Some tips I’ve learned along the way – dealing with Breast Cancer.

I am a Breast Cancer survivor, warrior, patient, person that has been through a lot. I don’t like any of those terms. What I do know is I could not have done it without the help of friends, family, medical professionals and people who I did not know then but now consider family. Paying it forward and giving out tips and tricks on how to deal with cancer seems like the right thing to do. It is the least I can do for this wonderful life that I will do anything to keep enjoying.

July 2017, at my daughter’s high school graduation party, I 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 “Oh no,I have cancer!” I knew immediately what it was and that it was bad. 

The mammogram showed nothing, but they could feel it so they knew it was there. So we moved on to an ultrasound. The doctor 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.” There it is ..you are never the same again.  

Keep putting one foot in front of the other. That’s all you need to do right now.

-Unknown

So, on my kids first day of school, I had a double mastectomy/reconstruction, followed by 12 weeks of Taxol and 14 Herceptin infusions, ending in October 2018. I had Stage 1 Triple Positive Breast Cancer and it had not reached the lymph nodes. No family history and I had never missed a mammogram. They told me if I had not found it when I did, I would have been Stage 4 in about six weeks. The rate of growth measured that it had only been there about two weeks when I found it!

When you are diagnosed with any kind of Cancer you freeze...  What do you do? Where do you begin? Here are a few tips I learned when going through Breast Cancer. I hope they help, because Cancer Sucks.

There are so many more stories to tell: The 4 ports because that was a disaster; baldness, pretending to feel okay; starting a new job that introduced me to LIVESTRONG; wonderful friends who convinced me to join them in starting a Pan Mass Challenge Kids ride to raise funds for Dana Farber Cancer Institute; finding out who your true friends are;  Shannon, who I barely knew and who showed up at my door with presents and a shoulder to cry on; and many more.

I am a very lucky person, I have wonderful family and friends who rallied around me and got me through it. Someone once told me “It’s the club you never wanted to join, but you are in it now and you are not alone and we can do this, if we support each other!”  Now it is my turn to do the same for the people in my life. 

I am a different person, a better person. I know I should say survivor but I still deal with it every day, the PTSD, neuropathy, lymphedema, Tamoxifen and its side effects. Honestly, to say I HAD cancer seems weird. I don’t think I will ever feel that it is truly gone. But my motto the whole time 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.

Don’t quit. Suffer some now and live the rest of your life a champion

-Muhammad Ali

When you are diagnosed with any kind of Cancer you freeze...  What do you do? Where do you begin? Here are a few tips I learned when going through Breast Cancer. I hope they help, because Cancer Sucks.

Now we are coming up on the 5th anniversary of my diagnosis and once again a friend asked me for some tips on how to deal with it all because her friend has just been diagnosed. It really just never ends.

I had made a list of little tips that I would give someone if they asked but now I am just going to put it up here for everyone to see to make it easier. I have created a page on my blog Sunday Chefs that contains some other tips called Cancer Support. I would love to hear any tips that anyone else has.

I will say that the journal was the most practically helpful. Whether it is this one that I made … You Can Do This My Friend, a breast cancer journal and planner to keep your thoughts, questions and life in order or any old notebook that you want to use, it was a lifesaver. You are so tired and overwhelmed, it was so good to be able to look back over and write down questions to ask at appointments and to have everything in one place. I highly recommend that everyone get one, for any health issue they may be dealing with.

Note: 50% of proceeds from You Can Do This My Friend, a breast cancer journal and planner to keep your thoughts, questions and life in order are being donated to Mass General Cancer Center.

Restaurant Review – Luciano’s, Wrentham MA

Restaurants in Wrentham, Ma. appear to be on my list of favorites lately. Luciano’s is one of them. My husband and I recently celebrated our wedding anniversary. Where to go? Saw a Facebook post from Luciano’s in Wrentham, MA with a picture of their baked stuffed lobster and I was sold. We have been to Luciano’s before, but not since before Covid, so this was going to be a treat.

Established in 1991, Luciano’s is hidden away in a very unassuming location on Rte. 1 in Wrentham, MA. When you enter you are brought back to a classic Italian steak house of old. Great bar with weekend entertainment and a classic, sophisticated ambiance. This was just the “lets get dressed up and celebrate” location that we were looking for.

As we were being seated it occurred to me, “What if the baked stuffed lobster was a special that night and not available tonight…. I should have called first!”

Our waiter was wonderful and told us the long and complicated list of specials (Baked stuffed lobster was there!!). Explaining them all perfectly. I ordered a chardonnay and my husband got the house red wine. I don’t usually go for red wine, but the waiter’s recommendation was fantastic. The waiter noticed me stealing sips and brought a glass for me, so my husband could be left in peace with his drink. This is the kind of service and attention to detail that Luciano’s is famous for. We started our meal with the focaccia and Italian bread with olive oil for dipping. I could have had this for my meal alone it was so good.

