Painful Update

Friends and Family,
This week has been a challenge. Just when I thought we were in the clear, finishing chemotherapy and radiation, things have turned a bad corner. Carl began having severe pains this week, and his pain level is the highest I have ever witnessed. He fell to the floor in pain after drinking a sip of water. This from a man who rarely complains, and has likely hidden much of his pain from me to date. He has been running fever, and truly this week the reality of cancer is staring me in the face. I cannot explain how different it is to witness pain from your beloved, it is scary, and I would do anything to take it away from him. Witnessing him miss things at work that I know he has been looking forward to all year, because he is in pain is astonishing. I am so empathetic to all the mothers before me that have been on this cancer journey, and raising children. It is hard, beyond hard. Carl is currently getting fluids regularly for hydration, because he is unable to drink. His current source of food, can reduce me to tears in a second. I thought we would be 90 before I watched my chef husband choke down ensure, as he screams due to the pain that it causes him.

Our life is flipped upside down, and normal is something I dream of at night. I long for the summer vacation where we drink wine and play with our kids at the beach. Where we snuggle with the babies on Sunday…..those days are long ahead of us for now. I can see the worry in our physician’s eyes as she is trying to rule out the what it is that may be causing such extreme pain. I now know our strength. Together we can beat anything. I have had dark days, and so has he, but never on the same day. God put our souls together long ago, and even when we are not talking I know his needs, and he mine. Love is powerful. It rises above all pain, all weakness, all fear, all anger. Cancer makes you feel all these emotions. Love pulls you through.

Prayers are now needed for pain relief and hope that there is no underlying infection. Healing needs to begin so that we can prepare for the upcoming surgery. We will meet with our surgeon on Monday to develop a plan for the month ahead. We are treating with antibiotics, anti-yeast, pain medications and pretty much the kitchen sink. This is the beginning of the difficult part of the journey. Asking for help is very hard for me. Cancer is forcing me to slowly learn to ask for help from all the amazing people that we have in our life. It has taught me humility, that I can’t do it all alone. I don’t want to be alone ever. God willing, this will be over soon and I will have my partner in crime back.

Words cannot express all the gratitude we have for all the prayers, donations, meals, gift cards, prayer cards, and love that we have received in the last 3 months. Emily Post may be shaking her head at me, along with my Grandmere in heaven. So please know that even if you have not received a written note of thanks you are all in my thoughts and prayers, and all the support has filled me with energy and is appreciated more than words can ever express. Will update next week with the surgical plans….and I have been mulling over a post on giving for a few weeks. Sorry for the writers block….worry is cluttering my thoughts.


Half Way Mark

Over the past 2 months, the question “How ya doin?’ ” has required much more thought and explanation than it used to and the answer itself changes everyday. I have wanted to shift the focus from my own well being to stress to others how hard this has been for those very close to me. I think about how Alix is juggling all of this, and how our nearly four year old boy has been affected by this craziness. But, the usual answer to the question has typically been a resounding “good!”

Blood counts were always at good levels. I never got very sick, or had to disrupt treatment. Overall, I have done exceptionally well throughout chemotherapy and radiation (both of which ended recently).

The past week has been a different story.

Radiation scar tissue and side affects, along with overall fatigue from the intense chemotherapy have gotten me down a bit. Things I have taken for granted such as sipping ice cold water are now more painful than I could have imagined. I cruised along up to this point in an almost arrogant manner thinking this treatment would not get to me. Sadly, it now has. The doctors say I have what amounts to 2nd degree burns in my esophagus and into my stomach. As you can imagine, it is nearly impossible to eat or drink anything.

I attended a crawfish boil when the symptoms first started and I stared at a warm piece of corn right out of the boil. When cooked properly, this is my favorite part of the boil. The jewel of the batch. I love the play of the sweet corn with the spice of the seasoning and the banknote of the shellfish flavor. It can sometimes be overcooked and mushy, but I could tell this one was cooked to perfection. I reached for it and took a bite, shooting the crawfish saturated juices across the table knowing I was rolling the dice. It hurt. It hurt in a way I cannot describe. I wish I could say it was worth it, but I do not think there is a food out there that would have been.

Some people would probably read this and think I am ridiculous but those that know me well know food is what I live for. It is what I think about all day and every day. The thoughts of this being the way I would have to live my life are very frightening to me. Foods that are acidic, heavily seasoned, and intensely flavored are the worst right now. They are out of the question. As a chef, these are the foods we love to eat and love to cook. For the first time in all of this, I feel defeated. I tried a sip of a beautiful IPA a friend had been saving for me for quite a while and said I would give it a shot. Well that ” shot” of beer went down about as badly as the Reingold we bought for 7.99 a case back at the Blue Horizon on Spring Break circa 2002.

Doctors say that the only treatment is not to treat it. Like a sunburn, I must let my body heal. So for the next 4-6 weeks, that is what I will do. I will try to rest and heal. Life does not stop, however. Cate and Carr are now in camp, getting older, and wanting to jump on their daddy. Restaurant menus need to be changed, tweaked, and pushed to make sure guests do not get bored. Dinner needs to be cooked and new dishes need to be inspired. This will be the hardest part for me yet.

During this time, we hope to travel to MDAnderson for a second opinion and perhaps see if there is additional treatment we can do pre-surgery. Surgery is tentatively set for late June or early July. It will most likely be a esophagectomy and or gastrectomy, where they would remove the esophagus, tumor, and infected lymph nodes. The hope is that the body would have no more cancer and we would proceed with recovery, which would take at best 2 months. We have a great surgical team and will know a little bit more about the next phase of this treatment in about a week.

