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GirasoleAzzurra/The LadyHawk
14 February 2017 @ 07:12 am


GirasoleAzzurra/The LadyHawk
06 February 2017 @ 06:39 pm
From Facebook, a year ago. I had not posted it here in LJ, and I meant to. This is all still true, moreso if possible. These several days of anniversaries are rocky to get through.

GraceAnne Andreassi DeCandido
February 5, 2016 ·

It is never over. What cancer patients want to hear is, that's it, it's done, you're cured. The reality is that each of those difficult treatments medicine uses to heal you has myriad side effects, both physical and psychological. Tomorrow it will be a year since my last radiation treatment. I had five months of chemotherapy before that.

So the past year has been followup with all four of my doctors, and a few new ones. I have a whole host of lingering side effects, ranging from merely annoying to debilitating. A lot of them cannot be fixed. Some of them may never go away. They affect everything I do and perform and think and act. Dammit.

This morning I complained to one of my beloveds that I was afraid I wasn't very interesting anymore, with most of my attention and energy focused on fixing or at least mitigating what was broken. His every word and action indicates that is not true. But I am not interesting to myself so much, and I cannot change that until more healing takes place.

Facebook is a true blessing for me. I know I can send these words out to people who care to read what I write, and some of you will write back or ask questions or just remind me that I am truly still in the world, and that it matters.
GirasoleAzzurra/The LadyHawk
04 February 2017 @ 10:33 am
On February 4, 2014, I had surgery to remove a fibroid at Mt Sinai in New York. The gyn and I expected this to be the end of a series of tests and procedures that had taken up the previous six months. As it turned out, under the fibroid was endometrial cancer. Still, the gyn (and I) were reasonably calm about it. If it hadn't spread, a hysterectomy would take care of it. But it had spread, just to one lymph node,we discovered a month later in the second surgery.
So that led to six months of chemotherapy, and 25 plus three radiation treatments, that ended on February 6, 2015.
Today is three years since the first surgery, and Monday will be two years since the end of cancer treatment.
I am angry and depressed and outraged. I am uncomfortable and sometimes in pain and always kind of foggy. On Facebook and Twitter and on LiveJournal, we do curate our lives, displaying and highlighting the good parts and only so much of the dark as we feel we can safely share.
This is not a cancer story. I hate cancer stories. I have read a million of them, and they are all the same and all different. It's not a battle. It's not even a journey, although that is how I described it for a long time. Journeys imply a destination, and there is no destination here, there is no arrival.
GirasoleAzzurra/The LadyHawk
02 February 2017 @ 04:00 pm
My hair had been long since I was about fourteen. Then I got cancer, and had it all cut off before I lost it. I did lose most of it.

Cancer takes a lot out of you, changes your body and your spirit. Almost three years after my first surgery, I know that nothing will be the same ever again. Except, I thought, my hair. I could grow my hair back.

When my hair first came back, it was white, and curly. That was fun. It has been growing pretty fast. That was fun too. I had a bald spot even before cancer treatment, and I still do. Now it's bigger. As my hair get longer, it gets straighter, still with a wave, but not the curls of before. That's only to be expected. But unfortunately it is also thinner and more fragile: no doubt partly due to age, but certainly due in part to what it, and I, have been through.

So now my hair is silver rather than snowy white, kind of stringy and flyaway. It does not behave very well, and it strongly resists being pinned up or tied back in any way.

Damn. I want to have long hair again. I want it to be pretty.

GirasoleAzzurra/The LadyHawk
24 December 2016 @ 02:53 pm
I love cannoli. I love the cannoli of my youth, which had citron and candied fruit, NOT chocolate chips, and powdered sugar on top. Since I am now allergic to eggs, I cannot get cannoli from our favorite Arthur Avenue bakeries. I miss them so.

Today, along with making the traditional consomme and lasagne for Christmas Eve dinner, I decided to make cannoli cream. I don't have the molds for the shells, nor much energy, so I figured I would start with a batch of cannoli cream and see what happens. I forgot to sift the powdered sugar, which was a grave error, it's not smooth. Nor could I get my hands on real candied fruit without artificial crap in it. But it does have, even before it settles in to its flavor, the consistency and scent of the cannolis of my youth. The secret seems to be the Strega, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strega_(liqueur) which is definitely the flavoring my heart remembers from my childhood.

It has not been a happy year for the most part. This made me happy. Buon' Natale.


2 cups ricotta cheese, preferably whole milk
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons (or more) Strega
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 lemon

For the filling: In a medium bowl, whisk the ricotta until smooth. Sift in the powdered sugar and allspice. Mix to blend. In a separate bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment), beat the heavy cream until fairly stiff. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the cream into the ricotta mixture. Lightly zest the exterior of the lemon and stir it into the ricotta. Refrigerate for a half hour to an hour.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alexandra-guarnaschelli/homemade-cannoli-recipe.html?oc=linkback

CANNOLI CREAM Recipe courtesy of Alex Guarnaschelli , altered by my needs and desires

