The Great Unknown

Dinner:  December 3, 2009

This week has been a struggle. Just last week we celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday and expressed our gratitude for, among other things, how well our Kali has done with her treatment for anemia, but that same night when she stretched out on the table for scritches, we discovered something troubling – a lump. Mike pointed it out to the vet at Kali’s Monday appointment, a cell sample was taken for testing, and we waited. I’ve been distracted and out of sorts all week as a result, fretting about the unknown and fighting to stay healthy myself while seemingly everyone around me battles one bug or another.

little sammiches

I’ve also been fighting exhaustion – mental, pysical, and emotional. So much has happened during this whirlwind year, and while there are some potentially great things for us to look forward to in 2010, they are all still very much up in the air, and the weight of all the uncertainty we are facing has been difficult to bear. It has been hard to find inspiration, hard to find words to put down on a page, hard to just keep going day after day.


And while I planned and planned for our Thanksgiving meal, I never really got around to sketching out meals for this week. I brought home a mishmash of produce from last Saturday’s farmers’ market, but without any advance plans it has been difficult to get interesting meals to take shape this week. So there was pasta. And pizza. Soup and more soup. By last night soup was all that I wanted, a big bowl of cream-laced tomato, with tiny grilled cheese sandwiches alongside. Comfort in a bowl, a variant of one of my oldest “recipes“, something simple and warm to help chase my blues away.

The call from the vet came this morning, the results, “inconclusive.” We’ll keep waiting, and watching, forging ahead through the uncertainty until answers start to appear. I see a lot more soup in my future.

18 thoughts on “The Great Unknown

  1. Samantha from Maine says:

    We here will think good thoughts for you and your kitty. Hopefully it’s just a fatty tumor. Keep your heads up, we’ll get through it together.

  2. Hang in there. When I have times like yours it’s too easy for me to push off thinking about meals – seems almost too indulgent to take the time when the rest of the world is pulling me in different directions. But the mindfulness of devoting my attention to preparing that potato, or turnip, or fillet of fish helps me through. Hopefully it will for you too.

    Healing wishes go out to Kali from our furry fellas Enzo, Fenton and Clovis (who has had an inconclusive lump of his own for nearly a year).

  3. Christine says:

    Hello Jennifer,

    I am a long time reader, but this is my first post. I watched Julie and Julia yesterday and decided that I wanted to make a post to your blog to tell you how much I have enjoyed reading your blog over the past couple years. In the movie Julie talks about how she has so many viewers that read but never post. It never occurred to me that you might actually really want to get comments from us.

    What made me decide to post today is that you are having concerns over your cat again. I have loved reading your posts and looking at all the pictures that included the cats. I am very sorry about Kali. My cat was diagnosed with cancer in August, so I know what you have been going through. I have had him for 12 years which is my entire adult life. We ended up having part of his colon removed. The surgery went well and they thought it would be curative because they thought they got all the cancer. He was doing fantastic all through September and October. Then he got sick again and we took him in for a check up. Turns out the cancer was back and it had spread to multiple places including his lymph system. His liver was infected and too damaged to go through chemo which is what he would need with the cancer spreading like it is. Now we have no choice but to just make him comfortable. This has been devastating for us. Both times he deteriorated so quickly, losing several pounds a week and becoming very week and not interested in food. Each time within two weeks, he was a different cat.

    I am not telling this story to depress you. I just know what you are going through when a fuzzy member of the family is sick. If Kali isn’t showing signs other than a lump, that’s really good. Since its inconclusive, there is a chance it is just inflammation for some reason. Had they done any shots in that area? I have had skin cancer myself. If it is cancer, the cells are normally different enough to be able to see it from a small sampling. What will happen now? The uncertainty is difficult, I am so sorry for your family. Hopefully it will be like Marys’ Clovis and she will be fine.

    Unlike many of the people who read your site, I am a pretty bad cook! You have made me want to get better though. I am trying to talk some friends into taking cooking classes at the BCAE. I try to cook more now. Some turn out ok… some are just not edible. I tried the garlic soup that you posted a few weeks ago and my husband loved it (I hated it). The recipe called for fresh thyme and I used the same amount of dried thyme. Oops, a bit too much thyme! I learned my lesson though and tried it again the following week and it turned out much better and this time I also liked it. I think the recipe that turned out the best for me was the bacon and egg risotto, that was delicious! My husband and I both loved that one, although we never did get the hang of poaching eggs.

