find a diagnosis.  I’m sure the word “hypochondriac” came up in conversation when I wasn’t around.  I didn’t care – I knew there was something wrong with me and I was determined to figure it out.

Finally, in October 2017, after the frequent urination was just ridiculous (I’d go 20-30x in a 24 hour period), I decided to get a ton of blood tests to see if I had diabetes.  Frequent urination is a symptom of diabetes, and we have a lot of diabetes in our family.  I figured I was bound to get it at some point. It had also been 2 years since I’d had a complete blood workup, so…

My blood tests came back “prediabetes,” but that didn’t concern my doctor.  He was more concerned with my consistent abnormal calcium level. It had been high in 2014, 2015 and again in 2017.  He wasn’t my Endocrinologist before 2014 (I skipped seeing one for many years, so I am guessing my levels have been high for at least 10 years).  I also had low Vitamin D.  He was concerned about the frequent urination, high calcium and low vitamin D, so he sent me back for a PTH test, which tests for raised parathyroid hormone in your blood.

Being an avid, self-professed, online medical researcher (i.e. “Compulsive Googler”), I found out that high calcium, high PTH hormone and low Vitamin D means that you have a disease called Hyperparathyroidism.  Hyperparathyroidism basically means you have a tumor on one…or two…or theee…or four of your 4 parathyroid glands.  It’s most common to only have one parathyroid tumor, but some have multiple diseased glands.

This disease is slow progressing, but in time it can cause major problems if you don’t get it taken care of.  Problems such as osteoporosis, osteopenia, cardiac issues, kidney failure and more.

From my limited understanding of biology, and proficient Googling abilities (don’t laugh), these parathyroid tumors cause the overproduction of parathyroid hormone. This will cause calcium and phosphorus to be pulled from your bones – not good. You can’t absorb the calcium, and so it floats around in your blood, wreaking havoc and causing annoying symptoms.  This is called hypercalcemia.  This leads to bone loss and that is where the osteoporosis can come into play. I have never had a bone density scan (DEXA) done, so I don’t know how my bones are, except for the fact that my dentist keeps telling me how much bone loss they notice at every one of my dental visits.

This extra calcium can even attach to various tissues in your body and cause calcification of that tissue.  Basically, it’s like growing a tooth over your organ! (I’m sorry if you have nightmares tonight…).  One of my thyroid nodules was calcified.  Parathyroid tumors must be removed.  Surgery is the only treatment for them.

I am eternally grateful that my primary car physician noticed the high calcium levels in my bloodwork, and catching this before I spent any more precious years feeling miserable.  Please, if you have any of these symptoms, and no one can figure out what’s wrong with you, please advocate for yourself and ask your doctor to order blood tests for Calcium, Vitamin D and PTH.  If your doctor won’t do it, find a new doctor.  Seriously.  Or, if your doctor says “let’s keep an eye on it,” so you can go longer feeling miserable…find a new doctor.  Unfortunately, there are many endocrinologists out there who will only go by the numbers, and not consider a patient’s symptoms.  This should not be happening.  If you don’t have any good endocrinologists near you, but you believe you might have a parathyroid tumor, you can try contacting the Norman Parathyroid Center in Florida.  They are experts in all things parathyroid.

Always read your bloodwork (if you can access it online like many medical groups are doing these days), and if any levels aren’t in the normal range – ask your doctor why.  Again, if your doctor shrugs it off, find a new doctor!!  See as many as you can until you get answers.

As a member of a parathyroid disease support group on Facebook, I’ve learned a lot from many poor souls who have experienced my same symptoms, but worse.  Many of them have developed painful kidney stones due to the damage done to their kidneys from the excess calcium in their blood.  Most people end up discovering they have a parathyroid tumors by accident – through a CT scan or blood test that they are getting for some other ailment.