For the appetizer we got the classic shrimp cocktail to share. It was prepared perfectly and served ice cold. For something so simple it is so easy to get wrong. They did not get this wrong. It was wonderful. We knew we were getting big meals, so we did not want to fill up on appetizers.

Ordering for me was easy and I told the waiter it was the Facebook post that got me here. He let me know that I would not be disappointed. He was correct. I cannot even remember how long it has been since I had a baked stuffed lobster. A very classic dish that isn’t on a lot of menus these days. It was my late mother’s favorite and I cannot help but have fond memories of this wonderful woman while I am eating it. Anyone who knows me knows that I feel food is love and food is memories and this meal checked off quite a few of those boxes.

The lobster came and to say I was speechless was an understatement. A two and a half pound lobster, prepared and stuffed to perfection. I actually couldn’t even finish it. The waiter chuckled at my reaction. I brought the leftovers home and my college student, home for the summer, finished it in a flash.

My husband got the Veal Saltimbocca Alla Romana and was thrilled with it. I am not a huge fan of veal normally, but I would order this. It was an amazing dish. I had every intention of getting dessert because it was a special occasion but I was just too full to get anything else.

Going to Luciano’s was the perfect choice for this special occasion. The waiter even noticed the breast cancer pin on my purse and asked if I was a survivor. I am and this year will be five years since my diagnosis and we had a very sincere chat and I appreciated his thoughtfulness. As we were waiting for the check, there were a few elderly ladies sitting across from us having a grand celebration of some sort. One woman had a walker and was tired and was having a hard time using the walker on the carpet. This wonderful man that was our waiter (I wish I could remember his name), had her sit in a chair and he slid the chair across the rug until she was in a place to use the walker more easily. He was charming and made her feel special and she had a great smile on her face throughout the whole adventure.

I cannot recommend Luciano’s in Wrentham, MA any more highly. It is the perfect special occasion restaurant. But let’s be honest, life is short, every day should be a special occasion.

Baking Tip – How to cut the perfect brownie.

I know this sounds silly, but ever since someone told me about this trick, I use it every time. As a parent of a child with food allergies, I always bring the snacks….so I make a lot of brownies. I tend to cook brownies a bit underdone on purpose, which is our family’s preference. The trick is to use a plastic spoon when cutting them. The edges come out perfect and clean and the brownies do not stick to the knife. It is miraculous. Give it a try next time you are making brownies or blondies, you will be amazed.

 

It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life – J.R.R. Tolkein

 

Trattoria Il Lucano – Rome Restaurant and Food Allergy Review

As we were walking back from the Pantheon one night on our recent life-changing trip to Rome, the kids were starving and I didn’t have any idea where we could eat. Before our trip I studied and searched for restaurants that would accommodate our family and their food allergies (Peanuts, tree nuts, carrots, cucumbers, soy, gluten, legumes, eggplant and zucchini). Italy is known for being very food allergy friendly but information on specific restaurants is hard to find, so I tried to find blog information and there was a few, but it was outdated and limited. So I looked for restaurants that were recommended by friends or had good reviews and reached out to them. Then I made a master list of the places that I wanted to visit and nearby restaurants that were food allergy friendly. (We made the food allergy cards and they were great but only used them once). It was good old fashioned leg work that got the job done. I will share my hard work with you all to save you some time.

I did a lot of prep work, but on this day I had run out of ideas. It was raining and we took a risk and stopped in at Trattoria Il Lucano and asked if they could accommodate us. We lucked out and it was a fabulous meal.

Our waiter was named Mimo and he was so much fun. He suggested that my husband try the steak which they cook at the table. We got the caprese salad, cacio e pepe, pizza and lots of house wine! Always get the house wine. We sat outside under the awning and had a fabulous meal despite the uncertainty at the beginning. My husband is still dreaming of the steak!

The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook. – Julia Child

Bucket List Adventures

Bucket List Adventure – Rome, Italy

Recently I had the privilege of visiting Rome, Italy with my family. My daughter is studying abroad and we could not miss the opportunity to take this Bucket List Adventure. We scrimped and saved and it was so worth it . After a long 14-month battle with breast cancer last year, I have vowed to experience life more and this was a great first start. We stayed in the beautiful Hotel Ponte Sisto. It was in the perfect location to walk everywhere. Right across the bridge from the wonderful neighborhood of Trastevere with all its fantastic restaurants. We spent five days eating, sightseeing, strolling and relaxing. It was wonderful. This trip was a life-changing event for me. Rome is so spiritual and the beauty if overwhelming. To take this vacation with my whole family after the battle we have all gone through, truly makes you appreciate life. 

I spent a lot of time researching restaurants for allergy issues due to our family and their multiple allergies. I found this to be challenging so I will write reviews on every restaurant that we went to and how they handled allergies. Heads up: Italy was wonderful and we found a way to eat everything.  I managed to make it home without gaining any weight… Most likely due to the 24,000 steps/day my Fitbit recorded.

Living La Dolce Vita