Kirklin Clinic Head & Neck Cancer Support, Birmingham, AL
Distributed by American Cancer Society
Pat Sanders, Editor
Second Quarter, 2007
Best of Intentions
By Vicki Eorio
No, this is not about what we should do or fail to do but what we wish to do. And no, it is not motivational or particularly inspiring. It is just a quirk that I want to share, with the hope that others can identify with it.
I am Irish. Food has all kind of significance for us since my fraternal grandparents were first generation Irish, raising seven children in a one bedroom home.
My father was the best cook in the world. He could open the fridge and take out left over and create a snack or a min meal without ever giving it a thought. Of course he could never duplicate it because the ingredients kept changing. He would put that thick index finger on the side of the bowl, go once around it, lick his finger, and pronounce it ready or would return to add a bit of this or a bit of that. Served with saltines and a flourish, and we were happy, happy. And dad would say, "Hope the poor people are doing as well as we are." His best of intentions were to provide us with food, traditional and non-traditional.
However because we were a family with 5 kids we were part of that poor people group but we didn't know it. We never went without any essentials, played a lot, and thought everyone had more than one kid in a bedroom. The only reason we finally got a TV was because my father wanted to watch the McCarthy hearings and swear at the TV as only an Irishman with a beer in his hand can. That TV was the highlight of my pre-teen years and a reason for pontification by my father during every news cast. The level of his voice would tend to rise with the amount of beer he had. However he was always right and those ^%*##% never knew what they were talking about, damn it!
Dad was a traveling salesman, home only 2-3 days a week. But what a great few days those were! Every Sunday was dinner at my grandmother's. Usually a roast that dad had talked the butcher at the Piggly Wiggly to giving him. Dad would point out that the meat in the display case was a little dark. Dad would regale the poor man with the dangers of selling that "black" meat. But Dad, out of the goodness of his heart would take it, saving the butcher from embarrassment and liability.
Then Dad would laugh all the way home because he knew the change in color indicated it was aged and more tender. That darn thing would cook for hours on my grandmother's stove. And hours and hours. He would test it, taste the juices, add a little of this and a little of that. He would direct us to peel potatoes and carrots and clean celery and cut up onions while he went into my poor grandmother's fridge to create as he would say, 'horses ovaries", being funny rather than saying canapés or hors d'oeures which would send us into peals of laughter and upset my very proper mother. Plus my grandmother would lose her left overs for which she probably had plans to use later in the week. But he knew the more we filled up on his snacks, the less hungry we would be for the expensive main meal.
Because of his love of food and sense of adventure, as kids we had artichokes, unheard of in Iowa! We had chicken livers wrapped in bacon before that was fashionable. We had smoked carp out of the Waterloo River before it was a delicacy. We had turkey fixed on the grill before the turkey industry even thought of marketing it to be fixed that way. We had chicken wings cooked with his special sauce that cooked for hours until the meat fell off the bone. We made ice cream out of snow in the winter.
Life moved on. We grew up and Dad contracted laryngeal cancer, resulting in him becoming a lary. His sense of smell was gone, he taste was significantly altered, his depression kept him out of the kitchen for about a year. Finally with family urging, he tried cooking again but it was never the same. There were times that the seasonings were over powering and we could not eat what he prepared. Although we pretended, he knew. However he never stopped giving opinions on recipes and food preparation. Even though he could not clearly speak, his meaning was clear. The swear words came through loud and clear! Since we had grown up with them, no translation needed. IF you had the courage to cook for him, best you be prepared for a critique that would make most food critics blush. Yet he loved every minute of it because he was back in the middle of things, giving orders.
So what does "best of intentions" mean? It means I cut out every recipe I think Dad would like or would improve upon. I have a huge file on my PC of all kinds of recipes. Many of them remind me of Dad. Many of them are perceived as "new" when this talented man who never had a chance to do what he wanted, cook, literally invented out of what was "poor peoples food", nutritious and innovative food for 5 brats and a multitude of friends.
My best of intentions are to fix at least one of these a week, something that does not happen frequently enough.
My best of intentions includes accepting that like Dad, few things taste the same to me. So I have to be careful when cooking that I don't forget that.
