5 years ago at this time I was just coming out of the most difficult period in my life. Having just completed a gruelling 8-month journey of a major surgery and 6 rounds of the most aggressive chemotherapy available at the time, I was like a new baby, bald (LOL), vulnerable and very eager to start a new chapter.
It was the beginning of 2007, when I found a big lump in my right breast. With no family history of breast cancer, or actually no cancers at all, and, as I later found out, not even BRCA1 or 2 genetic mutation, breast cancer was on my mind as often as let’s say a Bubonic plague. Too “young” for mammogram and with “non-significant” family history, I was an undesirable candidate for any kind of testing at all. Untill it was too late…
When my cancer was found, it wasn’t in its early stages anymore, it was right on a brink of being metastasized. So you can say it was found right on time. However, it didn’t spare me the need for the most aggressive surgical and chemo options available. But it did ultimately save my life! And I’m very grateful for that!
I always say I’m glad I had cancer, no matter how bizarre it sounds. It’s during the most difficult times when our faith, personality and integrity get tested, and you either come out on top, as a winner, or you break down and sink to the bottom, crushed by your own bitterness and misery. Yes, I’d totally forgo the side effects of chemo, some of which will probably remain with me for the rest of my life, but who I am today is enhanced and validated by that experience, and my positive personality traits are shinier and more visible because of that (and yes, I’m working on a few areas that are still kind of shaky, but aren’t we all a work in progress?!).
So today, after 8 months of aggressive treatment and 5 years of post-cancer therapies and follow-up, I’ve finally reached the first survival milestone.
It appears I have survived!
And just like a new baby yet again, I’m eager and ready, and a little scared, to start this next chapter of my life. With no more therapies and less oncology visits, I’m actually facing a “normal life”, or rather say a “new normal”. Whatever that may mean, I do not know yet, but I’m ready to find out!
So please help me celebrate and join me for my new cooking series. During the month of October, to promote breast cancer awareness, I’ll be sharing some personal experiences from my cancer journey along with valuable information to learn more about breast cancer and resources. And with that, I’ll be making recipes of all kinds of pink foods.
From baby pink to orange-red to deep purple ombre, join me on a journey of exploring “Fifty Shades of Pink”!
What’s Cooking This Week
Nothing is cooking! Because we’re drinking!
We’re celebrating, right?!
When it comes to alcohol, I prefer either wine or vodka. Yes, I know, most vodkas are made from wheat or rye and are still a no-no on a gluten free diet, but for some odd reasons, my body is able to tolerate one shot of grain vodka. It must be some weird inborn Russian enzymes that help me digest it, but even then, it stops at just one drink. So I make it count! LOL I usually go for a shot of Balinoff, I like its smooth taste and no bitter aftertaste that some cheaper vodkas leave, or Grey Goose would be my second choice. Some special occasion may call for a higher-end designer vodkas, those are usually location specific, and I’ve had a few great ones.
But this time, I definitely want more than one drink (some occasions are just hangover worthy ) so I got this nice looking potato vodka from a local distributor. It was smooth with a slightly sweet undertone, I really enjoyed it and would surely buy again. But it’s the Pink series, right? We need to spice it up, and a diluted vodka with cranberry juice drink is just not going to cut it this time!
Recipe # 1
Homemade Cranberry Vodka
1 bottle, 750 ml, of vodka
1 lb of fresh or frozen whole cranberries
1/2 cup of other cut berries (I used strawberries)
1 Tbspoon of lemon juice
lemon peel from 1 lemon
1 cup of sugar
I had difficulty finding fresh (or even frozen) cranberries at this time, so off I went to the Russian market, you can find all kinds of un-seasonal things there. In a saucepan, combine cranberries, strawberries, lemon juice and sugar and cook on low heat for about 5 minutes till cranberries burst and release their juice.
In a mean while, cut lemon peels in thin strips and place them on the bottom of a large glass container.
Once the berry mixture is cooled off, pour it over lemon peels and then pour in all the vodka. Cover the container with a tightly sealed top and set it aside on a counter for about one week.
After the week is over, open and strain the berries and lemon, then pour the vodka back in the container. Store it in a fridge for up to 1 month (if it lasts that long)! And don’t let the innocent color fool you, just like some women I know, it may be “pretty in pink”, but it’s also pretty strong, it’s your “fight like a girl” premium vodka drink!
Of note, don’t throw the berries out but rather put them in a freezer, they’d make an awesome “no kids invited” cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving dinner.
So here I am toasting my difficult but inspiring past 5 years and more healthy ones ahead!
And a toast to all the doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other medical professionals who through their expertise and dedication brought me up to the point where I can enjoy this drink feeling well and looking forward to the future!
And a big toast to my family and friends, especially my mom, who showed much love and care that lifted my spirit and let me concentrate on my recovery and be vulnerable without feeling defeated!
And a huge toast to my baby, my son, who gave me a complete reason to fight the disease and continue my journey on Earth because there is nothing more I love than being his mom!
Oy! And I think I’m drunk (but totally happy)! So you talk among yourselves for now!