A recipe for living with cancer.

Archive for August, 2012

What Tastebuds ?

If there was any question about my loss of taste it was proven gone today.  Things have not been tasting great and for the first time ever I found myself saying I hate food and hate to eat.  This coming from a diehard live to eat person.  Well my first clue was homemade chili Miriam brought for dinner…didn’t taste a thing and Sam was worried it was to spicy!  

Then today we sat down for lunch and Miriam found a jar of McClures pickles in the frig Charlie and Taylor send us.  Now pickles I can taste so we got them out.  Miriam took out the first pickle, took a bite and started to huff and howl and she looked at the jar and said omg these are spicy!  It took her a good 5 minutes with nose running and drinking to be ok.  I am not good with spicy stuff…I usually cough up a lung, sneeze uncontrollably and my nose and eyes run.. Ordinarily I wouldn’t even consider trying them. But…since my taste buds are out of whack, what the heck. I took a big ole chomp of a pickle, chewed and swallowed…and I could feel a littl bit of heat but not even afill inch.  I finished the rest of the pickle.  Crazy huh!  Maybe I should go do one of the spicy wing contests?  Nah I’ll pass, I just want my Tastebuds back.


Eating Soup with a Plastic Spoon


I sat across from this lovely woman today and it was her LAST treatment before surgery. We started to chat and I asked her about the next drug I would get. I won’t get into the graphic detail of side effects, but I will share what she said about timing.

I told her the first half went so slow and she said it did for her as well…but after the half way point it just flew. She also told me that a trick to get past the metallic taste and make food taste better was to use plastic utensils….makes perfect sense. So with my last day of pretty good energy for a good while I made a fresh veggie soup with the rest of the Magic Miracle Broth from Mimi. I ate it with a present from Rich and Marge, a lime green spoon with a smiley face cut into it. Makes me laugh just to look at the silly thing, and the soup tasted really good. The leftover broth I drank out of the bowl. Any port in a storm right

Do I Have to Go?

The night before chemo is filled with fear, resignation and intimidation. It reminds me of being 12 and going to a new school and not being able to sleep the night before. Who will be my friend, how will I find my class, will the teachers like me, will the work be to hard, or to easy, and who will I sit with at lunch and I hope Mom didn’t pack me tuna fish for lunch cause then I will smell all day …and what should I wear?

This morning I was struck by the glorious day, the sun was bathing the raspberries gently encouraging them to grow and plump and pink.  A clan of chunky fuzzy bumblebees were merrily singing and dancing berry to berry tickling out the last sweetness of the summer. A red berry peeked out of one of the branches calling my name-eat me Barb before you don’t want to eat and before I fall to the ground.

Then suddenly without warning I turned 12.  I turned to Tom and blurted “can I stay home do I have to go.  Please please please let me stay home.” I laughed, he smiled and we walked silently to the car.  I shouldn’t be so worried, THIS IS NUMBER FOUR AND I AM HALF WAY DONE  WOOT WOOT! This is the last in this series of four.

What I really need to worry about is the next drug and the new set of side effects.  But there is time for that, now I rejoice in halfway.

A Red Gem in the Garden

This was a good weekend one in which I accomplished things, visited with friends and felt somewhat human. It started with a good Friday thanks to Miriam and the kids. They came over for a visit and didn’t make it past the garden and into the house for over an hour. Miriam noticed what a mess my tomato plants were and started to pull them out and she didn’t stop there. She pulled and pruned and cleared and cleaned, got garbage bags and stuffed and filled…and didn’t stop until she was satisfied she’d made a dent in the mess. And I got right into it with her, me, the tired, complaining, neck aching, eye watering mess that I was started cutting dead foliage and lifting up the crazy patchwork of raspberry vines that bore no fruit but spread vines throughout the garden.

Suddenly Zelda yelled “Grammie, whats that red thing?” I lifted a raspberry branch, a good four feet long and at the very end was a cluster of 40 or 50 little brown raspberry buds and one bright red gem hanging at the end. It was a perfect red ripe berry. In the gloom and morass of chemo therapy, here I was having a wonderful time working in the garden with Miriam, Zelda and Oz and we discovered a prize, a gleaming jewel not supposed to be there.

Zelda of course wanted to pick and eat it immediately, as did I, and I suggested she give it one more day to ripen actually hoping there would be a second for Oz. She agreed and we went on to finish our work. We cleared and pulled up four five foot raspberry vines each fell heavy with unripe raspberries hanging from the tips. We staked each up to rise toward the sun and hope they would be filled with red gems in the coming weeks. I felt alive again, a part of my life came back, I have been letting chemo overshadow who I am and what I love. Thanks to a red gem in the garden I am going to try to not waste days feeling awful or tired, but try and accomplish something each day and take control of the chemo instead of letting the chemo control me. I’ll give it my best shot anyway.

And our patience was worthwhile, the next morning, there were SIX ripe raspberries on the bush. I called Miriam and she brought Zelda over for a special treat, we each got a berry, Miriam, me, Popop and Zelda ate the rest. There were more this morning when I checked, so plenty for Oz and Sam too!

it’s the little things in life that can pull us up short and remind us to dig out of the morass of whatever it is we are bogged down in and smile and enjoy. How lucky I am that Zelda spotted the tiny red gem in the garden.

Benefits of Being Bald

I wake up every morning and look in the mirror and there is that momentary shock-I’m bald. It takes me a moment or two to readjust and then I continue with my day. But each time I pass a mirror I have that same momentary shock. It’s similar to what I might feel getting a perm, or new hair color, or a drastically different haircut, with one very dramatic difference, I don’t have to worry about the kind of hair day I am having.

