I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it is impossible to have a hobbit-sized appetite after having extensive abdominal surgery. It seems like any time I allow my eyes to overpower my stomach, I find myself on the couch, curled up in agony, wishing that I had exercised a bit more self control. But I never do. I am keen on making the same mistakes with food again and again, only to pay the price for my gluttony. The doctor has even added Creon and Reglan to my medication regime to no avail. It just seems like I need to come to terms with my new normal and actively seek to do something to change both my abdominal pain and my outlook on life.
Most of us here in American associate food with our well-being. There are so many recipes floating around on Pinterest that claim to be “comfort food.” When the cooler weather rolls around, all we seem to think about are home-cooked meals that consist of roast beef, turkey, simmering hot chili, and, of course, potatoes in all forms and consistencies. Now that speaks of home, hearth, and happiness. For years now this season of the year has meant extra gastric agony as I have attempted to make all these home-cooked favorites. Shortly into a meal, I find my stomach beginning to rebel, heartburn flare, and abdominal bloating and discomfort even before I finish the first round of food on my plate.
“Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink…”(NIV Col:2.16)
There are days when I adopt the attitude that since I have slaved over this meal I’m going to enjoy it whether my GI tract wants to or not. Some days the digestive rebellion is worth it and others days it just is not.
Adding insult to injury, I used to absolutely love to cook. My kitchen bookshelf is brimming with cookbooks of all kinds, some extremely treasured volumes handed down by grandparents, others rescued from certain death, and, my personal favorites, several binders filled with my grandmother’s hand-written recipes. The most precious of these treasures is a volume of Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management that I discovered in a dark corner of a used bookshop during my first trip to the Ochsner Tumor Program in New Orleans. As an avid fan of British literature during the Victorian Era, this was an extra special find.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink…” (NIV Mt 6.25)
I love to sit, coffee in hand, and pour through these treasured books, make my grocery list, and cook stunning meals for my family. The abdominal side effects of NET cancer has really killed the joy I once used to find in this endeavor. To be perfectly honest, having to adhere to a gluten free/dairy free/FODMAP friendly/low amine diet has left me broken down in tears over the limited recipes and restricted menu plans; not only that, even with all these precautions, I still find myself sick after a meal. It just does not feel worth the effort any longer.
During my husband’s last round of TDY, I allowed this depression to get the better of me and chose to exist on bagels, granola, fruit smoothies, and the occasional large fry from Chick-fil-a.
“Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do” (NIV 1 Co 8.8)
Then a surprising thing happened, I started to feel better! The constipation began to clear without laxatives. The abdominal pain, bloating, and gas stopped almost entirely, and I was no longer curled up in a ball on couch. I was able to sleep better and not toss and turn trying find a comfortable position that did not aggravate my stomach. This was a serious miracle. When my husband came back home, I started to eat regular meals again, with large dinners when he got home from work and, low and behold, I was getting sick again, bloating up, gassy, and having trouble sleeping. I was ready to give up and just relegate myself to feeling absolutely miserable for the rest of my life when I decided to go back to eating the way I did while he was away and I am starting to feel better almost immediately. So, there must be something to this.
Right now, I think that I am going to stick to the bagels, granola, and pureed fruits and vegetables for a little while and see what happens; but, I have to admit, that this is the most optimistic I have felt since having the laparotomy last September. I feel so happy that I am now on a quest to find cookbooks on purees. Most of what I am finding are either for a bariatric diet, dysphagia, or baby food, but I am not going to give up the pursuit. If I need to resurrect my baby food making skills then so be it. Personally, I think it would be worth it if I can actually begin to feel better. This change in focus may also bring back that passion for cooking that has slowly been dying; now comes the challenge to be able to make tasty pureed foods that are not overly repulsive and do not leave me feeling deprived of the traditional “comfort foods” I love so much. Looking on the bright side, mashed potatoes with gravy are always a safe bet!
As I think about this new food adventure, two crucial scriptures jump immediately into my mind. God has blessed me with a passion to cook and to feed others. While I may now be limited in what I can and cannot tolerate, there is still hope for me to rekindle my domestic passions, for God says that:
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord” (NIV Col 3.23)
It is also a comfort to know that the body I have now has been sown of perishable material and God will raise it imperishable. I will not carry this ailment into eternity with me and I will be able to take a seat at the banquet table and feast in the presence of my Savior and God. Until then, He promises me that he will:
“…prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (NIV Ps 23.5).
I can find joy in the feast, even if it is in the form of a FODMAP friendly puree (okay, let us just say it, baby food!), eat, and be satisfied. Just thinking about this truth brings a smile to heart and joy to my spirit. While things may seem bleak, there is always a silver lining; all that needs to be done is to search it out.