My best of intentions includes compiling a quasi cookbook for my grown children with the recipes they remember their grandfather fixing for them. I will not be able to accurately duplicate them but I can write about the memories. Perhaps they will be more successful than I in duplicating his cooking. And perhaps I can keep his memory alive.
My best of intentions includes using every opportunity given to me to prepare pre-op larys of what will happen to their taste and smell and to enlist the assistance of their family to understand the impact of these changes.. At this point I need to share a personal experience. My care pre and post op was wonderful. My SLPs were outstanding. But when I returned home and started to prepare hamburger, I tasted it and it was horrible! Afraid of contamination, I threw it out. Another package and the same thing! I tried kabobs, tasted like rotten meat. All the time my husband just accepted my actions but did say that it tasted ok to him.
After a few weeks of eating only yogurt and grilled vegetables, I had a tremendous craving for a Big Mac (no endorsement intended). Of course my husband got TWO of them because my weight gain was not what it should have been (oh, to have that problem again!!!). And I devoured the Big Macs and the French fries! I was ok! Not back to anything similar to pre-op but not into throwing good meat away.
I resolve when I think of the pain and challenges my father and others his age (WWII and post WWII) suffered because of this type of cancer and the adjustments they had to make which were far more significant than ours because we have the advantage of medical advances and social awareness, my tears will be of love, a sense of affiliation, respect, and awe.
My best of intentions are to keep their memories alive in a different way, recognize the importance of food because of its ethnic and economic roots, its emotional significance, its tradition, and their struggle to function with the loss of several senses, speech, taste, and smell. The things most of us take for granted until they are gone.
And the best of my intentions is to acknowledge how many of us cannot eat at all and to pray for them and their caretakers.
Vicki Eorio is the author of other articles in HeadLines but this one has a special meaning and you might like to go back to read it from HeadLines, April 2002.
"Laryngectomee Father/Laryngectomee Daughter" may be found at:
Terry Duga's Cruise Journal
WebWhispers Feb 28 - Mar 8, 2007
Flying at "gosh awful" in the morning has two advantages - the airport is not crowded. Neither is the plane to DC for the first leg of my flight. Upon arrival in Ft. Lauderdale, I met Dave Maguire at the baggage claim. He was kind enough to watch my carry on bags while I retrieved my checked luggage. I was in luck - both bags made it safely.
So we hurry up and wait - for about an hour before boarding the bus for the short hop to the ship. While working our way through the line, we met Donna McGary. The cruise is starting to take form!
My cabin is ready when I get on board, so I tell Donna I will meet her in the café on the Lido deck and head for my cabin to drop off my laptop and carry on bag. I have a single balcony cabin. I am happy. It is time for lunch. I only had a packet of granola bars some orange juice and a pathetic little cracker/cookie given on the plane. I had eaten a very light meal the night before, so I was hungry and this is the place to be hungry. The ship has several food stations. There is an Asian station, an Italian station, a Deli, a salad bar and a "normal" food station. Enough to fit all appetites. There is also pizza, hot dogs and hamburgers and, just to make Pat happy, frozen yogurt!
At about 2 in the afternoon, the skies, which had been partially sunny, darkened and then opened. Rain, as only befits a Florida afternoon pours from the sky. There is the addition of large hail. I later hear a crew member comment that the gangway had been taken up during the storm because of the report of a tornado. An hour later, the sun was out and shining.
After a relatively light lunch, Donna and I explore the ship. We start up and work our way down. On the third deck, we run into Pat and Peggy. They are schlepping the WW laptop in search of the Internet café and information on access. At the Internet café, Pat meets the crew member in charge and bombards him with questions. He recoils, as he should, but gamely answers her inquiries. Of course, I have to help where I can. I suspect he thinks we are odd. But it is vacation time. Pat exits to her room to see if she can get to the Internet (she can).
Donna and I continue exploring the ship. We get into the discussion (sparked by a question asked by another passenger) regarding what is the bow and what is back of the ship. (The back is flat, the bow is pointy.) At the aft there is a water slide. But, unlike many water slides, it doesn't end in a pool. I am going to have to check it out when it is working -- it might be lary friendly, i.e., no drowning at the end.
