"You've got cancer" is the phrase no one wants to hear. God knows I didn't. The second you get the diagnosis, things change. How are you going to be able to do this or that? Can I still enjoy this or that? My name is A.J. Wester. In 2015, I was diagnosed with Leukemia. I became instantly intimate with the term "Neutropenic", " Nutrient-Deficient", "Anemic" and then started hearing what I couldn't eat.
But wait, I LOVE food. Before cancer, I went on cooking vacations. I read cookbooks like novels. When I was bored I would save recipes to my Pinterest board. People wanted to come to my house for parties because I knew how to cook. Now I had to wade the waters of hospital food, neutropenia, chemotherapy, liquid diets, the BRAT diet, and nausea among other things. I would go to the clinic to get my blood checked and hear what nutrients my body was deficient in this week, or how high or low my blood sugar was, or how screwed up my hemoglobin and platelets were this week. I would read 'cancer experts' saying that I should eat this and that while I was going through chemo and wondered "Have you ever BEEN through chemo??? I can barely swallow saltines right now!"
I started watching cooking shows, something I never had time for in my pre-cancer life, mainly because that was all I had the strength for. If I fell asleep, I'd miss a recipe not a major plot point. Once I got my strength back, I started cooking for myself, because the food a lot of my friends were making me was just too hard to eat (Though, I love that they did this for me!) I got online subscription to the America's Test Kitchen online cooking school and I started learning better cooking techniques. I started reading cookbooks, first about cancer cooking (which are few and far between) but started to go through my cookbooks with new eyes. A friend gave me a sourdough starter and I started baking bread. I won't even go into my Pinterest boards...they became a little insane.
I want to share this journey with others. I will not profess that I am a nutrition expert. I studied music and theatre in college. (However my mom did study Home Economics back when it was more of a nutrition degree and I have friends in the nutrition and food 'biz'.) I've created a few recipes, but I've tried a ton of new recipes in the last year and a half and would love to share them with you. I will review food blogs, cookbooks, cooking shows, food shows, chefs, restaurants, documentaries and other resources so that maybe it will help you or someone you know who is going through this journey navigate the waters of eating well while going through cancer. I will also share some of what I've been calling my 'cancer musings' that I've written during different stages of the cancer journey. I hope they make you laugh or at least feel like your not alone. Leukemia was a lonely cancer for me and I often felt like I was my little Leukemia island.
I also will share for you the journey of what I've called my 'ALL Posse' (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia). We all have ALL and we met in the countless hours in the oncology waiting room of my clinic. We've been a support group for each other. It's been a great thing to have with this lonely cancer.
I hope you will enjoy this as blog much as I will enjoy writing it. If you want to contact me about this blog, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or follow me on Twitter @ajwesterchicago