Cancer changes everything

My story..

There is a reason for this blog. I always said I wanted to write a cookbook of all the family recipes for my three daughters. I imagined it would be a fun present at a bridal shower or housewarming. To show a more personal side of those who came before them. The memories of our loved ones live on in these little bits of history. I have been putting recipes aside for years and worked on it here or there, because I always felt I had the time to get it done. Then things changed. Cancer happened.

Therefore, I had no time for the book and decided on a blog. I want to get it all down and accessible for my girls … just in case. That is the brutal truth.

It was July of 2017 and I was more physically fit than I had been in 15 years, so I was feeling pretty good. We were planning my daughter’s high school graduation party and getting her ready to go off to college. We were having her party and I had about 30 people in my backyard and it was getting a little buggy out. I felt like I had been bit by a mosquito and I went to swat it away and felt a lump. A very distinct, like someone had stuck a marble in my bra kind of lump! How come I had never felt that before? How could I have missed it? There was no question, this was bad. My feeling was not “Oh no, I have a lump”, it was “Crap, I have cancer!”  I knew immediately what it was and that it was bad. 

I set up a mammogram and told my husband I could go by myself because I was trying to be strong and this appointment wouldn’t tell me a diagnosis, it was just to prove there was something there so we could move on to the biopsy. He needed to save those vacation days. I was all business. Big mistake. 

They did the mammogram twice and couldn’t find anything, yet they could feel it, so they decided to do an ultrasound. She took one look at the screen and just walked out! What the hell?  A man came in and introduced himself as an oncologist. He looked at the screen and turned to me and said “I am sorry, I don’t need a biopsy to tell me this is cancer.” 

And I was by myself. And I had to tell my husband…over the phone, in the car. He lost his mother when she was in her fifties to cancer and I knew this is what he would be thinking about.  Not again. I think that moment may have been the worst.

Even though in my head I knew… to hear those words is mind numbing. You can never be prepared. Things moved very quickly after that. It was recommended that I have a lumpectomy and radiation, but after speaking to my family and my children, it was decided I would go with a full double mastectomy and reconstruction followed by chemo. Best decision I ever made.

So, on the first day of school for my children, I had a double mastectomy/reconstruction, followed by 12 weeks of Taxol and 14 infusions of Herceptin. This process ended at the end of October 2018. After the mastectomy, I was told I had Stage 1 Triple Positive Breast Cancer and that it had not reached the lymph nodes. I am very lucky, they told me based on the rate of growth they saw throughout the process that the lump had been there about two weeks when I found it and it was already big! If I hadn’t found it that soon, It would have been a much more dire situation.

There are so many more stories to tell: the 4 ports because that was a disaster, shaving my head, pretending to feel okay in front of my children, telling my children, losing my job and trying to find a new one in the middle of chemo. Finding a job at the YMCA, who welcomed me and introduced me to the LIVESTRONG program that changed my life,  My wonderful friends who convinced me to join them in starting a Pan Mass Challenge Kids ride to raise funds for Dana Farber Cancer Institute. My friend Andy and his PMC team who honored me on their ride. Shannon, a Triple Negative Survivor, who I barely knew and who showed up at my door with books, goodies, tips and a shoulder to cry on. That is what it is all about it.  I am a very lucky person, I have a wonderful husband, who stepped up, as I knew he would, and took care of it all. He is truly a blessing. My sister who drove an hour every week at 6:00 am to get my youngest ready for school and on the bus. Jen and Carolyn who drove my middle child to school every day. My oldest who kept me laughing and entertained with her college adventures. I had friends and family who rallied around me and got me through it. Someone once told me “It is the club you never wanted to be in, but you are in it and you are not alone and we can do this, if we support each other!”  Now it is my turn to do the same thing for the people in my life. 

Discovering LIVESTRONG and becoming a mentor, all while working at the front desk at the YMCA has introduced me to so many amazing people. I have found that I am on the front lines and have the opportunity to introduce people to LIVESTRONG at the YMCA and the amazing people that run it. These people have become family. Only those who have been through it can truly understand what you are feeling.

