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Time for thyme…..

Quick continuation of yesterday’s post about my bland taste buds and funny tummy. After once again insisting a trip to AH will be the answer to this issue, I’m back home and dying to share my latest taste sensation. I’ve discovered thyme honey from spain! Yes, people, my larder is filled with all kinds of honeys..all sorts of bland-tasting sweet-floral nothings..until this came under my glance this morning. It is sheer heaven. I squirted it’s golden scented swirls upon my greek yoghurt, oozing goldenly over my handful of walnuts…I could even smell its thymey goodness! I could actually taste it’s nuances as it sweetened the sharpness of my yoghurt …I’m hooked!

Taste

A lot of you know me well, some only from the internet, but most realize food and I are good friends and close companions. Until chemo and getting sick that is. Oh my elusive taste! Since my diagnosis I’ve gone off food, initially some sort of repulsion caused by thinking I was going to die anyways, why bother eating…now completely, caused by drugs called chemotherapy. Among its other rather un-pleasant side-effects, knocking out your taste buds is the major one for me. Believe me, feeling nauseous or funny in the tummy is nothing compared to losing one’s fine art of taste. I used to pride myself being able to discern between coriander and cumin…from a crisp chardonnay to a pouilley-fumé, from that delicious piece of homemade brownie to a cheap box variety…all…..gone….in a flash. Not that I don’t dream about food! oh yes! constantly! I troll the food blogs, gasp at my food magazines, hunt for episodes of Nigella and Jamie Oliver on-line, pick my friend’s brains for delicious recipes and tips…I’m so there…but helas, so far away. YES! I’ve lost my hair and my right breast…believe me, no easy feats to endure. But by far, the most horrific and indecent loss has been my unadulterated love of taste and food. What cruel games men play. I endure chemo. The means to an end…but my god, my god…this has been such a cruel and nasty amputation. One of my life’s pleasure, gone…

I sat, sadly on the sofa this morning, once again contemplating this fate. I thought a lot about what my friend Carol has been telling me about food and how it’s figuring now in my life. She’s encouraging me to keep a diary about this very “tasteful”  subject, perhaps choke a book out about it at some point. “Just find your taste again, Suz”…find a way around it…perhaps helping someone else in the wake! I sat with my ipad this morning making menu’s and designing dishes and came up with a recipe that was easy to conjure up (I’m incapable of standing too long in one place…get too dizzy!) and I was sure would touch my buds. I threw together tastes and ideas into my brain…then…Finally! My god!! I think I found it!! It was just a matter of pulling on my wig (I’ve become very hat-scarf-wigless at home, I feel if you want to come over and see me or if someone comes to the door unexpected … you’ll find me bald…hey, it’s me only in the pure form and I love it now! so cool and fresh!) and hauling my shaky carcass to Albert Heijn to buy the wear-with-all to make it. You see, my cupboards are always filled to the brim with exotic spices and potions, but never what I need at any one time to make any dish I want! How is that possible? But I digress. Wilfried and I took the large push-cart at AH, I figured I could always hang on to the handles for the entire journey into the hallowed halls of Heijn. Not to keep you all longer in suspense, here is what I came up with…and believe me, dear readers, after I (and sweet Wilfried) both slurped down hungry bowls of this heaven sent dish, I am feeling wonderful and strong and couldn’t wait to pass it on to all of you!

Suzie’s Miracle Bowl

1 pack thais roerbakgroenten (hmmm…fresh cut up chinese veg, AH does Thai ones which are super but you could do any kind of chopped chinese veggies, small pieces)

1 organic veg soup cube or a spoon full of veg soup crystals (you don’t have to do organic but I had them in-house)

katjap manis (Indonesian,thick, sweet soja sauce, I like the one in the white squeezy bottle, was once told by an old Indonesian lady that it was the best …AH)..as much as you like or to taste

fresh garlic (i used 2 cloves, squished as I’m nuts about garlic)

thumb sized grated piece of fresh ginger or more

chopped up fresh coriander and parsley (the parsley was from my own garden, also optional)

snipped up hot chili pepper (this is optional, I was looking to hit my taste buds and I did!)

