A recipe for living with cancer.

Posts tagged ‘food’

Another day another IV

Today is my Herceptin infusion and it’s the first infusion I’ve come to all by myself. Seemly not a big deal but it’s the small steps and simple things that remind me of how lucky I am on this crazy journey. As I sit and write I am interrupted by two police officers walking into the women’s cancer unit. What would be the first thing to come to your mind as the reason two police would come here?
A parking infraction?
An accident?
Someone died?
They stopped at the front desk and then in walked three more police surrounding a humongous bald man in a mustard colored jumpsuit hands and feet shackled with chains. They walked him into the back and all I could think was hmmm.

Of course prisoners get sick, get cancers and need treatments, but until one walked right in front of me I’d never given it much thought, or any thought. Men, women, children, friends, family, personalities, fighting cancer and thousands of people walking for cancer, but never have I considered being incarcerated with cancer. I cannot imagine getting one of the ACT or Taxetere infusions and then heading back to the comfort of my 6×6 cell-at least the toilet is close.

Food at prisons is not the best and i don’t imagine they cater to your needs should you find what they are serving unpalatable. Nor would they be willing to serve you 6-8 small meals during the day. All in all glad I am free to come and go as I please, drive myself to treatments.
Another day another IV!

History Repeats

This was cookie weekend, a family tradition started 65 years ago when my parents were poor and needed an additional source of income.  Mom was a great baker and folks loved her cookies so she started baking and selling boxes for extra cash.  As things got better financially Mom kept baking cookies, but instead of selling them they became gifts at the holidays for my Dad’s clients.  It was well known at the annual Hotel/Motel show in New York City to stop by Berkowitz’s booth to get some of Raynor’s homemade cookies-to a small child growing up she was famous!

My Mom could do anything she was invincible, she could cook, bake, sew, paint, garden, work, do math, and live with my father, she was my hero. When my father told me she had breast cancer my world stopped.  My mother, best friend, confident, teacher, person who I could always make giggle, was 60 and sick, suddenly my life was out of control.  Control– we all try to control that which happens in our home lives our work lives, without control there is chaos.  How do we react when control is taken from us grasping to make sense out of the uncontrollable?  I stopped eating it was the only thing I could control.  I got very thin.

History repeats.

As cookie weekend unfolded I watched all the “kids” and looked at Miriam and how wonderful she looks captured me.  She is a beautiful person, smart, kind and generous and she looks terrific.  I felt a kind of deja vu, I’d been here before.  Yes, cookie weekend has been going on pretty much unabated for the last 40 or so years but there was something else.

My Mom and I were both diagnosed with cancer at sixty.  During this crisis I lost weight and now so has Miriam.  Coincidence or history repeating itself or is it one in the same?  I am not looking for some grand meaning in the coincidence, no irrevocable links of fate, bad karma, or premonition of what the future holds.  I was simply struck this weekend, surrounded by family and thousands of cookies,  I flashed back 30 years.  A similar cookie weekend, kids all around, my Mom recovering from cancer surgery, cookies everywhere and me 50 lbs. lighter and looking pretty good and feeling great.

I think I am jealous.  I want to be thin again, cancer free, looking great, feeling great. I also want the future for my daughter to be cancer free; I don’t want history to repeat.

The First Annual Mini Pour, and then there is Strep!

I totally overdid the last two weeks.  In some insane competitive portion of my being I did not like being a slug, all these women who work through chemo, take care of their children and then there is me.  I have nothing to do but sit back and exist through this chemo and there was this little voice inside my head that kept niggling at me: you have no one to take care of but yourself, you don’t work, you should be able to do more, others do more, come on, get up, move, accomplish something –so I did.  Two days after the infusion I was making Tom dinner, he was shocked, straightening the house, baking cupcakes.  I did this for four days and was tired and felt lousy, but I thought: all those women who work through the day, get home and take care of home, then collapse I can do this too.
I stayed at home for a few days while my counts were low, but not for five days like before.  I went out to lunch, I shopped, I did stuff and  I went to bed exhausted but feeling rather satisfied I was able to feel human again in some form.  The kids marveled, Tom was thrilled to have hot meals when he came home from work, all in all not to shabby.  Then came the days when I started to feel better, a bit more energy and that was when I made my big mistake, I decided to have a party.  Yeah, pretty dumb but I wanted to be normal.  Tom was against it, Miriam had to work the day before and day of the party so she couldn’t help as much as usual but I was determined.  I promised I would have people help, bring food, any food that needed to be cooked would be cooked that night by folks attending and everyone would help pitch in to clean up.