I am a different person, a better person. I know I should say survivor, but I am not so sure about that word. I still deal with it every day, the PTSD, the neuropathy, the Tamoxifen and its side effects and the mild Lymphadema. Honestly, to say I HAD cancer seems weird. I don’t think I will ever feel that it is truly gone. But my motto throughout the whole thing was and still is “Fake it till you make it” and that is what I do for my children, so they don’t have to worry about all this. 

So, this blog is my gift to my children and if no one else ever reads it, that is fine with me. Because I am grateful just to be able to do it.

When someone has cancer, the whole family and everyone who loves them does too…. Terri Clark

Sunday Chefs french chicken cover page

French casserole Chicken – Supreme of Old Hen

This recipe brings back such fond memories of my childhood. It is not hard, but it is a bit time consuming. For some reason my late-father who loved to cook did not like to cook this. But he always made it for me on my birthday because he knew it was my favorite. It still is…. I have such wonderful memories of my birthday and this meal. I remember one time, he spent all day making it and we were all sitting at the table waiting for dinner. He liked to make a big deal out of the fact that he made it and was presenting it with a flourish, as he brought it to the table.

To be a good cook you have to have a love of the good, a love of hard work, and a love of creating. – Julia Child

Unfortunately, he stumbled and dropped the entire dish. The dish shattered all over the kitchen floor. Needless to say, he was devastated. We ended up ordering Chinese food. But he made it for me and that is the memory I have. Food is love and making those meals reminds you of the love.

French Casserole Chicken – Supreme of Old Hen

The perfect Sunday Dinner – Supreme of Old Hen. A wonderful French comfort meal made from a simple chicken.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs
Course dinner, Main Course
Cuisine French
Servings 4 people


  • Dutch Oven


  • 4-5 lb. Roaster Chicken or Bone-in Split Chicken Breasts
  • 4 tbsp. Butter
  • 4 tbsp. Sherry I usually use about a 1/2 cup
  • 2 Green apples Pared, cored and sliced
  • 6 ribs Celery with leaves Chopped
  • 1 Onion Minced or grated
  • 3 sprigs Parsley
  • ½ tsp. Salt
  • ¼ tsp. Paprika
  • tbsp. flour
  • 2 cups Chicken Stock
  • cup Sour Cream
  • 1 tsp. dried tarragon or basil I prefer tarragon
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • I prefer a Dutch Oven for this recipe. Sear the chicken on both sides in hot, melted butter. Remove the chicken from the pot and put aside. Add the Sherry to the pot and then the apples, celery, onion, parsley, ½ tsp. salt and paprika. Cover and cook these ingredients until tender. Stir in the flour and chicken stock. Cook and stir the sauce until it boils. Add the chicken back in. Cover and simmer until its tender (1 hour or more). Remove the chicken and put it in an oven-safe casserole dish. Strain the sauce and bring it to a simmer in a sauce pan. Add sour cream, tarragon and salt & pepper to taste. Pour the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. Place it under the broiler until the cheese melts.
    Serve over rice or pasta.


Allergy information: Contains gluten and dairy. 
Keyword chicken, dinner, egg free, family dinners, food allergy friendly, French Cooking, home cooking, julia child, nut free, nut free recipe, peanut free recipe, sunday dinner

La Scala In Trastevere, Rome Restaurant Review

I am sitting at my desk today dreaming of Rome… There is nothing like it and now that I have been there I will never be the same. Strolling through Trastevere over the cobblestones on a warm night with family has always been my dream. After cancer, life is all about moments and experiences and Rome was one for the ages.

There were many times during our visit that we walked by La Scala in Trastevere and I kept saying we could not leave without trying it.

The hotel recommended La Scala in Trastevere, but said that we would need a reservation. We took a chance and stopped by without one and got a seat outside. It was raining, but that was not a problem, they had an awning and a heater and the effect was a very romantic dining experience.