if you want…little pieces of chicken..AH sells little strips of smoked fresh turkey that you can fry up which are wonderful…in the same place in the shop as the bacon or ham blokjes.

chinese noodles, any kind. I bought organic chinese egg noodles which were really good, but mie or angelhair or glass noodles can as well

fresh lime juice

…you can also add coconut milk here but I didn’t…I wanted a clearish broth

how to:

I heated up my creuset pot (heavy) and added about a spoon full of olive oil, lowish heat…added the turkey and stir fried it a bit, then all the fresh veg and garlic, coriander, parsley, etc…till all limp. Meanwhile I boiled up a kettle of water, about 750cc or so. When I could smell my mix in the pot, I dumped the water in and the soup cube (1 or 2, depending on your taste) and then brought it back to the boil then chucked in the noodles which in fact just need to soak a bit and not really cook like pasta. I left the hog on a bit at this point and started tasting my broth. I squirted in lime juice and the ketjap till I was satisfied. OH YUM! (I also sprinkled in some sweet/hot seasoning salt I bought once in here…but it didn’t really need it, I was a girl with a mission, and my mission was pure heat)

I then called Wilfried into the kitchen and warned him I-MADE-LUNCH and asked sweetly if he’d like to join me. He said it smelled good and was willing to give it a go. You see, dear readers, Wilfried is a good Dutch/Belgian boy and doesn’t usually go far off the line in terms of taste…but man, he’s changed! He wasn’t sure if he should eat it with a spoon or a fork so he got both out the drawer AND a big bib (tea towl) and we tucked in. We looked at each other in glee!!! I was tickeled…it tasted incredible! It was the first thing I’ve managed to completely eat since the diagnosis. Wilfried ate every single drop and strand. Even if you aren’t sick this should taste great! It is my miracle of the day!

this wasn't it exactly, but gives you the idea...actually, the green onions aren't a bad idea! next time!

Bald

It’s done…it’s a fact. I’m bald.  Strange, unfamiliar feeling. Loss. Yes, the wig still looks pretty, but it remains a wig. Foreign territory. Painful against my newly shorn skull.  My young hairdresser felt privileged sharing this with me, we both sniffed our way through the shearing…tears rolling down our faces. I told her I should feel tough, like Demi Moore in GI Jane…minus the dog tags. We decided to introduce me to my new look gradually. We brushed out the Victoria and both admired how pretty it looked. She helped me on with it, laughing at my Mrs.Beckham poses. She told me it looked wonderful. We hugged and she promised she’d come back to re-shape my downy fluff when it started to grow back after all the chemo’s were behind me.  Sweet kid….

Wilfried and I decided not to vacuum up my hair, or throw it in the container. We lovingly brushed it up and put it in the bushes outside for the birds…was interesting to see them fly into the garden and grab plucks of it to make their nests…wonderful!! My contribution to nature! Re-cycling at it’s best. Better that than to see it emptied with the green container garden clippings next thursday. Makes me feel a bit useful.

I looked at Wilfried and asked him if he was ready to see the new Suz…the one which resembles him the most. Me, bald. He told me it wouldn’t shock him, to remove the wig. I did, face flushed, afraid. I searched his face for signs of repulsion, disgust. He held me, he loves me. It doesn’t matter, he tells me. I suit bald. I’m pretty.

I’ve decided I’m not ready to shoot a photo of bald Suz…a bit too dramatic even for me. It’s beginning to grow on me as I take little glimpses in the mirror, or look in the reflection of the computer screen as I type away. This is the new me. Welcome, bienvenu, welkom. Perhaps a smoky-eye and red lips will do the trick as Victoria and I go to our rendez-vous to the oncologist this afternoon. Why not? Wouldn’t Vickie do that? or Demi Moore? Or Susan McDonnell? Yes, I shall….Yes, this is me. Yes, I am tough.

Shedding….

Meet Molly, my 10 year old tabby. I’ve often thought Molly was me, personified. Molly is a sweet cat, but can get pretty feisty if need be…I like that about her. I’ve heard that can be me sometimes, too!  She also has adapted (like me!)well to change…all those dogs over the years!! Some like our Pudding, who lives and let lives..others like wild Bill, whose goal in life is to protect HIS house from cats, at all costs. Last week, it cost him his manhood!! (poor, castrated soul!).

