Borage oil, evening primrose, blue-green algae, acidifolus, selenium, astralagus, grape seed extract, coenzyme Q-10, lethicin, conjugated linolaic acid, curcumin. These are the sounds that wake me up in the morning. I think about the phonemes and how, when blended together in a cocktail of language, a new language for me and for Adam, they create meaning, a curative solution to an “incurable disease.” At 6 a.m., I press liquefy and listen until the violent crashing against the steel blades muffles and succumbs to a gentle roll, smoothing in one direction.
Tired in my bathrobe, I squint at the labels, hovering above the kitchen island, counting his pills in the morning light. Three Temador to kill the microscopic cells
haunting his brain, one Zofran to counter the nausea, and one dexamethasone to
reduce swelling. I prefer the sounds of the companion supplements to these laboratory concoctions.
Glioblastoma multiforme. That is the original sound. That is the sound that leads to all these other sounds, names, terms that we’ve been hearing since November 2, when, during a craniotomy performed to remove what looked like a benign brain tumor, the surgeon found more. On that autumn day, Adam alone was not diagnosed with cancer: we were diagnosed. This disease took hold of both our lives, our life together. For this reason, I firmly believe that I will contribute equally to his healing process as will he and his doctors.
I believe in rinsing and patting each slender sprig of thyme, then delicately and carefully plucking the tender leaves from its twig so as not to bruise the herb. I believe in slicing the onion first lengthwise, then crosswise so it falls loose into a stack of perfect cubes. I believe in kneading the bread dough until the muscles in my small hands ache, in presenting the food in artistic and unexpected ways so that roasted emerald asparagus stretches beyond a puree of golden butternut squash like a crown of laurels looping the sun. I believe in food’s ability to repair and mend the body. And for these reasons, I know the hours I labor in the kitchen, juicing fresh oranges, pureeing his favorite carrot and ginger soup, touching each ounce of food that nourishes his body, heals him. The time I spend perusing the produce section for the plumpest berry, the reddest pepper, the sweetest sweet potato transforms into a strong and steady stream of pure energy, easily digestible and spiritually available.
I think through textures, so that a light and chewy maitake mushroom will complement the nuttiness of firm brown rice. A side of braised carrots will gently give under the teeth and melt onto the tongue. It will go down. It will trick his taste buds burnt by the combination of chemotherapy and radiation. The meals I prepare, some successful and some not, are designed to coax him into eating, to return weight onto his frame, as much as they are prepared to unite, to transfer my love onto and into him, to relearn the pleasure of meals together. Our nutritionists have little to say in support of my therapy regimen, but they are not with me as I thoughtfully layer an eggplant lasagna, selecting and chopping the vegetables and proteins I know will tempt Adam into eating when eating is not easy.
Sometimes, before I serve it, I allow my hands to hover above his meal, so close but without quite touching, just so that I can feel the heat radiating from the activity abounding among the living cells. I shut my eyes, and think about the ingestion of this food and the subtraction of the tumor. I know pieces of me will be conveyed through this food and taken up by his body. The substance of the energy I exert will be ingested as bite-sized forkfuls of my health, extracts of my life, tinctures of my well-being, married into his.
This belief is confirmed, when, three months after the diagnosis, we breakfast together on hot cereal and raisins before he hops on his bike and rides five miles to work. And while the doctor tells us “glioblastoma always returns,” I know I have him today. I know he is eating today. I know I will cook for him today.
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