My name’s Tracy and it is thirteen days since I’ve had a coffee. I’m doing this one day at a time. I’ve sworn off before and I might have to do it again, but for now, it’s no coffee. What motivated this was a trip to the doctor a couple of weeks ago. The doctor had rung back after I’d done a blood test. Alarm bells. Please don’t ring after a blood test. It’s never good. He left a message saying he didn’t want to give the results over the phone. Ah, hell. Steve took an hour off work to be there. We went in, sat down. Steve opened his notebook, the one he used all last year to take notes in case I went into fugue state and failed to take anything in. The young doctor – he seemed new to the game, filling in for my usual GP – gravely told us that I had high cholesterol. We sat there waiting for the bad news. But he stopped right there at high cholesterol. I wanted to laugh loud and long in relieved delirious joy. But I didn’t. I sat there and tried to take the news as seriously as the young doctor was taking it. He told us why high cholesterol is a problem and what one should do about it. All the usual keep-healthy things.
Keep healthy things. Okay. So I’m off the emergency things like taxol and carboplatin and I’m on to common-or-garden preventative measures like diet and exercise. By the time I got home I had embraced the whole idea. I wrote notes for Operation Low Cholesterol and stuck them in a prominent position in the kitchen. I was keen to go back in three months time (by which time the young doctor would be in Broken Hill) with lower cholesterol and a gold star.
All last year, people (bless them) gave me hints and tips and books and websites about healthy eating. Other than hatching my own kefir in a jar kept in the dark under a black sock, I didn’t do any of it. Some people with cancer go for broke on the dietary front but I concluded that if things were that bad I would settle for the big guns. As in, “Nuke this, please.” Which worked out pretty well.
But now it’s over to me.
Coffee isn’t directly implicated in the high cholesterol realm, but the way I like it – a large flat white on full cream milk – is. I could ask for skim, but I fear that would be the slippery slope back into a bad habit (a bad habit for me; can’t speak for others). It’s easier for me to go cold turkey than to moderate.
But I’m not giving up tea. That would be a step too far.
I grew up in the tea-drinking culture of mid-century Anglo Australia. Mum got me on to tea before the end of primary school. (There was also Pablo instant coffee, but we won’t go there right now.) At a certain point during my teenage years I stopped having a teaspoon of sugar in my cup. Dad had his black with three heaped teaspoons of sugar. And a bit of lemon, if there was one in the house. The ritual of tea was heralded by someone singing out, “Cupda dee!” and there would be a line-up of cups on the bench.
I’ve always loved George Orwell’s eleven golden rules for making a nice cup of tea.
Now, having declared good riddance to everything ovarian-cancer related, I find myself organising an Afternoon Teal at my place next month. So I’m back in the territory. Early last February I was diagnosed with the disease; this February, like other Februaries in Australia, is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month. Our team colour is teal (barely noticed in the sea of pink for cancer of that other part of the body). I’ve committed to attempting to make cupcakes (low cholesterol? gluten free? wholemeal? sugar free? the possibilities are endless) that look like this:
I’m no baker, or cake decorator, so it could be interesting. The purpose of my Afternoon Teal (Saturday February 21, 3pm-5pm) is to raise awareness of ovarian cancer and to raise money for research and support projects. If you’re in Bathurst and you’d like to come along, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org; if you can’t come but would like to support the cause, here’s the link to my donation page: