In sickness and in health

Dear Katherine,

I know. It’s been a while (approximately six months) since we last wrote a letter or a recipe to one another. I’m sorry to you, to myself and to the maybe five people who read our food/blog/letters to each other. HAHA. No, but in all seriousness, I am sad about not writing you sooner or more often. I’ve not kept up writing and cooking up new recipes to share with you on my end because I think it started to seem like work; or perhaps something regimented rather than something that was supposed to be enjoyed. I think the things that I felt had to get done in my life got in the way of the things I really wanted to do (like these food friendship letters) and some priorities pushed themselves forward which moved our letters and our food blog to the back burner. So for that, I am sad and I am sorry. I’m equally grateful, however, for our friendship and to have this plat(e)form to share our thoughts on everything from food to feelings to… JUST, LIFE.

LIFE ON MY PLATE/STATE:

The past three months have been very painful for me in every way; mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

I felt like I had been handed a plate of nails to eat.

I had been in and out of several doctors’ offices, dentists, endodontists and ENTs – getting MRIs, CBCT scans and numerous tests done – all in hopes of locating the source of pain…

The pains were like nails drilling into the left side of my skull or some great pressure squishing the left side of my head while tightly pinching my nerves. Many drugs were prescribed to me by doctors, but these meds barely, merely masked the pain rather than remove the pain completely. I thought to myself, “Will I have to live like this in excruciating chronic pain… forever?”

  • It all began on March 27, 2018 – a day I will never forget – I began feeling a throbbing pain in the top left half of my mouth/gums. I was healthy, so why was I experiencing so much localized pain in the upper left quadrant of my gums, nerves in my sinuses, behind and inside of my inner left ear and upper temple and left brain areas? Was it a cavity? Was it a sinus infection? Did I have muscle spasms or nerve pinching happening inside of me? Was it trigeminal neuralgia? I had so many questions and no one seemed to be able to help me.  I didn’t have any cavities, my gums were in good condition and no one could see any visible signs of deterioration or decay, yet I continued to suffer from this pain.
  • In April 2018 (just about two months ago) an article came out about my case, but doctors did not know anything about it. The MRI I took showed I had severe inflammation on the left side of my brain/sinus area. Only after visiting a skilled Endodontist (who had just read the article), did we discover that I was suffering from MSEO (Maxillary Sinusitis of the Endodontic Origin) of which symptoms are commonly misdiagnosed. The CBCT scan showed my cells were eating away at my own cells/roots/nerves on the inside of my tooth. It was an internal abscess. And it was ruining the quality of my very existence. Of course, I also had severe inflammation and a sinus infection, so they put me on strong antibiotics, a steroid and more pain meds.
  • On May 18, 2018, I underwent surgery by an honest and experienced oral and maxillofacial surgeon who performed a sinus lift, bone graft and extraction all in one hour. They put me on opioids (Norco/Vicodin) and I had a strict regimen to follow. I was on an all liquid diet for a week and have been in recovery since.

I am slowly, but surely regaining my strength, but boy, post-surgery really drained all the energy from my body and during recovery, I learned so much about pain, deprivation, about food and the power certain foods have on a recovering body, mind and soul. 

After the surgery, my blood did not coagulate well at all, so the healing process was brutal. I couldn’t eat anything, so my mom just kept giving me warm drinking water, almond milk and some Asian herbal medicine to try to fill my empty stomach while providing some liquid nutrients for strength. Meanwhile, on top of starving, I was on antibiotics and opioids which made my body hate me even more. The first few days post-surgery, I was in and out of consciousness and loopy from the meds, the pain and from overall lack of energy from suffering. I felt like my body had given up all hope and happiness. At this point, I couldn’t even imagine what it would feel like to eat any solid foods.

beech-nut
Literally ate Beech Nut baby foods… it is good… for babies.

