Better Than Butter

It all started over a year ago when my college girlfriends came to Portland for our annual get-together.  There are six of us and even with kicking Tom out for the week, I didn’t have enough room for everyone.  So one of my girlfriends and I stayed at a neighbors, just to sleep.  I stocked up on junk food and everything else I could think of.  The first morning as I was making toast, I pulled my go to margarine spread out of the refrigerator and you would have thought I was about to put bacon grease on their bread.  “What is that crap?, that’s plastic, it doesn’t even melt on the toast, where’s the butter” were the comments. “I don’t have butter, this is what I use, take it or leave it, besides, I like it” I said defensively.  It devolved from there and so began another reunion of bad jokes, trash talking and jabbing each other.  We always have the best time!

Fast forward to right now.  My friends are all sure that it was the spread that caused my cancer and they have actually talked me into using real butter.  However, I am rethinking my diet and how it contributes to health and am determined to change a few things.  Mostly less sugar, less alcohol , more vegetables, you get the picture.  I am going to change my recipes to make them better and I may take you on this ride with me.  I was perusing a cookbook I found when rearranging the book shelf called “What To Eat Now” The Cancer Lifeline Cookbook, and guess what I found.  A recipe for a butter spread that is healthy.  I looked with skepticism at the ingredients and then decided to make it.

BETTER THAN BUTTER:   Makes 1 pound

1 cup sweet cream butter,  1 cup canola oil, 1 cup buttermilk, 1 cup ice water (this is the ingredient I was skeptical of)

Soften the butter at room temperature until very soft.   Combine softened butter and oil in a deep mixing bowl and mix until smooth.  This will take about 5-8 minutes.  Slowly add buttermilk and blend.  Then add ice water and blend.  Tip:  Measure a cup of water in a two cup measure. Then put in the ice and pour out excess water until the measure is one cup.  The water makes it all come together. After everything is all blended up, put the resulting concoction the refrigerator where it will firm up.  It works!  And it melts on the toast and it tastes good.  Try it and then let me know what you think.  I can’t wait to see what my college friends will think.

 

Now What?

Today, one year ago, I discovered the lump that would change my life and Tom’s for the next year.  It was a playoff football game I was watching on TV when I jumped off the couch, upset at a call made on the field, crossed my arms and felt the scary lump.  I can’t remember what teams were playing, but because of what I considered a bad call, I found that lump.  My oncologist discovered there were two lumps, not just one and there were two lesions on my liver.  This is Stage 4 Metastatic breast cancer which isn’t something you want to be diagnosed with.  Today, one year later, after a very aggressive treatment regimen, I am in remission.  My oncologist told me that only 1 in 5 patients with my diagnosis reach remission.

What have I learned over the past year?

  1.   Always wear lipstick
  2. . Find an Oncologist with a sense of humor.  It helps.
  3.   Expect the unexpected.
  4.   You will be stunned at the number of friends you have.
  5.   When your friends set up a meal train for you, tell them chicken noodle soup is your least          favorite dish, because if you don’t, by the end of the meal train it will be.
  6.   Tillamook Salted Caramel Toffee Gelato is worth every single calorie.
  7.   It’s really hard not to have hair and you will be stunned at how big your ears are.
  8.  A scary cancer diagnosis is a great motivator.  After thinking about and putting it off for several years, I wrote our family cookbook and memoir.
  9.  Staying positive is essential.
  10.  Staying active is essential.
  11.  Make cookies for the nurses, they will think you are a superhero.
  12.  I really missed wine.
  13.  Everyone needs a Tom
  14.  Always wear lipstick.

I keep asking myself the NOW WHAT question and the why did I get so lucky question, am I supposed to do something amazing?  But I am finding happiness in just the routine things I wasn’t able to enjoy this past year and feeling so grateful to be able to do them.  I do want to make some changes, which I will probably write about, but I am a changed person for sure.  What that will look like this coming year, I will find out!

A Pescatarian High Tea

Was it real or a dream?  If it was a dream, it was a good one.  We were in the car driving to Port Townsend WA to spend the night, then on to Port Angeles the next morning to catch the ferry to Victoria BC.  We were getting away for a long weekend.  When we arrived in Port Townsend, I knew it wasn’t a dream.  Apparently we were the only ones among our friends who had never been to Victoria so we had lots of information on places to see, where to eat and where to stay.  We were set.

