Diet, Health vs. Beauty

Toast and Eggs and Toast and Eggs.

This morning I looked down at my breakfast with no affection or desire. The sixth pile of toast and eggs in as many days. I felt a tired resignation and appreciation that the carbo-loading marathon week was over. My body has been reluctantly eating pasta, bread + butter, rice and potatoes for the last seven days; the suggested diet to store up energy for the second surgery tomorrow.

When my mother was very, very ill and very, very thin she looked at me and said, “how I regret all those damn diets now.” With her voice echoing in my head I soldiered on last week, stuffing in all the food groups I had literally eliminated from my diet for the last five years. Bread? Where’s the butter. Pasta? Let’s stuff that with cheese and ricotta please. Potatoes? Slide over that sour cream! A diet contrary to everything I believed was now good for me and you had better believe I was following the rule book.

The process of taking care of myself has rearranged and shifted what is important: Food as medicine even when I have not a lick of an appetite. Surgery as preventative medicine, despite how close this is to the last one. New sheets as medicine, just because. Taking naps. Lying down when I need to. I just had a practice run six weeks ago for this recovery X 2, and will therefore forgive myself the couch time, the extra needs.

That moment when your life swivels, that shiver when your blood stops in your veins?  My pathology report was that moment. This plate of eggs? Doesn’t matter what I want to eat this morning. This is what I need to eat. Want and need have changed their relationship, every morning performing a complicated dance in my head, in my hips, in my heart.

I will wake up tomorrow relieved that this step is over, anxious to move on to recovery and health, my book project or any writing that emerges, my daughter’s wedding and the budding peonies. Olive will need her teeth cleaned. Lists will need to be made. And I will follow whatever diet prescribed, for as long as I have to, as that is the new order of taking care of myself.

I dream of salad Niçoise. And that créme brûlée brioche from Tatte on Charles Street. Mmmmm.

Just saying. A girl can dream.



Bravery, Carcinoid tumor, Health vs. Beauty, ovarian cancer, Women

Bravery: Not Always Pretty.

After the elective ovary-fallopian tube removal surgery that filled my abdomen with air, then sliced, diced, washed and scrutinized everything that could be examined in my abdomen — along the way my appendix didn’t look good, so the surgeon nipped that out too — the bloating had finally reduced enough on day four so that I could see my feet. In disbelief I howled my first complete sentence into the shower steam;


That was when I got my first laugh, bent over the sink holding a towel to my sutured belly. I needed that laugh. My belly was a mountain range of peeling steri-strips, yellow bruising up and down and around, my belly button full of stitches.

Thanks to two friends in the medical profession I had been linked up with a first class surgeon. April 20, 2017, was her first available surgery slot — a completely random date, for a straightforward elective preventative surgery  — which turned out to be more crucial than anyone knew. Two weeks into recovery, pathology reported that my female bits were all fine. But I only got half a victory lap. The appendix was filled with tumor.

The road back from this surgery initially required patience, sleep and helping hands. But most importantly, this one required, and still requires, bravery.

I am healing from round one and my work isn’t done. I have been overwhelmed and full of fear since the pathology report, the kind that makes your knees weak and your head disconnected, a paralysis that had me knocking things over when I bothered to even get off the couch. I did not know this fear, a bleak, dark, exhausting swamp that mired me day and night, that arrested my healing, my appetite and my sleep. I didn’t want to be alone, and then cringed when anyone saw me. This was ugly. This was not brave.

And then, last week, I went back to Mass General Hospital and met with my GI Oncologist and the next surgeon for round two. As we talked, I felt the anxiety rise out of me. Like a palpable, visible mist right off my shoulders. I suddenly realized I chose trust. As these two men looked me in the eye and laid out our game plan, I understood that after a life of being in control I could recognize when to give it away. I didn’t google, or argue, or faint. I asked questions and listened carefully. I brought a note taker.

The next day I received an email from a fellow writer and cancer survivor. She wrote me: You have to be a fighter. And I would add, to be a fighter, you need to chose your team to go to battle with you. And when I chose, and accepted, I got my first good night’s sleep.

As I move forward, this life changing surgery — now referred to as surgery #1 —  leads me in a few weeks to surgery #2. I choose to count my blessing; if I had postponed the first surgery until after my daughter’s wedding in September the situation would have been immeasurably worse. I will have deeper scars and take longer to heal. I have to ask friends and family to re-boot meals and help and support all over again (thank you). I will most likely marvel if not laugh over the new mountain range of scars and the price of spanxx.

Bravery isn’t pretty, but I am upright.

Though frankly, the guy in surgery #1 with the razor (had to be a guy) might have tried to do something about those stretch marks while he was down there.

To be continued.


Nurse Olive never left my side.