When I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2009, I started on a journey that has been challenging to navigate. I believe that I received excellent and optimal care from my health care providers; however, it was difficult to receive good information about self-care while undergoing treatment as well as after treatment. It has taken me almost five years to feel like myself again and I still deal with post-treatment side effects daily. This is the definition of the “new normal” for my life.
One of the pathways for healing that is important to me is diet and nutrition. I am not talking about being on a “diet” but rather looking at what, when and how I eat. Even before I was diagnosed with cancer I ate a healthy diet. Lots of vegetables, plant-based protein, some chicken and fish, fruits and whole grains. A few years ago I tried to go vegan, but found that cutting out dairy was too challenging for me and I do not believe that I have side effects. In addition, I have not jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon because I enjoy healthy whole grain foods.
Most of my food is homemade from scratch because I love cooking and using whole-food ingredients. What I realized over time is that I eat too much food because I really love food! So working with smaller portions has been one of the most helpful habits and I try to eat until I am 80-percent full. Being overweight can put me at risk for a recurrence, so losing the weight that I gained while going through treatment (and being put into instant menopause post-surgery) has been a priority.
I have attended food-related workshops at Cancer Lifeline (www.cancerlifeline.org), PCC Natural Markets, Bastyr University, Commonweal Cancer Help Program and Harmony Hill Retreat Center (www.harmonyhill.org). Once I completed treatment, restoring my immune system was my number-one priority. This is a challenging task especially because I had a high level of fatigue as well as stress. Going to my standard comfort foods such as popcorn, ice cream, chocolate, cheese and crackers did not help. Eating fresh vegetables and fruits with lean proteins has been most helpful.
Since local asparagus is available at the Edmonds Garden Market, here’s a delicious soup from “Cooking at Harmony Hill: Recipes for Hope and Healing” that is as easy as it is delicious. You’ll feel healthy eating every bite.
Asparagus Soup (Serves 4-5)
In a soup pot, melt 2 teaspoons butter and 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons pine nuts or walnut pieces and 1 clove of chopped garlic and toast until slightly brown (stir so the nuts do nut burn). Remove the toasted nuts and set aside for garnish. Add 2 cloves chopped garlic, 1 cup of thinly sliced red onion and 1/8 teaspoon of sea salt to the pot, stirring over medium heat for about 15 minutes until onions are soft. Set aside.
In the meantime, bring 6 cups of water to a boil with 1/4 teaspoon salt, add 6 cups of chopped fresh asparagus and boil until barely tender (3-4 minutes). Put the cooked asparagus with 2-3 cups of the cooking water in a food processor or Vitamix-type appliance, blend until it is a smooth puree. (Remember to vent the machine so that you don’t have a steam explosion!) Return asparagus puree to soup pot with the onion/garlic mixture and add additional cooking water to achieve the desired consistency.
Serve hot, garnished with the toasted nuts.
— By Deborah Binder
Deborah Binder lives in Edmonds with her family. She is “dancing with N.E.D.” (no evidence of disease) after being diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer in 2009. She is a foodie who loves to cook from scratch and share here experiments with her family. She attended culinary school on the East Coast and currently chef assists at PCC Cooks and NuCulinary Cooking School. Her current interest in food is learning to eat for health and wellness, while at the same time enjoying the pleasures of the table. As Julia Child once said, “Everything in moderation including butter.” Deborah can be contacted at [email protected].