To say that I enjoy eating (and drinking good wine) is an understatement. I count it as one of my avocations, along with yoga, running, reading and politics.
I have always had a healthy and adventurous appetite, and the requisite struggle to maintain a healthy weight that comes with the territory. From street food in Southeast Asia and South America, to Michelin Star dining in Europe, to mezze in Israel, to tacos in Mexico (and California), to a good ole' American burger and fries, I love the food of the world. And, I am lucky to have had opportunities to sample many culinary delights of many countries, often in some of the best eateries.
I love planning trips around restaurants. I love going to a place that gets the food, wine and service right. I love chefs who make already great ingredients even more great. I love the social nature of eating, of dining out. I just love the whole thing.
In fact, this love extends so far that Erick and I were planning to meet up in Barcelona tomorrow (remember, I was still supposed to be living in Switzerland) so that we could go to lunch on Friday at El Cellar de Can Roca, the number one ranked restaurant in the world (according to World's 50 Best Restaurant rankings). I know, so fancy. We've had the reservations for a year. We were going to dine with my cousin and his wife. It was going to be awesome.
Obviously, our plans have changed. Instead of flying to Spain, we'll spend tomorrow firing the first real shot in my battle with this disease. We'll probably be eating whatever snacks I have in my handbag while hanging in the infusion center (that means I am all approved medically and insurance-wise for the clinical trial...yay!). I am sure it will be just like going to Spain, only different.
The truth is that while I so wish that we could have been dining in Spain this weekend, the cancer-induced changes to my appetite probably would have meant I would not have enjoyed the meal all that much. I am not really sure how to describe this cataclysmic shift other than to say eating has gone from being a fun adventure to feeling like a chore. People are always asking what I want to eat, and my response is "I don't know." It is very rare when something sounds good. I eat because I know my body needs the calories and nutrients to fight this battle. I get stressed when I can't eat much. I get stressed when I lose weight. I get stressed about my gag reflex kicking in. The whole thing is so bizarre. This is the one physical symptom of cancer that bothers me the most (at least at the moment).
Add to that the loads and loads of advice from well-meaning people about what I should be eating and the stress level in this area just goes up. I have heard it all. Don't eat sugar. Try this or that supplement. Eat lots of fish. Eat raw and vegan. The people proffering this advice are only trying to help. But, the reality is that there are some days when I am just happy that I ate anything, even if it was a chocolate dipped ice cream cone and some beans and rice. At least I ate something. At least I didn't lose five pounds in a week and half without trying. At least there's some calcium in ice cream.
This is one reminder that this disease has (hopefully temporarily) stripped me of doing some things that I really, really enjoy, like eating, drinking wine, traveling, working and being physically active. I am not going to lie, that really sucks. Cancer really sucks.
At the heart of this struggle (and the struggle is REAL) is something deeper. It's about redefining what enjoyment in life means. It's also about tapping into a source of joy that cannot be shaken even in the toughest of circumstances. Is it such a horrible thing to be forced outside my box to discover some other things I might enjoy? No, it's not. Adapting, redefining ourselves -- this is what personal growth is all about.
Over the last couple of weeks I have been reminded that I love to read and write, and I am doing more of it than ever. It also turns out I like to walk, especially along the ocean. Walking allows for so much more reflection compared to running (at least for me). And, reflection, it turns out is something I also really enjoy. I have also had time to reconnect with many friends; and I am making new friends, which is one of the most enjoyable things of all. Last but not least, I finally have time to watch all those videos on YouTube that went viral while I was too busy working to watch them, which is pretty fun.
Even more fundamental is the joy I have inside; joy I am not sure I knew existed before cancer. This is decidedly different from the enjoyment involved in, say, having a dance party in your living room (although that is great fun) or going on a nice walk. It's the joy that fuels the desire to live. I believe this joy comes from knowing that God loves me and that there is purpose and value in my life. It is this abiding joy that sustains me on the days when I am not up for doing much of anything I enjoy. When I am tired, nauseous and over it.
When I take a step back and look at the bigger picture, I am so grateful that my days are slowly but surely forming into perfectly lovely, slower paced times, and that even when that isn't the case, I am still experiencing the simple joy of living ... well, mostly, I still do have to eat and go to the doctor. No one's life is perfect! Enjoy.