The ferry trip was an hour and a half and when we landed, the scenery was awe inspiring.  We were staying about an hour away at Sooke Harbor and when Tom went to put the address into Google Maps, our phones didn’t work.  We had no service and were on our own.  Remember those days?  Luckily Tom has a map in his head.  As we went along, Tom got into a left hand lane to turn and I said, ” wait, my instinct is to turn right.”  He just looked at me. “Thank goodness you’re not driving, we’re trying to go toward the water, not away from it.”    There is no map in my head.

The Sooke Harbor House where we stayed was wonderful.  However, we had to go back into Victoria to see the City and have dinner at an Italian restaurant that many of our friends recommended.  Since it was our anniversary, it seemed the perfect place to eat, an intimate romantic place.  Victoria was very busy when we got there, people everywhere and crowded.  A little overwhelming.  Then we found out it was a holiday weekend.  Did you know that Canadian Thanksgiving is on October 14th?  Neither did we.

We found the restaurant in a cozy little alley.  So far so good.  Once inside our anticipation of a quiet intimate dinner disappeared.  The place was huge and it was packed.  The servers all had to be thin or they would never have gotten through the narrow aisle.  The service was very, very efficient.  No sooner than we sat down, we had menus and water.  That was quickly followed by bread and then the server ready to take our order.  Hearing was difficult.  The food came fast.  It was good, but…not the dinner we had in mind.  “Let’s pretend our anniversary is tomorrow night when we’re back at the Sooke Harbor House” I said.  “Good idea” Tom said.

Victoria is famous for Butchart Gardens and once again all of our friends who had been there said it was a must see.  We were also encouraged to have the High Tea at the gardens.  As I’ve never experienced a High Tea before, it sounded like fun so we did.  And so glad we did.  The Tea was in a beautiful room and we got a perfect table right by the window.  Our sever explained the protocol, we were to get everything on the menu, we only had to choose our tea.  Everything sounded so good and we were definitely going to get a lot of food.  Then another couple came in and sat at the table directly behind me.  As they were ordering, I heard them make a lot of substitutions.  Finally the server, who didn’t miss a beat said “Okay, I have one Vegan High Tea and one Pescatarian High Tea.”  She acted like she knew exactly what a Pescatarian was!  I had never heard the term before and believe me, I really thought I had heard it all.

It was the perfect getaway before the final phase of treatment and I highly recommend everyone go there!

Just Along For the Ride

What to do when you get that scary cancer diagnosis?  Why not that very thing you have thought about  for years but have just never gotten around to?    Well, guess what.  A scary cancer diagnosis is the best motivator there is.  Now or maybe never.  There are so many things I have learned and experienced throughout this whole process that in writing them down, I realized it would take more than one blog and why not start with motivation and Super Hero’s?

It takes a whole team.  The doctors, the nurses, family and friends and especially Tom.    All my doctors and the nurses were superheros but this one actually dressed the part. I stayed overnight in the hospital after my first and second surgeries.  All the rooms in the hospital are private, much to my delight as I fully expected to be in a room with someone else.  I had experienced that in CA after my former go around with cancer and it didn’t go well, so I was dreading the roommate part.  After the first surgery, he was wearing this red superhero outfit and after the second one he had on his black superhero outfit.  Humor is a  great distraction and a super way to heal.  Thank you Steven for making me smile.

 

I have always wanted to write a family cookbook and now was my chance.  I decided to combine the book with a memoir and to include both my family and Tom’s.  Memories, stories and recipes consumed me in between chemo treatments.  Sometimes I didn’t feel like working on it but  with the help of a very creative and patient friend of Tom’s in Ohio,  lots of laughs, remembering old stories, food mishaps, recipes and stories coming in from the extended family, and months of work, it got finished!  Two of my previous blogs had stories that are in the book:  My Favorite Memory of my Mom and My Favorite Memory of my Dad. When I finished it,  no one was more surprised than me.  It ended up to be 272 pages and was published by Heritage Cookbook Publishers based out of Canada.  I am not selling it, it’s just for the family but I hope it’s a book that will be cherished by everyone and we have all learned a little bit more about each other.  For any family members reading this and wondering where their book is, patience is a virtue!  Of course now I’m wondering what’s next?

I have a whole list of other things that a scary cancer diagnosis has taught and given me.  Stay tuned.  Has anyone out there written a cookbook?  How about another kind of book?