By day five or six of post-surgery, I was still on a liquid-diet, but had upgraded to baby foods. Baby food is delicious, but it’s also loaded with sugar and it was a slight upgrade from all clear liquids to basically-liquid-drinkable-baby-food-mush. It was tasty for the first two days, then I wanted real food.

rice porridge

My mom also began making her special soup/porridge that is only given when people are sick and recovering. It is already cooked white rice boiled in water or tea. For the recipe, I found Dr. Ben’s site very helpful and thorough so check it out here. People add whatever they want to it like from chicken, eggs, scallions, green onions, garlic, etc., but my mom likes to add a little bit of soy sauce and sesame oil to it. She says that sesame oil is what makes it comforting. Most of all of the food I was “eating” (if you could even call it that as it was more like “drinking”) tasted bland and boring, but they provided me with some sustenance, so I had to keep it coming. I viewed my “meal” time as a chore, rather than a delight. And I sighed thinking about how I had to “eat” aka “drink” down my “food” again. And again. And again and again and again… Since I couldn’t consume a lot, I had to do it many times and visit the bathroom many times and just sleep, eat, rinse, repeat… it was a trying existence. What once brought me joy, now just left me with sadness. I longed for the days of deliciousness and forgot what looking forward to chewing something with flavor actually felt like. I basically became food depressed.

I was still exhausted and drained of energy.

By Thursday I was truly and utterly sad because I couldn’t even eat soft mushy foods like tilapia and rice porridge properly, I couldn’t eat anything delicious, I couldn’t do anything and I didn’t have any energy at all. I tried to keep it together, but I had all but given up hope. Finally, Friday and Saturday rolled along and that’s when I started to feel a slight improvement. my body felt a little better, but my mind was still in a sad mental space. By Sunday and Monday, I was ready to get back to work, but I had to conserve a lot of energy and I was exhausted all the time. Throughout all this, I’m pretty certain it was my mom’s rice porridge dish that kept me alive halfway through this ordeal we call the recovery process.

NOW:

A good two and a half weeks or so have passed since the surgery and post-surgery suffering. Since then, I’ve gone through an emotional roller-coaster of grappling with myself and food. How I treated food then to how I’m enjoying and appreciating it now, especially in terms of viewing it as sustenance, rather than for enjoyment has completely changed. I have a newfound appreciation for the many ways eating plays in my life.

I’d much rather view food and eating as enjoyable and comforting and wonderful, but that in itself is a luxury. The reality of it is that during times of sickness and suffering, food is fuel for my body and energy to keep my body fed and alive, rather than enjoyed. 

The Three Things I Learned Being Sick:

  1. You CAN control the way you view food and use that perspective with what you eat and how you eat it. I was forced into this mentality and I don’t wish it upon anyone, but you can mentally make those associations and use recipes for healing.
  2. During sickness, when you aren’t able to eat properly, or you are restricted in your daily diet, you CAN maintain and change the way food is used. It’s just hard to do by yourself (especially when you’re sick) so have your mom, a family member or a friend think of things like flavor for you, or write them down beforehand. It’s probably good to have a list of simple/easy recipes to make/have on hand for when you do get sick, (go-to for most Americans is chicken soup) so you can have a list of go-to foods to eat for when you’re ill. Being sick sucks, but you can make it bearable.
  3. Liquid flavors like SOY SAUCE. SESAME OIL. VANILLA. BUTTER. HOT SAUCE. Little drops of these in bland dishes, go a long way. Especially when you’re sick. Find your favorite drops of Jupiter and add it to your ‘sick’ list of sauces for when you’re sick.

Nutrition, sustenance, fuel, energy… Giving LIFE is the basis of what food does. It provides us energy to exist. I think when food is delicious or beautiful, it becomes art. When a dish delivers flavors to delight our senses and tickle our tastebuds – that is when it steps up to provide an improvement in our lives. People always talk about the quality of life versus just living to exist. I kind of see now the different genres of foods… how food shifts and how my relationship with food to sick me versus a healthy me changes. I feel like my eyes have opened up. The challenge is going to be discerning when I should view it as sustenance and when I should indulge and enjoy. Not only that though… Now when I’m purchasing grocery items or finding what I can eat, I look at the texture, flavor, and nutrition because I need energy to heal my body. They say that we are what we eat, and I want to eat things that power my body and brain so I function properly and thrive.

It will be a constant battle fighting refined sugars and sweets, but if this sickness has taught me anything, it’s that I can be prepared with even somewhat tasty sick foods and plan ahead so that I don’t lose all hope in being forced to eat bland foods when I’m sick and suffering.

Continuing on to recovering and indulging in some sweets when I dessert/deserve it. Remember: #HealthIsWealth

Until next time,

Anne

 

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Jill p says:

    Wow, what a roller coaster. I’m so glad you’re recovering.

    Like

  2. Jill p says:

    Btw I’m honored to be one of your 5 followers lol

    Like

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