Those of you who follow my posts regularly may have noted an uncharacteristic silence in the past two weeks. My temporary hiatus from blogging came on the heels of receiving some unexpected and sobering news. I needed to take some time to reflect and regroup, but since I am a writer I find myself invariably drawn back to the page.
Life throws us all curve balls. This is a reality of the human experience that no one escapes. I believe it is what we do when the going gets tough that ultimately defines who we are. My defining moment came as I waited anxiously in my doctor’s office for pathology results. I was about to get some answers after several weeks of diagnostic tests triggered by an anomaly on my annual mammogram. Thus far the psychological toll of living in a state of limbo, while trying not to let my mind run away with me, had been the hardest part of the process.
I heard the hurried footsteps of my doctor coming down the hallway, and took a deep breath as the door opened. I had spent a lot of time visualizing this moment. In my mind’s eye, she always swept into the tiny room with her characteristic confidence and said, “False alarm! It’s all good. Now go home and go on with your life.”
Instead, she swept into the room, grabbed a nearby chair and pulled it alongside the examining table where I sat. She took a seat, steadied her gaze, and laid a reassuring hand on my leg. At that moment I knew I was not about to have the conversation I had hoped for. “Let’s discuss your biopsy results . . .” she began.
The pathology report confirmed a diagnosis of DCIS: Ductal Carcinoma.
. . . blah, blah, blah.
I pretty much stopped hearing everything she said after the “C” word.
Two other very important words did register in that haze: contained and non-invasive. This was the good news. They had caught it early and it was completely operable. She offered reassurance that I would come through this challenge good as new. Life would go on.
Only now my life will always be defined differently. It will be BC (before cancer) and AD (after diagnosis). There is no history of breast cancer in my family or genetic indicators that make me a likely candidate for this diagnosis. Yet, here I am.
In the weeks ahead I will have another surgery, and probably post procedure radiation for good measure.
Don’t get me wrong. I am exceedingly grateful for early detection! Thanks to the advancements of modern technology, I have a “fall-on-your-knees and thank the Almighty” scenario in the spectrum of possibilities that could play out here.
I debated whether to share this news publicly or keep it private. It comes from a tender place; a deeply personal and still struggling to come-to-terms place. But a dear friend reminded me that other women in our midst might find solace in my story. I sat with that idea for several days. Could sharing this diagnosis be an opportunity to help myself and others successfully navigate the path ahead? There is a sense of strength in community, particularly in times of difficulty.
It is easy to feel helpless when things happen beyond our control. Intuitively, I knew I would feel empowered if I focused on the things I could manage. This mindset can be the difference between feeling helpless or hopeful.
Food—and its ability to nourish, sustain, connect, and heal us all—has always been a cornerstone of my belief system. This basic need to feed both body and soul for the journey ahead will be reflected in the recipes I post on this blog. As always, local, seasonal, sustainably grown whole foods will be the foundation of my diet.
Making a soothing pot of Homemade Bone Broth eased my anxiety after the diagnosis. It is an easy-to-make and highly nutritional soup which nourishes, fortifies, and comforts on a deeply satisfying level.
People have been making bone broth for eons. It was once considered peasant food, but don’t let its simplicity fool you. This mineral rich broth, which is made by slowly simmering marrow and knuckle bones with vegetables, is extraordinarily rich in protein. The gelatin rendered from the bones during the cooking process is a good source of glucosamine and chondroitin which supports joint health. The broth is easily absorbed by the body, and may also be added to other dishes to enhance flavor and boost nutrition.
I chose grass-fed and finished organic beef bones from Stemple Creek Ranch as the base for my broth, but you may also substitute lamb bones if you like. Roasting the bones and veggies together in the oven before making the broth will intensify the flavor the finished soup.
A couple of other quick notes: Adding a little cider vinegar to the water helps release minerals stored in the bones. Avoid using beets as well as cauliflower, broccoli or other brassicas as they will lend an off-taste to your soup. I highly recommend puréeing Maitake or Shiitake mushrooms sautéed in a little olive oil with a cup of warm broth for an added immunity boost.
Here’s to healing and vibrant health!
Yours in good food,
HOMEMADE BONE BROTH (makes 8-9 cups broth)
*Inspired by Epicurious
Printable recipe: HOMEMADE BONE BROTH
- 4 pounds Grass Fed & Finished Beef or Lamb bones (a mixture of marrow & knuckle) with a little meat on them.
- 2 unpeeled organic carrots, cut into 3” pieces
- 1 organic leek, topped and cut in thick slices
- 1 medium organic yellow onion, skin removed & quartered
- 1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
- 2 organic celery stalks, cut into 2” pieces
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- Filtered water
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Rinse the bones and pat them dry. Line a large roasting pan with foil. Place bones, carrots, leek, onion, and garlic in pan and roast for about one hour (or until bones are well browned and fragrant).
- Spoon the roasted bones, veggies, and roasting juices into a large stock pot and cover with water (about 12 cups). Add celery, bay leaves, peppercorns and vinegar. Add more water if necessary to cover.
