…Two words I’d be happy to never have to utter again.
This is a topic a lot of people have written about and I heard of after first getting diagnosed with cancer. I laughed at it, but now that I am in the thick of things, I truly understand it. So I’ve decided to throw my own two cents in. I don’t think it could hurt to remind people on the outside for the gazillionth time that I am actually quite fine.
Since first being diagnosed with lymphoma, I’d say 30% of the words that come out of my mouth have been used responding to the question “How are you?” Everyone wants to know. I know it comes from a place of concern and caring, but I would like to point out that answering this question is exhausting and frustrating for a sick person. And who wants to exhaust a sick person?
I am not sure what kind of response people expect from such a loaded question. For one thing, I am 25 years old and getting treated for cancer. That really sucks. Should I say I woke up feeling like I’d been put through a car crusher? Should I say I haven’t been to a bar in 6 months and I could really go for a drink? Should I say I’m scared I won’t be able to run again? Or that I thought a lot about death today?
Overall though, despite everything, I AM FINE. You’ve heard it before, and I will tell you again, human beings have an amazing ability to deal with things. I’ve heard people say they could never go through something like this, but yes, yes you could. Because when your only choice is to live through it or die, you suck it up and choose the former.
That is why I am honest to goodness just fine. Because I wake up every day, yes feeling like crap, but still happy to be alive. You don’t want to hear about my aches and pains or how many times I thought I was going to barf. I woke up and still had a life to live. It’s not “great” because I’m still not happy about this cancer thing, but overall it’s a solid fine. There are still a lot of enjoyable things in my days as well.
I have complained about this enough that my friends and family have nicely stopped asking me so much. I tell them that no news is good news, and that if I’m not outwardly complaining or talking about my health, then assume nothing has changed.
It’s not answering the same question over and over that irritates me. It’s that the question itself is a constant reminder that I’m sick and in this situation. It’s like one of my other most hated questions – “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your pain?” I hate that because it forces me to focus on my current pain and then try to attach a measure to something I always considered to be immeasurable.
Sometimes a simple “How are you feeling?” can be a harsh reminder that I am not feeling well, and force me to trivialize the severe situation I’ve found myself in.
So in other words, “I’m fine” is my way of brushing the whole thing off.
Instead I much rather talk about things like current events, movies, music, food, and cute things my dog did today. So how about we finish this off with some food?
Butternut Squash Sauce
The photos of this sauce are a little misleading, but I will get to that. What is Squash Sauce you ask? A creamy, garlicky pasta sauce made with pureed butternut squash. Created because my food restrictions were getting me down, I’m still craving homestyle foods, and I wanted a way to sneak more veggies in.
1 large butternut squash
1 head of garlic
2 tbsp butter
1 cup 10% cream (milk works too, but I haven’t tried it with non-dairy)
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
Pre-heat oven to 425F
Slice the tip of the head of garlic off like you would slice the end of an onion off. Wrap in tinfoil with a little oil.
Wash, peel, and cube the butternut squash, spread on baking sheet with wrapped garlic and put in oven for about 20-25 minutes or until browned.
While squash and garlic are roasting, chop onion. Heat a medium sized pot to low-medium heat, melt butter, and slowly cook onion until soft (about 15 minutes).
Add flour, spices, and cream to pot and whisk non-stop (making sure to scrape the bottom with whisk) for about 10 minutes or until thick like a gravy.
Once everything is ready, put it in a blender (including ALL of the garlic, peeled of course) and puree. Makes about 2-3 cups of sauce.
Now I can tell you I cheated taking the pictures. I always make my food for dinner when there’s no sunlight, so I photograph the leftovers the next day. And here you can totally tell! It was much creamier and dreamier the night of serving, although did still hold up well the next day. The texture just changes a bit in the microwave, much like mac n’ cheese or alfredo.
