Wednesday, June 10, 2009

No News IS Good News!

Posted Dec 16, 2008 1:39pm

Hi folks, I haven’t forgotten you. This is a time when no news IS good news. I’ve been waiting to write until the usual post-chemo bomb hit me, but it never came. There is one warning I’ve consistently been told about chemo: the effects are cumulative, and you feel worse after each treatment. I can’t even begin to describe how fortunate I feel that after chemo #3, I have fewer symptoms and more energy than I have since I started. I do attribute part of my well being to maintenance of my white cell count with the Neulasta, which I have the day after chemo.

Nonetheless, the lack of side effects is just astounding to me – and the oncology team. I bloomed a few face blemishes that could just as likely be due to a rampant sugar craving that I’ll blame on the chemo week’s steroids, and I’ve been having occasional “warm” flashes. But the absence of new major side effects and my increase in energy is so remarkable that I have to look at what else is different this time.

Call me crazy, but since this site is open to the public, I feel the need to add a disclaimer:

The content provided on this blog is based on my individual experience and is for information purposes only. It is intended to provide educational material and is not designed to provide medical advice.Please consult your health care provider regarding any medical issues you have relating to symptoms, conditions, diseases, diagnosis, treatments and side-effects.

Twice a week, I have a one hour session of Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy, and once or twice a week I have a detox foot bath. I’ve also responded quickly and favorably to specific homeopathic remedies in being able to control other symptoms.

Although I feel completely normal (other than the hair issue), cancer can be an ominous presence, and I know its ghost can remain long after this treatment phase ends. I want it to be over, yet I know every experience bears a message. It’s like watching a wreck – I don’t want it to be there, I don’t want to be witness to any of the devastation, but I have an irresistible curiosity about what will happen next and what I can do about it. Just as I wondered, “Why me?” regarding what message cancer was bringing when I got it, I wonder, “Why not me?” when I don’t get a symptom, or when I do something natural that clears it up without medication.

On a more philosophical note, what about the spiritual aspect, that stress and/or negative thinking contribute to cancer? I’ve known some pretty rotten, miserable people who also spent a lifetime abusing food and substance, and lived to a ripe old age. Yet those of us with cancer enter a matrix of beautiful, enlightened people of all ages that are fighting this crazy disease. There has to be some reasoning to this – maybe we are the ones who will bring to the forefront of global attention that we can no longer deny that everything on the planet is polluted, making us sick even when we make every effort to honor life. Maybe the exponential increase in cancers of all types will inspire the people that love us to make a decision to go a little more green, to think twice about what they eat or drink or pour down the drains.

And despite our best intention to buy “pink” and donate to the cause, before you do so, check out this site: Think Before You Pink. It is an exquisite summary of those that wave the pink flag of donating to cancer research, while manufacturing products that contribute to cancer, or contribute only a small percent of proceeds. It’s criminal how many advertisers exploit the pink ribbon to attract the enormous female market, most of whom are close to someone who has had breast cancer.

OK, enough bellyaching. Now for the good stuff. In 2 days I have my FINAL CHEMO!!! I felt so normal this weekend, Dave & I went to two Xmas parties, and I went to the Bay area on Sunday for Dave’s sister’s annual Girls-Stealing-Gifts party. Penny the Fearless Driver safely transported the 5 of us who were commuting from this area through the storm and S.F. holiday traffic, and we had a great time! The weekend was so festive, and it was wonderful to connect with folks I haven't seen in much too long, and visit with my sister at the Sunday party.

Saturday was the big baking day. For the first time in years I undertook the labor of love and made Nana’s Christmas Spice Cakes for the family. Among her many talents, my grandmother was a magnificent baker. Although the recipe for her yellow cake and butter cream frosting remains her eternal secret, she started teaching me to make her spice cake as soon as I was adept enough to climb up to the kitchen chair and handle a fork and spoon.

From start to finish, everything had a sequence and a purpose. Each ingredient had a special way and specific time it was combined with another. I loved the aroma of the sliced butter as I watched it melt into the applesauce warming in the pan. I was fascinated with the way the concoction bubbled up when we stirred in the carefully measured water and baking soda blend. I felt so important when I could do my first job all by myself - to gently beat the eggs in a small bowl. As Nana handled the mixer, she instructed me to add the gooey mixture to the warm batter slowly, so the eggs wouldn’t cook. After the golden swirls disappeared, she would have me pour in the sugar, “A little at a time.”

Nana taught me the time consuming but necessary measures for preparing the pans so the cake would never stick in the corners. The most important final detail was the proper wrapping method of the partially cooled cakes – warm enough to lock in the moisture, but cool enough that they would not get soggy. The cakes could stay fresh in the freezer for a year, but this required triple wrapping, first with waxed paper, then aluminum foil, and then tied inside a plastic bag. In those days we didn’t have Ziplocs or Glad Bags, so for that final step she recycled her plastic bread bags, a habit left over from the Great Depression. We set up a little assembly line on the kitchen table, and each layer was done in the same way – rolled together at the top, folded in points and sealed at the ends with tape, just like a present.

Nana originally made her cakes in standard loaf pans, so hours of careful labor produced three precious cakes. During the holidays they were a special treat, served in a thin slice with Saturday afternoon tea, and an occasional extra serving if she were entertaining guests. No matter what time of year, there seemed to be a partial loaf buried somewhere in the freezer, and on every one of my frequent visits I would automatically go foraging to find it. Now and then I coerced permission to shave a slice, and I would relish it, appreciating every step in its creation. The wax paper and foil wrappings became a little more crumpled with each invasion and careful rewrap, but still preserved the marvelous flavors.

Nana’s Christmas Spice Cake taught me that the preparation of food is an act of love and consciousness. Somewhere along the line of adapting to modern conveniences, I temporarily succumbed to newfangled TV dinners and processed quick-fix stuff in packages, which Papa always scoffed at as “dead food.”

I’m glad I came back – to slicing, dicing, cooking whole, usually organic, foods – consciously nurturing my household. Preparing healthy food honors our bodies, respects the abundance and miracle of nature and connects me with gratitude to the life forms that transmute to support our well being. I took a little extra step this year in preparing the cakes, and freshly ground each of the spices – cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. The scents were amazing; nothing like the powdered stuff off the store shelves.

The final product is a gift of love that nourishes the body and soul. My wish to those who taste it is to take a thin slice, hold it to their nose, and breathe in its magic. So when you do your traditional baking this season, I hope you do so with a deep awareness of the love of your labor – it makes a difference. With each bite, those who receive our gifts from the kitchen will savor the generations of love that are baked into their creation.
Happy Holidays!

Love, Laurie