So, once my doctor referred me to an Endocrinologist, everything starting coming to light – and fast!  My blood tests confirmed I had hyperparathyroidism.  That was the first step. The second step was to send me for a 4D-CT scan.  This scan showed 2 parathyroid tumors.  We wouldn’t know if I actually had 1 or 2 until I was actually opened up (they aren’t always correct).  The third step was to refer me to a surgeon to remove the bugger(s).  Being the proactive researcher that I am, I already did my homework and had already chosen my surgeon.  If anyone was cutting my neck open, it would be one of the best in the Chicagoland area: Dr. Steven DeJong at Loyola.  He’d been doing these surgeries for over 25-30 years, and it appears he does them every week.  That’s a lot of experience!

I met Dr. DeJong for a consultation and he spent a lot of time with me, showing me my CT and Ultrasound photos on the computer.  He basically told me that my thyroid/goiter was the size of his fist, and that it had started growing down into my sternum.  Oh my wow – a little freaked at this point.  This meant that I didn’t just need to have 1 (or 2) parathyroid tumors removed (which would have been a quick non-invasive surgery), but I needed my entire thyroid removed, and 1 or 2 parathyroid glands that contained tumors.  This was more involved than I imagined, but I trusted him and agreed to schedule surgery for January 11, 2018.

Removal of the entire thyroid will mean that I need to supplement my body with a synthetic thyroid hormone for the rest of my life.  Strangely, I know a lot of people who have had this surgery, and who are on this drug.  I’m not worried about that.  What gives me the creeps is that there is always a possibility of malignancy, AND there is always the possibility of complications during surgery.  One complication would be permanently damaging the vocal cords.

So, being this is an essential oils-themed blogsite, I figured my surgery would be the perfect way to show off my favorite essential oils after surgery.  I’ll use some for comfort and aches from the surgery it self, and then I’ll use skin, wound and scar-mending essential oils on the incision.  I’ll be posting pictures of the progression of healing of my incision in a separate blog, once I get to that point.  So if you are squeamish, you might not want to read my post-surgery blog.

Before the steri-tape is removed, I’ll be using a blend of essential oils, such as frankincense, lavender, helichrysum, rose, sandalwood and melaleuca around the area for inflammation, tenderness and skin recovery.

When the tape is removed, I’ll be using the same blend on the already-healing incision. I’m going to add some Vitamin E oil to the mix and also be using an “everything ointment,” which my company sells, that includes many of those same oils.  They are all fabulous for skin repair/soothing.

You can also view my videos at my YouTube channel: Karen K. – Aromatherapy

 

Homemade Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

cast iron, cheese, Chicago pizza, comfort food, crust, deep dish pizza, dinner, food, Giordano's, homemade, homemade pizza, pizza, recipe, skillet, stuffed pizza, Uncategorized

Here in Chicago, most of us don’t call it “deep dish pizza,” we call it “stuffed pizza.” Why? Who cares!?  It’s delicious!

What makes stuffed pizza so delicious and special to the hearts of us midwesterners is the unique buttery, flaky crust, gobs of mozzarella cheese and a thick, zesty sauce.  I grew up on it, and in my opinion it is the best stuff on the planet…besides ice cream (Ben & Jerry’s “Peanut Butter World,” to be exact).

Before you go and try to make this pizza with a regular pizza dough, do yourself a favor…don’t do it.  Stuffed pizza has a lighter, flakier crust due in part to the cornmeal and also in part by “laminating” the pizza dough with butter (I’ll explain later).

I have to be honest and admit that when I first tried making stuffed pizza, I bought pre-made regular pizza dough from Caputos.  Regular pizza dough bakes tougher and when it’s used for stuffed pizza, it makes for a hard time cutting each bite of your slice.  You end up scraping all the gooey cheese out of it to eat by itself.  And then you either eat the crust separate, or you end up tossing the entire crust.  While it tasted pretty good with the regular dough, nothing tops actual stuffed pizza crust!!  So, I highly, HIGHLY, recommend using this recipe.

