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Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Cookie Bars: Vegan Gluten-Free Refined Sugar-Free Recipe

Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Cookie Bars: Vegan Gluten-Free Refined Sugar-Free Recipe

Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice: Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Bar Style Fall is officially in full swing. Pumpkins. Pumpkin spice. Pumpkin everything. Apples. Chai spice. Cinnamon brooms…yep I got one from Trader Joe’s, and it smells amazing. It smells like fall, and it smells like baking. So […]

Gut Health: The link between gut bacteria and cancer risk and response

Gut Health: The link between gut bacteria and cancer risk and response

Gut bacteria: The key to health All disease begins in the gut. ~ Hippocrates We have 70 trillion cells in our body. And we have 100 trillion cells in our gut. Meaning the gut bacteria we house far outnumber our own cells. There’s a reason […]

Creamy Celery Soup: Vegan Paleo Keto-Friendly Recipe

Creamy Celery Soup: Vegan Paleo Keto-Friendly Recipe

More Soup for You

It’s October and while the days have still been warm, the mornings and evenings are cool and the air has that distinct autumn crisp. I’ve totally been feeling all the fall feels. Pumpkin, squash, soup, and yes, more soup. So today I have for you: Creamy celery soup, vegan, paleo, and keto-friendly. Which means it’s full of healthy fats to keep you satisfied.

Last week I offered to cook some meals for a friend going through chemo, and she’s doing keto. So I came up with this recipe while looking in my fridge and thinking about keto-friendly cancer-fighting chemo-soothing foods. This creamy celery soup is the result, and thankfully, it passed her tastebuds’ test!

Creamy celery soup vegan paleo keto

Celery Soup for the win

Soup is a great option when you’re appetite is up and down, plus a great way to get some veggies and nutrients into your diet in a super-tasty way. And to make it keto-friendly, I figured I’d add some avocado, like I did with my raw version of a creamy celery soup.

Plus, it’s full of immunity-boosting cancer-fighting foods, like celery, avocado, onion, and garlic… check out this cancer-fighting soup recipe for the benefits of these veggies. Avocados are packed with more potassium than bananas, high amounts of vitamins K, C, and B5 and B6, folate, vitamin E, the unsung hero of the immune system, and the healthy fats needed to help it absorb. Phew!

This time, I also added some coconut cream to boost the fat content, and this can be adjusted up or down or eliminated altogether. But this particular addition added an extra dose of creaminess that just works so well, and happens to add a bunch of immunity-boosting minerals to the blend. And really you don’t taste the coconut.

AND, let’s not forget the spices! Cumin is actually chock-full of health benefits. To name just a few, it aids in digestion, boosts immunity (did you catch the theme here?), helps relieve stress and anxiety, removes toxins from the body and prevents colon cancer. And it’s packed with nutrients! Sage is similarly beneficial for overall health. So go ahead, season liberally.

Top it off with some raw pumpkin seeds and you’ll add a potent source of magnesium, zinc, and omega-3s, all super beneficial for healing and immunity. And, of course, the turmeric on top is a powerful anti-imflammatory.

Creamy celery soup vegan paleo keto

Easy Peasy Creamy Celery Soup Recipe

I know, I know. The number one reason most people rarely cook is because of time. I promise, even though it technically takes about an hour, this recipe is easy on the time-budget, because once it’s simmering, you just let it sit there, and can go about your business for 45 minutes. Once you chop the veggies, you just sauté for a few, add the broth, then let it do its soup thang.

Come back 45 minutes later, add the fats and blend away and that’s it. So easy, even the busiest of you can do it. Bonus: it keeps for days, so make ahead and and have delicious and nutritious soup on hand all week! So, DO IT! 🙂

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Creamy Celery Soup: Vegan, Paleo, Keto-Friendly

Course Soup
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 4
Author Amanda

Ingredients

  • 1 head celery (about 10 individual stalks), chopped
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp dried sage (or 1/2tsp powdered) heaping tsp
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth 4 cups if skipping coconut
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 cup full fat coconut milk, or 1/4 c coconut cream plus 3/4 c water can use reduced fat coconut milk if not doing keto
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Wash and chop the celery, onion, and garlic. 

  2. Heat the olive oil on medium in a large soup pot, then add the chopped vegetables, cumin, and sage and sauté until slightly browned.

  3. Add the broth and cover. Reduce to simmer and simmer for 45 minutes. 

  4. Remove from the heat and add the soup to a blender or food processor, then add the avocado and coconut milk/ cream and blend on high until thoroughly combined. Alternatively, used a hand blender and add the remaining ingredients to the pot once it's removed from the heat. 

  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I added a dash of turmeric and some raw pumpkin seeds to the top, parsley would work well as a garnish too. 

  6. Serve and enjoy!

One-Year In the Clear Remission Re-Birthday: Thank You Letter to My Universe

One-Year In the Clear Remission Re-Birthday: Thank You Letter to My Universe

Dear Universe Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you for this day, thank you for this life. Thank you for everything – all of it.  Today is September 27, my one year ‘cancerversary’ of my remission scan – my re-birthday. Which means […]

Move your body: The immunity and health boosting power of exercise

Move your body: The immunity and health boosting power of exercise

Cheer for life! It’s fall, and that means one thing: Football! Ok it also means apple picking and pumpkins and pumpkin spice lattes for the basics. But it always reminds me of my cheerleading days, and lately all sorts of throwbacks have been popping up […]

Wellness Wednesday: Why I Love this Healthy Nudge

Wellness Wednesday: Why I Love this Healthy Nudge

Wellness Wednesday – A Healthy Reframe of Hump Day

September swooped in and bang life got busy busy! In a good way; in a motivating and inspiring way. I’ve been so caught up with everything going on that I’m just getting to my blog post now, but I was still inspired to go ahead with this Wellness Wednesday post even though it’s Thursday!

