Monday, November 30, 2009

Downs and Ups

Dear Family and Friends,

Friends with close-up experience of cancer already know what I'm beginning to learn, -- that pendulum swings are to be expected.
One wrote: "I know that it will be up and down, (both of my parents had cancer and went through radiation and chemo)..."
Another pointed to -- "the most illusive of all, those pesky bowels!"
And a third enlightened me further, explaining: "Doesn't matter how well you eat. Don't worry about it being habit forming.... You really have to take these things on a regular basis because those meds are drying and also slow GI motility. You may even want to keep a couple of those saline fleets enemas on hand as well."
In other words, massaging the colon not to lose natural peristalsis is no match for the side effects of powerful narcotics.

So that's what we've been dealing with in the last two days, -- the whole GI tract from top to bottom. The chart I created to help us discern what might have caused the seeming downturn in ability to keep food, and to evacuate it in good time, may be of help to another caregiver, so I'm attaching it. It's helping us notice patterns, e.g. Francis has no trouble digesting rice (Alhamdulillah!) but maybe even tasty beans cooked for 2 hours may be too much for him right now. But he ate turkey & trimmings on Thanksgiving Day, -- right? Go figure!

Well in the middle of all this, we received two gifts, -- the help of Sally and of Meg.

Our good friend Sally who's collected delectable macrobiotic recipes for the last six years spent Friday afternoon cooking with me. Though Francis spent most of that day sleeping off his Thanksgiving escapade, he made a comment Sally got a kick out of, -- that we were "cackling" in the kitchen! Sally showed me how to cut and prepare blanched vegetables cooked separately in the same pot, but dunked in the order of mild to strong taste. Each is then removed with a Chinese skimmer. (Sally will get us one locally.)

The veggies are so tasty served with a dressing I immediately fell in love with: tahini, lemon juice, shoyu and umeboshi vinegar. She got the recipe at one of Warren Kramer's workshops. He's a well known macrobiotic counselor from the Kushi Institute in Boston. Before she left Sally promised to copy some of her favorite recipes from the bulging spiral notebook she brought along, -- her "bible," she called it.

It's interesting to note that Sally departs from this, her preferred way of eating, when, for example, summer tomatoes are in season. She doesn't avoid them then just because they're nightshades. And for Thanksgiving she made a roast pork with cheese! Hardly a macrobiotic dish!

After Sally left Francis also enjoyed the miso soup and tender veggies cut Japanese style, though he didn't like the dressing quite as much as I did.

The other gift is the arrival in our life of Meg Wolff. When I sent an email request -- "Helping me cook at home for Francis" through
Meg responded !!! I'm exclaiming here because you see, Meg teaches macrobiotic cooking!

In fact, Meg is one of the two possible Maine macrobiotic counselors Francis and I had to pick from some weeks ago. One of the main reasons we chose Connie Arnold instead is that we heard Meg travels a lot, giving talks, and also because someone we know highly recommended Connie. If you check out Meg's website you'll see what a vibrant talented person she is. Most startling is the cover of Meg's book Becoming Whole showing her with right leg amputated, without prosthesis, arms uplifted.

Meg explained that she's now recuperating from her third surgery, and said it would help her too to help us with cooking. She invited us to go to her home in Cape Elizabeth so she can teach me about macrobiotic cooking. Francis could lie on the couch she said, and look at the ocean. That was to have been today. But we were both wiped out by yesterday, today, so we're in the process of rescheduling that date.

In the meantime we've discovered what a generous person Meg is! She has already delivered to our home some delicious barley mushroom soup (our supper tonight) and a Japanese gelatin dessert called kanten. Made from seaweed it's not only full of nutrients but delicious. Francis likes it too!

The friend I quoted at the beginning of this email who said "I know that it will be up and down..." ended with -- "but you certainly seem to have had some good solid ups." Certainly these two openings into our macrobiotic adventure are "solid ups!" Since we are what we eat, with a healing diet to boost him, I've got high hopes that Francis will join the ranks of those who are cancer free. And I will add, though they're not easy, -- pendulum swings and all.


  1. Hi Elaine,
    What a great blog. I LOVE it! Thank you for sharing it with me. Just beautiful. I should say that you & Francis are beautiful. xo

  2. Carry on having hope. Macrobiotic food and all our philosophy makes miracles happen. All my love. Clara