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all – Helen Keller

Our family tends to go to restaurants that are very allergy friendly and we found that all of Rome, Italy was very accommodating in this department. However, this night a few of our children went out with their friends, so the allergies were not an issue. There was lots of bread, ravioli’s, meatballs and wine (Tip: Always get the local wine). A simple meal but the Italians know how to make simple so wonderful. It was an amazing meal. We followed it up with tiramisu and a chocolate Nutella crepe with homemade whipped cream that was amazing and that my daughter will dream about for the rest of her life. La Scala in Trastevere was one of the best meals that we had in Rome and I would highly recommend it. So, if you are looking for great dining in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome, make sure to check out La Scala in Trastevere.

Gluten Free Bagel Recommendation

So… I stumbled across these in the grocery store a while back and thought I would give them a try. O’Doughs Thins (Sesame Bagel Thin). I am glad that I did! Gluten Free products aren’t always the best, but these are really good. My husband requests them even though gluten is not an issue for him. I have tried the other flavors also and they are fantastic too. O’Dough’s Bagel Things are also vegan, kosher and trans fat free if you are looking for that. I just know they are fantastic and it is nice to find a bagel I can look forward too.

So if you are looking for a gluten free bagel, O’Dough’s is for you.


Spice and Wine cover pic

Spice and Wine Bistro – Trastevere, Rome Restaurant and Food Allergy Review

Spice & Wine Bistro located in the heart of Trastevere, Rome was a place we just wandered into one night when we were caught in the rain. I was a bit apprehensive as we had not done any research beforehand regarding the food allergies. I like to do research on the restaurants that we go to in advance about how they handle food allergies, so this was a gamble, but they took it all very seriously and were very helpful. (We have allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, carrots, cucumbers, legumes, soy, eggplant, zucchini and gluten) We were seated at a lovely table in the back corner and I felt the place was warm and inviting.

Every meal should be a small celebration – Fannie Farmer

The staff was lovely and attentive. We had a great time with them. If you head in the back they have this cabinet thing where they collect all the corks from the wine bottles and I just had to get a picture of it. The waiters jumped in and made the pictures great. We had the caprese salad, bruschetta, meatballs, spicy penne, cacio e pepe and carbonara. There were no complaints. In fact, my two older daughters dream about the spicy penne, they loved it so much.

I saw that there were bad reviews on TripAdvisor for this restaurant about the staff. My experience was the exact opposite. I gave them a good review on TripAdvisor. They were wonderful and fun. If I ever have the privilege of visiting Rome another time, I would go back there again, it was very good.

I think people should give them another chance, we had a great evening.

Simple Suppers – Chicken Tortellini Soup

This soup is a staple in our house and now that my college student daughter has her own apartment, it is time she had some simple dinners for college students that are easy and cheap. We need to get her going, so she and her friends can join the Sunday Chefs Club and not starve in college. Soups and Stews are always a great go to when you are looking for a simple and hearty meal. This meal is both impressive and simple.

Nothing brings people together like good food…. Unknown

  • Two 32 oz. cartons of low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 bag of baby spinach
  • 8 -16 oz package of tortellini (depending on how many you are feeding)
  • diced chicken (Optional)
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top (Optional)

Boil water and cook the tortellini separately. Cook it a little al dente. If it says 7 minutes cook it for 5, so it doesn’t get mushy when you add it to the soup.

In another big pot add the chicken broth, chicken (if you don’t have leftover chicken for the soup, you can leave it out or add a raw boneless chicken breast and poach it in the broth until its done, then remove it, shred it and then add it back) and spices. Bring to a boil, simmer for 10 minutes and then add the spinach. It will seem like too much but it wilts down to nothing. Simmer for a few more minutes. Put the tortellini in a bowl and spoon the soup over the tortellini. Top with a little Parmesan cheese and serve with some crusty bread.

Allergens: Gluten