Two years ago, J. celebrated her birthday in the ER, where I had gone to seek urgent medical attention. I made the one day of the year that’s supposed to be all about J. all about me. After spending several hours ignoring my symptoms, I could no longer deny their seriousness.
I’ve since succeeded in avoiding hospital visits on J.’s birthday. Last year I left my cancer at home and celebrated J’s birthday in her favourite London pub. This year, staying healthy was a piece of (birthday) cake, for me at least. I have been the picture of health for a chronically ill person.
J.’s birthday this past Saturday started out like any other day. I had carefully planned a special meal for her. I chose not to tell J. what was on the menu so she wouldn’t try to simplify the offerings.
I then carefully gathered my provisions. On Friday, I made sausage and bean soup because soup always tastes better on the second day. I planned to make the pasta and dessert on Saturday.
At dinner, J. enjoyed the soup and the pasta so much that she even took seconds. Then she had her first bite of the Portuguese custard tarts I’d laboured over that afternoon. She left the rest of her tart untouched while I scarfed mine done. She became increasingly quiet, and then she abruptly fled the dinner table.
J.’s using the facilities during a meal is not unusual. Her kidneys are so healthy that she pees hourly. I found it odd when she did not returning promptly to the table, however. I waited and waited, and then I went in search of her, only to discover she had spent the last 20 minutes ridding herself of my carefully cooked dinner. She was so sick that night that she couldn’t even watch her beloved Oilers clinch Round 1.
Ever the catastrophizer, I was sure my special meal had poisoned her. I reviewed the meal ad nauseum. I was sure I’d cooked the sausage meat properly. Yes, I’d adequately heated and then cooled the soup. I’d baked the custard tarts, with their six egg yolks, long enough. And then I considered the fresh pasta. Was there salmonella instead of semolina in the flour mix? (Recalled flour is all the rage lately, but E. coli are the offending bacteria.)
The cheese did have a bit of mold on it, which I cut off before grating, but did I miss a spot? How dangerous is moldy cheese anyway? Turns out some molds are fine–Brie cheese is made with mold, for example–but others molds can make you sick. Then I learned that some molds have a toxin that is precursor to liver cancer. Oh great, I gave J. cancer on her birthday.
Before you throw out all your cheese like I did, consider this: people don’t react to food poisoning as quickly as J. did, according to my wise neuroscientist friend. And despite my questionable immune functioning, I didn’t get sick. Perhaps it wasn’t my cooking after all.
Once I’d determined I hadn’t killed J., J. told me that she’d been feeling off all day. Sorry to hear that, honey, and please excuse my huge sigh of relief.
P.S. Turf that green cottage cheese pronto.