SHOW: The Best Thing I Ever Made
EPISODE: That's Italian
GirasoleAzzurra/The LadyHawk
20 November 2016 @ 05:22 pm
I sat at lunch this chilly November Sunday examining the Zen of grilled cheese. I had made a most excellent grilled cheese: a great deal of butter, good pane de casa, a nice cheddar, a cast iron pan. I ate it with contemplation, and found, I hope, as much joy in it as I could. I was looking for joy.
I am sad. I am not feeling good. Of course, a day when I actually feel good is quite rare. As the temperature goes down in the Northeast, the numbness and tingling in my hands and feet (peripheral neuropathy) turns more toward pain. It is short and sharp, and inconsistent in its appearance. I do not know how to ease it.
I am tired. I am always tired. I am tired because of lasting chemo effects and/or because of the beta blockers I take to control my blood pressure. I am tired because all the tasks of daily living take more attention than they used to. I am tired because my eyes hurt, another aspect of post-cancer treatment and various macular problems.
Most of you who will read this are my friends, so I don’t have to write about how the recent election makes me feel because you all feel it, too. Hillary was and is my hero, and Barack was a model of intelligence and grace. I find it terrible to think of what will happen each day in public life from now on.
Generally I have reasons for writing what it is I write. Nearly always, I want a response. This time, though, I am not sure what I want. I don’t need advice, and while I want friendship I don’t want sympathy. Empathy, maybe. Empathy is hard for people.
This is trailing off because I do not know where it is going. But maybe you can tell me.
GirasoleAzzurra/The LadyHawk
15 October 2016 @ 04:13 pm
From the time I was 14 until May of 2014, I had long hair, nearly to my waist. It was my signature, the way I described myself to people who had not seen me: "small, round, pink, long hair." In May 2014, just before I started chemotherapy, I had my hair cut short. (I had it cut three more times. The last time it was about an inch long all over.) I saved the hair is a silk bag and I put my many (many!) hairpins and ornaments in two boxes at the very back of my closet.
About six months ago I pulled out a few barrettes that I thought I might be able to wear now. A few silk scrunchies. A clip or two. That was ok. I could cope. I could use them.
Today my hair reaches my shoulders. Growing my hair back is a mission, a goal, a deep-seated desire. It is the only part of my pre-cancer life that I can actually get back. Everything else has changed. Everything.
I tried going back in that box at the back of my closet this afternoon. I took out a few more hair ornaments and then I had to stop. I was so shaken by this. All those pretty things were part of a life I can barely imagine any more.
But. However. I am going to reclaim each of those pins and barrettes and clips. Those I can get back. And I will. An awful lot is lost, but some things can be found again.

GirasoleAzzurra/The LadyHawk
18 September 2016 @ 07:51 pm
I do love to cook. It's harder to do now. Tonight I made chicken and veggies in cream sauce and James Beard's magnificent cream biscuits. When I am tired it takes all my concentration, and tonight, with a recurrence of an instep strain probably related to neuropathy I was in pain. But I even made myself a cocktail (bourbon, ginger, agave, lemon, based on a lovely thing I had once at the late, lamented Campbell Apartment) and for dessert had another of those biscuits with sweet butter and honey. Yay me.

It was a fine dinner and I made it myself. Despite needing extreme focus when handling a knife (always a good idea) and having some difficulty bending the Cuisinart to my will (I won), I only dropped a few things and didn't break anything.

I have had a couple of weeks of feeling, if not good, pretty much OK. That always makes me nervous, because I know it is not going to last. As soon as my foot started twingeing early last week, I knew what it was, and hoped I could head it off, but no. It takes a long time to heal. I cannot put weight on it without gasping but if I don't move some, it swells and stiffens and gets worse. If I walk too much on it, even with the cane, it knocks my hips out of whack and then they hurt, too. I am looking at a long and fairly unhappy week. Damn.

I told a Facebook friend this week that my days of concert going are pretty much over. Certainly crowds and arenas are not negotiable any more, and as a person who generally cannot stir past the computer screen after about 5pm, evening music is not going to happen. So it goes. I get grumpy and whingey about it. I get sad. But there it is. It could be worse, and it has been, so I am trying to come to terms with that.
GirasoleAzzurra/The LadyHawk
28 August 2016 @ 12:59 pm
I resist calling cancer a battle, or a journey. It is the troll harrying our steps and making clouds of oily smoke over our decisions. It is the misshapen sprite that materializes whenever we try to envision an event next year, or even next month. It devours plans, and sometimes, hope. I am in recovery from cancer treatment, but the troll may never leave.
GirasoleAzzurra/The LadyHawk
23 April 2016 @ 06:49 pm
My mother died last week, peacefully and surrounded by much of her family, at the age of 93. We lost her rather earlier than that. She had dementia for the past seven years or so, and for the last few months had often not even known my sister, who worked across the street and visited her every day.
I spent 2014 with endometrial cancer, chemotherapy, and radiation. My mother never knew, of course, that I was sick. But she was with me in one particular way. What she always made for us when we were sick was pastina, tiny little star-shaped pasta, with lots of butter and salt. I made that a lot during cancer treatment. I could always eat it, and it didn’t take much effort. It always made me feel taken care of.
My mother made the most excellent salad dressing ever. She used olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano, and salt. I have tried for forty years to reproduce it, but it was never as good, or as right, as hers. Several of us were talking about that online after her funeral. What was it that made her salad so good? She would mix it, and taste it, and then murmur “sciapito” and add a little more salt. My mother was born in this country, and her Italian was the Abruzzese/Neapolitan dialect of her parents. The word sounded like “sha – beet” with the emphasis on the second syllable and a hint of a vowel at the end.
Food and family, family and food. It’s what we know, and what we are.
Rest in peace, Mom.