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This is supposed to be a blog about life after cancer. 6 weeks post-recurrence, I’m still stunned that I’m now writing about life with cancer.

I apologize for my absence. It’s been weeks since I’ve felt comfortable enough to publish a post.

It’s not that I haven’t tried. A desktop folder, creatively-titled “Update” houses seven different versions of this post – “Update”, “Update on lungs”, “Update-2” – each no more than a few sentences. All cut short once I’ve realized that the tone is too personal, too optimistic, too vague or too depressing.

The root of my writer’s block is that steady states don’t exist. There are tremendous highs. I’ve tucked the kids into bed at night and promised to stay strong. I’ve told them that I want to exercise and get into great shape. “What kind of shape?” Lauren teased. “A square? A rectangle?”

We’ve laughed at the absurdity of this experience. Before I was wheeled into surgery, my Mum showed me a comment from the original cancer post. My good friend Hilary nailed it with both humor and timing:

“I know with all my being you will live until your boobs sag like droopy dog’s ears.”

Yes please, to all of it.

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But the inverse of levity is anxiety. There are days when I sit on the edge of sanity and wait for results…from surgery…from bloodwork, from scans, pathologies, treatment options….

I find it hard to be part of the real world. It doesn’t fit anymore. Beautiful moments are painful. Mundane moments seem bizarre and out of place. “Hi Jessica, did you know that July is National Hot Dog Month?” “Hi Jessica! Mary here with BE SOCIAL! One of my fun, delicious clients is….”

It’s often easier to retreat. To find solace behind a computer screen and engage with others who understand this world and speak my language. SNB, BRAF, PD1, MEK, NIVO, PEMBRO, IPI, EORTC 18071, and the most important word of all: NED. No evidence of disease.

It may be an obvious point, but a stage IV melanoma diagnosis stacks the cards against you. According to a top melanoma oncologist, whom I visited for a second opinion, I have a 75-80% chance of recurrence and there aren’t any treatment options for resected patients – high risk patients like me, who have no active tumors. The recommendation: watch, wait, scan every few months.

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My current oncologist – the person who’s been responsible for my care since I was first diagnosed at age 25 – has a different plan. She wants to hit the disease aggressively with several months of adjuvant treatment, a drug called Ipilimumab that will rebuild my immune system. 

My family and I had spilled tears of relief coming out of our visit. I’d emailed friends, ecstatic about what had essentially been hailed as a cure. “She won’t say the word “cure”, refers to it as a 4-letter word – but it’s as close as she’s come to seeing long-term remissions.”

What she didn’t highlight is that Ipilimumab only works for 1/5th of patients. That people often pull out of treatment because of the side effects, many of which last for months after the final infusion. 

Though I love my doctor’s positivity, she tends to focus on the best possible outcome, even if it happens at the bleeding right edge of the normal distribution.

But I’m not one to wait for cancer to return. To where, my liver? My brain? My spine? A 20% response is worth the side effects, and it’s a far better response than treatments that were available just a few years ago.

Besides, I’ve got food and nutrition on my side.

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I’ve been cooking as much as ever, finding inspiration in the cancer-fighting fruits and vegetables that I pick up from my CSA and local farm stands. I’ve come to respect the healing power of turmeric; like flour on a baker, you’ll find me dusted with saffron-colored fingerprints.

I know that some of you have come to this site in search of updates; I’ve had an easier time posting snapshots to Instagram, so wanted to point you in that direction should you worry about any silence on my end.

My goal is to make it through the next few months of treatment and get back to posting regular entries on this site. I miss it; I miss the friendships and the daily interactions. Most of all I miss telling the stories of mistaken identity, top secret GMO missions, and Valentine’s Day dinners gone wrong. Happy stories. True stories. Stories from a thoroughly average, beautiful life.

I hope to see you back here soon…

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red_juice_beets_carrots_pineapple_1

Some cooks prefer to prepare food as naturally as possible. Pie dough with a food processor? Bread dough with a standing mixer? Not a chance. Isn’t that what your hands are for? To pinch flour and water together, and feel the weight of the ingredients in your hands, just as your ancestors did for millenniums before you?

For better or worse, I am not one of these people. I’m an efficiency junkie and rely heavily on modern day kitchen innovations. I’m an owner of every tool for every need – cherry pitters, avocado slicers, vegetable noodle spiralizers, stovetop smokers, handheld smokers…would you like me to continue? For the record, Julia Child had the very same vices, so if you include yourself in the “technology-dependent” camp, you’re in good company.

With all of this technology talk, you’d probably assume that I was an early adopter of one of the high-tech blenders that flooded the market in recent years.

But I held off, and for good reason.

We had a blender, and a high-priced one at that, courtesy of our wedding registry. Soon after our engagement, I’d walked through Crate and Barrel with a handheld version of a supermarket checkout scanner, price shooting SKUs with eager abandon.

But this was back in 2004 when Vitamix (and its descendents) hadn’t yet captured the hearts and wallets of health fanatics everywhere. The first time that I heard about one of these high-speed blenders was years later through a friend of mine, who waxed poetic about its nutritional benefits. Despite her protestations, I stuck to my old machine, resigning myself to a blender that produced a fine margarita, but would cower if confronted by a raw beet in a dark alley.

