I found myself in the kitchen finally getting to the borscht I meant to make earlier in the week. It was now Thursday, my dill was dying, and I was feeling guilty for not making the soup sooner. But it’s just about doing it, it doesn’t have to be perfect. You just have to try.
This morning, a dear older friend at Aquafit asked me with a smile “did you make the borscht yet?” No I replied. She quizzically looked at me and said ‘you said that yesterday’ and laughed with me as I chuckled, saying ‘I know’. She was right though and I appreciated the encouragement. I knew I needed to make time for me. For this one thing I wanted to gift myself post-surgery - a delicious lymph-loving nourishing soup to help me rebuild from the ground up kinda soup.
I chopped up the giant cloves of garlic, smashing them first under my knife as I inhaled the pungency and enjoyed the satisfying juicy sound. I say to myself, It’s okay. You are worthy of your time and effort. No guilty thoughts about how you know the family doesn’t love beets like you do and you keep hoping you will find the right meal and they will finally say. ‘I like beets! Make this again!’ Oh my gosh, talk about pushing to get my way. If I spin it around in my head, and think how would I feel if my hubby mike kept making dishes with something I really don’t like…how would that feel? Part of me is mad at the thought of it and part of my laughs as his clever tactics to try to get me to see that the thing he likes is awesome…The dill looks half dead standing up in the jar of water, droopy for sure. I give it a trim and see that beneath the rough exterior, there are some fresh green fronds, that will tasty. I compost the rest, knowing Mother Nature will turn my cast sways back into earth ready to nourish other plants. I set aside the chopped dill for later.
I listen to the onions, celery, and garlic sizzling with olive oil and remind myself the only project I need to work on right now is myself. Imagine if I approached my health with the curiosity of a great book? I’m one of the lucky few who have made it this far in their quest to get new lymphatic microsurgeries for lymphedema, and I worked really hard to get here. But, I had been feeling guilty, especially when chatting with other lymphies on how to get in touch with my doctor for a referral. I’m so grateful I can help them, but also I feel guilt. In my self growth I’m learning it is okay to hold more than one emotion and they can be opposites sometimes. We are multidimensional beings with complex thoughts. So I’m ecstatic it’s finally my turn for surgery & I’m also having surgery guilt. So few of us have every got it done in Canada, because it’s still so new here. My quality of life has improved 10 fold with each surgery. This is my third and hopefully last one. But, my guilt was from feeling like maybe I don’t deserve it, or I could have gotten my legs smaller first, or what if I hold off for another few months, imagine how small my legs could be then?! That was my fear talking afraid thinking “what if it doesn’t go well? Nope, don’t go there Amy. You worked so hard, you consistently take care of your legs as your OT said, ‘your skin is in such good shape. you are a model patient’, when she was chatting with a visiting RN from up north who was learning about lymphedema management. Yes, I am a model patient and I do deserve this. I deserve my love and care too. I’m not much help to others if I don’t fill up my own cup. The same is true for all of us. Self-care time is not self-ish, it’s necessary for self preservation. To show up fully for ourselves and others.
Time to peel the beets. As I peel back their rough exterior, I admire the patterns and swooshes of reds and pinks, thinking about my lymph and watching my hands turn slightly red from their juice.
I toss them in with the broth and dill salt I made last year. So delicious in this borsht and even sprinkled on popcorn. Yum! I’m a dill fan, can you tell? Are you?
I add the chopped red skin potatoes, and bring to a simmer.
So, now that I had settled in to making my soup as a gift for future me from present me, I asked myself the question. What could I put in the soup to make it really healing from my herbal medicine cabinet? What would I recommend to a client for surgery recovery? With a smile creeping to my lips and a spark in my eyes, I say out loud, Oh, I would definitely get a couple Reishi mushroom slices, a Chaga chunk for immunity support, and a handful of Calendula, the lymph happy herb. Long ago our ancestors used to toss a few dried blossoms of Calendula in this soups and stews, to help bring the sunshine energy of summer to their bodies and minds, staving off the heaviness darkness can bring. A way of helping folks cope with S.A.D naturally. Food is medicine my friends.
I lift the lid on the big saucepan, and give the soup a stir, watching which vegetables float and which ones sink, enjoying the aroma, having a taste of the broth, when I realize how thirsty I am. Yum, it’s good. I keep stirring and thinking about how perfect it was for my spirit right now to listen to a webinar called Illness as Teacher today by Asia Suler. She is another herbalist who I have loved learning from these last few years. Can my illness - my Lymphedema be my teacher? I can’t say I had ever thought of it as that before, but what could I learn about myself if I framed my Lymphedema as my teacher? What has it been teaching me? In what ways have I evolved as a person because of my Lymphedema?
Finally the pot is simmering with all the ingredients. Time to turn down the temp and let it gently simmer, just like my thoughts on illness as teacher. Let them bubble gently and see what comes up.
I gather the frozen bags of my soup placing them in the cooler today, like little purple gifts. I delight in their colour and the joy this act is bringing me. They are destined to come to Calgary with me as I make my way there for my 3rd SAPL surgery. SAPL = suction assisted protein lipectomy. They cut small incisions all over my leg blasting in water at a high pressure through tiny tubes, and suck out the fibrotic tissue that gets broken up in the process of the water blast.
The drive down, we play word guessing games, listen to music and enjoy the beautiful gold coloured leaves dotting the horizon.
I am both excited and nervous. My body remembers the pain of this procedure from the last 2 times, but it is only temporary and drastically improves my quality of life. Muscle memory is powerful though and I’ve had to do a fair bit of self-soothing. Placing my hand on my heart and telling my body it will be okay. Doing visualizations of remembering how good it felt a few months after the surgery, and remembering that I’ll be able to get into the pool about 2-3 weeks post-op, which will be wonderful mentally and physically.
Finding ways to embody our emotions and soothe ourselves is so important whether you struggle with a chronic illness like me or not. What ways bring your joy to your senses and help you with challenges that you face?
Try my delicious, Lymph-loving Harvest Beet Soup (veggie Borscht)!
- 4 Beets, peeled, chopped
- 1 Onion, chopped
- 2 tbsp. Ghee
- 3-4 large Garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/4 head of Cabbage, chopped (approx. 2 to 2-1/2 cups)
- 2 medium Potato, chopped
- 4 stalks Celery, chopped
- 1/4 c. fresh Dill, chopped
- 1 tsp. Dill salt (or sea salt)
- Veggie broth paste
- 8 c. water
- 4 plum Tomatoes, chopped
- 2 slices, dried Reishi mushroom
- 2 small chunks of Chaga mushroom
- Handful of Calendula flowers, dried
Warm large saucepan pot on medium heat. Melt ghee, then add onion, celery, and garlic together. Sprinkle with salt and sauté. Once soft, add in chopped beets, and broth and bring to a simmer. After 10-15 min of simmering, add potatoes, cabbage, and plum tomatoes along with the reishi and chaga mushroom if using.
After 20-25 min once beets are soft, add in fresh dill and calendula. Turn off heat and keep covered for 5-10 more minutes to let them infuse. Blend with an immersion blender wand or scoop into a heat safe blender and blend to puree the soup.
Enjoy and savour the experience of tasting the bounty of autumn, while you nourish your inner ocean.