Eating through chemotherapy

Isn’t it nice to have a green grocer? On Portswood we have about four of them; every morning they drag crates of fruit and veg to the store fronts, adding a sense of health and colour to the street. Five peaches for a pound, two-for-one strawberries, carnations in a bunch, and peanuts for your birds. I love visiting Galloways’s (my favourite grocer) and picking through the fruit. A full bag of vegetables (and I mean full, right to the top) normally costs less than £5.

This, to me, is an afternoon’s entertainment. That and people watching as I sort through the corn while trying to find the best looking husk. Portswood has all sorts of people, all sort of nationalities. We have one international food shop (largely Asian options, but also with Hungarian peppers), about three Polish shops (perogies – ruskie style), several Indian restaurants, one Thai place, a Canadian girl who walks around, a hot Hungarian, all the Uni students and who knows what else? Plus there are British staples like the fish and chippie, which only opens when the lady is inclined to cook, a Post Office, and a slew of charity shops.

So – is it clear that I’m in a good mood today? When writing about food, I’m either in a good mood or really hungry. Actually, I’m both. Chemotherapy leaves me hungry all the time, but forget about eating big meals because it’s impossible! Two bites in and I’ve had my fill (plus mouth sores make it difficult to chew). Instead I eat frequently in tiny bursts. At the moment cucumbers top my list for most refreshing snack; they’re easy on the mouth. (Frozen fruit is also very nice if your mouth is sore . . . so long as your teeth can handle the cold, and yogurt is always soothing).

Yesterday was a workday and I loved it. Despite feeling those waves of fatigue (and waves of heat – “Hello hot flash, shouldn’t we be meeting twenty years from now?”) it’s nice to get out of this apartment. Even the best flat in the world become terrible after being stuck there forever. How do those people on Big Brother do it? No wonder they all go crazy.

It’s a healthy change. Now Zsolt can work on his thesis without me asking him to wash the dishes, and I can simply meet with friends – do a little digitization – and enjoy an alternative, cancer-free atmosphere. Cancer-free is the goal. In my apartment there are drops, powders, shots, vitamins, pamphlets, binders, scarves, buckets, and get well cards . . . all cancer related. Every bit of it is necessary for support, but they’re also a reminder of this shit creek we’re swimming in. The library isn’t like that (apart from me in my scarf, clearly lacking hair). It’s a break from reality.

Now I’d like to try two experiments.

ONE: go bald in public.

TWO: go wig in public.

Both are options that intimidate me. Who knew it was so hard to be different? For some people (like the guy who carries a picnic basket instead of a school bag) being different is easy. Though I suspect for the majority of us it’s not natural to stand out. Visible disabilities, visible illnesses, visible visibilities – they don’t leave much choice. It’s either hold up your head, or – what? What’s the other option? Disappear? Hide yourself? Stop living? I don’t want to feel embarrassed, but I do sometimes and it’s such a shame because it’s stopping me short.

So here is the cure (I figure): Get used to it.  Everything pinches at first, right? New job, new home, new shoes . . . without a little wear they never get broken in.  And without getting used to it, no one will become accustomed to ‘bald Catherine’ or ‘wig Catherine’, not even me.

In order to shed the shame of being different, I have to get used to it. That shame shouldn’t even exist – but that doesn’t make it go away. Maybe I’ll start easy and go bald to that hippie art cafe downtown. Pretend I’m actually that cool. “Yeah, I get it. I shaved my head because I get it so bad. Organic-freerange-commune-hippie stuff rocks.”

Once done I’ll write and let you know how it goes. Until then, I’m going to eat some more food.

2 thoughts on “Eating through chemotherapy

  1. Hi Catherine,

    Sounds like a good experiment.

    Yup, the first step is difficult. Remember what it was like to take your first baby step? Your first dive into water? Your first time on a ski hill? Your first public speaking event? Most of us were worried about falling, doing it right, looking good, being accepted.

    For me, being embarassed is an opportunity for me and others to laugh at moments of imperfection (like the time after I had experienced a bad parachute jump and one colleague said he heard me whimper on my subsequent jump… I remember feeling scared but had no idea I was whimpering… I guess it just came out).

    You have a beautiful face, a graceful body, a wonderful personality, a good sense of fashion, and a depth of wisdom which is growing by leaps and bounds.

    You may have people guessing as to whether you are a model, an Olympic swimmer, a member of a rock band, a Buddhist or an inspirational writer and young lady who knows what’s important in her life.

    Your experiment is worth trying. You’ll do well.

    Much love, Francoise.

  2. Hi Catherine,

    Here’s a picture of Lisa Klapstock which may give you some courage about going bald in public ( It’s from the September 16, 2010 announcement on the home page of the Terry Fox Foundation. I think she looks stylish with her modern glasses and her fashionable wool and fur jacket.

    I’m sure you would look stylish too. Thinking of you always.

    Take care.

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