“Today’s event is being hosted by myself, and Jen of Juanita’s Cocina. We teamed up with our blogger friends to help raise awareness and support for Cancer and Hospice today in memory of my dad. We encourage everyone to read the posts and share your own experiences with cancer. We also would like to encourage everyone to donate to the Canadian Cancer Society, the American Cancer Society and also to the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association. Hospice was a key element during my dad’s battle with cancer. They made it possible for me to care for him at home. So please show your support and donate if you can. You can also contact your local Hospice and donate directly to them if you wish. A little goes a long way! “
I am so overwhelmed by my blogging friends today. I put out word I wanted to do a group event to help raise awareness for those battling cancer, and also wanted to encourage folks to donate to hospice. My friends showed up and offered their support. Thank you to everyone who posted for this event. I asked a lot of them, posting on Fathers Day even though it was not a Fathers Day event. I am so stunned at the kindness and generosity of these people involved.
We’re holding this on Fathers Day in memory of my Dad who passed away from lung cancer in 2007. I asked everyone else to write about someone in their life who has meant the world to them and about their experiences with cancer. It affects so many of us. If you happen to be untouched by it you are one of the extremely rare, and lucky ones. Most of us know someone in our lives battling this terrible disease. It touches us all in some way, at some time. So I wanted to have everyone share their stories with their readers and encourage those readers to share their own stories. My thought is it helps ease the pain a bit, and also helps people know they are never alone. We all fight this battle in some way and we need to support each other through it.
Before I share my story I’d like to thank Jen of Juanita’s Cocina for being my wing woman today. Jen graciously helps me plan these events and without her I’d be lost. She is such a supportive and kind friend, I’m lucky to have her in my life.
I would also like to thank KitchenAid Canada for graciously offering up a KitchenAid Stand Mixer & Ice Cream Attachment for today’s event. You can find details about the giveaway at the bottom of this post. Thank you to Cortney and Laura for all your hard work. You ladies are amazing.
Now for the hard part. Opening up. It’s never easy is it? Yet it’s often so cathartic to do. At least for me. Here goes.
I had a very complicated relationship with my Dad. He was not an easy man to get along with. He tended to play favourites and let’s just say I did not quite make his list. Dad was a hard man, he never showed affection or emotion. Yet he was there for you when the chips were down. Without question, without fail. So when he called me one day to ask me for my help I didn’t hesitate to say yes. Not that Dad would have let me, I think his exact words were “I need your help and no is not an option here”. I picked him up for an appointment, he refused to let me stay or tell me much about what was going on. He made light of it and had me come back for him later. I was not happy about this arrangement but arguing with my Dad was pointless. Not much time passed before I got another call. This time I would not take no for an answer and went in with him. Imagine my surprise when words like “draining your lungs again” and “possible cancer” were being tossed about. I took my Dad out for a bite to eat and let him know this keeping secrets stuff was unacceptable. That I wanted to help and would do whatever he needed, whenever he needed it. Little did I know that would become my life for the next 9 months.
I took care of my Dad through his illness. He wanted to be at home and other than a 2 week stint in the hospital after the chemo almost killed him, I managed to keep him home until the end. During the last 3 months we enlisted the help of one of his sisters and without her I would have never seen my own family during this time. Dad needed so much care, and after 6 months I was burnt out and in need of some help. My Aunt Cathie came to the rescue and stayed with him so I could do all the things that go along with cancer. Picking up medication, literature, food, spending lots of time on the phone arranging nurses to come in once a day to check on him, making arrangements for people to come in with air tanks, people with bars for the bathroom and stairs, people who could help bathe him so we didn’t have to. We enlisted hospice to help and without them I would have been lost. They helped teach me what to expect as the days passed and time became short. Since I was his primary caregiver and dealt with all the meds I needed to learn how to give shots, how to properly dose morphine, all kinds of things I never in my life imagined I’d be doing. Yet it was my Dad so I just did it without question. It’s what you do when someone you love is sick.
I won’t lie to you, this journey with my Dad was hard on him, me and my family. He was harsh, and he took his anger out on the people around him. For some reason he seemed to pick on Mini-me when she came with me to the house. She is as stoic as my father and myself, but this man could reduce her to tears in moments. We all just tolerated it because he was sick, and who yells at someone who is terminally ill. He continued to lash out at us all and only in the final weeks did he finally admit it was because he was scared. We had a big blow up a couple of weeks before he passed away. I still am shocked I yelled at him that day but I had reached my limit. He really laid into my aunt this particular day and I just reached my boiling point. I told him it was unacceptable to treat her that way. He raged, and told me off. I shot back that he was lucky we were all there given how he was treating us. My aunt had dropped everything to come help, no questions asked. This was the wrong thing to say. It escalated into a war of words until I decided enough was enough and left for the day. He complained to my aunt and I was sure he hated me for telling him how I felt about what he was doing. The next day I went to the house as I always did, thinking he would not speak to me ever again. To my surprise he apologized to me. I think this was the only time in my life my Dad had ever apologized and admitted he was wrong. He told me he was scared to die. That he was in so much pain, and he didn’t know how to cope. He told me how he felt for the first time in his life, we both cried and talked for what seemed like forever. Openly, kindly and uninhibited. He was so scared of what was coming but was trying to be strong for all of us. He did not realize he was hurting those who wanted to help. From that moment forth my Dad was kind to everyone who came to the house. In his final weeks he became forthcoming and talked about his feelings. It was a rare thing only a few of us were lucky enough to experience. Dad being vulnerable, something he had always perceived as weakness. It was like his final gift to us.