All of the “oohs” and “aahs” that I’ve gotten from this pizza is enough to make it a staple comfort food in our house.   My sister even said it was probably the best stuffed pizza she’s ever had.  Did you hear that, Giordano’s??  In yo’ face!  (Just kidding – I love you.)  It is quickly becoming a family tradition to make these stuffed pizzas for game night with the family.

TIP:  You will first want to read these instructions all the way through, at least a day ahead, so you can make time for preparation and purchase the correct ingredients. 

YOU WILL NEED:  either 2 cast iron skillets (10″ or 12″), or 2 springform pans.  I prefer cast iron all the way!  I must warn you though, it is hard to cut the cooked pizza in a cast iron skillet since you can’t take it out of the pan.  A springform pan easily comes off and you can cut it easily.  You don’t want to use a rolling pizza cutter because it will crush the crust and not look pretty.

NOTE:  This is a very LONG recipe, but simple enough.  Hang in there with me. You will be glad you did because this is what you will get (yours won’t be as yellow as the one in my photo – I tried using a filter and failed miserably):

CHICAGO STUFFED PIZZA

INGREDIENTS:
Crust (makes 2)

  • 3 & 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 & 1/4 tsps salt
  • 1 Tbs granulated sugar
  • 1 standard packet of yeast (not instant)
  • 1 & 1/4 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, divided (1/4 cup melted, 1/4 cup softened or room temp)
  • olive oil for coating

Sauce:

  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, grated (about 1/3 cup)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (or 1-2 drops oregano essential oil)
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (San Marzano (THE BEST), if possible)
  • 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1/4 tsp granulated sugar
  • Optional:  1-2 drops basil essential oil

Toppings:

  • 4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (buy a block and shred it yourself, rather than buying pre-shredded – you will thank me!)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Topping Options:  approx. 20 pepperoni slices, 4 slices cooked/crumbled bacon (2 per pizza), cooked and crumbled mild Italian sausage, thinly sliced green peppers and/or onions, sliced mushrooms.

Crust Directions:

Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, or food processor with dough attachment.

If you do not have any mixer, you will have to do it by hand.  Use a large bowl. Give the ingredients a quick toss with your mixer on low or with a large wooden spoon.

Add the warm water and 1/4 cup of melted butter.  The water should be warm – not hot, or it will kill the yeast.  Also, make sure the butter isn’t super hot.

On low speed, mix the ingredients until everything is moistened.  Continuing on low speed (or remove from the bowl and knead by hand on a dough mat), mix the dough until it is soft and pulls away from the sides of the bowl and falls off of the dough hook (about 4-5 mins).  If the dough is too hard, mix in a teaspoon of warm water.  On the other hand, it feels too soft, mix in a Tablespoon of flour.

Remove the dough from the bowl and form into a ball.  Lightly grease a large mixing bowl with olive oil and place the dough inside, turning it around so that all sides of the dough are coated in oil.  Cover the bowl tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rise in a warm environment for 1-2 hours or until double in size.

TIP:  If your house isn’t warm, preheat your oven to 250F degrees.  Once it’s 250F degrees, turn it off.  Place the bowl of dough inside and close the door.  The heat will help your dough rise quickly like magic!

When the dough is ready, lightly flour a large work surface.  Remove dough from the bowl, set the bowl and aluminum foil aside to use later.  “Punch down” the dough to remove any air bubbles and roll the dough into a large 15×12″ rectangle.

Slather 1/4 cup of softened butter on top of the dough, covering every inch.  This is the “laminating” part.

Roll the dough up lengthwise like a roll-cake or Litttle Debbie “ho-ho”.  Cut the dough log in half.  Form the two pieces of dough into balls and put them back into your greased bowl.  Cover again with aluminum foil and allow it to rise in the fridge this time for 1 hour until the dough balls are fluffy.  Make the sauce during this time.

Sauce Directions:

Place butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat to melt.  Add grated onion, salt, oregano and red pepper flakes.

