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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Survivor's Kitchen: Share your stories of food, love, cancer and recovery

When someone you love is diagnosed with cancer it is a shocking, horrible thing. I will never forget when I first heard that my mother had a rare and deadly form of cancer called Synovial Cell Sarcoma. I was living in Accra, Ghana on a Fulbright. I had bought a phone card to use at the public payphone to make an international call, because in those days the cell phone revolution had not yet swept through Africa. Even the largest card they sold was only good for 8 minutes of talk time at international rates. The conversation started out simply enough, and then the bomb dropped. She had found a lump in her leg and they had biopsied it and the tests came back: it was cancer. I felt like all the wind had been knocked out of me and I was gasping for breath and my legs folded under me and I was sobbing hysterically and clutching the phone for support...the most private and horrible news of my life turned into a public event on the streets of Accra.

I was back in the States a month and a half later just as my mother was set to begin treatment at Mayo Clinic. What I remember most from that long period of treatment was the profound sense of helplessness. I wanted to do something, to take arms against this thing that was threatening my mother. I couldn't actually fight the cancer. But I realized that I could be a help and support as my mother fought for her life.

I realized too that many of the people around my mom wanted to reach out and help and offer their support. But we didn't know how. I cooked and cooked, trying to provide that fundamental hearth love that comes from the kitchen. Neighbors and family brought casseroles. I learned how to prepare macrobiotic food. But I was scrambling in the sea of the unknown, trying to figure out what food would be good for her body, what food she could stomach. And no matter how hard I looked, guides for what to eat during cancer treatment were scarce.

Now another person in my life has been diagnosed with cancer, and once again I'm preparing to arm myself with the mighty spoon and pot in the long battle against cancer. But this time I don't want to do it alone, and I don't want to do it clueless.

I'm hosting an event called the Survivor's Kitchen. Throughout January I will do periodic posts on the few available official recommendations on food during cancer treatment. But mostly what I want is to hear from all of you: How has cancer touched your lives? How did food and the kitchen play a role in coping with that challenge? If you are a survivor or cared for someone during their fight against cancer, what sort of food did you find the most palatable?

I want to gather all your experiences and recipes together and share them with the world so that the next time someone turns to the internet lost and scared and in search of a way to be helpful as their loved one faces cancer, they will be able to turn to the collective wisdom of all of you who have been there before.

Event: The Survivor's Kitchen
Dates: January 12-31, 2010
How to participate:

  1. Comment below and share your experience or food suggestions
  2. Blog about your experience having or caring for a loved one with cancer, and share your food suggestions.
  3. Tweet or Facebook about your experience and share your food suggestions
  4. Email me (skinnygourmet AT gmail DOT com) your experience and food suggestions and I will post collections on this blog. If you would like me to include pictures, please feel free to send them in your email.
As always, links to this post are appreciated so that I can build a common list of all the places people have shared their stories and ideas. But it is not necessary. Mostly I just want to begin kitchen conversations about how we can love, support, and care for our loved ones during cancer treatment.

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