I served mine with egg noodles, salmon, and a whack of veggies, but the butternut squash sauce got lost a little. I would recommend tossing it with fettuccine or fusilli, then serving it as a side to something like chicken or tofu with steamed veggies. That way the flavours really get to shine. I can’t wait to make this again with maybe homemade pasta!
Now I am into the “good” two weeks of my chemo cycle where I am free of any additional poisons for a while. My body is getting to recover and I sometimes get a small glimpse of what it’s like to be my old self again. So yup, in case you were wondering, I am totally FINE.
I swear, I wasn’t going to post any pumpkin recipes this “season.” Mostly because I think it’s really overrated orange mush that people like to mask the flavour of with more complimentary flavours such as cinnamon and cloves.
We’ve talked about how it’s processed and in a can, right? Well, I’ve already contradicted myself once with an impromptu pumpkin cream cheese waffle posting, and today I’ll share with you why I had pumpkin hanging out in my fridge to begin with. Around these parts you can only get pumpkin in 28oz cans. That’s a lot of orange mush to be creative with.
I promise you, the next two recipes contain no cinnamon or cloves. This is pumpkin done savoury and edible!
Pumpkin Sweet Potato Tamale Pie
- 1-1.5 lbs ground beef
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 1 green pepper, diced
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into small cubes
- 2 chipotle chiles, minced
- 1 tsp adobo sauce from chipotle can
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 14 oz can tomato sauce (your favourite kind, I used plain)
- 1 can kidney beans, drained
- 1 can black beans, drained
- 1 cup frozen corn
For cornbread topping:
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1 cup pure pumpkin puree
- 2 tbsp molasses
Brown beef in a large pan with onion, garlic, peppers, sweet potato, and spices. Add in sauce, beans, and corn, and let simmer for 30 mins.
While beef mixture is simmering, mix together the cornbread ingredients. You can separate the dry and wet, but I’m not picky. The pumpkin and juices from the filling usually keeps it from getting too dry from over-mixing anyways.
When the beef is done simmering, pour it into a 9×13 casserole dish and pour cornbread batter overtop. Bake in a 400F oven for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the cornbread clean.
I went for a pumpkin whole wheat cornbread to make it healthier, of course. I figured if there was ever a time to healthify cornbread, it would be when there’s ground beef involved. The hint of molasses and whole wheat not only gave it depth in taste, but colour as well! I also snuck sweet potato in there for extra vegetables, which offset the heat of the chipotle wonderfully. I’m currently not allowed to eat hard cheese, but I didn’t miss it all. Overall, a dish that is definitely worth cracking open a can of orange mush for!
Of course, using only one cup of it, I had some leftovers. I was determined to get meals out of them and not just spiced desserts.
Enter Pumpkin Focaccia. Pronounced foe-caw-chuh (for my friends from the ‘view).
I based my version off of this recipe and it was freakin fantastic. I made the following changes:
- Left out cheese (again, not allowed, but I really want to try this recipe again with it!)
- Added 1.5 tbsp of finely chopped fresh rosemary to the dough
- Topped with roasted pumpkin seeds instead of walnuts
I made it into two small rectangular loaves. One of which my family pretty much inhaled straight out of the oven slathered in butter. The rest I enjoyed with my usual fried eggs and cream cheese in the morning.
I can’t be helped.
These are just some of the highlights of many great dishes from the last three chemo-free weeks. I had chemo #9 of 12 on Wednesday and am back in the chair for #10 next Wednesday. Needless to say, I’ll be dragging my heels and taking a lot more naps for the next little bit. I’ve been trying to teach Buster how to fetch things for me, but uh, he’s an easily distracted pup.
As soon as he brings it to me, he comes in for cuddles and completely forgets about the toy.
Thankfully, he’s a pro at lying around too.
If you have any interest in hearing my speak about what it’s been like living with cancer click here to listen to Part 1 of a radio interview I did. Part 2 should be posted on that website after 12pm Atlantic time today. Also, if you’re in my area, be sure to check out the CBC’s Tree of Hope fundraiser on Nov. 24 to help directly benefit cancer patients like me in Moncton.