Once the onion has browned a bit, after about 5 minutes, add garlic, tomatoes, and sugar.  Turn the heat down to medium-low and allow to simmer until it’s hearty, fragrant, and thick – about 30 mins.  If it isn’t think, keep cooking until the moisture reduces a bit.  Remove from heat and set aside until ready to be used.  (You can store the sauce in a covered container in the fridge for up to 2 days, or freeze up to 2 months.)

Preheat oven to 425F degrees.

Assembling the pizzas:

After the dough balls have risen and are fluffy, take out only one ball to start.  Roll it out on a lightly floured work surface, working it into a 13-inch circle (if your pan is 12″) to about 1/4″ thickness.

Pick up the circle of dough and place over your skillet or springform pan so that the dough is hanging slightly off the sides.

Using your fingers, gently press the dough down a little, leaving some dough hanging off the sides – try not to tear it.  Then add your cheese – 2 cups of cheese per pizza. Next add your meat/veggie toppings – except your pepperoni – you will use that towards the last step.

Then, use a knife to cut off the extra dough hanging off the sides of the pan and save. We will use it to make the top layer – just like the famous Giordano’s stuffed pizza. It’s their secret step, and what I believe makes their pizzas so awesome. (Giordano’s seals up the pie with a super thin layer of dough before topping it off with the sauce and parmesan.)

Roll a bit of that extra dough into a circle as thin as possible.  Place it over your filled-up pizza, and pinch it together with the dough on the sides to seal the pie.

Place pepperoni on top of this dough layer, then top your pie with half of the sauce. Finish by topping it off with half of the grated parmesan cheese.  Add more, if desired.

Here is a photo before it went into the oven:

Repeat steps with the 2nd dough ball in a 2nd pan.

If using springform pans, place them on top of a large baking sheet, which will catch anything that might spill over.  Bake for 20-28 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

Remove the pizzas from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before cutting.

YUM!!:

Place any leftover pizza in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days (yeah right, as if there will be any leftovers!!!)

Reheat leftovers in a 300F oven for 15-20 minutes or until hot.   Enjoy!!!

Pleeeeeease tell me if you made this pizza, and if you have any suggestions or comments!

Blessings

FamilyLife Marriage Retreats – Marriage Restoration Is Possible!

divorce, love, marriage, marriage help, married couples, redeem, redemption, relationship, renew, restoration, restore, retreat, spice it up

So, I know my blog is for essential oils, but I just HAVE to share my experience at a FamilyLife marriage retreat with you.

How many couples do you see who invest in everything else BUT their marriage?  Sadly, way too many.  People will save up their money for the latest video game console or iPad, but they won’t spend it on something that can truly improve their marriage.

My husband and I recently went to one of FamilyLife’s many “Weekend to Remember” retreats (for the 2nd time) and had a wonderful time learning about what makes a good marriage, all while enjoying the hilarious speakers (and an equally hilarious video on intimacy and SEX!  The men loved it.  haha)  They had such down-to-earth, transparent speakers, who just told it like it is.  It brought us tears and laughs and most of all, it brought us closer together by the end of the trip.  A month later we renewed our vows with a bunch of other couples at a combined marriage renewal ceremony our church was having.

These retreats go on throughout the year, every year, all across the country.  They have marriage experts, top speakers, fun couples merchandise (‘Discovery’ bedroom game – ooh la la) and tons of relationship books.  It was like a mini getaway, and we so needed that!

We decided we would try it out, just to get away for the weekend and invest in what is the most important relationship we will ever have in our lives.  Our marriage!

We haven’t had a vacation in a while, and while we are still happy after many years together (and the many trials and hard work!), we knew could always stand to learn something new.  For some reason, staying in a hotel always seems to stir up romance – at least it does for me!  Woo wooooo!

The retreat starts out at the hotel on a Friday evening, for the first/intro session of guest speakers.  The 2 guest speakers at our retreat were AWESOME!   So funny!  One was a married couple, and the other was a married man whose wife doesn’t like to speak on stage so he spoke solo.  We were laughing so much all weekend it was such a great release of those daily stressors.

