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.

Hairtofore

I pledge never to complain about a bad hair day again.  Even a bad hair day is better than a no hair day. Have you ever not had hair?  Not having hair is pretty all consuming, affecting what you do but mostly what you don’t do.  Who knew it would be this hard?  But even a naked head wouldn’t be so bad if those ears weren’t so darn big.  It’s all about the ears and who knew mine were this big?   Where did your hair go you might ask?

Chemotherapy will take it right away.  The nurse was saying at my first infusion  “Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky ones, whose hair doesn’t fall out.  Even so, it won’t come all out until sometime after the second infusion.”  As she was talking, I could feel my hair falling out and before the second infusion, it was all gone.  Being diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time in your life is sobering and this time, it had already spread.  I was in trouble.  I focused on hair.

I got a wig which looked fine in the shop and then when I went to wear it, of course I hated it.  I can’t tie a scarf so went for something I didn’t have to tie.  A hat, a cap,  I hate most all of them too.  I took the wig back and they cut and restyled it and I like it better, but now it’s summer and wigs are hot.

However,  there is good news surrounding no hair.  It takes me so much less time to get ready in the morning, I don’t have to shave those legs, think of the money I’m saving on haircuts, shampoo, conditioner and highlights.  With all those positives, why does it bother me so much?  Much more than it should.  Why can’t I be like most of the other women at the infusion center who don’t seem to be bothered by their hairless heads?  I wear my wig to the infusion center.  I’m hoping people don’t realize I’m sick and want to  present a normal face to the world outside of that room. So who has the problem, me who cares too much or those women that don’t seem to care at all?

Why don’t you try those cold caps you might ask.  I did that the last time and they worked but they were quite the pain. Penguin Cold Caps had to be at a temperature below freezing and a home freezer isn’t cold enough. If your infusion center is not equipped with a cold cap freezer which ours wasn’t, you needed a huge cooler with dry ice which we had to pack each time.  The cooler had to be a certain size to fit 8 caps and we needed 80 pounds of dry ice each time. The caps had to be changed every 20 minutes, so I needed a team.

My husband Tom of course was one of the team and a very good friend, Kinyon, volunteered to be his helper.  Mostly Kinyon was used for comic relief and the nurses at the center hated comic relief.  They were hostile.  My team seemed to be having too much fun and that is apparently not good at the infusion center.  I was having these huge caps, -20 degrees C on my head, changed every 20 minutes to keep them that temperature which was quite the distraction for me.  Four hours at the center, and four more hours at home which meant I went home with a cap on my head.  Then you couldn’t wash your hair for 2 days before the treatment and 2 days after, no standing under the shower, you had to use a cup to pour water over your hair, special shampoo and all in all it was a pain.  So that wasn’t an option this time.

You haven’t lived until your husband shaves your head!

Advice??

My Favorite Memory of Mom

 

At the time, I was mortified, wishing the floor would open up and swallow me.

The occasion was my graduation from United Airlines Stewardess School in Chicago, August, 1972.  My Aunt Dotty, mom’s sister lived in Chicago and mom flew out from Blue Earth, MN for the event.  I was excited to graduate and have mom and Aunt Dotty there.

I was thrilled and so proud that I had made it through our 8 weeks of training and now I was about to graduate and then start my flying career.  I had rented an apartment with 2 other friends and we were beyond excited.  Parents, Aunts, Uncles, boyfriends, girlfriends and grandparents had come to watch our graduation.  My mom was to pin my wings on me.

Our class filed in and took our seats.  I didn’t see mom and Aunt Dotty but I knew they were there.  My name was called to get my wings.  I walked up to the stage, mom got up and came toward the stage.  I thought I would have a heart attack.  She had on a short skirt and white Go Go boots, hair piled high on her head, black horn rimmed glasses and some kind of short jacket.  I was mortified.  How could she? Go Go boots?!  Oh how I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me.

But those Go Go Boots are my favorite memory of mom.  She was from small town Minnesota and she was so proud of me.  She wanted to be hip.  The 70’s were the era of Go Go Boots.  She must have agonized over her outfit.  She thought she looked great. And you know what?  She looked wonderful and in my heart, when I think of her that day, I am overwhelmed with love.

My mother was a terrible cook.  But the one thing she made that we all loved was pork chops.  I have wondered for years how she made them but I have a sneaking suspicion this is how she did it:

Put bone-in, thin cut pork chops in a roasting pan.

Pour two cans of Cream of Mushroom Soup over them

Turn the oven on to 350 degrees and cook for one hour.

After one hour the chops would have been inedible but that Cream of Mushroom soup melted into them and crusted up.

We all thought they were delicious which may give you a clue as to what our everyday fare was like.

This memory and pork chop recipe will go in the family cookbook.  What memory do you have of your mom that brings a smile to your face now?