I feel so blessed to have gotten to know my Dad so well through this process. We spent 9 months together, day in and day out. You get to know someone pretty well through something like that. He told me stories about his childhood, his early years with my Mom, told memories of us kids and then memories of the grand-kids. I had the distinct pleasure of listening to him and getting to know him like I never had before. I can look back now and know that “caregiver syndrome” was the reason he was so mean to me all the time. It’s hard on a person like my Dad to rely on someone else for everything in their life. He was so fiercely independent and then his life flipped upside down, and he had to rely on his daughter to do things for him he never imagined I would have to do. So he became bitter and resentful. Most people would. It took some counselling at the Cancer Clinic for me to really understand what was happening and why.
The best thing I took away from my counselling sessions was her telling me “it’s his journey, you’re just a passenger. He’s the driver and he has to choose his own path. You’re just along for the ride. You either accept his path or you get out of the car.” This advice was life-changing for me. It made me step back and always see things from his perspective. Which made caring for him so much easier most days.
When I think back and remember my Dad lots of things come to mind. His weird sense of humour, how he always smelled of pipe tobacco, his flannel shirts (one of which I still own) and his love of food. Since I was the only lady in the house for most special occasions it seemed to fall to me to make most dinners. Dad loved my lasagna, apple pie, and black forest cake. He would ask me to make roast chicken, and my stuffing was something he practically begged for. There are so many recipes that remind me of my Dad. But ice cream, well, ice cream was his favourite.
Ice cream was something my Dad loved beyond belief. Not just a little bit. But a whole big bunch. He ate very healthy day to day, most of his meals being balanced and veggie heavy. He took really good care of himself, even as a bachelor in his later years. His one weakness was ice cream. He loved it. He could not resist it. We used to tease him about his ice cream belly. He was tall and thin, barring a little bump we dubbed his “ice cream belly”. Dad would eat ice cream as much as possible. Yet he liked it simple. My Dad was not into fancy flavours or ice cream that was overloaded with extras. He liked it pure and simple. One of his favourite options was high quality vanilla ice cream that he would top with strawberry jam. He just loved it that way. Simple and classic.
So today I made you a creamy, simple vanilla bean ice cream with only 3 ingredients. I know right. Sounds too good to be true. But it’s not. I am not someone who makes much home-made jam so I turned to a tried and true way to serve up strawberries in our family. Again, it’s simple and classic. Only 3 ingredients, and quite honestly you could get away with 2 ingredients if you wanted to for this one. It’s just a simple macerated berry recipe. It makes me super happy to share this recipe with you in honour of my Dad. He would have wanted a spoon for each hand for this one!
Make sure you stop by all my friends websites as they share stories, recipes and a cute knitting project with you! We have the pleasure of having a dear friend of mine named Amy with us for this event. She is the only non-food blogger participating today but she has such a personal story to tell about her dad’s recent battle with cancer. So please welcome her along with all my foodie friends. Stop by and say hello to all these very special people:
Chili Verde by Juanita’s Cocina
S’Mores Brownies in Jars by That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Dark Chocolate and Orange Muffins by The Dutch Baker’s Daughter
Boston Cream Pie by Pass The Sushi
My Fathers Day Recipe Round Up by Curry and Comfort
Tropical Smoothie by Dinners, Dishes and Desserts
Mini Gugelhupf by Masala Herb
Sauteed Strawberry and Sugarsnap Salad by Cook The Story
Cranberry Cashew Breakfast Muffins by In Fine Balance
Arugula Salad with Sundried Tomatoes and Mushrooms by Crazy Foodie Stunts
Spicy Beef Sliders by Katie’s Cucina
Thai Red Curry Soup by Damn Delicious
Suman (Sweet Rice and Banana Leaves) by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
Fresh Vegetable Salad by White Lights on Wednesday
Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream Sundae by The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen
Cinnamon Chip Cookie Butter Bars by The Messy Baker
Berry/Cherry Fro-Yo Ice Cream by Cookistry
Honey Beer Bread by Hungry Couple
Cinnamon-Chocolate Chip Pancakes by The Spiffy Cookie
Chocolate Cherry Granola Bars by Sweet Remedy
Cookies and Cream Brownies by Cooking in Stilettos
Blueberry Lemon Cake by Roxana’s Home Baking
Angel Cake by Ninja Baking
Knit (or crocheted) Grey Brain Cancer Mustache Pin by Knit, Purl, Damn!
Thank you to all the participants for their hard work and patience.
For all my readers, thanks for your patience over this very lengthy post. And for you constant support whether I share recipes or really personal stories with you. You always show me kindness and generosity, thank you for that. It means the world to me.
Now on with the giveaway!
Disclaimer: We are proud to have KitchenAid on board to give away the grand prize for this event. No blogger involved received anything from KitchenAid or any compensation of any kind. It was our goal not to profit in any way since the focus is on raising money for charity. The bonus prizes are being supplied by me personally. It’s my way to give back to my readers for their support and generosity. Thanks.
Toodles and smoochies! xx