“And laugh they did, and eat, and drink, often and heartedly, being fond of simple jests at all times, and of six meals a day (when they could get them).”
~JRR Tolkien, Concerning Hobbits
I have to say that my absolute favorite scene from the Lord of the Rings movies was the utter shock Pippin had when he realized that Strider did not take food nearly as seriously as a hobbit. After all, how could one be expected to withstand such an incredible journey without the proper nourishment, even if it means stopping every fifteen to twenty minutes to enjoy a hearty meal and riotous fellowship. Personally, I can relate to Frodo who, after enduring several days of rationing, declared:
“I hope the thinning process will not go on indefinitely, or I shall become a wraith” (Tolkien 180).
I’m more inclined to take the road of Merry and Pippin, who were more than willing to take in a suitable meal amid the wreckage of Isengard. No matter what might be happening in life I know that I would be, along with these two insatiable hobbits, found lounging among the chaos with:
“…bottles and bowls and platters laid beside them, as if they had just eaten well, and now rested from their labor” (Tolkien 543).
Like these two, my motto has always been “live to eat, not eat to live.” That was until my body decided to make other plans.
Since being diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumors, I have found my love of food, all food, has become compromised as meals landed me on the couch with intense abdominal pain.
Seriously, no self-respecting hobbit could ever survive with a stomach that acts like this, with all these restrictions life as they know and love would cease to exist.
Foods that I once cherished and adored began to have impossible effects on my digestive tract. Seriously, no self-respecting hobbit could ever survive with a stomach that acts like this, with all these restrictions life as they know and love would cease to exist. Not only would Pippin be missing out on second breakfast, but elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner, and supper would all have to vanish faster than a pastry during first breakfast.
One of the unique features of neuroendocrine cancer is the myriad of GI symptoms that accompany the disease. For many, this cancer is often misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome or a related bowel disorder. Food that was once a favorite suddenly becomes the enemy as bloating, gas, abdominal pain, and diarrhea follow soon after a tasty meal. After diagnosis, I was hoping that my passion for food and hobbit-like appetite would be once again the norm; however, this is not what happens. Food is still the center of my life, but not how it used to be. Today I am scrutinizing labels looking for gluten, dairy, FODMAP, amines, and other sinister ingredients that promise a few moments of enjoyment accompanied by hours of intestinal agony.
This is now the norm because not only have I lost portions of several organs crucial to the digestive process, I have the side effects of the medication in which to contend. The nasty abdominal pain that accompanies carcinoid is triggered by large meals, foods high in fat, spicy spices, alcohol, and foods that are high in amines. That means no spicy chili, hot peppers, most cheeses, tofu, sauerkraut, caffeine, chocolate, peanuts, bananas, any type of soy product, and berries. How is one supposed to live a happy and fulfilled life with these types of restrictions? I have yet to figure it out, so I happily munch on chocolate only to end up curled up in a ball on couch roughly an hour later. Sorry, but any self-respecting hobbit would agree the agony is worth an ounce of chocolate washed down with a large cup of coffee.
As if all this is not bad enough, the somatostatin analogues used to tame the beasties that reside within cause their own brand of agony. Being treated with somatostatin analogues means that one must face fat malabsorption, deficiency in fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, and K, a vitamin B12 deficiency, diarrhea and/or constipation, gallbladder problems (thankfully mine has been removed after the lanreotide had its way with this poor, defenseless organ), and a rise in blood glucose levels. Wow. How is a former foodie to survive amid all these issues? The answer is very well actually.
While being diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer means that any aspirations to live life like a hobbit is out of the question, life can still be rather enjoyable. It has been fun learning how to cook all over again and to have the ability to experiment with new recipes that are gluten free, dairy free, soy free, FODMAP friendly, and free of any food that might be high in amines.
Being treated with somatostatin analogues means that one must face fat malabsorption, deficiency in fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, and K, a vitamin B12 deficiency, diarrhea and/or constipation, gallbladder problems, and a rise in blood glucose levels.
At first it feels like life has just been dealt a death blow, but it is easy to begin to live within these guidelines; actually, I have come to enjoy food in a whole new way. I have to admit that my hobbit-like tendencies sometimes get the better of me and I fall off the wagon, but for the most part life has been so much more enjoyable now that I am eating healthier and within the guidelines of my disease. While I might not be able to sit down and enjoy second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner, and supper without paying a stiff abdominal penalty, I can still live life as an avid foodie. What is even more exciting is that this new life comes with its own brand of adventure. Not much research has been conducted into the special nutritional needs of those with NET cancer, so it opens up the doors for experimentation. It brings my love of cooking and eating to a whole new level of, what I bet would be hobbit approved, cool.
Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. The Fellowship of the Ring: Being the first part of the LORD OF THE RINGS. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 1994. Print.
—. The Two Towers: The LORD OF THE RINGS PART TWO. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 1994. Print.