I spent a good part of this Shabbat thinking about all the things I want to write down, and then I spent about an hour tonight watching food videos from Tasty, Delish, Buzzfeed, Munchies, you get the picture. I love all those food videos but since I’m off of dairy, alcohol, red meat, sugar, white flour and just about anything that looks or tastes fattening, watching delicious food videos can feel a little like torture.
Look, I don’t have a good relationship with food. That’s one of the things that started me down this road to begin with. After years and years of fighting to be thin, I wanted to just remove the physical ability to overeat, so I could lose weight and lead a healthier lifestyle.
But truth be told, I love food. I just do. I have spent years and years fighting against it, because of the stigma about fat girls and food, but I love everything about food. I’m obsessed with food knowledge, I love to read about new foods, cooking techniques, innovations, etc. When given a night off, I would rather watch a cooking show then any other type of genre. I like experimenting in my kitchen and have been blessed with a partner who is gung-ho and loves to try new things too. A shared appreciation of food is one of the things we have in common. My Instagram feed is just one amazing Chef after another and for some reason, I’m really keyed into the food scene of Philadelphia. Go figure! I mutter about Wylie Dufresne when making eggs in the morning, compare any seafood dish to the Voltaggio brothers, and dream about making kosher Pho.
I love entertaining for Shabbat because I literally spend days thinking about the menu. Vegan? Gluten-free? Paleo? Nut allergy? Come on down! The more complicated the better; I view it as a personal challenge. Gaby will often find me surrounded by cookbooks and searching through Pinterest for the perfect recipe for a meal. And when I pull off just the right balance of dishes, I feel tremendous pride and happiness.
Dieting for me is torture, and not because I am unable to restrict myself, but in order to lose weight my meal choices are uninspired. I don’t enjoy the restriction, I’m more of a load my plate up type of girl, so portion control can be challenging. When I need to lose weight, my food choices get very limited. I know it doesn’t always have to be this way, but for me to really be successful, I end up eating the same things day in and day out until I reach a goal weight. Except I haven’t reached my goal weight since college so that says something about any success I’ve had with diets.
Since Chemo a couple of weeks ago, my appetite has all but disappeared. I’ve been existing on very little and have lost seven kilos since my diagnosis on November 15th. The weight loss is good since I can stand to lose a few pounds, but I also need to keep my strength up. Then Friday morning, everything just changed. I woke up at 6:00 and got Sivan ready for school. I made the kids Aruchat Esser and ran to get dressed, I took Sivan to the van and a cab pulled up three minutes later. I had a 7:30 a.m. acupuncture appointment with Dr. Martine Toledano, who heads the Integrative and Complimentary Medicine department at Hadassah.
Dr. Toledano was amazing. She told me that she was not there to treat my cancer, that was going to be taken care of by my doctor at Shaare Tzedek. She was going to treat “Shira.” She was going to help me sleep better at night, stop with the night sweats, reduce my anxiety, help me lose weight, bring strength to my body. I haven’t told her about my issues with smell and taste but I’m sure she knew that these were all side effects of the Chemo. She did a full treatment and I walked out of there feeling tired but uplifted, and I had energy to burn. I was also absolutely starving. Gaby drove to pick up Challah for Shabbat, which we ended up not needing, and I asked him to pick up some whole grain bread. When he got back into the car, I grabbed the bag and literally devoured two piece. I hadn’t felt so hungry in days! Next, we drove to Emek Refaim to run some errands. I put my mask on and we ventured out into the World. This was my first post-treatment trip to Emek Refaim and with my mask on, most people just parted when they saw me coming. I didn’t mind it since I’m very aware of my PICC line and just don’t want people to bump into my left arm. We parked somewhere in the Greek Colony and walked a couple of blocks to get light bulbs, then worked our way backwards towards Super Moshava, Steimatzky and Bagel Cafe. I was still starving and so I ordered a whole wheat bagel with light tuna. Gaby didn’t think I would be able to eat it all but did I surprise him!
The walk around the neighborhood did wonders from my mood but I was also tired. I was happy when we finished up our errands and we got back to the car. I spent most of the rest of Friday resting and working, although I summoned the energy to clean off the dining room table and set it for Shabbat. Gaby brought the kids home from school and Yarden walked in absolutely miserable, burning up with a fever. We got her into the shower, gave her some meds and put her to bed. Gaby was also starting to feel lousy and I told him to try to rest, but you know how it is before Shabbat, there’s a million things to do! He managed to get the kids showered and into PJ’s and then helped me take a shower, before he was able to just crash.
And then the people started to come. Four amazing families offered to cook Shabbat for us through a meal train set up by our friends. We were all just blown away by what was brought for us to eat over Shabbat.
As parents, we don’t always see the teachable moments in life. On Friday, we were shown such tremendous acts of Chesed and our children were here to witness and appreciate true kindness. The Brendler family dropped food off first and Sivan was in gan with their son in Gan Chova last year and rides the Baka van with their daughter, so she recognized them and started to get excited. Chicken soup and zucchini bread, cookies and petitime; they brought us a ton of delicious food! Next, Tani’s friend Yishai’s Dad dropped off gazpacho and salatim and a cake that was so big we didn’t know where to put it! At this point, we had more than enough food to last us the entire Shabbat, and two more families were still coming to drop off food! Mia’s parents from Tani’s gan came next and we couldn’t believe the thoughtfulness. Freshly baked Challot and fresh salad, shnitzel and sides. At this point, there was no more room in our refrigerator or on our plata and we knew the Barak family was still to come. And come they did, with a giant cardboard box that was bursting with yummy food. Chicken and roasted vegetables, a pumpkin cake and a chocolate loaf and cucumber salad and a little chocolate treat from their recent travels.
We were so overwhelmed! Sivan in particular asked a lot of questions. She said, “Mommy, because you have cancer look at what all of these people are doing for us! Look how many people care about us, they cooked and made us so much delicious food! See Mommy, even nice things can happen because you have cancer.”
That last bit just struck me for a minute. Because, really, I haven’t been able to think of anything good happening because I have cancer. I’ve been trying to be upbeat and positive, but I have yet to see cancer as “a good thing.”
But she was absolutely right. Just look at all of the kindness and chesed people have shown us because I have cancer. We are so fortunate to be surrounded by such incredible people. It’s moments like these that makes the challenges of having cancer and going through treatment just a little bit easier.
Lior Shira Batya Bat Chaya Yehudit