Here’s us when we first got to the hotel room…feeling a little goofy and laughing hysterically at who knows what:

Saturday morning, after you have breakfast, you go to the morning session.  Here’s our view during breakfast.  So serene… (except for the goose that kept attacking another goose, because apparently the pond wasn’t big enough for the both of them!  You can’t see them, but I swear to you, they are real):

After the morning session,  they break for lunch.  After lunch, there is an afternoon session.

Then they let you have the evening off to go on a “date night.”  My favorite part!!  You are supposed to make reservations somewhere ahead of time, and have a romantic evening with your spouse during that free time.  We loved the restaurant we chose – maybe a little too much – because we came back to the hotel WAY too full to enjoy the rest of our romantic evening.

Sunday morning, after breakfast, there is a morning session.  We skipped this one because it was a session where they split up the men and women, and you listen to designated speakers of your own sex.  I am sure it was as great as the rest of the retreat, but we didn’t want to separate.  God has done some intense healing in our marriage and we we’ve been feeling like newlyweds lately (sorry if it makes you gag…it is just great to feel so happy again).  I am thinking we will stay for this part of the retreat next year for sure.

The stories we heard from the speakers were eye opening and touching.  They told us of some couples at past retreats who came there with divorce papers in the car…and left feeling they should give their marriage another try.  How beautiful is that?  It is so worth giving it a try.

Here are some testimonials created by FamilyLife of real life couples who’ve benefited from these retreats:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8USoOuZy-A&feature=youtu.be

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DyvlpbTemp0&feature=youtu.be

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VMkXz22uPs&feature=youtu.be

Here’s an additional promotional video from FamilyLife – hilarious AND SO TRUE!:
https://youtu.be/zYwT1-5RaPU

We loved the retreat so much that we decided to become volunteers for FamilyLife, and spread the word about their retreats so that more couples can experience God’s restoration, revival and redemption of even the most broken of marriages.  These retreats are by no means only for couples in trouble.  It’s for anyone who wants to learn some tools that are helpful in having a successful marriage.

If you’re interested in investing in your marriage, or if you’re having marriage troubles, or if you just want to get away from the crazy kids for a weekend!!…you should definitely check it out for yourself.  I highly recommend it!  We will definitely be back again next year.  With my volunteer status, I can save you $100 off registration, so it won’t be so hard on your pocketbook.

The PROMO CODE below will get you $100 off registration at any retreat, in any state, any year.  This code will not expire as long as I continue as a volunteer with FamilyLife.

Just click the link below and type in this code:  TwoAreOne

http://preview.tinyurl.com/l5m95kd

If you go, please be sure to come back here and leave me a comment.  I’d love to hear your story, and/or if you loved it!  I know from experience that God is a miracle worker, and He loves to restore marriages or spice them up, in order to glorify Christ!

Blessings!

Savory Roasted Marinara Sauce From Scratch

clean, cleanliving, comfort food, cooking with essential oils, delicious, dinner, diy, do-it-yourself, essential oils, health, homemade, natural living, recipe, spice it up

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I have always been afraid of making marinara sauce from scratch – like from ACTUAL tomatoes.  Scary stuff.  I mean, what if I buy all those tomatoes and screw it up??  I’m Norwegian, not Italian – how could I possibly make a good “gravy”!?

While marinara made with a can of crushed tomatoes is delicious, I felt it was time I face my fear and make it from scratch.  And, of course, I also wanted to incorporate my beloved therapeutic-grade essential oils into the recipe to see how it  enhanced the flavor.

The sauce took me a few hours to make, because I took my time (and took photos as I went along), so you will want to plan ahead to make this on a day where you have some free time.  Those of you with small children are thinking, “free time, what the hay-hay is that??”  If you have small children…I am sorry…maybe you should save this recipe for another 12 years and then give it a try!  Seriously though, I think you can pull this off if you start cooking right when the kiddos go down for a nap.  I believe in you.

I will spare you the annoyance of reading each step between each photo.  I used to do that, and now understand how annoying that is!!