Back to Molly…she also adapted perfectly to her new home in Wildervank, loving the patches of sunshine in the garden, loving the rooftops, where she can lounge, dog-free all day long. But what sets Molly apart from her sister smeesha and what makes her and I all the more alike is shedding!! Yes, dear readers, I’ve become a chubby, stripey cat these days. I’m shedding. I wanted to ignore it at first, wanted to believe that I would never lose my hair, that I’d be the one and only chemo patient with her own hair. Of course I knew it would eventually happen, just maybe later…Helas, just like Molly in early summer, my hair is falling out in clumps. I dare not comb it, touch it, gel it. Yes, it is time to become the quintessential cancer patient, it is time to throw caution to the wind …it’s my time to become bald. I thought briefly about shaving my own head with Wilfried’s clippers, but have decided to call the hairdresser and allow her the honours…then I will become someone different. No, I don’t mean Victoria, I mean visibly a cancer patient. My Wilfried chooses baldness. Yes, he would have a little edge of hair, like a monk…but he dutifully shaves it off every morning, his head shining proudly. I, however, have no choice. If I don’t shave it in the next few days, it will eventually all fall out in pieces, dreadfully sick looking clumps. I want to spare myself that step. I need to accept this baldness and need to look at myself squarely in the mirror and love the face staring back. It frightens me. It is the face of the disease which has taken over my body. Will it be a constant reminder or will it become the new me, like my mastectomy has.

Molly is lucky…she sheds more than half her body weight every spring…huge clumps of fur. brush-brush-brushes and combs full…yet it all comes back every fall. Back to her glorious, bushy self. Will I be so lucky? I’ve struggled with this hair of mine my entire life. I’ve coloured and straightened it, curled and teased it. Pulled it into submission…wondered why it fizzed and curled, questioned why it wasn’t long and blond. My morning ritual will no longer include fancy shampoos and conditioners, mousses and gels…no more hot brushes and irons, no more cursing rainy weather. It’ll be a jump in and out of the shower…a lick of makeup and lipstick and a quick good-morning whispered to Victoria as i brush her gloriousness and pull her on my shiny head. The call has been made, the hairdresser will be here tomorrow morning at 11…and if I get the courage, I’ll snap a shot of the new, bald me…and introduce her to the world before she’s covered up with her new crowning glory.

I’ll leave you with a few snaps of my animals…they possess all the hair I’ll ever need if I ever get the desire to run my fingers through it, play with it or brush it!

Pink Ribbon

Just a quick post to let everyone know I’m feeling better and was busy today with my first batch of pink ribbon cookies! I got a terrific gift last week from my good friend, Kimmie, including a pink ribbon cookie cutter…and since I was feeling good today, I thought I’d get busy baking. Those of you who know me understand how passionate I am about cooking and baking so this probably isn’t a big surprise…I felt once again the old me!  However, once I started the cookie-baking, I realized I was missing one major ingredient…PINK! So I made the cookies, iced them white and sprinkled multi-coloured sprinkles on them which i found in my cupboards…the pink will eventually come once I find food colouring somewhere in the shops in Veendam. Then the cookies will look true to their name!!

My first target will be next week, I’m bringing a box-full of my cookies to the chemo department of the hospital while I’m there for my poison.  I figured I can sweeten up the nurses”day a bit, why not? Good group of people, nurses!  and who knows! Maybe I can do a bit of fundraising at some point along the line with my famous cookies…I’d would LOVE to buy an iPad for the chemo-room where we sit for 4 hours, getting our IV’s, bored out of our skulls. Luckily I brought my iPad the first time to keep me company, and the time just flew by….but I felt so sorry for my 3 roommates who were leafing through ancient magazines with articles about Gerard Joling, Gordon (annoying celebrities over here!!haha!)  and Maxima! Imagine if there was an iPad there to cheer up their time? To watch films or listen to music, go on the net? Not sure if it’s feasable…but I think it’s a great idea!….bring on those cookies!!

the new me

Just back from my hair woman in Assen….I’m very happy with my new look, but will wait till my own hair begins to fall out in earnest before having my head shaved bald and wearing the Victoria…apparently it’s much cooler and easier to wear a wig on a completely bald head. But it feels SOOOO good to have her up in my walk in closet, just awaiting my re-birth as a fashion queen. Quick! I wonder where I can get myself cheekbones and pouty lips (oh ya, and a skinny body)between now and then??