Cupcake Follies

Really, I just wanted to watch my cupcake show.  I’d been talking about it for days and let Tom know I recorded it.  The Cupcake bake-off on the Food Channel.  After 13 rounds of chemo and two to go, this was the big thing I was looking forward to.  I don’t make cupcakes but my daughter had ordered cupcakes for the twins 6th  birthday party and sent me a picture.  I was blown away.  I had never seen more beautiful cupcakes in my life and was sure they couldn’t be that beautiful and also taste good.  She assured me they were delicious.  Somehow this self taught woman was discovered by the Food Channel and asked to compete in one of the Cupcake Bake-off shows.  Her Bakery is called “Baked Blooms.” https://www.bakedblooms.com/

My sister invited us to come up for the weekend so to Seattle we went.  It was a good getaway.  I was up long before everyone else Saturday morning and sat around waiting for anyone to get up.  Tom was sleeping in longer than he ever had before so the sleeping pill my sister Denise gave him the night before must really be working.  She said it was mild and you wouldn’t have a hangover in the morning.  When he finally got up he had a big hangover and was really groggy.

“What the heck was that pill you gave me last night Denise?”  “I just gave you one of my prescription sleeping pills, they’re real mild and you wake up feeling great.  But my pills are the same as Bonita’s, so since mine were in the bedroom, I just gave you one of Bonita’s”  “Why am I so groggy then?”  Tom asked.  Denise went to get the bottle and then started laughing.  “Bonita’s pills are way stronger than mine!”  she said. Bonita happens to be the family dog.  We finally stopped laughing and Tom went to peruse his phone.

I went to my phone and found the cupcakes to show Denise.  I was telling her how beautiful they were and how the bakery’s owner was going to be competing in the Cupcake Bake-off on the Food Channel.  Tom looked up from his phone and said “Oh she won.”  “What did you say” I asked.  “She won.”  he said again.  I couldn’t believe it, did he just ruin my cupcake show?  “I told you I recorded that to watch when we got home” I said, barely containing my fury.  “I thought you’d already watched it” he said.  “Of course I haven’t watched it, I keep talking about watching it,  you’ve heard me talking about watching it, do you not hear anything I say?”  “Sorry, you can watch it when we get home and you won’t have any anxiety about who wins.”  I did not speak to him the rest of the day and was still mad the following day.  I even threatened to tell him who wins every Wisconsin Badger game he records.  The cupcakes had taken on an outsize importance, a metaphor for husbands who don’t listen! I finally watched the show several days later and yes, she won and yes, knowing she won ruined the show for me.  But I’m very happy she won, her cupcakes are something to behold.

Did somebody ruin something for you and you want to tell me about it?

Don’t Read That Book!

The first few chapters of the book put me into a tailspin.  A very kind neighbor bought the book for me after checking to see that I wanted it.  I knew nothing about the author but apparently he has been on all the talk shows touting his “cure” for cancer through diet.  His cancer was diagnosed and the tumor removed.  When his doctor recommended chemotherapy, he went into rebellion mode and decided he could cure himself through his diet.

What set me into the tailspin was my own stage 4 cancer had just been diagnosed and I was on an aggressive chemotherapy program.  The first chapters of the book trashed the medical field for corruption, doctors for scaring us into chemotherapy to make money and  poisoning us for an extra two or three months of life.  Wow!  I had never experienced doctors like this and felt that my doctor actually cared what happened to me.  Was this my outcome?  An extra two or three months of life for total misery?  I put the book aside, upside down in a dark room so I wouldn’t even see it.

Several months later, I am in a much better place and wanted to see what the diet he was talking about actually was.  So I got the book back out of the dark room.  Let’s just say it would be very hard to do.  Raw food, tons of juice.  For instance every day make carrot juice from 5 pounds of organic carrots, gingerroot, beetroot, celery and etc.  You should drink eight, 8oz glasses every hour of the day.  He turned orange, but not to worry, it will go away.  Other things were easier but not in the volumns he suggested.  There were ingredients I have never heard of and I’m a cook.  But, can I have cookies?  I really like cookies.  How about ice cream?  Sadly, no. This diet would consume your life.  It would be really, really hard to do.  You’d spend the entire day in the kitchen trying to make the things he wants you to eat, not to mention trying to find the ingredients required.  I’m sure it’s really good for you, but what about actual life?  Friends, family, movies, dinners out, aren’t these important for your well being?  Especially when you’re going through cancer?

My doctor has given me good news and says I am one of the 20% who is on the path to “cure.”  I really like my doctor, she has a sense of humor and spends as much time with me as I need.  All my doctors do.  I feel really good about where I am.  I’ve decided not to read any more books and to stay off the internet.  It’s not good for you.  Do you agree?  Or are you one of the persons who has to research everything?  I’d love to hear opinions.