The magic of Stouffer’s lasagna

I am still fascinated by my post cancer treatment see-saw life. This past week I had another of my yuck spells. They come on suddenly, lately for no apparent reason, and are rife with erratic sleep and achy mornings (actually entire days).  Nausea becomes my constant companion, as does ginger-ale and Starlight Mints. Vigilance, resignation and routine get me through the day. I have always held to the motto that I can feel like crap at work as easily as I can at home (non-contagious feeling like crap only) and so off I go, to stare down another day. I’d like to say with a smile on my face, but that would be asking too much. As of late, though, I have found a magical cure for the nadir of my yuck stints, one that catapults me back to the zenith of vibrant activity and nausea-free jubilence. Enter Stouffer’s  Lasagna.

Strange, right? That a food I have turned my nose up at for the majority of my life would be a cure-all for post cancer treatment body burps. That’s what I call it, when my body occasionally burps free some radiation or chemo leftovers that are then left to wend their way through and eventually out of my body and make me feel like crud in the process. It starts with what is an actual body burp. Not the vocal kind, but a silent burp when your body does this weird heave and you pause thinking, what was that? Then go on your merry way, sort of, with the exception that it rapidly become less and less merry. There is this sudden unpleasant foreignness about yourself, which there is, in that there is now something free inside you that wasn’t before. A chemical jailbreak, as it were, because whatever poison my body had sealed away in a fat cell, or wherever my body stows such unpleasantness, is now free, and it is all hands on deck to get it out. Intermittent hot and cold spells, nausea, coughing, aching bones, tiredness with wrestless sleep (not sure about the point in that), it all comes home to roost. It’s like my body is in rebellion, having already gone through all this once with flying colors it is now having a mini-tantrum at being subjected to it again, even though it is in a much milder form. There’s a fly on  the wall and I am steamrolling the house, or so it seems.

And yet Stouffer’s Lasagna – Meat Lovers Lasagna at that – can right the ship. Maybe it’s the comfort of it, soft noodles in tomato sauce with a conglomeration of meaty flavors, which by all rights should give me worse nausea and indigestion, but it doesn’t. It makes everything all right and is followed by a good night’s sleep and pain-free morning with energy to spare heralding in a productive day. Who would have thought it? I could wrack my brains over the science as to why it works, but honestly, I don’t care. Cancer does that for you. I’m not looking this gift horse in the mouth, I’m just eating it.

If I were to turn the tables on my cancer treatment, I would have to admit that while I had a life-changing adventure, it could not have been much fun for the cancer, not that any of us really spends a lot of time thinking about what the cancer thinks or feels while we are trying to kill it. Yet in reality, while I am not my cancer, my cancer is definitely me. It is comprised of my cells, my DNA, albeit aberrant and most definitely black sheepish, yet still, in its purest form, most definitely me. For some that may be hard to wrap their heads around, but to me, it is just science. Cancer is like the bad apple in the bushel, rotten but still an apple. Or maybe I have watched too many sci-fi shows to think completely ill of cancer. There are plenty of stories where the parasite and the host live symbiotically in a happily-ever-after scenario, but that’s a parasite, not cancer, so we are back to the rotten apple. It will spoil the rest of the bushel if left where it is, so out it comes, worms and all, as does the cancer, hopefully.

And so Stouffer’s Lasagna is another happy discovery on this adventure called breast cancer. I can’t say it will work for everyone, but the point is more that if you crave something strange that you normally don’t eat, then maybe give it a try. Make sure it’s not on a do-not-eat list if you are on a special medication or protocol, but otherwise, why not? I don’t eat lasagna when I’m feeling fine, or pasta of any kind for that matter. It makes me tired. When the world turns upside down, though, and everything is standing on its head, I turn to things that normally don’t fit and find they have an amazing way of bringing balance back to a life that is learning the rules to a new form of normal.

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