The issue was this was not an ordinary party where you decide what to have for dinner buy it make it, serve it and clean up, no this was different.  You see there is a fund-raising event here in Pittsburgh called the Steel City Big Pour-beer tasting, food tasting.  I’ve been twice and its loads of fun and this year I wanted to go with Sam and Cory.  The tickets are almost impossible to get but I REALLY wanted to go, it was the weekend I would feel great and it’s basically a beer tasting of about 15 different brewers locals and international, and food from about 15 local restaurants.  Each beer vendor brings an assortment and you can taste them all.  To get tickets you must get on-line on a specific day and time and hope to get into the queue fast enough to purchase tickets.   I set my phone alarm and was sitting at the computer 10 minutes before start time with the window open ready to go.  I kept clicking in and finally at 12:01 PM got in and was immediately told I was in the queue and would be helped as soon as I was next in line.  After 20 minutes in the queue I was not to hopeful, and at 44 minutes a message popped up saying “sorry we are all sold out”–what a RIPOFF.  Truth be told there are only 500 tickets total so it is really hard to get one and I guess this queue thing is most fair.

I texted Cory and told him what happened and how pissed off I was and he said…for $75 per person WE SHOULD JUST DO OUR OWN. Right I said, we’ll do a MINI POUR and it will be much better.  The rest is history…a mini pour at my house, with 7 or more kinds of beer and all kinds of food in appetizer portions.  Can you see where it totally went out of control?

We had our mini pour Saturday night, it was only seven people so I didn’t get totally crazy and invite 30, but with all the food we had we could have fed thirty!!  I planned, I shopped, I planned, I asked folks to bring beer and food and told them they would be helping cook, Sam was in charge of getting a beer assortment and Ellen offered to come help the day of and Miriam and Sam and the kids would stay overnight so they would clean up and help put stuff away the next day. See I can delegate…ha!

I did not vacuum, I did not go crazy cleaning, I merely straightened up and Ellen helped me with tables, ice chests etc…but it was the food that did me in, shopping, planning, prepping, and I did some cooking.  I went through the list of restaurants supplying tastings and began to develop my “better” list of goodies to go with the beer.  As this post is getting way to long I will just tell you what I had:  antipasto (thank you Ellen), salsa (thank you Judy), cauliflower ceviche on tostada (thank you Cory), homemade sauerkraut, homemade lacto-fermented pickles, fig crostini, chicken ban mi, fish tacos, two kinds of wings, rack of lamb, dry aged steak, homemade chocolate ice cream with baby fingers and cupcakes.  And here is a picture of most of the beers:

I had a blast, I stayed up way longer than usual — I ATE MEAT and it tasted really really good and I paid the price (not on the eating meat part although it was lovely and worth every bite, I am back to being more of a vegetarian than vegan) the next day.  I woke up Sunday morning with a sore throat and swollen glands, went to the Doc and I have Strep.  But you know what, it was worth it.  Family, good friends, good food, good time, what more can one ask for just on any regular day, let alone a day when you have cancer!

This was our first annual Mini Pour.  Next years will be bigger and better.

Thank you friends and thank you family for allowing me to feel normal again, I love you all very much.

“I Am 98% Sure It Is Cancer”

I have always rooted for the underdog, books, movies, athletics, horse racing, spelling bees, whatever the venue, I want the underdog to win. It is satisfying, cathartic, renewing and reminds us we all can succeed. Life is full of great stories where people beat the odds– so when I sat in the dark cold room filled with video screens I too hoped to beat the odds. A radiologist, my husband and I, dressed only in one of the gross blue print hospital gowns that flap open, sat starring at the mammogram of my right breast. He pointed to a fuzzy round mass and said, “I am 98% sure it is cancer.” I was the underdog and oh how I wanted to be that 2% and beat the odds.

A lump on my breast brought me to my doctor on May 6, 2012. I’ve found many lumps in my breasts in my 59 years, been called back for extra views on mammograms for something suspicious, had ultrasounds, but they have all been negative. This time there was a sense of urgency I’d never heard or felt with all my previous exams. This time my doctor felt the lump and within 10 seconds told me to get dressed, the sense of urgency in her voice was unmistakable, I no longer beat the odds. When she returned to the room she picked up the phone and called the mammography lab to see if they could take me immediately. This sense of urgency scared me to death. Less than 24 hours later I sat in the dark cold room with my odds so bad no gambler in their right mind would bet on me.

This blog is my journey with breast cancer and my recipe for living with it forever. It is partially a self-indulgent endeavor to get things off my chest (a pun on bilateral mastectomy—I will find laughter wherever I can), a journal on to how to be brave, how to ask for help, how to laugh and how to eat. I am a chef my life is food and food will be a huge part of the posts. I have helped many family and friends over the years work through cancer with food, laughter, listening, love and tears.

We with breast cancer are the underdog and when we hear “I am 98% sure it is cancer”, we need to know the underdog wins this time.

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