    I also wanted to tell you that you have changed my life in a good way. The video that you posted on Sept 16 of 2008 in the “I have no words post” really affected me. It made me really take a look at where my food came from and I was not happy with the results. I am 32 years old and have always been a meat and potatoes kind of girl. I started buying only free range eggs and shopping at whole foods more to try to be able to see where my food came from. My husband works in Copley Square and also started picking us up stuff at the farmers market this year. 7 weeks ago I decided to take it a step further and am trying to be a vegetarian. Its difficult for me, considering I don’t like beans or nuts, but I am really trying.

    This ended up being much longer than I anticipated! I just wanted to show you my support and thank you for letting me share your passion for food over the last couple years! My thoughts are with you and Kali, I hope everything turns out ok and please keep us posted. 🙂

  4. Our blogs are such highly edited versions of ourselves. Sometimes I long to do a big confession , spill all the beans, let it all hang out. You have my enormous respect for keeping on task, focused, poised. It takes discipline, not just your wonderful talent, and I believe it will pay off for you.

    A keess to Kali, and to both of you.


  5. Margie says:

    Christine said it best. I’m so sorry for her pain but I am hopeful for Kali as well as Christine. I lost my baby last year and I still struggle with it. To make the choice is ugly even if it’s for the best.

    Hang in there and please, let us know if you need anything.


  6. On top of everything else, the weather’s been cold and nasty, which doesn’t help a person maintain an optimistic outlook. I hope you make plenty of soup and feel warmed and nourished by it (i made the garlic soup and it came out “o.k.”…not too thrilled with it…but when reheated the next day it was delicious and the following day it reinvented itself as a sauce over steamed Brussels sprouts.) And i hope your dear Kali will be o.k. Just want to let you know that my dear Babka, who had many unusual health problems, had breast cancer…very rare in a male cat…the surgery was quite simple and he recovered without any problems or recurrence.

  7. Jenn,
    So sorry to hear your kitty has not been well, and all that uncertainty is so tough.
    Being an animal lover myself (2 dogs and 4 cats), worrying about a pet really hits home for me.
    Hang in there and have some more soup…I send my best wishes and hope all works out ok.

  8. Jennifer Hess says:

    Thank you so, so much, friends. I’m looking forward to spending lots of time with our girl this weekend. She’s with me right now, in fact, happily purring away next to my laptop.

  9. Thanks everyone.

    Since I’ve been hauling Kali to the vet and communicating with her, I’ll give y’all a bit more 311. The lab they use said the results of the cell testing were inconclusive. However, the doc told me that when a sample is definitely cancerous, the lab can say so pretty definitively.

    Since there’s no certainty of cancer in this case, the vet wants to concentrate on the anemia, while keeping an eye on the lump. The anemia’s really the bigger problem at this point. We won’t ignore the lump. Jen and I will monitor the lump and let the vet know if anything changes–especially if it grows or changes shape. When we/I take Kali in for another recheck in early January, the vet will feel the lump to see whether it’s changed in any way that concerns her.

    As long as it stays as is, we can only wait to see what happens. Kali’s numbers are improving well, as far as her red blood cell levels. At the worst of her anemia, her red blood cell count was at 6% (as a baseline, the doc would like it at 35%). Kali was at 16% on her previous visit, and as of this week, she was at 21%.

    So one way to think of this is to say, she’s already recovered from 6% to 21%, a gain of 15%. She only has 14% more to go to reach 35%. So the worst is behind her, I think.

  10. Nancy says:

    I too read your blog daily and I wish you lived closer for I know we would be friends and go to Farmer’s Markets and cook together from time to time as well. You are an inspiration to me that you go commute that distance each day yet still find the time to both prepare as well as portray the photographs of these beautiful meals in addition to doing this blog religiously. I hope your spirits lift soon again; I know sometimes it is hard to do but hang in there for things do eventually turnaround. I also love that you incorporate all those little gourmet places that you buy provisions from on the weekends as well. I have always felt that good food heals us in so many ways. I was so happy to see you finally got some lovely recognition as well in the NYT a few months ago. I hope these words help you from your friend in snowy Washington, DC today.

