This is the last entry in my blog and it’s to say thank you to my clever and inspiring friend Mike Baker who died recently. He was a hugely talented and gifted man, well researched, reasoned, so funny, quirky and enthusiastic, a proper gentleman who always generously supported and encouraged me. Fantastically talented, he was incredibly down to earth and was happy to be a member of our idiosyncratic book group, going so far as to invent a suitably pompous cod Latin name for us, The Pilatti Literati.
Swift on the heals of his lung cancer diagnosis came my breast cancer. As ever, his response to the crisis was positive, ‘It WILL be a good outcome, I am absolutely sure of it. You and I will do it together.’
Like the elephants that go on treks for hundreds of miles to find salt caves I tried to listen to my instincts during treatment. With the start of each chemo cycle my daughter cooked up a wonderful chicken soup, a clear golden broth with poached vegetables swimming in it, very wet and spicey, perfect. A few days later, over the worst of chemo, I craved green, only a piquant salsa verde, loaded with herbs could fix it. It humoured my obliterated tastebuds, reminding them of a life before the drugs regime that hammered them into a memory.
Through the months after treatment I had a nagging lack of energy. Though I’m not a nutrition expert I knew sorting it would help. I was signposted by Mike’s blog with wise advice and lots of links and recommended reading, there were also several illuminating workshops at The Maggie’s Center. The message for a longer healthier life is cut out glucose and stimulants, step up vegetable eating, reduce fruit, increase exercise. Once I knew how to help myself, I made a plan, rearranged my head and it all became easier.
Getting back on track with good nutrition isn’t rocket science, it’s about choosing what you put in your mouth. Rather than mourning what’s gone I wanted to make something new. I’ve always been up for a challenge, it’s a creative process for me. I love cooking, I want foods that are packed with flavour and as many good things in as possible. How exciting to have the adventure of exploring and tinkering with food. I’ve cast my net wide, I search through my piles of cookery books and I scavenge more recipes from friends. Beetroot in rich moist chocolate brownies, yes please.
And it does work, gradually the energy has increased. I’m not pure, there are niggles and falling off the bandwagon is an inevitable part of the process. I might miss the quick energy response of eating a sandwich, but tomatoes and avocados are there, an instant meal packed with serotonin to pull me out of a low moment. I am getting more superfoods in, quick, simple stuff, veg tossed in garlicy chilli oil with a thick dusting of toasted seeds. In the fridge there’s always some cooked pulses to combine with fresh vegetables and make a salad, often there’s a rich bright homemade soup. I’ve stepped up the fish too, I love the moment of taking a fragrant, puffy package of fish and herbs out of the oven.
Ten months on, working on my rehab, life has definitely changed. The thin skin, ridged nails and steroid mooniness have gone. With the return of normality to my bodily functions I constantly marvel at it’s resilience and thank it for bringing me through. My hair is lush, my eyebrows are thickening. This side of cancer, if I develop the Freida Khalo mono brow I might even be delighted. After hating the chemo state of plucked and hairless, the idea of too much of the stuff seems positively giddy and profligate! And another thing worth celebrating, I’ve shed a few pounds thanks to the new nutrition regime.
Most of all, my thanks go to Mike and his lovely wife Chrissy who supported me so wonderfully through the dark times.