- Cover the pot and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook, with lid slightly ajar, for at least 8 hours but up to 24 hours (I simmered mine for a full day). The longer the broth simmers the more flavorful it will be. Add more water to keep bones covered if necessary.
- Remove the pot from the stove and let cool. Strain broth into a large container using a fine mesh sieve. Discard bones and veggies. Refrigerate overnight.
- Skim the solidified fat from the top of the chilled broth and discard. The cold broth will be gelatinous, but will liquefy when reheated. Warm & serve plain or purée with sautéed mushrooms. *Bone broth may be frozen in portions for up to 6 months.
These are wise words and your attitude will bring you a long way, Karen. In addition to the soup (in my case it’s homemade chicken soup with veggies), I hope it comforts you to know that though there will be a “before and after,” what comes from this may, on the other side, delight and surprise you. Wishing you strength and support as you navigate the “C” stage.
Gail I am so grateful that you shared your perspective and personal experience with me! There are definitely gifts I am discovering in this journey, and I look forward to joining you in perfect health on the other side. Many blessings 🙂
Thank you for sharing your amazing story. You’re in our thoughts and prayers and I’m sure you will recover nicely. It is very important to make sure and get those routine tests. You are a wonderful writer and a great inspiration . All the best.
Thank you for your thoughts and prayers as I continue on this journey Denise! I feel them and they hold me up 🙂
Many, many blessings to you Karen. And thank you for sharing your story with us. I am touched by your inspiration to share the good news of nourishment with us all. I look forward to hearing more about your journey to healing. You will be surrounded by friends and family to light your way.
Thank you Heidi. I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support. I am looking ahead with optimism, strength, and gratitude!
Karen thank you for being so open. Bone broth is as good a place to start as any other. Sitting in bed recovering from a knee replacement and i can only reinforce your knowledge that sound nutrition is key to your long term recovery. Food from my garden cooked by my partner has already worked wonders on my rather fragile, post -hospital digestive system! (and i’ll leave the rest to your imagination 😊).
Blog or not take the time you need in your recovery. Your cheer squad is out here!
Thanks so much for cheering me on Leonie! I am sending you thoughts for healing and speedy recovery. Keep up the good food from garden to table. Isn’t it amazing how our bodies respond to simple, whole foods prepared with love? Many blessings 🙂
Such fragile news. Thank you for sharing your authentic response to a terrifying time. Just remember, you are whole and healthy despite this diagnosis. I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer two years ago, also no genetic family history. It changed my life and outlook, for the better. The greatest scar it left behind was compassion. Visualize your outcome, lean on friends and family. And above all, don’t find cause in any life choice you’ve made to date. Best words someone shared with me… Be a warrior, not a worrier 😘
Thank you so much for sharing your story as well Yvonne. I love this perspective and am taking your words to heart. I am humbled and overwhelmed by the beautiful response!
The healing process is off to a tasty and nurturing start. It takes lots of courage to share your journey with others. There is no doubt that this blog and your experience will be “more than what the doctored order” for all those going through a similar situation. xox Debbie (Louise)
I am so blessed to have such wonderful friends like you to see me through this journey Debbie. Start looking for that convertible . . .
Dear Karen: Not only are you helping others by sharing your news, you are helping yourself. Now you have a whole lot more people praying for you and wishing you healing thoughts along the way. Strenghth in numbers (and food!). I’ll be thinking of you often.
Thank you so much for your words of encouragement Karen!
Karen, you add so much to life via body, mind and spirit. Thank you for your vulnerability and courage. And the recipe has inspired me to make a delicious broth complete with the mushrooms.
Thank you Leslie 🙂
Sorry you have to go through this Karen and it is scary. I know. Your post took me back 26 years ago when I received a diagnosis of stage four cancer. I had all the same reactions as you. Several surgeries and several rounds of chemo and I am still here. You have the right frame of mind about this and making healthy food and keeping positive are two things I learned to help myself get better. it worked and that is why I am an advocate for healthy eating – it is just insurance. I will be thinking of you in the weeks ahead and want to know how you are doing.
Bless you for sharing this Jovina! Your story is a huge inspiration to me. You’ve been through the worst of it and have come out the other side with a passion for life & food that is apparent in your beautiful blog. I am grateful that you are still here and one day we will toast to life in person.
Thank you for trusting us, your readers and supporters, at such a life defining time. You are an amazing woman, and I feel blessed that you are there to both share and teach us.
Looks like a fabulous recipe. I’m definitely cooking up a stock pot full.
Thank you for being a part of my tribe Penny!
WOW that looks great. And the bread looks fabulous too!
Thank you Pandora! Healthy comfort food for nourishing body, mind, and spirit 😉
Perfectly articulated Karen. You are such an inspiration and I look forward to being by your side as you nourish your body back to a state of “good as new”! Cheers to your amazing attitude and to the power of food as the first and best medicine!!
Love you Tesia!