At 4 we muster for the emergency drill. This, according to the announcements on all ships on which we have sailed, is mandated by International law. So, we grab our life jackets, walk down flights of stairs and line up at our muster stations. Of course, there are those that want to dawdle or wish to stand with their handicapped friends by the door. They are quickly told to move on. I think that it might be fun to tell them that the people standing by the door are being reserved to use as chum to lure sharks away should we have to get wet. I suppress that urge.
First dinnertime. Let's face it, this is a high point of cruises -- the food. We have great tables abutting an aft (rear) window. So, while the sun shines we can see the ocean and when it is down, we see reflections of the lights. The opening meal is delicious. Smoked Alaskan salmon, rack of lamb, desserts to die for and to share. Dutch would have loved the chocolate cake (he did love his chocolate).
After dinner, we walk the decks and get some exercise, convincing ourselves that some calories will be neutralized. People are in the casino making their deposits, and the shops are open and full of gawking shoppers. The welcoming show is at 10:30 pm. This is late for many. I decide to go and get there early. As a result, while I have good seats, I get to sit through some trivia and BINGO. The show itself is the typical "first night" fare. It opens with the on-board dancers and singers doing a short routine. They are the usual talented young performers, which is why they are fun to watch. The opening became two openings due to an unexplained glitch. I suspect that something went wrong with the computer that allows the back stage to run. I do notice that part of an inflatable set piece doesn't and later never fully inflates. But glitch notwithstanding, the opening is pleasant. Then we meet the cruise director who hails from Canada. He introduces the rest of the activities crew before introducing that night's comic, who is adequate. He is short in stature, wearing heels that would make a dancer proud.
Thursday opens with breakfast (Do you ever get the idea that food is a staple of cruises?). I start by wandering the dinning room until I spot Pat. Of course, in my roundabout journey, I succeed in scoping out the offerings. Alas, lox is lacking. So I settle for some eggs, bacon, and potatoes. A small helping of each, except for the bacon. Unlike many ships, this one offers iced tea in the morning. As an ex coffee drinker, I like having the iced tea option. After breakfast we have a meeting of the cruisers, sort of a meet and greet.
Very informal. Peggy hands out T-shirts. Cliff and Karen Griffin give out bags with drink cups, and some body products. Mine has a lip protector made from hemp. I flash back to my days at the Attorney General's Office when I had to tell the director of the State Fair that he had to let NORML have a booth (he was displeased, but took the advice and avoided the lawsuit).
After the meeting --lunch. Mmmmmmm, food seems to keep raising its head. I opt for smoked salmon on a bagel with cream cheese and onion. The smoked salmon is excellent. I am a happy camper. I try the shrimp and calamari fritters, which are tasty, and the fried dumplings, which are ok, but why waste the calories. I try to resist the New York Cheesecake, but fail. The afternoon is a relaxing time by the pool listening to the reggae band. They are quite good, and people-watching by the pool is always fun. At one point, a comment jumps out of the blue that the human race is not necessarily the most attractive. I must confess that I fit that description but I don't try to flaunt it in a bathing suit. Days at sea, however, are for relaxation, and relax we do.
Thursday evening is the first formal dinner and the Captain's reception --- free drinks, always a plus. Order your own, you don't have to drink what they first offer --- and snacks (a bit weak, but hey, they are free). The Captain introduces the head crew. Then we move onto dinner. The menu has lobster tails or prime rib among other choices, so it is a good night.
The first big stage show is that evening and the theme is Jazz. It is a nice production by the onboard singers and dancers and the orchestra. Being a techie, I love to watch the technical aspect of the show. Besides, the computer operated equipment and lighting that most theaters would trade their first born to have, the stage seems to have much more fly space than I had thought. This makes for even grander changes. The show is high energy and most enjoyable.
Friday (wow, I am beginning to lose the days, no wonder one cruise line used to change the carpet in the elevators so that the correct day appeared) is another day at sea. I read by the pool, watch people and listen to the reggae band. The band is improving. That afternoon we make an unscheduled stop in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Some passengers can't be treated on board and needed to be medivaced out. We sail by the castle that guards the port and see the government building and the town. We don't get to get off, but it is an interesting side trip that will not cause us any delay in reaching St. Maarten. The show Friday night is a comedian/hypnotist. I tried to see it, but was tired and it started out too slowly to catch my interest, so I exited, not stage right but audience left.
