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Mealtrain’s Comin—Choo Chew!

Cheesecake

Rob has always been appreciative of whoever puts food in front of him, even me. This week while we’re away at the beach house we’ve been preparing meals together—planning, shopping, chopping, grilling, sautéing and cleaning up afterwards. Kitchen work has never been my forte but this week it’s been downright satisfying.

After his cystectomy, then six weeks of recovery complete with the gracious food offerings from scads of dear friends and family members, we have both convalesced back to the new normal (as if anything could be “normal” again?) The notion of “Mealtrain” has taken on infinitely more meaning than the brand name of a convenient electronic application. Since back when I had babies at least, bringing a family a meal has changed from delivering a quiche or a tuna casserole to supplying appetizers, drinks, entrée, salad, dessert and even, once believe it or not, tickets to a show.

Albeit I’ve told people how stunned and bereft we’ve been at times; coming home from the hospital without a bladder slows down both the bladderless and his beloved especially in the face of that bothersome inguinal node biopsy. People get it and they love us. It’s humbling to be so dependent on the goodwill of others. We find ourselves opening our arms and hearts wide to accept all this love and care and saying, “Thanks.” A simple Thank you seems woefully inadequate when someone offers you life itself. That was often how the exchange of food on our front porch felt. It seems like eons ago when Rob first got home and our bedroom and bath resembled a M.A.S.H. unit, given all the extra hospital-like paraphernalia. Now though, it looks almost like it used to and this Labor Day weekend seems rather ordinary. We’re doing house projects, kayaking, riding bikes, sleeping in and cooking for each other.

Let it be said—we would absolutely be nowhere near this well without the fabulous edibles we’ve been given.

It has been Real Nourishment–providing physical, social and spiritual care. Sometimes desserts arrived through the mail, even ice cream once and chocolate-covered fruit another time. Our neighbor made cheesecake. A gift certificate for home delivery came. In the latter weeks when I ventured out to represent us, I came home with a full plate of dinner for Rob more than once. Another couple drove across the country in their RV to bring us a store-bought canister of delicious Southern cheese sticks. These folks follow directions and are not proud. Neither am I. I practically begged for food in one of my posts explaining, “It helps when you bring us food and also when we don’t talk about cancer all the time.” Our friends do what it takes. And boy are we grateful!

For instance, about three weeks post-surgery, Mr. Rockoff and his bride took the cake; little did they know they were starting a whole new mealtrain route. They presented us Pork Tinga and Cuban Black Beans, enough for an army.  Since Rob was feeling up to it, they agreed to stay for dinner. With the flowers and champagne they’d brought along, we were able to set a nice table on the deck and pretend all was well again. Afterwards there was enough entrée to put several packets for two in the freezer. I ask you, who gets gourmet left-overs like this?!

During week four, our neighbors who’d signed up to bring food texted to say their baby had an infection. No one was getting any sleep at their house, besides the antibiotics needed to kick-in before they could feed themselves reliably much less anyone else. Seemed like the perfect destination for one of the freezer packs. Even poor grieving me, the post-surgery spouse, could make it next door and extend the mealtrain to its next stop.

By the time another friend learned she needed emergency surgery to get rid of her pesky gall bladder, we were ready. We dubbed those fancy pork and beans “Rockoff Bowls” and wrote up the instructions. Besides the frozen packet, we added an avocado, chips, salsa, cheese and sour cream to a delivery bag. I was traveling across town by then and I knew first-hand how well my delivery would feed her husband/caregiver. I was happy to return the favor that so many others bestowed on us.

About a week ago, my brother-in-law delivered chicken sausages, stuffed peppers, salads and It’s Itses ice cream sandwiches. I admitted, “We are really going to miss socializing with our personalized chefs when this mealtrain ends. It still seems a tad daunting to feed ourselves 100% of the time but Rob is almost well…” My BIL cut me off, “Don’t tell anyone! We like doing this.” It’s true, people have been so kind and besides the circle is becoming reciprocal.

You don’t have to get sick to sample the goods. Our friend has forked over the recipe. Why don’t you come join us for dinner? We’re preparing Rockoff Bowls tonight and there’s plenty for YOU too.