Have a great weekend!
I have always been an “animal person.” You know the type. The kind of person who grew up worshipping the family dog, who wanted to be a veterinarian as child, and who declared vegetarianism in some stance of teenage defiance.
Since becoming an “adult,” one of my top priorities has been to get a dog. The responsibility is something I never took lightly, so I continually put it off. I never had the money, the time, or the space. I wanted to move and travel too much. Even when I moved back home for good, I continued to put it off because I couldn’t find “the one.” The dog I wanted to spend the next 10+ years of my life with.
Well, we all know what happened. I got cancer and found myself with a lot of time to spend all by myself at home. Then one day I stumbled across the dog. During this dark time in my life, I suddenly have a bright light brought to me every day in the form of my new pet.
I love my little Buster Bartholomew to pieces. But a recent Globe and Mail article called “The problem with loving your dog too much” got me thinking.
I already frequently joke that I don’t want to be “one of those” dog owners. The type that posts pictures of their dog all the time (okay, I already do), the kind that talks about their quirks all the time (I do that too), or who constantly speaks to them in a high pitched voice (oh, dear…). Well, at least I didn’t dress Buster up for Halloween! Although, I secretly really wanted to put a King Charles crown on him.
The article got me thinking about how there are a lot of dog owners out there who don’t treat their dogs like… Dogs. It reminded me that not everyone is a head over heels dog person like I am, who will stop strangers on the street just to talk about the dog they’re walking.
But at the same time, it got me wondering, to what detriment is there to loving your dog too much?
Buster does more than just give me something other than myself to think about for once. He does more than keep me company all day, and keep me active by wagging his tail by the front door every afternoon. He doesn’t care that I’m sick. He isn’t nicer to me because of it, nor does he ask me how I’m feeling every hour.
So what if dogs are a children replacement? Because of chemotherapy there is a decent chance I will be infertile when all of this is over. Maybe loving and caring for a dog is the closest I’ll ever get to being a mom. Sounds a lot easier too.
The article, while a worthwhile read, unfortunately only skims the surface and doesn’t really get to the heart of the matter. There’s a decent conversation that opens up on the comments over how “dog people” should socialize with their dog-weary counterparts. Because lets face it, dog people and non-dog people really do exist, and there really is a difference between the two.
I guess the take home point would be that it’s good to remember that dogs are not people, nor can our relationships with them replace the ones we should have with humans. But at the same time, I admit that I have no shame in loving my dog a little too much sometimes. So what if I love him like maybe I could love a child? Or jump over hoops to keep him happy? It’s all because he keeps me just as, if not more happy. To me, it’s all worth it.
In honour of our animal friends I’ve got an incredible meatless meal to share with you today!
Chickpea Pot Pie with a Whole Grain Crust
I used this recipe, making the following changes:
- 5 cups broth instead of 6
- 3 cans of chickpeas instead of 1
- omitted noodles
- omitted parmesan cheese
- made my own crust!
While there is nothing wrong with a little puff pastry, I really wanted to get nutritional value out of all components of this dish. I opted for a whole grain crust from this recipe, choosing that particular one simply because I’d had success with it before (using canola oil).
I just made the dough and flattened it out to the dimensions of a 9×11 baking dish, then let it chill in the fridge until I was ready to place it over top. As for the filling, I noticed that there was too much of it to put into one pot, so I ended up layering the frozen peas and beans with the hot contents in the dish to avoid having to switch to a larger pot and it worked perfectly.
The results were fantastic! I wholeheartedly recommend this recipe. I didn’t miss the chicken at all and thought the flavour and texture of the chickpeas blended in really well. I was also quite pleased by how the whole grain crust held up. Not quite the light pastry you’re used to, but definitely helped this meatless dish keep my belly satisfied for the remainder of the evening.
Now if only I could convince my puppy that he isn’t a human and his dinner is the crunchy stuff on the floor…