Oct. 17, 2011 6:48 am
Lately I’ve been giving myself time to mull things over: what do I really think about such-and-such?…. what makes me feel most at ease with myself when approaching this or that?… do I have what I need to call the shots in my world? And am I being fair and loving to those around me?
After a third diagnosis of breast cancer, a girl can’t help but wonder about things like this, because things happen that prompt the need to newly evaluate them. People who love you respond differently to the news of a potentially terminal illness. At first, everyone rushes to assure you they will always be there to help however they can. And then, in as little as a few days time, some withdraw entirely — to the point of not showing up after making and confirming a date. And then you don’t hear from them again.
I figure those who withdraw like this are protecting themselves from the potential pain of loss if I die from an illness rather than an accident or old age. Had I not told them about my breast cancer, they’d still be around. I noticed this phenomena after my first diagnosis in 2001. Some people dropped all connection with me until I was “all better”. When I was diagnosed the second time, I was more careful in how I shared the news, aided by the fact that it was precancerous, so it wasn’t that scary. But this time, even I couldn’t hide from the fact that the news of a third breast cancer isn’t good. Sharing it became my biggest concern: do I tell those I love, or keep it to myself so they don’t have to wrestle with the fear of losing me? I made the best calls I could, and this time I’ve only lost one connection, although I’m not sharing my experiences and thoughts as freely I have previously.
For the first time in my life, I’m practicing a credo I formerly tossed about without making it a rule: I’m keeping my own counsel.
An example: I’ve been politically moderate for most of my life, beginning in 8th grade when I first read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. That changed after 9/11, when I found myself painfully uncomfortable with the invasion of Iraq. I spent years passionately arguing with those who felt differently, regardless of how upsetting those conversations were. Now, although I continue to have the same moderate views, I’ve decided that impassioned debates use energy I no longer want to spend on ideological differences. I think what I think; others think what they think; and we’ll either come to a compromise or one side will overwhelm the other, which will prompt a backlash at some point and eventually we’ll have to give it up anyway. I’ve concluded there’s no reason to expend energy trying to change minds that don’t want (or have no perceived reason) to change. So I’ve begun to invoke my right NOT to discuss topics that, in my experience, don’t produce anything but discord. When you’re dealing with a third breast cancer, creating or contributing to discord and disharmony is an unhealthy prescription. Despite years of believing otherwise, I’ve ceased arguing my case when the odds of getting anywhere are nil. This makes my body happy: it’s a healthier approach for me to take.
When you stop behaving in ways people have associated you with, it changes how they react to you. To continue with the example of political leanings, I’ve had an ongoing debate with someone who is much further to the right than I am, and incredulous that I could agree with “the left leaning socialist agenda”. So when I invoked my right not to talk about it, it shifted the dynamics in our discourse. We’re forced now to talk about other parts of life and, to my great relief, those discussions are fun: they make us laugh. And although I’ve known this for years, my current mulling has reconfirmed that laughter is one of my highest values…. right up there with loving my neighbors and doing for others as I would have done for me.
So far, I’ve concluded it’s okay for people to withdraw entirely. It’s something they need to do, even though I miss them. I’ve also welcomed those who’ve stayed with me, and some new folks who’ve arrived — adding new dimensions to my thinking. I’ve decided it’s okay for me to abstain from involving myself with anything that isn’t in alignment with what I need to be doing.
I guess it boils down to trusting myself. Of course I keep my antenna open for new thoughts and ideas, but I now know those new thoughts and ideas need to go through my own filter and, since keeping my own counsel can take time, I don’t rush the process. I feel closer to being at home with myself than I’ve ever been… except maybe when I was 4, and the world was my oyster.
For those who’ve made it this far in this post, thank you for allowing me to wander. As an effort to make it up to you, here’s a recipe I’ve found which has turned out to be a very good Thai Vegetable Curry. It’s from Eat To Live, by Dr. Joel Furhman, with some modifications by me (or course… modifying recipes is likely something I’ll never get over).
Note: This dish involves a lot of preparation, but if you’re going for “nutrient dense”, it’s worth it. I’ve been eating like this (nutrient dense foods only) for the last 6 weeks, having preceded that by 3 weeks with fruit and veggie juices. I’ve lost close to 20 lbs. in the last 9 weeks. This is a Good Thing.
Thai Vegetable Curry
Serves 8-12 (it makes a lot)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (I use more because I love the stuff).
2 cups carrot juice
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 large eggplant, peeled, if desired & cut into 1 inch cubes (I “sweat it” with salt for about half and hour)
2 cups green beans, cut in 2 inch pieces
3 cups sliced mushrooms (shitake, portabella, crimini, or whatever you can find)
1 (8 ounce) can bamboo shoots, drained
2 tablespoons Mrs. Dash, original
3-4 tbsp. curry powder (the recipe calls for 1/2 tsp. I love curry, so I use what tastes good to me).
1 cup watercress leaves
4 tablespoons unsalted natural chunky peanut butter
1 pounds firm tofu, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
1 can light coconut milk
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chopped raw cashews
1 tblsp. Bragg Liquid Aminos
unchopped mint, basil or cilantro leaves, for garnish (optional)
• Set the over to 375°.
• Peel the eggplant and cut into 1″ pieces. Set in a colander and sprinkle with salt to cover each piece. Let sit in the sink for about half an hour. The salt will “sweat” out any bitterness in the eggplant. After the half hour of sweating, rinse the eggplant to wash off the salt.
• Cut the tofu into 4 or 5 slices and set between paper towels while you prepare the other ingredients. Then, using more paper towels as needed, press on the tofu to remove as much liquid as you can. Then cut the slices into 1/2″ pieces, and toss in a bowl with about 1 tblsp. lemon or lime juice, 1 tblsp. of curry powder, and 1 tbsp. of ginger power. Place on a lightly oiled baking pan and cook in a 375° oven for 30 minutes.
• Cut up the garlic, ginger, mint, basil, cilantro, bell pepper, green beans, mushrooms and watercress and place in a large soup pot with the 2 cups carrot juice and eggplant. Add the bamboo shoots, Mrs. Dash, red pepper flakes, and curry powder. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer (stirring occasionally, until all the veggies are tender). Meanwhile, prepare and bake the tofu.
• Mix in the peanut butter and stir. Add the tofu, Bragg Liquid Aminos, and coconut milk, and heat through. Toss in the cashews and it’s ready to serve. Garnish if you like, although so far I haven’t found then need to add another thing.
Note: This can be served over brown rice or quinoa.
Interesting tidbit: According to Joel Fuhrman, author of “Eat To Live”, mushrooms (even one a day) help prevent breast cancer because whatever’s in them regulates the production of estrogen to keep it in balance. So, says he, if you do nothing else, have at least one mushroom a day. If you can have it with some onion, you’re boosting your anti-breast cancer odds even more. See my previous post for a nice recipe to help with this.