 

 

Haiku Reflections

Meds

Throughout the month, this feeling of sadness and uncertainty is not fleeting (as in it is always there) but it is often superseded by some, usually overpowering, sense of love and goodwill. Yes, this too is simultaneous and always there.

 

Scared and storm-weathered

A bit like “Come Alive” course

With Love exploding

 

Fond imaginings

A caregiver’s medicine

And being less tight

 

Creating goodness

Visualizing wellness

Without insistence

 

Simultaneous

Optimistic, authentic

Grieving in Deep Joy

 

I can see the heavens while tethered to the ground. The balance of deep hope is called forth in the midst of rest, recovery and reality.

August Prayers for Rob

Gardenia

Lord, grant to your servant Rob the help of your power, to bear what comes his way in his treatments and that his health be renewed.

*From a priest

 

May everything we create be filled with peace and joy and love and light.

May we grow in wisdom and strength and health, so that we may serve creation by extending peace to all.

May we cherish no ill feeling toward anyone, so that all may live in peace.

*From my first yoga teacher, now deceased, via a neighbor

 

 

(While imagining golden yellow)…May Rob be filled with loving kindness

(While imagining new growth on leaves)…May Rob be well

(While imagining blue, pure and bright)…May Rob be peaceful and at ease

(While imagining magenta)…May Rob be happy

*From a friend

From the Caring Bridge

Swimming

Dear Friends,

Yesterday we jumped in Lake Washington. Very refreshing!

Yes, we did meet with Rob’s oncologist, Dr. Richard Ancheta. Next Rob will update bloodwork and CT scans. Chemotherapy will likely start sometime in September after a second opinion at Fred Hutch.

For background and statistics, dig into “Rob’s Story” on his Caring Bridge site. Knowing the official odds are long and that none of us gets out of this alive, we are choosing to focus on Rob’s personal stats. Maybe you already know Rob has a great track record. For instance, most recently he was in that 20% with no complications after cystectomy. No wonder he is calm and steady, as usual. While the rest of us are stunned, bereft at times and still trying to figure out how we can schedule the future, he is playing the piano, watering his garden and tending the bees. Soon he will be running again, God willing.

We have learned that what helps most is

*when you bring us food.

*when we talk about something besides cancer.

We believe in nourishment, laughter, the science and miracles of modern medicine and the power of prayer and friendship. We delight in and welcome your individual version of that. Come join us in the Big Time. It’s quite the ride.

Love,

Penny

PS What is that coming out of Rob’s head in the photo?!

Inner Witness – July

Mandala

B.S. Before Surgery…After reading the following quote about an upcoming course at church, “Contemplate what it means to stand on the threshold with courage and attentiveness, listening for the next congruent step, and honor the threshold moments in your life as an integral part of the process of transformation and change,” I started recording my internal conversations. Someday, on the other side of Rob’s surgery, I imagine recording “Inner Witness Plus.”

Me:                        Are you there?

Inner Witness:    Always.

Me:                        Do you love me?

Inner Witness:    Always.

Me:                        Will you help me live here and now?

Inner Witness:    Always.

Me:                        Oh yeah, and eat less?

Inner Witness:    If we must.

Me:                        I do so want to be strong and healthy. Also to push away Fear.

Inner Witness:    Fear has nothing on me.

Me:                        Really? Then why do you allow it?

Inner Witness:    Not my doing, honey. If you live right here, right now, you might feel fright but not capital-F Fear. And only occasionally at that.

Me:                        What about on O-day?

Inner Witness:    Maybe. So 7/19 – Rob’s operation. Got it. On my calendar.

Me:                        [Pursing my lips to blow a kiss.]

Inner Witness:    You know, there’ll be a giant gang with you that day.

Me:                        Yep. I’ll try to remember.

Inner Witness:  And remember, it will help to breathe, feel the juice shiver through you.

Me.                        Ok, we’ll see.

Inner Witness:    I will hold you. All the legions will too.

Me:                        You mean the living and the dead?

Inner Witness:   Of course, sugar. You can reach out and feel the net we make.

Me:                        Thank God for that.

(Artwork by Penelope Jackson)