It is Saturday, so this must be St. Maarten. The island is divided between the Dutch and French. We land on the Dutch side. The wind on the pier is fierce, watch your hat or go running for it. I put my trusty Lauder Enterprises "Unofficial Sponsor" hat in my pocket -- I am not as fast as I once was, and was never that speedy to begin with.
The island is beautiful. Green hills, clear blue water. We opt for the water taxi. The cost is a whopping $5 per day for as much as you wish to ride. The taxi plays a disc of oldies that have been transformed into disco -- reggae numbers. "AWhiter Shade of Pale" is particularly interesting. I am tempted to buy a copy but balk at paying $10 for a home made disc, and the pilot won't negotiate. So it is off to the markets to get gifts. The game is to haggle for a price. The merchants have the edge, but also enjoy the sport. I buy a wide brimmed hat with a chin strap for really windy weather, I don't want to loose "Unofficial Sponsor."
I take two trips into town separated by lunch on the ship. By the time I am done, I have the basics, T shirts and tchochkis for the staff at the office. On board, I pump some iced tea to re-hydrate. I know that I will have to shower and redo my seal before dinner. The heat and humidity are nice after cold and snow, but they play havoc on seals. Fortunately, I have planned ahead and packed many extra discs, base plates and Skin Tac packages.
The Saturday night show is a tribute to Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. The star is a young singer who started as a singer in the cruise company and who developed a cabaret act for late night entertainment. The company decided to expand the cabaret act to a full fledged production using the dancers with whom he used to work. The theme is big band music a la Frank & Sammy. The good part is that he does not even attempt to mimic Sinatra and Davis, rather he pays tribute by singing their songs, but maintaining his own style. The show is extremely entertaining.
Sunday sees us in St. Lucia, the southernmost island on our tour. It is, to say the least, lush. St. Lucia boasts some of the deepest ports in the Caribbean. It also seems to have very friendly people. We have arranged for a tour of the island that is not through the ship. We start the day by waiting in the terminal for the tour guide, who, in turn, is waiting for two more people who are not in our group to show. They never do, so we take off with a little more room in the van. We learn the joys of driving English style on narrow, hilly roads. Our driver, fortunately, maneuvers the van like the pro that he is. Our tour guide, Cindy, could not be more delightful. She is 27, but looks much younger, smiles a lot and is filled with great information about her beloved island. We stop at a mansion on the hillside and get a tour. We also take pictures from the upper balcony. The ship, below, nestles in the port, posing for our cameras. A stop at a batik studio allows us to learn how batik is made. It also allows me to shop and buy some inexpensive batik pieces to take back as presents. Perfect for a cruise -- attractive, inexpensive, and they fold to a small, flat, package that will easily fit in the suitcases. We pass banana plantations. St. Lucia is an exporter of bananas. Cindy tells us that the bananas are grown organically, without insecticides and are processed by hand. We next enter a small fishing village. The streets are narrow and the homes vary in size and condition.
Back at the ship, lunch is served. We opt for Greek food, which is the International special of the day. The mocha cheesecake is also a nice finish. During lunch, the clouds come in bringing rain. The rain lets up some after lunch and Pat and I brave the misty rain to check the terminal shops. The shops prove the maxim that you don't want to purchase items at stores nearest the ship. The prices are high, and the items not that exciting. Pat and I, however, get some exercise testing the maxim. That evening the reggae band plays on the lido deck. Donna and I enjoy the music and watching the people pass. I see my first late night buffet. The theme is Mexican. The food, however, favors many rich desserts. I cannot help but imagine what type of reflux a meal like that would cause that late at night. I forsake the buffet, but others wade in, with gusto.
Monday is St. Kitts. St. Kitts is also known as St. Christopher -- Kitt being short for Christopher. Christopher Columbus named the island after himself as he sailed by it. It is a lovely little island. The volcanic mountains are topped with haze. This is the dry season, so there is only a short rain in the morning. The rain is light and actually cools things off nicely. I have opted to take a ship sponsored tour that includes the Brimstone Hill Fortress. I must confess my weakness for forts and the like. I am the only one from our group on the van. The van holds 12, not counting the driver. There is one obnoxious lady in the group. Thank goodness she is not with WebWhispers. She is sporting an injured leg and plays it to the hilt. When called on her obnoxious behavior, she explodes verbally using language that would offend a sailor. Of course, she is the victim. I consider taking up a collection to bribe the driver to ditch her far from the ship, but think better of it.
