Monday, January 23, 2012

Tamoxifen and Textiles

Updates on cancer treatment, creativity, poodle meets horse, and more. More of my videos here.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Millie Likes Chicken

A lunch I packed for my husband, clockwise from the top: steamed broccoli rabe with balsamic vinegar, hard boiled egg with salt and pepper, baked sweet potato, hummus (chick peas, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, onion powder, dill), pickled raw beets an red onions (made simply by salting the chopped veg along with a handful of yellow raisins and dousing with red wine vinegar), and in the middle, onions, garlic, pinto beans, and a variety of vegetable stems, chopped and sauteed in olive oil

It's a rare day that finds meat cooking in my house, but I stewed a whole chicken recently, used the broth for soup, and reserved some meat for this chicken salad, which I ate over mixed greens and Jim stuffed in a big whole wheat tortilla to take to work. In it: capers and pickled red onion (see above) for their tangy salty bite, chopped celery and red bell pepper for their indispensable crunch, fresh chopped parsley black pepper, and a curried honey-mustard dressing.

"I like chicken."

Here's that soup I was talking about: made with chicken broth flavored with ginger, rice vinegar, and salt and pepper. Added to that: onion, celeriac, garlic, tofu, carrot, and broccoli rabe. Clean-tasting and hearty at the same time.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

One Year Later: Live a Little

More of my videos here.

Before Christmas, I was on a roll. I had a yard-long To Do list and I was cranking my way through it, item by item. But after the holidays, that rhythm eludes me. I drag myself to the alter of work each day and not much happens. And then I get a snack. I've been hard on myself about it (both the snacking and the not really working). Which helps my productivity not at all.

Things had just about ground to a halt when it occurred to me that I am alive and not sick and there is no crisis. And perhaps it isn't so important how much I achieve in my day, or in my life, but how much I manage to do exactly what a given moment calls for, exactly what would delight and fulfill me most of all.

In other words, what if I simply rest when tired, eat when hungry, exactly what the body craves, cuddle with my husband. Call that friend, read that book, hike with the dog, play?

Yes, there are accomplishments I'd like to pursue and there is hard work ahead of me in that, and yes, I want to be sure to floss and put away the laundry and pay the bills on time. But maybe I want to ride the spin bike, shower, and spend an entire Sunday cooking for guests (pictures to come). And maybe after they leave I want to peruse that magazine I've been meaning to get to for over a month. And maybe right now I'd rather play Boggle on my iPod than work on my website redesign. Just for a little while.

What's wrong with that? Nothing. Nothing at all.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

An Invitation

Easy and delicious: cut butternut squash into inch-thick rounds, bake on an oiled cookie sheet at 375° until soft and fragrant and brown around the edges. Shown here topped with hummus, cracked pepper, pickled red cabbage, and cilantro. Yum.

Christmas morning I could no longer deny the swelling around my right elbow. The tightness I'd been feeling all week, the stinging, aching pain up my arm, I finally understood, was my overtaxed lymph vessels, taut as guitar strings under my skin. "Cording" they call it, or, if you like to sound fancy, "Axillary Web Syndrome." It's considered a complication of breast cancer treatment and, some argue, a risk factor for lymphadema.

I have been dreading and fearing lymphadema since before my mastectomy, when I first read about it. The internet is fairly teeming with images of women with one arm bloated double in size alongside hyperbolic headlines calling the condition "breast cancer treatment's dirty little secret." Scariest of all, once the swelling comes, you spend the rest of your life trying to manage it. Sometimes better, sometimes worse, it never truly goes away.

Lymphadema is no secret. Before radiation, I was sent to a physical therapist to educate me about the condition, and to be fitted for a compression sleeve. I received two, which I tucked into the back of my sock drawer, just in case, hoping never to retrieve them. I was told that once surgery removed the cluster of lymph nodes under my arm and radiation damaged those remaining in my chest wall, my chances of contracting lymphadema would rise to 50%. In my gut, I believe I didn't need to have all my lymph nodes removed, (only two of the twenty-odd taken were cancerous), but modern treatment is still relatively crude, and my particular cancer scenario would not allow such half-way measures.

I was also told by oncologists and physical therapists alike, "You won't get lymphadema. You're young. You're fit. It won't happen to you."

But Christmas morning I could not deny it. I have lymphadema. I have been crying and raging about it ever since, wearing the compression sleeve intermittently, stretching against the pain to recover my range of motion, checking my arm as the swelling ebbs and rises like a tide. It's mild, but it's there. And I'm afraid that it will get worse.

For weeks I have not been able to bring myself to write on this blog, not in depth, anyway, as I knew I'd need to tell you. It's emotional for me to put my mind squarely on this new development.

But this morning I awoke to a message from my brother. After a long and valiant battle, cancer has claimed the life of one of his best friends, a fixture of my own childhood landscape as well, and a special person I was only just getting to know.

A few days before that, I got an email from another childhood classmate, requesting advice. She has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. She wants to know how long she can hide the news from her children.

Another childhood classmate is also fighting breast cancer, an advanced and aggressive form which has taken up residence in multiple organs, including her brain. Another old friend has been battling since she was twenty-five. The cancer is in her bones.

So today I practice the yoga of weeping. Today I am stretching to embrace the dead, the widowed, my friends fighting for their lives, my own life ahead of me, swollen or not, without guarantees.

Let us all stretch to be loving companions along this treacherous, beautiful, heartbreaking road. I hope we can walk it together for a long time to come.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Full Disclosure

I'm getting in the groove in the kitchen lately, chopping veggies weekly all in one swoop for future salads and this soup-of-the-day: pinto beans, chickpeas, onion, celery, carrot, Brussels sprouts, kale, red cabbage, and tomato, along with curry spices (cumin, coriander, turmeric, onion powder), nutritional yeast, dulse, salt, and pepper.

For longer than I remember, every New Year I reaffirmed the same resolution. Now I consider it my full-time policy: to give every compliment that comes to mind. This year I'm resolving something new. This video-diary tells the story. More of my videos here.