Until then, we are living one day at a time, counting down to when I can eat that proverbial piece of corn. Grateful that I can still answer to those who ask, “Yeah, I’m doin’ okay.”


Wishes on Her Candles.

A year ago today my beautiful swollen tummy gave way to the most beautiful baby girl. I will never forget the look in Carl’s eyes as he held his daughter for the first time. Instantly he softened somehow, and through the last 12 months I have watched this love for Cate grow. It is magic.

Having children is something I knew that I always would accomplish, but never knew all the intricacies that came along with parenting.  When I met Carl my heart knew well before my mind that we would be together forever. I instantly imagined us growing old together, and our children. Never did I know the true power behind pregnancy, birth, and parenting. When we had Carr, something in me changed. Life took on a new meaning. There is deep intimacy that is braided along with the love of husband and wife to then create a human being that is both of you combined. The profound nature of conception can reduce me to tears, especially given the mystery behind it. As I stare at both of my beautiful children sleeping I am in awe that through their eyes there is a reflection of all of our history. Each child so unique and special, yet I see so much of Carl and myself in them.

Pregnancy and motherhood are such gifts. When you are with someone who is your soul mate, you see and feel God’s workings throughout the whole process. My own mother often said that having children was just the icing on the cake of true love, and that it was God’s greatest gift in life. My grandmére used to say love begets love. This must be why they both had so many children. In all seriousness, having a child grow underneath your heart, and holding them in your arms for the first time is the closest I have ever felt to God. The amount of love that fills that delivery room is so intoxicating that you can almost touch it.  Today I think about our two children, and how much the love we have for them has exponentially grown since their births. The joy that we have in the simplicity of having a family. Their mere presence has forever changed our lives.

Our life as we know it has somehow changed. Carr and Cate, not really aware of the severity of what is before us. Me, I feel like I am looking through a window at my own life. Knowing how much I need to cherish each day, yet my heart is somewhat detached. The idea that all that we have created could possibly be taken from us…this keeps me from making a true connection with my heart. People search their whole lives to find their person, and to be able to have that and two beautiful children, somehow I have always known that I have a rare gift. I now feel fiercely protective of my husband. I now am preparing for the hardest fight of my life, for without him my heart does not beat

Life…what a beautiful gift. We have all been guilty of taking it for granted. As I watch Catherine eating her first birthday cake, I cannot help but hope that her little life will know no tragedy. I pray that God continues to help me cherish the life we have, and that writing will help others know how precious each day is. My husband has always been someone who gives 100% of his heart and soul in all he does. That is why I married him, that is why so many people love him so. I myself, am giving it my best effort towards giving my life 100%. So we celebrate the sweetest first year with our baby girl, and all the love, laughter, and shenanigans that comes along with our children and our sweet little family.

As we blow out the candles, we hold our hands extra tight knowing that all of our wishes on the candles this year are the same, to live a long life together with yearly additions of candles on our cakes.



I have always been a fan of quotes; whether they draw a nice chuckle or evoke intense emotion, I love all the shapes and sizes they come in. I have my favorite songs and movies memorized forever, and cite them often. It even makes me angry to hear someone sing incorrect lyrics or to listen to an attempt to poorly recite classic cinematic lines.  Quotes are a well from which I draw inspiration.  Especially now.

Before Bill Cosby started slingin’ pudding, my man “Heathcliff Huxstable” said, “The past is a ghost, the future a dream and all we ever have is now.”  The past should never be forgotten; that would be irresponsible on our part. However, the past should also not prevent us from moving forward with rigor and will. We need to somehow look to the past to correct our mistakes at the same time we are resisting dwelling on those very same mistakes.

I had a great friend who lost his battle with cancer a few years ago. I cannot stress how inspirational he has been through all of this, so I will attempt brevity. His name was Drew Rodrigue. For those who may read this and did not have the pleasure of experiencing his perpetual smile and bright rosy cheeks, I am deeply sorry. His mantra through his diagnosis and treatment was in the form of an acronym: FIDO. It means “f*** it,
drive on. Politically correct? Maybe not. Precise? Absolutely! This is the way I must view the past in regards to cancer.

I do not know why I am going through this at 32 years old. The list of possible medical reasons of “why” will forever run through my head. I cannot change them however, so I choose to move forward. I must have the “short memory” that we often reference for a quarterback after an interception. Learn from the mistakes. Always. Then, press on. I tell my young cooks upon their entry to our team, “It is okay to make ten mistakes once, but we have a problem if you make five mistakes twice.”

The past cannot control our free will for the present, which can determine the outcome for our future.

I truly feel that this is a second chance for me. I have always pushed myself to be a better chef. My career is one where complacency means inferiority. The push to exceed my professional skill set is innate, but what I now see I need to become is a better husband and father. I feel that this tragic circumstance has given me the ability to do that. This is the present. Live in the now. Being around my family with such emotion on a daily basis makes me revere the “small things”. I am watching my daughter grow and develop every day. She has a new set of tricks each morning she awakens. I can shape her future. I see my baby son becoming more a boy with every sunrise. I can help mold him to be a man. These opportunities have always been there, I just took them for granted.

So often the life of a chef leaves the family with the “leftovers”. The pun is intended here. They get the father and husband who is tired and irritable. He has displaced all his energy at work on guests they will never meet, and food they will not taste. I do not in any way feel spite for the work I have done, or the food I have made. I know that when this is done, my desire to create better food and culture will be ferocious. My time, however, will also be spent loving life. Loving my family every day. I am pushing to create a routine and lifestyle that will allow for more energy, health, and positivity. Knowing that the past’s misfortunes are shaping the present to facilitate a beautiful prosperous future.

I cannot wait for the ride.

“The future starts today, not tomorrow.” ~ St. John Paul II