After having breathed a sigh of relief over my chemo side effects, I’d like to take this opportunity to revoke what I’ve previously written about it, inferring my flu-like symptoms were somewhat tolerable and livable. Well, dear readers, everything  but. After my last post, I reached depths of physical despair which I now fondly describe as pulling ones own intestines over ones upper lip and holding it there for 3 days.  Pure torture. I shall not go into extreme details as I’m sure you all have imaginations rich enough to envision and leave it without saying that I lived in the bathroom during my torture days. Afterwards, I was left hollow and weak….and extremely nauseous as a bonus. Those of you who know me personally know the Suz of yore, foodie to the max, passionate about cooking, ingredients, and taste.  This has robbed me of my greatest passions. My taste has changed, everything tastes odd. Wilfried bought me the most amazing raspberries last week, red and plump and I imagined fragrant. After carefully washing and drying them I looked so forward to a little bowl for lunch, the only thing I’d eaten for a few days. I was so disappointed to taste pure salt as they touched my tongue. EEK! I just didn’t get it! WHY???? He took one too…and exclaimed how delicious they were. Bizarre. This entire chemo experience is bizarre. The oncologist did remind me that I was getting very strong chemo and she couldn’t really say how I’d experience it as everyone does differently. No kidding…..I haven’t really eaten in days. I manage a yoghurt now and then, or a popsicle…but more than that, forget it.

Sunday morning….I’m happy to announce I’m feeling a little bit better. No griping pain in my gut, no weakness. But also no hunger. I managed a jaunt around Albert Heijn the other day in between toilet breaks to see if I’d be inspired by their generously stocked aisles. I bought a cart-full…mostly things like fruit and 7up….crackers and apple sauce.  It’s mostly all still in the cupboards and fridge, besides the 7up which I crave…a lot. I fear the wrath of the oncologist next week when I get on the scale. All my life I’ve feared the scale as a reflection of NEEDING to lose weight…now I fear it as a punishment, a sign that my resistance will wane…a displeased dietitian who warned me last week, don’t lose any weight my dear….hmmm…I fear the scale. My clothes are all falling off me, i see the bones in my feet, my rings are loose. I am compensating by buying clothes now 2 sizes smaller. If I’m going to be sick I’ll look the best I can, right?

My wig will be ready tomorrow. I went for a second consultation last Friday and sat there looking at my face in the mirror as she put one after the other on my head. I suddenly hated them all and felt close to tears. They all looked like cancer-heads, all fake looking and ugly. How was I going to do this? I kept looking at Wilfried for reinforcement of my opinion…he just kept saying, “they look alright Susan…really, they do”.  At one point I felt a tad of frustration from the saleswoman. She kept offering me the same wig and was saying she could cut and style it to suit me. How can a cancer-head like THAT ever suit me?? At a certain point, not sure if it was the griping pain in my gut or just pain being tired of being sick I asked her to bring on the Beckham. After all, how could Victoria Beckham let me down in my hour of need? The wig she trotted out with next was a slightly different version of the Vickie I had tried on a few weeks ago….and it was FAB! She pulled it on over my sad, greying crew cut and I shone…I blossomed! The cramps in my tummy faded as I sat there, smiling at myself in the mirror. Wilfried smiled (and he’s not a natural at that)…the sales lady didn’t…I’m convinced she wanted to get rid of one of her cancer-head-numbers. I swung my head this way and that…I posed. I think I even sucked my cheeks in and popped a Victoria-pout. “I’ll take it”!!!!!!!! YAYYY!!!!….ok, chemo is no walk in the park…having breast cancer sucks…but man, will I be sexy doing nausea! I’ll make it fashionable! I’ll set a new trend! I LOVE my wig!…Victoria will be ready for me tomorrow….just in time for the big hair-outfall of 2011. Actually, it’ll probably begin nearing the end of next week, but there I’ll be with a razor and Victoria, we’re going to face the next chemo bravely and beautifully with a pout and a pose!