Feel free to browse the photos below, which are in the order of each step of the recipe.  Some people feel better if they can see how it is supposed to look along the way.  So, enjoy the beauty of these colorful fresh ingredients!:

20170317_210350.jpg

Garlic cloves before peeling.

Garlic cloves after “quick peel” in a jar.  I’ll explain below.

Blending roasted ingredients with basil & parsley

20170317_205741.jpg

I did it!  Delicious!  Roasted marinara sauce with broiled asparagus coated in olive oil, salt, onion powder and garlic powder, and unleavened whole wheat “bread” (see recipe at bottom of page) with a little shredded basil on top.

ROASTED MARINARA SAUCE

Ingredients:

  • 25 Roma tomatoes, cored
  • 2 sweet vidalia onions, quartered
  • 2 Tbs fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 whole bulb of garlic, cloves peeled (see note in the recipe for “Easy Peeling”)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt (preferably Pink Himalayan)
  • 1/4 C sugar or “Date Paste” (See Recipe for “Date Paste” in the Pizza Crust recipe at the bottom of this blog)
  • Small bunch of fresh basil leaves
  • 3 cans tomato paste, for thickening
  • 2 drops Oregano essential oil (therapeutic grade only, with “Supplement Facts” on bottle – comment below for my favorite brand)
  • 4 drops Basil essential oil
  • 2 drops Black Pepper essential oil
  • 4-6 pepperoncinis, for a little heat
  • *Optional:  1/4 cup dry red wine, diced carrots

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425F.

Wash and core the tomatoes.  Split them between two 9×13″ baking dishes, or put all of them in a large roasting pan.  The tomatoes can be left whole; they will break down during the roasting process.

“Easy Peeling” of garlic cloves.  Toss a few garlic cloves in an empty, clean, glass jar, screw the lid on, and shake vigorously for a minute.  The peelings should become loose so that you can just peel it off of the clove.  Don’t overload the jar, only a few cloves at a time.  Cut off the hard ends of the garlic cloves.

Arrange the quartered onions and peeled garlic cloves (and diced carrots, if using) around the baking dish with the tomatoes.  Drizzle olive oil over all and then use your hands to toss the tomatoes, garlic and onions to coat everything well with the oil.  Season everything generously with salt.

Roast tomatoes in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, or so.  The tomatoes and onions will look wrinkled, roasted, and slightly charred.  For a thicker sauce, cook longer and stir occasionally to keep from burning.

Remove the pan(s) from the oven and set on the counter to cool for 10-15 minutes. You can easily remove the tomato peelings if you want, but I left them on.

Place a large colander inside a large bowl.  Pour the roasted tomato ingredients into the colander.  The bowl underneath the colander will collect all the juice.  You need this juice for later – don’t toss it!

Scoop the roasted tomato ingredients into a blender or food processor.  Add parsley, and most of the basil leaves (save a few to shred and top your final pasta dish as a garnish).  Puree until it reaches your desired consistency.  You may need to do it in separate batches if you have a small food processor.

Put about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or stock pot.  Warm on medium heat, and then toss in the diced shallots.  Cook until they are soft.

Dump the pureed tomatoes, and the reserved juice, into the pot.  Season with additional salt, if needed.  Add the essential oils and any herbs you might want to add to the sauce to flavor it to your liking.  Add the pepperoncinis and cans of tomato paste.  If you are using red wine, add that to the pot as well.  Mix thoroughly.  I had to use a whisk to make sure the thick tomato paste was dispersed throughout the sauce.

Simmer on low, covered, for an hour or longer, so that all the flavors blend well together.  The longer the simmer, the better the flavors will be.  Stir occasionally so that it doesn’t burn.

Serve immediately as pasta sauce, or on homemade pizza (Click here for the pizza crust recipe that I also used as garlic bread with this meal.  For garlic bread, I just rubbed olive oil all over the dough and sprinkled generously with garlic salt and then baked it).  You will also find the “Date Paste” recipe within the pizza recipe.