The turning point in my newbie juicing career came when I became part of the Instagram community two years ago. And my – what juices and smoothies these vegan, paleo, gluten-free and other health fanatics were making: Vegetables, herbs, fruit, bee pollen, spirulina, and maca powder? XO Jane addressed the issue with the eloquently-titled “Let’s talk about the weird sh*t I put in my blender”.  Clearly, I was behind the times. All the cool kids were doing it; it was high time that I got myself out of the dark ages and invest in a blender that could pulverize a chain link fence along with my daily allotment of frozen berries.

I did my research – Vitamix was the market leader, with a price tag to match. But one that I kept hearing about – Blendtec – was delivering equivalent results with a significantly lower cost.

And it came in red, my favorite color.

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I jumped on the bandwagon, ordered my Blendtec, and opened it with a weepy glint in my eye. And as so often happens with any new purchase, it sat on my shelves, neglected and unloved, for 5 months.

This is a pattern, and – whether you call it technophobic or lack-of-time-aholic – it’s a problem. I’m always giddy to make the purchase on Amazon, and dread the unpacking/setup process.

The issue, by the way, is purchase-agnostic. It could be a cable for my computer, a new backup drive, even a highly-desirable a new flash for my camera. No matter how much I want or need the product in question – if there is any assembly required (defined as something that needs any effort beyond extraction from a box), I hide my little treasure and pretend that it doesn’t exist. I’m guessing that many share this illness; own up if you’re a member of this unfortunate crowd. Maybe we should form a support group.

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Abate_fetel_pears_FeedMeDearly

I found these Abate Fetel Pears at Whole Foods and wanted to give them a try. The name alone makes it sample-worthy, but it has the most beautiful green and blush pink color. I usually like to buy locally-grown produce, and these ones are from imported from Italy, but I had a feeling that the kids would love this week’s investigation. And in the process, I’ve found my new favorite pear. If you can find this variety, make sure to give it a try – it’s juicy and really flavorful. 

ME: OK, do you know what the mystery food is?

LAUREN: I want to see it! [gasp] Oh yeah! I really wanted to try that one.

ME: Look how pretty it is.

LAUREN: It’s so pretty. Can I hold it?

ME: Yeah. It’s kind of like pink on one side…

LAUREN: Yeah! It feels weird too.

ME: Yeah, it feels a little gritty doesn’t it?

ME: Well, that’s why we touch things and explore things, right?

LAUREN: It feels like it’s been rolled in dirt.

ME: [laughing] Rolled in dirt – that’s a funny one.

EMMA: Ooo…

ME:  Can I have it, Emma?

LAUREN: Can I feel it again? It feels kind of cool.

ME: Yeah, you can feel it one more time.

SAM: UGH.  Yuck.
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kabocha_squash_whole_soup_FeedMeDearly

We’re talking squash again this week. Two weeks in a row, I hope this isn’t a fireable offense. What can I say, I’m passionate about squash. As if last week’s post didn’t convince you…

We stayed in New York this weekend since we had a few activities planned. One of which was the highly-anticipated feedfeed Market Day at the Union Square Greenmarket.

I first linked up with feedfeed on Instagram where they’re building a strong community of like-minded people who love to cook. Their website is growing, and is quickly becoming a go-to source for inspiration on a broad range of topics, from pies and soups to pancakes and smoothies. As the website evolves and becomes more searchable, its curated content will surely rival some of the biggest food websites today. I’m just happy to be a part of it all – as both observer and occasional contributor.

I was finally able to meet the founders of feedfeed – Julie and Dan Resnick – in person this weekend. Their Market Day event at the farmer’s market brought together a number of chefs, nutritionists, stylists and food bloggers and it was fun to chat with everyone about the changing food landscape.

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Social media and social platforms such as feedfeed are no doubt improving the way that food is cooked at home. Restaurant-quality food is making its way into home kitchens as home cooks become more innovative and experimental.

My food has changed immensely since I’ve become part of a community who cooks and then shares the output online. I’ve become more confident, and have started to take risks with my cooking. I’ve become intrigued by unique flavors and textures, influenced in large part by the global accounts that I follow – from home cooks in the Middle East to UK-based naturopaths, and minimalist-minded Scandinavian food stylists. Like a sponge, I’ve soaked it all in, eyes wide open.

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goldenraspberries_FeedMeDearly

I never really noticed the tiny hairs on raspberries until we tried golden raspberries and I was convinced that they were covered in mold. Not mold! Now if I had a $2,000 macro lens on my camera you’d be able to see what I’m talking about. Unfortunately – or fortunately – they just appear to be golden and delicious from the shot that you’re seeing above. Which they are, but you missed out on all of the faux mold fun. So husband, family, reader(s), if you a) care about me and b) would like to see more moldy-looking hairs on your fruit, feel free to support the macro fund and I’ll work on getting up close and personal with our fruit for you guys….

ME: What are these?

SAM: Raspberries!

LAUREN: They’re orange raspberries.

ME: Lauren’s right – they’re like orange raspberries. But maybe they have a name….

[paper rustling]

ME: Maybe my receipt says it. Carrots, carrots, celery, orange juice….Here we go! They’re called Golden Raspberries. That’s the name – Golden Raspberries. Cool right?

EMMA: Cool.

ME: OK, who’s going to smell it? Does it smell different from a red raspberry?

SAM: Smells the same.

ME: I can’t smell. You know why? [sniffling]

SAM: Because of your nose?

ME: Yeah, because just I burnt my nose by touching it with hot chili pepper hands. You guys all learned a lesson about hot chili peppers this summer, right? Well, sometimes mommies make mistakes too.
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4 comments