  11. I love your website, although I have a hard time relating to your posts about your cat. My 9 year old niece is suffering from cancer, is struggling to eat and sleep. Please keep things in perspective..

  12. Jennifer Hess says:

    Nancy – Thank you so much.

    Laurie – I am very, very sorry for what your niece and your family are going through. I can’t imagine what it must be like to see a child that you love going through such a horrible thing, but I do think that it’s entirely acceptable and appropriate for me to talk about what’s going on in my life on my own blog. Obviously, there are many, many things that are greater and more horrible in this world than what is going on in my little family – and this post is in no way trying to make those things seem greater than what they are. I talk mostly about food here, but it’s very much in the context of what is going on in our lives. Right now, our financial difficulties, our beloved kitty’s health, my own health struggles, and us having lots of balls in the air is what’s going on, so while I talk about our meals, that all ties in. I’m truly sorry if you find that offensive.

    Again, my very best to your niece and your family.

  13. laura says:

    Dear LN’sD Family,
    you are close and you help each other out and you suffer for each other’s pain and yet you manage to keep your hungry fans stuffed with beautiful pictures, yummy recipes and details. Rather amazing. VERY courageous. I would just like to thank you for the pleasure you give me and add my most sincere wishes that all families find relief from their pain. I do, however, want to say that here, on this blog, you are the ones putting yourselves up for scrutiny, so here my most sincere good wishes go to all of you for relief from your troubles.

  14. I appreciate knowing what’s going on with your family, both the ups and the downs — just as I do for all of my friends. It helps keep the food posts in perspective; the link between our emotional lives and our dinner plates is inescapable. Please don’t let unkind words (from someone who is clearly out of her mind with grief, and rightly so) deter you from sharing this part of your lives with us.

    Hugs to you, Mike, and the kits.

  15. Jan says:

    Hang in there! Your talent and effort will take you far. Your public knows this and we can’t wait to see what’s next!

    As for Kali, I realize this is Honeycrisps and clementines, but Joya has had a fatty tumor (which you no doubt saw, it has its own gravitational field) for about three years now. It grows and grows, but she seems pretty unaffected. So benign bumps, while not optimal, definitely exist.

    Hope to see you both soon! Take care, kitty.

  16. Dale says:

    Jen and Mike–I know first-hand your true love and dedication to your cats, having known you, Dub and Kali. Of course animals are different from humans, but I know that pets can be “like children” and very much a part of a family. My mother is like the Pied Piper and Dr Doolitte all in one. Throughout my childhood, I witnessed her rescuing/nursing back to health creatures of all sizes from bluejays to turtles and ducks to cats and dogs and my sister’s horse. We’d pile in the car to take assorted animals to the vet, post “lost” signs, adopt, and sadly had to bury some of our menagerie. Pets are a part of a family and they affect the ebb and flow. I’m having a lump looked at this week, and for sure, I’m hoping it’s just a fatty tumor. I’m determined not to pre-worry. I’m not a “pet person” per se, but I would not judge any of my fur-loving friends or draw a comparison re: animals/humans and their perspective. Keep doing what you’re doing. Passion is evident and I know for myself, that it’s amazing what can result when sadness is the fuel. Art drives life and vice versa.

  17. Jennifer Hess says:

    Laura – Thank you for the kind words.

    Anita – Thank you so much. I don’t know that this has ever been strictly a “food blog,” and definitely not a “recipe blog” (oh, categories). As you say, the link between our emotional lives and our dinner plates is inescapable – this has always been as much about cataloguing what is going on in our lives as it is what we’ve been eating. xo

    Jan – Thank you. You know, I think I was too busy paying attention to what a sweetheart your Joya was – I didn’t even notice her lump! But that’s encouraging to hear.

    Dale – Thank you, and having gone through my own lump scares, I will be thinking of you and sending my very best thoughts your way. Please do keep us informed of what’s going on. Hugs to you.

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