I just love food

Yesterday morning a large package arrived to my door. “Sign here.” And in comes a very cold box.  This wasn’t a total surprise (I’d been told two days before to expect the delivery), but it was a total pleasure. My cousin Luc and his wife Marie Claude decided to gift Zsolt and I with a substantial delivery of frozen food.

A couple weeks ago, Zsolt and I started to buy premade meals to help reduce the stress of cooking (after I had my little breakdown). Waitrose provides a decent line of frozen food, but you really need to pick and choose – some stuff is okay, other things are dreadful. Honestly, I’m a bit, hmm  . . . . selective in terms of food because I grew up in a household that only cooked from fresh ingredients and didn’t often turn to ready meals.

But yesterday’s delivery was from Cook. Have you heard of them? They’re a company that promotes ‘home cooked’ style meals that are easy to warm up and serve. All these ingredients are fresh and they seem to take care in creating their menu. Zsolt and I had wandered into their shop a long time back and were impressed then, so when the box arrived full of meals I was totally excited.

Opening the package there were curries and pies and lasagnes and desserts and all sorts of goodness.  And, amazingly, they all fit into our tiny freezer!

Today we baked the pork stroganoff, which was creamy and full of flavour (an area where many, many frozen meals fail). Zsolt ate a man’s share, and I ate a lady’s (See picture, it might not look too pretty after being mixed in with the pasta, but it still tasted nice!)

Merci Luc et Marie-Claude pour la bonne nourriture!

Plus, as icing to this happy cake – Denise just stopped by with some freshly baked pumpkin bread, candy, and cream cheese. The bread has a lovely smell and as soon as I’m done this blog I’ll be cutting a slice. I’m on a photo kick, so I’ll take another picture right now. (Pumpkin carved by Zsolt and I!)

I love food – but even better, I love good food.  It seems that without a costume or actually leaving my flat, I’m still managing to rack in the treats. This is one excellent Halloween.

🙂  Thank you so much.


Orange slices for chemo

This deserves its own quick post. Here’s a tip for chemotherapy: It can be a nerve racking process, so if you need an outlet for your energy may I kindly suggest orange slices?

The idea was developed by my scientist husband in our kitchen lab while I was going through my vomiting spree. I couldn’t drink my Avemar without throwing it all back up; the taste becomes quite unpleasant (terrible) after hard core chemo.  BUT it’s been shown to help, so what’s to be done?

Zsolt’s answer: Slice oranges.

After drinking the Avemar I immediately bite into an orange (think tequilla shot but orange instead of lemon) and gargle/spit the juice. This really helps with the aftertaste.

Also, the chemo was causing me to have superhuman smelling power – making trips to the hospital really difficult. How to cope: open that bag of oranges and start chewing. So what if the juice runs down my chin? So what if I smile at everyone with the peel in my mouth?

So what?

They probably call me the Orange Girl, because whenever it’s blood or chemo time I’m always in the waiting room chewing on the orange slices – I see them staring! And oranges smell too, only good. Citrusy. Hopefully I’m not making anyone nauseas.

Therefore, I’d like to award a gold star to Zsolt for his ingenious solution to my problem. Orange slices. Give them a try. (Bring tissues for the juice!)


Thank goodness this is getting easier. Yesterday, apart from a tryst with menopaus, went very well. Easy.

Quick aside: If you are unsure about whether to get a picc line, please let me state my opinion (this is in no way a professional opinion and yes, there are also some risks with a picc so please talk to your doctor before deciding): This picc line is amazing! The anxiety of searching for veins is gone, the anxiety of giving blood is gone, the anxiety of hospitalization followed by days worth of drips are gone. If you are having chemo, particularly any chemo known to irritate the veins like AC, and if you generally have small veins – I’d most certainly bring this subject up on your first consultation. Funny this idea is saved until the arm aches from a simple touch; in this case I think preventative medicine is the better approach (i.e. picc line), though of course more expensive to the health care system. But so is chemotherapy, so why not go ahead with what’s best for you? The picc line makes like easier. Show up, plug in, drip, unplug.

Yesterday morning I was punching things out once again, but it wasn’t having the same effect. Okay, yes, I’d feel better while punching, but afterwards the blanket of dread would fall back down. This anxiety lasted all the way into the chemo ward. I wanted to cry, to run away, to panic.

Behind the reception desk was the curly hair lead nurse. “There’s a bit of a wait, Catherine.” They know my name . . . “We’re about 45 minutes behind, so you can wait here or go off for a while.”

Given the choice of waiting in a chemo ward or going somewhere else, I will always choose to ‘go somewhere else’. We went back to the car and ate orange slices. And while I was waiting in the car, still full of my dread, I thought ‘this is the perfect time to cry’ so I spoke with Zsolt about all those sentimental things that I miss (e.g. Balaton bike rides and buying giant watermelons from the market) and let the tears work their way out.

Now I’m not saying this to complain, or because crying was so difficult – exactly opposite  — crying was easy, it was exactly what I needed to do. My emotions didn’t have a ‘reason’ for overspilling, and while poor Zsolt kept asking, “why are you so sad?”, I had no particular response. All I needed to do was cry. Sometimes the best thing a man can do is rub his wife’s back while she cries. Nothing needs to be fixed.

And after the crying I was another woman. The dread was lightened, and with the addition of sucking on orange slices for distraction, it eventually disappeared. I returned to the ward ready for chemotherapy.

In went the dopy drug and anti sickness; down went my head onto the pillow. I lay there for thirty minutes and thought ‘this isn’t so different from my acupuncture’.  Qing, my acupuncturist, often leaves me to rest while the heat lamp works it’s beautiful magic. So I imagined I was on her table with the blankets and the heat, and I did my best to meditate. Somehow that meditation turned into mentally dancing at the club with my friend Catherine – complete with disco ball and smoke machine, but the nurses were playing radio 2 in the background so I blame it on the pop music.

Zsolt sat close by reading Love in the time of cholera (but in Hungarian). And we waited.

Afterwards – drip of saline for five minutes, change of wrapping for my picc, then unplugging and done! Like I said, it was easy.

At this point I think it’s more the aftermath of chemo rather than the chemo itself that needs to be handled. Exhaustion comes and goes, along with my crazy emotions, and there are things to think about like food and cleaning and work – but I’m learning. I miss work if I’m too exhausted, I don’t cook unless necessary, and any cleaning only takes place when my body feels strong enough to manage.

Oh! The appointment with the doctor. Well, guess who is on vacation this week? 🙂 Fair enough, everyone deserve a vacation. Instead of seeing the lead oncologist I visted with another doctor. She’s quite nice, very smiley and wears cool black boots. The curl in her hair often fights back against the ponytails she pushes it into. Let’s call her Doctor Boots.

Not the lead oncologist, but still a very interesting visit. I asked her about my Christmas question and she said of course, they will always recommend the full treatment, but people do stop early and – very interestingly – she used to work at Portsmouth Hospital, and over there someone with my exact same situation would have been given about three weeks less treatment.

But,  as to which treatment is better, she couldn’t say. Apparently each hospital follows whatever approach they think best – but there aren’t any studies comparing the results of Portmouth Hospital’s shorter course of chemotherapy to Southampton Hospital’s slightly longer plan.  She can’t say which is better.

Bottom line once again: Do what you feel is best, because we can’t decide for you.

Well, I wish someone would! Doctors must be tied up in all kinds of legal obligations. They probably need to memorize a booklet called, “how not to be sued”.

Anyhow, no matter. It was an interesting conversation that helped me gain another perspective. Next week when I finally talk with the head fellow, I’ll have better questions to ask.

So there you have it. That was eight. Yay!