28: And So I Made Soup

28: And So I Made Soup

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Food and Love

And So I Made Soup

There is nothing like a plate or a bowl of hot soup, its wisp of aromatic steam making the nostrils quiver with anticipation, to dispel the depressing effects of a grueling day at the office or the shop, rain or snow in the streets, or bad news in the papers.

~Louis P. De Gouy, The Soup Book

We’d been treating David’s follow-up appointments as dates — first seeing the doctor, then sharing lunch and shopping afterwards. After all, with four of our eight children still living at home, time alone together was always at a premium. But on that particular day our eight-year-old daughter Katie seemed to need some one-on-one attention, so we’d brought her along.

While I’d always been in the exam room as the doctor checked inside my husband’s throat, this time I stayed in the waiting room with Katie. I wasn’t sure she could handle the sight of the doctor putting tubes down her father’s nose. She and I talked animatedly until I fell silent after a good half hour had passed. I was starting to get nervous. These check-ups usually lasted less than twenty minutes.

After forty-five minutes, I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. As my daughter read a book she’d brought, I clutched my hands, silently praying for my husband. Fifteen minutes later, when the nurse came out and said the doctor wanted to speak to me, I already knew why. When I entered the exam room I first glanced at the doctor’s serious expression, then David’s ashen complexion.

“Is it back?” I asked, and David nodded. My stomach lurched, and I felt like throwing up.

On the screen that showed the inside of my husband’s throat, the doctor pointed out a growth on the epiglottis and said he was ninety-nine percent certain it was cancer. In the stunned quiet of the room, I thought I heard the unmistakable sound of the other shoe dropping.

It had been less than two years since my spouse had faced a diagnosis of oral cancer and undergone an invasive surgery that left him with a tracheotomy and a feeding tube. Surgery had been followed by a grueling six-week regimen of radiation and chemotherapy.

The day after the doctor’s pronouncement that the cancer had likely returned, our son Dan found me in the kitchen, stirring two huge pots of homemade soup. The table was littered with more than a dozen single serving containers that I ladled soup into for storing in the freezer. Dan didn’t even have to ask me why I was making mass quantities of soup, he instinctively knew. You see, he and I had been down this road already, a team united in support of his dad. Two years before, when I’d become David’s caregiver, Dan had been a crucial support for both of us. He’d put his own life on hold to run errands, visit David daily in the hospital for an eleven-day stretch, and take him to appointments. He basically became a rock for me to lean on.

Dan knew exactly why I was making soup. It was one of the few things I could do. Despite our best intentions in providing a support system for David, in the end, cancer is a lonely fight. It would be David who would have to experience another surgery and additional chemotherapy, David who would be fighting for his life. I could hardly bear the thought.

So I made soup.

David hadn’t been able to eat at all after his surgery. I’d fed him liquid food through a tube in his abdomen, gradually introducing soft foods. Foods like soup. Then during radiation and chemotherapy treatments, with his throat raw and sore, soup was the one food he could still manage to swallow. Even after his recovery from treatment his throat was narrowed, swollen with scar tissue. Soup remained the single food he could consume without coughing or choking. When we went out to eat, the soup of the day was the first thing he asked about. I’d gotten lazy, though, relying on canned soups. Making homemade soup was a tangible way to show David I would be there for him, whatever lay ahead. Homemade soup was love.

When the doctor’s office called a week later to report that the surgical biopsy was benign, I got to experience the heady feeling people must have when they win the lottery. For months afterward, each time I pulled a single serving of soup from the freezer, I was reminded of our good fortune. With my husband waiting patiently at the table, I’d pop the container in the microwave and serve it piping hot with little oyster crackers floating on top. Then I’d kiss the top of David’s head as I served it, silently thanking God for the blessing of my husband.

That was three years ago. David is now a five-year cancer survivor and our marriage is the best it has ever been. The few times that we have disagreed or exchanged harsh words I have made sure to dredge up the memories of that fateful doctor’s appointment when we were certain that David’s cancer had returned.

Then I head to the stove to make soup.

Mary’s Oven Stew

2 lb. stew meat

6-8 potatoes, peeled and cubed

6 carrots, sliced

1/2 cup chopped celery

1 large can of tomato juice and 1 small can of beef broth

1 bag frozen peas

1 bag frozen corn

2 tablespoons minced onion or chopped onion, to taste Pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients except for corn and peas in a roasting pan.

Cook for 4 hours at 200 degrees.

Add 1 bag frozen corn, 1 bag frozen peas.

Cook another hour.

~Mary Potter Kenyon

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