You all know what I am talking about, a good hair day or bad hair day, should I put on a hat -but then I’ll have to leave the hat on because I’ll have HAT hair? Being bald circumvents all of that mental rubbish we slog through each day. Our hair has an incredible amount of influence on how we feel act and portray ourselves.

On a good hair day we feel confident, outgoing, we rise to the occasion and whatever we are wearing it looks good. On a bad hair day, we shrink from contact, hide our hair, make excuses, and no matter what we are wearing it looks bad, it’s uncomfortable and think everyone notices our discomfort. Being bald requires no thought each day, wash, don’t wash, up, back, down, it’s just get out of the shower and go.

The other thing I’ve noticed is I forget I am bald during the course of the day…and when I chat with others they look up at my head occasionally…and not until I pass my reflection do I realize they were looking at my baldness. But they were not looking because I was having a bad hair day.

Johnny Cakes

This last week has been difficult. It started with a pinched nerve in my shoulder and traveled up my neck. It escalated into neck spasms which left me breathless and in tears being unable to relax, sleep or eat. A visit to my PCP and a prescription for Flexeril and OxyContin allowed me to do all three. I got a massage and am now on the mend. My family and friends have been most supportive and I knew for sure I was getting better when I awoke this morning wanting Johnny Cakes. These were my Dad’s favorite and Mom made them from a box of Jiffy Corn mix.

Here is a healthy version that makes more than enough for two
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 cup organic oat flour (you can use a variety of flours here)
2 tsp baking powder

1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 egg
1 tsp oil
3/4 cup milk (I use almond)
Place dry ingredients in bowl, add wet ingredient and stir just until blended, lumps are ok.
Spray a pan with oil, drop by spoon or ladle full turn when bubbles form.

You can add blueberries, or other ripe cut up fruit. Serve with honey or maple syrup.

Yum. Each treatment holds another surprise…but 3 down and 5 to go.

Coach Tom

Tom has become my new coach, I think the Olympics may have something to do with it. He has been encouraging me to exercise everyday but I have been stubborn, whimping out and slacking off. I’ve used the excuse of being tired, not feeling well and just not willing to do it. I know better and he knows I know better. The one thing about cancer is it gives you that excuse.

Over the years I have run with colds, headaches, body pains, knee pains, no pain no gain. I’ve run in the rain, the snow, the heat, at altitude, all of it, but cancer has been a great excuse to be a slug. BAD CANCER.

I need to get back that drive, that desire to feel better even if I am tired. Granted there will be some days I will still be a slug, but I need to get back the mental attitude along with battling cancer. Its hard after therapy thinking about what is going on in my body, all the good cells being destroyed and I keep harping on this in many of my posts. I just can’t get past the fact good cells dividing in my body, heart, lung, stomach, brain, liver, everywhere are becoming the victims. I do need to exercise more then at least I will think about other things.
Coach Tom will see to it!

Love to All the Strong Women in My Life

My Mom was the strongest woman I knew growing up. She worked in my Dad’s business as the bookkeeper every day, took care of the family, lived with my Dad for over 50 years, battled breast cancer, made the girls clothes, taught us to cook, was well read and cared about everyone. Prevention magazine was her guide book to health, she took scads of vitamins, minerals and elixirs, went to a chiropractor regularly, doctors very infrequently, followed trends in food health…butter bad, margarine good…frozen veggies have more vitamins and minerals…and baked all our cakes, pies, cookies, and breads and became interested in Reflexology.

Foot and hand Reflexology became her passion and the absolute cure for any aliment you had or thought you were getting. Headache, pressure points on the thumb, stomach either side of the heel on each foot, neck pain in-between the toes. When visiting she would always ask, do you want me to work on your feet? It was as good as a full body massage and I rarely said no. She would lie you down on the couch, put a pillow in her lap, grab some hand cream and prop your feet in front of her. She did EVERYONE in the family and anyone else that needed it. It takes a very special person to touch someone else’s feet!

As she grew older and her fingers and knuckles started to bend and twist with arthritis like an old willow branch, she still worked on our feet with an amazing strength in her fingers for one with hands so compromised. She always chatted and laughed and giggled at little quips and jokes we’d trade as she methodically worked from big toe to little toe, arch, sides and heel. I was always sorry when she got to the heel on the last foot because this very special time was ending. It was more than Reflexology, it was very special time spent together, laughing, sometimes crying and healing.

My daughter Miriam inherited all my Mom’s strength. She works, takes care of a family, cooks, cleans and cares about everyone. When my cancer therapy was set up she immediately set up a schedule to help out. She comes the evening of the therapy to help out in any way she can, she takes me for my shot the day after therapy, she comes every Wednesday for lunch, she makes me a batch of magic miracle broth as needed and is basically “on call” in case I need her.
Wednesday night we went to visit the kids before my therapy and before they went away for a long weekend. I sat and had a wonderful time coloring with Zelda and Tom played Bob the Builder with Oz. Miriam noticed I had a stiff neck and gave me a shoulder massage and immediately found this huge knot, which was causing my neck pain. She slowly and methodically massaged down my back and up my neck giving me some relief. I was transported back to the many sessions on my Mom’s couch, feet on a pillow with her methodically working down my foot.

Again it was not just the massage, it was the time spent together, laughing, sometimes crying and healing.
Love to all the strong women in my life.

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