Friday, December 11, 2009

Well, here I have landed. After a thirty-year cancer recurrence last May, a bunch of surgeries and follow-ups and dental implants, new teeth, new speech prosthesis (for an example of what I am doing, click here), some triumphs and some blasts of disappointment, I have landed here yet again.

Lots of dentists and doctors over the years said, “nope, no dental implants for you buddy- too much radiation, too risky, might bust the jawbone and ruin your life forever” so I gave up on that. One day the BLD (Brilliant Lady Doctor/Dentist at MD Anderson Cancer Center Houston) said, “oh, yeah I can” and she proceeded to do so and now I have implants and new, functioning teeth and a smile.

Lots of doctors over the years said “I wouldn’t operate on that neck flap area, too risky, might not heal. Sorry you look funny, but that’s just life.” One day the BCD (Brilliant Chinese Plastic Surgeon Doctor at MD Anderson) said “hey, let me do your new flap and I will fix that old ugly stuff too” and he did. He said I had plenty of good blood supply to the area, healing no problem. I’m fully healed, I look much more normal, and I can go to the grocery store without small children running screaming into their mother’s arms pointing open-mouthed and speechless at the monster-man carrying the pigs’ feet.

First thing the BLD surgeon said to me on my first day there was, “Hey, how long has it been, we should get you talking”. Not “sorry, this is going to be long and hard and may not work” or “not sure what to do about this” or “half your head and jaw are about to disappear”, but “hey, you should be talking”. And now, I am. It took her three tries, the first two failures, third time the charm, and today I am talking. After thirty years of silence, writing pads, frustration, sadness, you name it- I am talking. Not pretty yet, kind of gurgly and burpy, but saying words and cussing my brother on the phone. He said I sounded just like "the old me, drunk". She didn’t give up, shook off the advice from one doctor not to bother, kept on trying, and never stopped smiling with me.

I still can’t eat solid food because I can’t open my mouth wide enough to get any in there, or chew it once it is. But, the BLSpeechTherapist is getting me a device to exercise my mouth, stretch the scar tissue in there, and one of these days I am going to inhale a bratwurst, a tamale, and an entire roast chicken, and then I am going to commence to eat some by-God food like a real Texas man.

I am not saying bad things about those doctors who wouldn’t or couldn’t fix me. They were giving what was the best advice they had to give. I guess I am saying that if you want to get something done and you have cancer, you should go where they are going to fix it, and usually can, and if they can’t that day or that year they probably will have invented a way to do it by the next.

Speaking of soup, this is a basic idea that I have been doing variations on this week:

Winter Vegetable Soup

1 Russet Potato

1 Carrot

1 Sweet Potato

1 Celery Stalk, ends put into the stock pot

1 Yellow Onion or a couple of leeks, peeled, washed, chopped, green parts into the stock pot

Chicken Broth that you made from scratch from said stock pot

Dried wild Thyme gathered in the Minervois in your Secret Spot

Bay Leaf from your tree out back

Parsley from your potted plant that never freezes

Winter Squash, roasted and scooped out. (Place in a 350 oven for whatever it takes to cook the flesh.)

2 or 5 pieces of good bacon or dry-cured pork or whatever you feel like along that line

Couple of tablespoons of good butter or some heavy cream to tas




Good wine from Domaine Sainte Leocadie down the road

Good mess around music going in the background

Peel the potatoes, cut into chunks. Chop celery, onion, add all vegetables and herbs to heavy pan, cover with cold clean water, simmer until done, about half an hour. Add three pinches of coarse sea salt, a couple of grinds of pepper. Use an immersion blender or food processor or blender to puree the vegetables. Remove the bay leaf unless it is too late, in which case it didn’t matter anyway. Add the butter and stir, or add some cream and stir until the color is inviting. Serve it forth with bread and gratitude.

You can use any combination of potatoes, squash, celery or

no, pork or no, thyme or oregano or sage, butter or no. Just feel it, baby, feel it. Good for the soul.

Peace and Love,

Joe Gracey December 2009