A Caregivers Greatest Weapon Against Cancer: The Kitchen

 "Chop, chop, sizzle, slice, thump, slam-bang!"  A large, heavy black pot hit the tiled floor, sending my then-four-year daughter scurrying panic-stricken, while I yelled at the stove in an English-German rant that could've alarmed the neighbors. In the depths of my darkening house, an anxious, booming laugh rang out. No doubt, my better half had correctly interpreted my bilingual frustration. He'd settled back in his spot on the soft green sofa while cradling his icy cold drink. He was nervously avoiding the thick packet of white papers lying ominously on the highly polished coffee table. I couldn't blame him; our doctor's appointment that morning had been merciless. 

"Leptomeningeal metastases," the short, chubby, balding man had croaked grimly. Sporadically words floated through my head as I tried desperately to grasp their meaning. "Cancer that floated freely in spinal fluid with only a 5% survival rate." My stomach plummeted to the floor as he'd replaced the thick, black-framed spectacles and sat down the chart he'd been reading.  

Tentatively, I staggered in a daze from the bright light of the kitchen, eyes burning with unshed tears, a massive cloud of thick black smoke hanging in the air behind me. My breath suddenly caught in my throat as the realization of the diagnosis hit me full force. 

He'd need me to fight with him, care for him, be his everything. It was a fight we both knew was likely lost. At the moment, a realization of the prognosis glared at me, like a massive, black, and omission form crawling from my stomach. I would do my best, fight this challenge, and love my greatest for him. The outcome was not likely to change; however, it was my duty to make it a battle he was willing to wrestle. 

My greatest weapon in this war would be my kitchen. We looked to it for comfort, familiarity, and new traditions. In it, I built my arsenal for the battles ahead, focusing on nutrition for healing. Modern medicine at a loss, I began looking for alternatives. I researched ingredients as well as experimenting with a proxy of seasonings and herbs. Recipes became my battle plans; moreover, I could mix, blend, season, and sauté my way through sleepless nights in preparation for the next day's fight for a cure.  

Life became different over our two-year course of combat. Meals changed, as did every aspect of our lives. Pure, natural, vitamin-rich foods replaced historical staples while the ingredients remained easy to find. I often carried several meal proposals with me, taking them out during waits at the doctors or radiation sessions. I began making notes on them with dietitians' tips or scribbling facts on flavorings and cancer statistics in the margins.  

On one occasion, an inpatient elaborated her conflict. It was heart-wrenching; hastily, I jotted points down. Weeks elapsed, we returned, learning that the young woman had passed away. I began sharing her story with others while waiting. My collection grew, including other warriors' stories, jokes, and poems they wanted to be shared. My binder transformed into a book, its contents a voice of sharing hope and encouragement. 

I was never sure at what point my notes became a book though, it all seemed to flow together so endlessly. We often joked that one day it would become published. My writing was something he always encouraged, often seeing me in a light that I did not. As his battle grew, I found myself turning to my literature more often, seeking comfort and encouragement in those pages. We fought hard over those months, not with each other but with this horrible disease that was dictating our lives.  

Months passed, and hope became a feeling mistress I could only pray to see. The doctor's reports became grimmer, and a look of despair replaced the shining hope that I had once seen in his emerald-green eyes. We were losing, and there was nothing all the doctors and scientists in the world could do about it. We made it through that last holiday season. His favorite time of year was unmarked by the desperate battle he was facing. Our children would never look at those winter months the same after this, though we tried desperately to make them the happiest they could remember.  

He succumbed to Cancer at daybreak on a bitterly cold January morning. Days passed in obscurity before the realization set in. My portfolio once carried with me as a companion sat collecting dust. My life stopped; my existence was from afar. It was a lonely, empty, and irrelevant animation.  

Finally, I withdrew my faded ledger from its shelf. In the faint light of my living room, I examined my opus thoroughly. The talks inspired me, and the comfort it had given me played over in my mind. It was then that real ambition began flowing through my veins. I'd held onto this beautiful gift given to me to pass on. Now, with my heart healing, I was able to face the realization of what I needed to do. It was time to write their stories, to let their messages of hope, love, and courage spur others to fight.

Though our story did not end blithely, I could share a message of hope, alleviation, and inspiration with those who may need to hear it the most. To let others know, even in their darkest hour, that they were not alone. It was then that I was able to sit down and deeply commit myself to the journey.

No one fights cancer alone. 

What if everything you ever needed to know about cancer was all in one place?

I was 25 years old when my husband found out he had terminal cancer. This soon thrust me on a journey to ease his suffering. COOKING FOR A CURE is uniquely crafted for those also undergoing treatment. It fills a gap in the marketplace providing the most needed information at a patient or caregiver’s fingertips. Filled with helpful tricks, this book offers:

• Exercises Tips

• Risk Factors 

• Meal plan guide

• Crafts

• Survivor stories

Along with much more.