Aspen Princess: Palliating through the palate
November 15, 2017
I don't know if I ever told you guys this, but not long after Levi was born, my dad was diagnosed with lymphoma.
I don't think I said anything because I was too afraid of what might happen. I guess it was one of those rare occasions I actually wanted some privacy.
So there I was, a new mother with my beautiful little baby boy who wasn't even a month old when I got the call from my mom.
"Dad has cancer," she said, no emotion whatsoever in her voice.
This is what my mom does in times of crisis; she turns to stone. I got the same tone when she called and said, "Dad has been hit by truck," and "Dad fell on his bike and has a brain injury."
Despite any evidence of emotion, she is highly functional to the point of becoming superhuman when it comes to taking care of the business of a crisis. She will move mountains, leap over tall buildings in a single bound, cut through red tape and walk on water if that's what it takes.
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She's had a lot of practice at this. My dad flirts with death like it's something routine, like the rest of us might have our teeth cleaned or organize our tax returns. So far, he's burned through at least four lives: three from bike accidents and this bout with cancer.
Every time he nearly kills himself, he bounces back like a zombie in record time, sitting up with a goofy smile on his face, his glasses a little cockeyed, hair a little mussed and eyeballs a little loose in his skull. He jumps out of bed and back onto his bike, hospital gown flapping in the wind. Sure, he might walk like the tin man, he may have lost all his hair during chemo and he might still be a little cross-eyed after a brain injury, but nothing is going to stand between him and pedaling his now skeletal and somewhat rickety half-naked body down the open road. (I'm kidding, of course about the hospital gown, but I had to run with it).
He wasn't going to let "a touch of cancer" be any different. When the doctors told us that exercise would help with the side effects of chemo, we all breathed a sigh of relief. Not only would he get through this, he would bike through it.
It seems like lately, I've known a lot of people who have been diagnosed with cancer. And with our health care system and our environment in the hands of (simply put) a dysfunctional and corrupt government, the impact of this awful disease is as systemic as the disease itself.
I recently learned the husband of one of my closest friends is undergoing treatment for a rare form of cancer I still don't understand even after it was explained to me. I get the feeling my friend might have my mom's stone-reaction thing. She's so focused on the business of the illness I'm not sure she's had time to process any of it. And she definitely hasn't had time to think about herself.
I've been reaching out to her for weeks now, but she's mostly deflected my offers. So finally, I decided to cook.
Recently, cooking has become a real passion for me. I've always loved to cook and god knows I've always loved to eat. But for the last month, I've been cooking mostly vegetarian and vegan meals from scratch, learning about new ingredients and flavor profiles I've never used before, and how to create delicious meals that are also super healthy. Even though it's billed as a detox program and is technically an elimination diet, it's the first time I'm not so focused on what I've cut out as much as what I've added in. But the most miraculous thing about this experience has been sharing it with friends and family, and seeing the positive effects it's had on them, too.
Ryan lost 20 pounds (So not fair! I mean, isn't that great?) and Levi loves everything I've made, from raw granola bars and green smoothies to sweet potato soup. He'd rather have a quinoa bowl with roasted veggies than macaroni and cheese, which has been eye opening on so many levels. The best was cooking for my brother, who suffers from candida and has struggled with a sugar addiction for most his adult life. He loved the food I made for him, wishing he had access to things like coconut flour and sweet potatoes in Costa Rica. And like I wrote about before, the chronic knee pain I've had for the past five months has completely disappeared. That more than anything made me realize that what you eat isn't just something, it's kind of everything.
I'm not saying this food can cure cancer, but it felt good to get into the kitchen and spend a good part of my day cooking for my friend. There is nothing like the smell of onions and garlic on the stove, the aroma of the herbs, the recipe coming together like the lyrics of a song or strokes of a paintbrush as each ingredient goes into the pot to create something whole and beautiful. I love the colors, the orange of the carrots and the red of the tomatoes and the verdant green basil. I love the textures, the way the vegetables soften in the pan and then become silky smooth when I add the coconut milk and blend everything together. But mostly I love the joy of sharing meals with the people I love and knowing how much the food I've made is nurturing them.
Whether my friend needed me or not, I was coming, and brandishing an enormous jar of vegan creamy tomato soup with me. I know it made me feel a little better, filling her tummy, at least temporarily, with love.
The Princess is going through a phase. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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