Healing Through Food

Even before I started chemo food started to arrive for me from friends and family. They have brought and made me food they thought could help, would provide nourishment, could be eaten when I was slightly nauseated, and which was intended to heal me. The love and thoughtfulness that went into making the food alone, was healing.

It started with our friend Diane, who started making soup for me weeks before I started chemo, in containers that could be frozen, and all of which is delicious. She also made me smoothies and sun tea, along with chicken, rice, quinoa, and other dishes, since the chemo. On at least a weekly basis, I receive a new gift of food from her. She has continued this even while packing her house, looking for a rental for her, her husband an son, and dealing with the fact that her current house is to be demolished soon to be replaced by a new one. My cousin Denise, before chemo, made me addictive and very healthy, homemade granola. It is long gone – too good not to eat. My friend Amy, who works with me, dropped off chicken noodle soup, crackers and other food from Plum. All was eaten.

After my first chemo, as Deb was at Karmanos with Alan and I, where I went after the horrible reaction I had to chemo the day before, Judy was feverishly making the chicken rice soup for me she had planned to make later that week. By the time we arrived home at lunch time, she was there, with a pot of soup that fed me for the next three days and more. That soup, together with Ensure, was almost the only thing I could eat those days. I turned to it over and over again, including the next week when I relapsed with more nausea and had to go back to the clinic. The second chemo she made delicious potato soup that she pureed for me, so it went down easily. Deb bought me chocolate Ensure and the lemonade that she knew I mixed with water in order to be able to drink water. Water, which I used to love to drink plain, now tastes like metal, so adding lemons or some lemonade is essential to make it drinkable. Lynn has fed me over and over again, bringing food to my house, and having me over to her house, and bought me cottage cheese when I was out of it. My neighbor Lois, made us delicious homemade brownies, which Alan and my son, Alex, especially enjoyed.

Jackie was the strangest with her food gifts, but actually ended up absolutely right in the food she brought. Because she suffered from gastritis in the past and knew what foods worked for her when she was nauseated, she made or brought those foods for me. She also suggested that I get only chocolate Ensure because every other flavor did not sit well. She is right about that, by the way, a least for me. Some of the food she brought seemed out of the ordinary and certainly not what I know her to make and eat. Jackie, like me, has a very mediterranean based diet, is a foodie, cooks very fresh, healthy and delicious meals. What she brought was mostly far from such a diet – white egg noodles with cottage cheese, plain wheat pasta with parmesan (closer), quinoa and rice (closer also), cold carrot soup, millet, and Laughing Cow low fat swiss cheese wedges. Many of these, not all, I would never generally eat, or even think of putting together in the case of the noodles and cottage cheese. She was right. All of those foods worked when I had nausea. Who would have thought cottage cheese and noodles is comforting. I never bought Laughing Cow cheese and promptly stocked up before my second chemo. With sea salt crackers, it too was comforting. I hesitated on the cold soup, even though I usually love cold soup, but it too worked. She already told me she has more food coming this chemo and I know she is bringing chicken noodle soup but also cooked egg noodles to which I can add the cottage cheese I now always have in the house.

Before my second chemo, aside from food from Diane, Jackie and Judy, my cousin Mary had me over for brunch and then packed me food she had bought for me and my family to have the next week, including fresh fruit and quiche. My friend Sarah came over with the most amazing chicken bone marrow soup, with organic chicken, carrots, and orzo. I froze some of it, but it was my mainstay after second chemo along with Diane’s beef bone marrow soup with pureed vegetables and of course, pasta and noodles from Jackie. Karen bought me quiche from Dangerously Delicious Pies in Detroit – best I have ever had. Jill sent me a Zingerman’s dinner, and while I could not eat the corned beef, my husband was VERY happy to have it. Kathy sent me Zingerman’s coffee cake that I did have. Therese came over with bags of goodies from Plum, and I blame her for my new addiction to Jenis frozen yogurt. She also picked out from Plum prepared foods she thought would be comforting and hit the nail on the head. My cousin, Clarice, brought me her cherry nut pound cake she knows I love, and I froze some and keep some out for snacks. Still love it, at least by day five after chemo. My friend, Hilary made me delicious green smoothies, which would make my daughter Sara happy, because she is constantly telling me I should be drinking green smoothies. Now, my friend Kate, who already brought me fresh ginger and amazing teas, is also making me a bone marrow broth. Not only is this food healing, but the care that goes into making it and bringing it to me makes me more determined to win the battle.

As I mentioned, my diet is a mediterranean type diet and that is how I grew up eating. I eat and always have eaten, a lot of fresh fruit, vegetables, hummus, olives, use olive oil in my cooking, fish, some meat and poultry, grains, feta (the real kind made from sheep’s milk, not the bland and dry domestic cow’s milk feta), goat cheese, and real yogurt (plain, not with all that sugar – if I want fruit in my yogurt I cut up fresh fruit and mix it into plain yogurt). As a kid growing up, we did not eat frozen food, did not have a lot of potatoes because rice and bulgur were the grains of choice, did not do jello molds or marshmallows in salads, were not meat, potatoes and gravy people. Our salad dressing was oil, fresh squeezed lemon, mint from the garden, salt and pepper. when we had lemonade, it was made from fresh squeezed lemons. The yogurt was homemade, not bought from the stores. The pita bread was fresh daily from the middle-eastern bakery, not the generally stale, thick stuff sold at grocery stores. We were taught healthy habits. My favorite snack was, and continues to be, a piece of fresh fruit. If my fruit and vegetable drawers get low, I have to go shopping because I cannot be without them. I see no reason to make frozen meals when a fresh cooked one tastes so much better and is so much healthier. This is one of reasons it is somewhat of a joke that despite this, and lots of yoga and meditation, I have stomach cancer which mostly is a result of a poor diet heavy in fats and salt.

I tell you about this diet, because in the three days or so after chemo, my diet turns into a white bread, bland diet, that other than the soup and a couple other things, bears little resemblance to my regular diet. I want cottage cheese, noodles, fake swiss cheese, plain crackers, white bread, plain rice, pudding. I do still eat plain yogurt and feta. I cannot handle any fruit the first three days after chemo other than watermelon, and fresh vegetables are off the menu until then. After day four post-chemo, I go back to a semblance of my normal diet, although the cottage cheese and noodles still taste good.

Having the food made for me and brought to me, touches my spirit, but is also such a help. I cannot cook for four days after chemo – having to make food and smell it while making it, is not an option. While after the first chemo, I did not cook at all, happily, after my second one, by Saturday (five days after my Monday chemo) I made dinner and continued to cook thereafter. I expect to do the same from now on. I never turn down an offer of food – that food has saved me in more than one way. These gifts from the heart and the nourishment they offer, keep me strong. I plan to keep up that strength, with the help of this food, during this battle. On to my next meal of noodles and cottage cheese….

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3 thoughts on “Healing Through Food

  1. Therese samarco says:

    It may be a cliche but, food truly is love. Sustaining and comforting, the people who love you want to do something and, what better way than through feeding and nourishing your body. You are loved, Marilyn.

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