We get a nice tour of about half the island. St. Kitts boasts a population around 35,000. The main business is tourism. They used to grow sugar cane but processing it proved to be so expensive that the government ceased production a couple of years ago. We stop at a garden and batik store. I get some items for the support staff at my office and for some other friends. Then we travel the narrow roads to the fortress. The fortress is at the top of an 800 foot hill, which was build from 1690 to 1794. The main fort is small, but strong. The complete installation, however, covers quite an area. Restoration is ongoing. I take the long climb to the fort slowly. The way is quite steep and the view is impressive.
Tuesday is a day at sea. I sleep late (for me) to 8:30AM and have a leisurely breakfast. I spent the morning sitting by the pool on the lido deck reading and watching people go by. The reggae band plays at noon. I have lunch with reggae music. At one, the band stops and the hairy chest contest begins. It is time to exit the lido area. I spent the afternoon in my cabin reading. It is a quiet day, very relaxing. The WebWhispers cocktail party is that evening. I arrive early to take pictures. We have a good turnout. Then the second formal dinner. Egad, can we really eat again?
The last big production show is on Tuesday with the theme of movies. Quite a production with great sets and costumes. Lots of energy. Afterwards we stroll the decks and have a drink aft. Then we have to see the grand buffet. The grand buffet is an almost obscene amount of food displayed with ice sculptures, and wax sculptures. We join the crowd to view the creation and to take pictures. We decline returning to actually sample the food.
Wednesday is our last day at sea. We are passing Cuba, but cannot see the island because the clouds have descended and some rain is falling. But the seas, which had been a bit rolling in the morning, have smoothed, so the ride is still nice. WebWhispers has its second meeting. The ship has set us up in the cigar bar, go figure. I have to explain to two people that we have the room for a private meeting and therefore they should go somewhere else to smoke. They really shouldn't want to light up in a room with larys. Pat discusses future cruises. We haven't decided on one for next year, but Pat and Peggy are looking at paddleboat cruises. We take suggestions.
I spend the day wandering the ship for a final time, taking pictures and movies and then listening to the reggae band by the pool. The light rain doesn't dampen our spirits as we enjoy the music, after all, we are under cover, as is the band.
Thursday, I get up early and eat a hearty breakfast, I am in for a long day of waiting and traveling. I get to the Ft. Lauderdale airport early, only to find myself in a 2-3 hour wait in line to check my bags and get my boarding pass. The self serve kiosks are down and the lines are long. It is spring break in Florida. Fortunately, I have a lot of time. I fly to Charlotte then wait for my final plane to Indianapolis. The plane is 1/2 hour late, but it is not crowded. I finally get home around midnight. It was a great cruise. Great trip!
Kirklin Clinic Head & Neck Support Group
No meetings until further notice
In the interim, we suggest that you join WebWhispers if you have an email address.
We are also invited to attend an All Cancers group with a luncheon every third Tuesday. Call or email Pat Sanders if interested. (See below)
B’ham: Pat Sanders, 205-980-8416; firstname.lastname@example.org
Kirklin Clinic Otolaryngology : 205-801-8456 FAX
Glenn E. Peters, M.D. Glenn.Peters@ccc.uab.edu
William Carroll, M.D. email@example.com
Nancy Lewis McColloch, Speech Pathologist ; 205-801-8460; firstname.lastname@example.org
WEBWHISPERS - INTERNET SUPPORT GROUP FOR LARYNGECTOMEES
http://webwhispers.org is a site with helpful information on what to do before and after a laryngectomy. It includes educational sections on larynx cancer as well as a complete Library of Information, lists of Suppliers, the monthly newsletter, Whispers on the Web, and HeadLines This is the largest internet support group for laryngectomees and is a member club of the IAL
The Official site of the International Association of Laryngectomees
http://www.larynxlink.com Information is available for the IAL Annual Meeting &Voice Institute held annually in various locations. Educational and Fun.
A Laryngectomee site from the United Kingdom
http://www.laryngectomees.inuk.com presents information from all over the world and HeadLines newsletter is carried on their site under Letters from America.
For cancer information call 800.ACS.2345 or visit our Web site at www.cancer.org
American Cancer Society in Birmingham: email@example.com