Monthly Archives: October 2011
When you change the way you look at things,
the things you look at change.
-Wayne W. Dyer
I was thinking yesterday about what makes us sick and all the things we do to prevent getting sick. We wash our hands and eat Vitamin C. But you know what harms our immune system more than germs or anything else? Stress. You can take all the preventions you want, but if stress is present, then the rest is for naught.
I know this is a quote or saying we’ve heard many times before, but I realize now how important it is to take to heart. Life is stressful. Everyone has things to worry about. But you can’t change those factors, only the way you respond to them. Take care of yourself and respond accordingly. Your world won’t end with some situations, but it will if you make yourself sick with stress.
Enjoy your weekend!
When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I felt very alone. It was a time when literally hundreds of people showed love and support towards me, and yet I had a hard time finding those who truly understood. I was in the oncology ward with people 2-3 times my age. My family was learning how to deal with the fact that the baby of the family (me) could be the first to go. If there is one word to sum it up, it would be “shock.” From me and everyone around me.
It’s with this that I turned to books and the internet. Not obsessively researching my disease, but rather looking for stories like mine. I stumbled across Young Adult Cancer Canada in my search, and proceeded to read every single one of their survivor profiles. Finally, people like me. People who went through the horror of cancer in the same stage of their lives and lived to tell the tale.
It’s that same organization that sent me, along with other young adult cancer patients and survivors from across Canada, to see the movie 50/50 last night. I’ve been anxiously waiting to see this movie since I heard about it the first week I was admitted to hospital. Finally, I could see my story play out on the big screen.
I’m not going to sit here and give you a critical review of the film, and I’ll try not to reveal any information beyond what’s shown in the trailer. Needless to say, seeing my story on the big screen stirred up a lot of emotions!
First and foremost, I loved that they injected a lot of humour into the film. Cancer is not depressing all the time. In fact, a lot of it is spent laughing at the absurdity of the situation. There were moments in the film where I found myself laughing way louder than anyone else around me. I am definitely one of those people who can find humour in the strangest of situations, and I think anyone in their 20s who finds themselves taking fun drugs for free at the hospital would be able to do the same.
What I thought the film really got right was that getting cancer in your 20s is not all about finding yourself, but more managing the emotions of the people around you. I’ve always wondered if it’s sometimes easier to be the sick one and not the one watching someone you love go through hell. Even though I know everything everyone does is because they love me, it is hard to be selfish when there are so many people around me who need to hear I’m okay. People say they can handle it, but really, they can’t (to no fault of their own).
While I overall enjoyed the movie, there is no way it could have summed up the cancer experience. It hit a lot of the high points but there are SO many points throughout the process, there’s just no way to get them all. On the other hand, it was hard to watch at some points because of how real it was. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever seen someone get chemotherapy in a movie. Although I’ve never been offered pot macaroons in the chair, it wasn’t far off from what I go through every other week.
The hardest part however is the surgery scene at the end. My mom, sister, and I were all crying. I think it’s because we are not all that far removed yet from my own surgery three months ago that led to my diagnosis. They removed a lymph node that day, but the back-up plan was to remove a piece of the cancer from around my heart. A much more serious procedure that had my family anxiously waiting while the surgeons worked on me behind the door.
There is no doubt that being the one on the operating table is easier than the one waiting to hear the news. I was so doped up at the time that I couldn’t really understand the emotions around what was going on. So seeing that onscreen struck a bit of a nerve.
Since my diagnosis, I have found tons of young adults with cancer to connect with. Some survivors, others going through treatment like me right now. We talk a lot about how we manage the day-to-day of feeling crappy all the time. The activities we miss. How we deal with our families. I don’t feel as alone, which can sometimes be the hardest part of being so sick at such a young age. The life I was busy living and planning is suddenly put on hold, and the many, many decades I have ahead of me are now filled with a giant question mark. It’s impossible for 50/50 to reflect the whole experience of having cancer in your 20s. But I’m happy that it is showing big audiences that is does happen, that not all of us die, and a lot of us get through it laughing.
When people ask me how I’ve been making out with my chemotherapy treatments so far, I usually name the one or two side effects that are the worst that day, then add that overall it hasn’t been too bad.
I’ve written before that I had some horrific image of my being rail thin, bald, and puking over a toilet the whole time. Instead, I feel like the chemo experience has instead been quite manageable. Sure, I’m tired all the time. But really, what busy person doesn’t feel tired all the time anyways?
Then treatment #6 came and I felt a little walloped.
The thing with chemo is that it accumulates. While I was able to recover within a few days of the first treatments, that recovery time gets longer and longer with each treatment. Suddenly, a week has passed since my sixth chemo and I only now feel like I’m coming out of the post-treatment fog.
One of the big things I noticed this time around was my stomach. It hated treatment #6. All I wanted was toast and cheese, preferably every few hours to keep it from getting too upset. That worked for a couple of days, until I realized I needed something with I dunno, vegetables.
We got eggplant in last week’s CSA box. There was no way I had the stamina to make another moussaka, so I racked my brain and remembered a certain Babaganoush Soup I once saw on Eat Live Run. I *puffy heart* babaganoush and it sounded like a great way to turn the dip into a meal.
But then I remembered Oh She Glows Garbanzo Soup. Aka hummus soup. I wanted that too!
So I mixed the two and created a tasty little “get well” chemo soup. It’s full of those veggies I need, easy on my tummy, and a cinch to make when I have no energy to be standing around in the kitchen.
Babaganoush Hummus Soup
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large eggplant (or 3 small ones)
- 1 red pepper
- 1 red onion
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp tahini
- 1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups vegetable stock
Heat oil in a medium heat pan and add chopped eggplant, red pepper, and onion. Cook slowly, about 20 minutes, until soft and caramelized.
Add coriander, cumin, and garlic and cook for another 5 minutes.
Transfer to blender with remaining ingredients and blend. I recommend adding your stock last and a little bit at a time until you get your desired consistency. I like my soups reeeeally thick and added less than 2 cups.
Transfer to a pot and let simmer for about 30 minutes so the flavours can mingle. Or 5 minutes if you’re impatient like me.
The end result is a warm and creamy soup with a cumin and garlic kick reminiscent of my favourite dips. Although, it’s still a good idea to have pita bread on hand for this one! Or my latest favourite – cheese and toast. With a little pesto for good luck.