Or, you can cool all of it completely and freeze it in containers or Ziploc bags for later use as a quick meal!

Mangia tutti!!

FYI – Not all essential oils are created equal.  Most oils are adulterated, contain fillers and contaminants and come from Lord-knows-where.  The oils I use give full disclosure of their countries of origin, and they are third-party tested for absolute purity.  They are 100% pure, therapeutic-grade, and extremely potent.  If you would like to use this brand, please comment below and I’d be happy to point you in the right direction.

**[PLEASE NOTE:  According to the compliance rules of the FDA, I am unable to disclose my favorite oil company’s name in the body of this blog, but you can comment below with your email address, and I’ll send you the link, along with some great educational materials on essential oils.]

Guacamole & Homemade Chips With Lime & Cilantro Oils

Baking, clean, cleanliving, cooking with essential oils, crunchy, Daniel Fast, diy, do-it-yourself, essential oils, home project, homemade, natural living, nutrition, organic, pure, recipe, Uncategorized

For a healthy,  quick snack, try some homemade guacamole and homemade tortilla chips!  They are fresher and taste a whole lot better than store bought chips!

First, gather your ingredients.  You will need the following:

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1 ripe tomato, diced
  • 1/8 cup diced red onion
  • Pink Himalayan salt
  • 2 drops Lime essential oil (See note in red below)
  • Less than 1/2 drop Cilantro essential oil, (use a toothpick, serioulsy) (See note in red below)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder or 2 pressed garlic cloves
  • 1/2 drop Black Pepper essential oil (See note in red below) or 1/4 tsp of ground black pepper
  • 4 soft yellow or white corn tortillas (I prefer El Milagro – they don’t use preservatives)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (or a healthier cooking spray oil than PAM!)

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Thoroughly wash and chop your tomatoes, onion and avocado.

Put your avocado in a bowl and mash with a fork or potato masher until your desired consistency.  I like mine a little chunky. Once mashed, toss in your onion and tomato and stir.

Then, you can add the spices and/or essential oils.  Where it says to use 1/2 drop of essential oil, here’s the trick on how to do that.  Since you can’t really measure a half drop, I usually put one drop on a spoon and then lightly shake some off into the sink.   Then I can stir the remainder of the oil that is on the spoon into the guacamole.  It seems to be just enough.  These oils are super potent, and a little goes a very long way!

If you aren’t going to eat the guacamole right away, put the avocado pits into the storage container along with the guacamole and refrigerate.  The pits will keep the avocado from turning brown!

For the homemade tortilla chips:

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Put 4 tortillas (or more) on a cookie sheet (you’ll need a couple of cookie sheets).  Very lightly rub both sides of each tortilla with a very small amount of olive oil (If you use too much oil, the chips will be chewy, not crisp – and ruin the whole experience).  If you have a cooking spray (which I don’t like using due to the propellant in the can), it would work best in this instance.  Lightly spray both sides of each tortilla instead of using olive oil.  Stack the tortillas on top of each other, and with a large knife, cut through all of them so that each tortilla makes 8 chips.  Using 4 tortillas will make 32 chips.

Spread each chip out evenly out over 2 cookie sheets.  Sprinkle salt over all of the tortillas.  And if you’re feeling crazy, put some salt in a bowl, add a drop of lime essential oil to the salt and mix it up.  Then sprinkle the salt all over your chips.  Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes or until crispy.

Once the chips are cooled, you are ready to eat!

Enjoy!

FYI – Not all essential oils are created equal.  Most oils are adulterated, contain fillers and contaminants and come from Lord-knows-where.  The oils I use give full disclosure of their countries of origin, and they are third-party tested for absolute purity.  They are 100% pure, therapeutic-grade, and extremely potent.  If you would like to use this brand, please comment below and I’d be happy to point you in the right direction.

**[PLEASE NOTE:  According to the compliance rules of the FDA, I am unable to disclose my favorite oil company’s name in the body of this blog, but you can comment below with your email address, and I’ll send you the link, along with some great educational materials on essential oils.]