Gotta keep on keepin' on.......

Cancer again...that's 3 times in 2 years. This time it’s not breast cancer, but a new one called squamous cell carcinoma. New cancer, same old fighting spirit! My blog is still named for one of many songs that kept me going the first time around. Driving home from an upsetting appointment, I turned on the radio just as this line from Steve Miller Band's Jet Airliner was playing: "I've got to keep on keepin' on" I did just that. And I'll do it again.

Monday, June 02, 2008

A batch of brownies? Really?

I baked brownies today. Not a big deal for me, usually. I like to's very soothing and I am not ashamed to say, I am a very good baker. And, since I'm a terrible cook, I like to make it up to the family with my baking.

Anyway, I baked brownies this afternoon and to my surprise, I started feeling antsy, and a wee bit angry. It took me a few minutes to figure out why. It sounds silly, but baking brownies reminded me of a very bad time, back in August when I learned of the breast cancer recurrence. I was so pissed off back then! I had finished treatment for the 1st breast cancer just months before, and I had changed quite a few things in my life, thinking I could avoid ever having to deal with cancer again.

I had changed to a low-fat diet, 30 fat grams a day, something the dietitian claimed was proven to help prevent breast cancer recurrence. I had cut out all alcohol, since it has been linked to breast cancer. I shopped for organic food, cut out coffee (but not my tea, although I did start choking down that awful green tea, hoping the antioxidants would help me out a little). I changed my skin care regimen to an all-natural, seaweed-based line, just in case it was the chemicals in the lotions I'd been using for 15 years that had caused my cancer. I switched to an all-natural deoderant and toothpaste. I even stopped eating red meat, just in case. It could have been anything that caused the cancer, and I wasn't taking any chances. Everything had to go!

These changes didn't really impact my family that much. I still fed them nutritious meals, and even before cancer, we ate very well, lots of veggies and fruits and dinners that weren't overly heavy. The biggest change, for me at least, was counting my fat-grams. That was quite drastic! I was very strict about my numbers, too.

I think what hurt the family the most was that I no longer baked, because I was trying to keep my fat-grams down. (I did buy a subscription to Cooking Light, to get some lighter ideas for treats, but mostly I tried out the dinner recipes, not desserts.)

Yes, by last August I thought I was in great shape. So when my surgeon called me with the news of the recurrence, I thought, "@#$!!!!!, I did everything I was supposed to do, and here that stupid cancer came back anyway!"

So what did I do? I rebelled! I drank every night (after the kids went to bed, don't worry, I was responsible), Mike's Hard Limeade, Smirnoff Ice, whatever I could get my hands on. I stopped at Burger King after every appointment or scan, and I'd down 2 burgers and fries and a Dr Pepper on the drive home. I went way off that stupid low-fat diet. Why not? It hadn't made a bit of difference for me. The cancer came back, despite all the changes I made.

And for some reason, for weeks after I learned of the recurrence, I baked brownies almost non-stop. Again, why not? I had cut out all those treats, thinking that would help, but it made no difference. Why shouldn't I bake, and bake a lot? Brownies were an odd choice, since I hardly ever baked brownies until then. I don't even know what prompted me to start, but I searched the Hershey's website almost daily for interesting recipes.

Those brownies proved to quite therapeutic for me! I won't say I found inner peace through it, but it was very soothing to be baking again. I enjoyed experimenting with different add-ins, and I loved the reaction of my family! The girls were in brownie heaven! (Did I mention these were made-from-scratch brownies, with tons of butter and eggs and sometimes even M&Ms?) I had a blast finding new recipes and trying them out on the family.

The brownies got me through a rough period in my cancer-fighting life. (The wine helped, too, as did those burgers.) My thinking at the time: Whatever I had been doing hadn't helped keep the cancer from coming back, so why should I knock myself out trying to lead a healthy life?

Eventually, I went back on the wagon. The healthy life-style wagon, that is. The one I was on before I had learned of my first cancer, because I really did lead a healthy life back then. I continued eating veggies and fruits and red meats on occasion, and I went back to my original skin care line. I stopped being afraid of everything, stopped thinking that everything was causing my cancer. Finally, freedom!

And, to my family's cheers, I went back to baking. Not brownies so much, but gingersnaps, snickerdoodles, and banana muffins, the treats my kids love to see in their lunchboxes.

Today, I found an old brownie recipe from August, and I thought the kids would enjoy a special treat. Little did I know those brownies would trigger such an angry cancer memory! But that's OK. Once I realized what my problem was, I reserved some of the batter, pulled out the heart-shaped pans and baked 4 little heart-shaped brownies, one for each of my children. That put a smile on my face, to see the smiles on theirs. And since they're the reason I'm trying so hard to stay cancer-free, I can certainly battle a few brownie demons for them.