Because that’s part of what wellness is to me: not getting too caught up in my to-dos and the oopsies and the should’ves that I forget to prioritize ME and my self-care, and not allowing self-imposed deadlines to get in the way of little, unexpected life moments that fill life with beauty and magic.

Yoga, Bonaire, Travel
Yoga in Bonaire

Life Unexpected

As it is, I did have a full schedule with a few external deadlines and deliverables the past few days, as well as several appointments, so I was planning to squeeze my blog in yesterday evening, after my gym session and a quick run to grab some groceries, since it didn’t happen Tuesday evening. Which was fine. Life was just wonderful and I was just letting myself go at a pace that suits me.

So I walked in to the grocery store, grabbed some grapes, then low and behold, I quite literally ran into one of my close childhood friends – our carts nearly collided! Over the years I’ve run into her sporadically, and she had reached out with such sweet support and encouragement while I was in the midst of my crazy last year, so naturally we wanted to catch up with each other. We proceeded to talk for about 40 minutes, right there in the produce section, standing next to the grapes.

My Wellness Wednesday Moment

So much for a quick grab-n-go dinner so I could get to my beloved blog! But chatting with her – connecting in real life with this human who has known me for over a quarter of a century (what!?) – was genuine food for my soul. Moments like these are precious and priceless. The blog would be there when I got home, but this moment wouldn’t last.

And that’s the thing – life is so complex these days, and it moves so darn fast. It’s so easy to get caught up in our ‘busyness’ and the directives of our to-do lists, but sometimes the more productive thing when it comes to our health and wellness is just to slow down and appreciate the moment. As I stood there, I realized that this was it: this was what Wellness Wednesday really meant for me.

Beach, nature, East Hampton
Nature vibes in East Hampton 

Wellness Wednesday: A Healthy Nudge

So I’ve adopted Wellness Wednesday as part of my vocabulary – and even as the title of my weekly email newsletter! – as a simple reminder to be mindful of what nourishes me, and what makes life meaningful.

It’s a health little nudge to be mindful of my choices and decisions – what I eat, but also how I choose to spend my moments, and what I choose to give attention to. It’s a little mid-week reminder that our life is what we choose to make of it. And it just provides a little perspective – a little mindset shift. Life sometimes throws us curveballs, but generally, I’m as busy as I choose to be.

The full picture of health and wellness

Wellness isn’t just what we eat, how much we exercise, or whether or not we go on a cleanse. Those things are of course crucial pieces of the wellness puzzle, but wellness also means taking the time for self-care, like meditating, taking a bath, getting a massage, or doing a restorative yoga class.

Wellness also includes taking the time to slow down and do things that feed and nourish our soul, like reading a novel, spending time with family, or catching up with an old friend. It’s taking the time to be out in nature – breathing in fresh air to fill our bodies with oxygen and exploring natural wonders that fill our minds with awe.

And these other aspects of wellness are not just about slowing down or getting away from the hustle and bustle – wellness practices also include any activity that enhances our sense of wellbeing, and that includes travel and adventure and engaging in novel experiences. These things provide us a sense of expansion and growth, which is essential to our sense of satisfaction.

Estes Park, Colorado, Mountains, nature
Estes Park, Colorado

What does wellness mean to you?

But really, wellness is personal. Whatever food nourishes your body, whatever activities bring you a sense of ease, calm and joy, whatever gives you a sense of purpose and fulfillment – these are all things that factor into your wellness, and therefore all things that should take priority in your life.

To me it means eating lots of plants and various sources of protein, yoga and exercise, movement that challenges my body, hot baths and the occasional massage, reading books and writing my blog, and prioritizing travel and novel adventure as much as possible.

But for all of us, social connection is so important. Humans are social creatures. We thrive on intimate connection and the support of community. True, some of us are introverts and some of us are extroverts, but even the introverts who require alone time to regenerate also need intimate social connection.

Regardless of what our to-do lists and self-care practices dictate, sometimes the priority should be the beautiful person in front of you. Because people make life meaningful, and moments are really all we have.

 

Flow: Purpose, Peak Performance, and Optimal Wellbeing

Flow: Purpose, Peak Performance, and Optimal Wellbeing

Flow and Let Go Today is Day 2 of my #happyme challenge and it just so happens to be Labor day. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate topic than the idea of flow – or being ‘in-the-zone.’ A state of intense focus where time […]

The Benefits of Meditation: Boost your Health and Happiness

The Benefits of Meditation: Boost your Health and Happiness

Meditation and My #HappyMe Challenge September is my favorite month. I am admittedly slightly biased because it just so happens to be my birth month, but I’d still probably prefer it even if I wasn’t lucky enough to have the sapphire as my birthstone. Crisp […]

On Top of the World with First Descents: My 1-Year-Outta-Chemo Cancer-versary

On Top of the World with First Descents: My 1-Year-Outta-Chemo Cancer-versary

Life after cancer: Young, fancy and free

A year ago last Wednesday – August 23rd – was my last day of chemo. The first step on the road back to normalcy. My unofficial return to freedom, to life. To life after cancer.

One year to the day. 8/23

My last day of chemo was a big deal for me. While I still had to wait several weeks for that official ‘you’re-in-the-clear’ remission scan, I had no doubt I was completely fine. So when they unhooked my last bag of chemo and pulled the PICC wires from my arm, in that moment I was finally free. I could finally get back to the business of living without the cloud of cancer over my head.

#straightouttachemo #imdone #iwon

From the ER to the Big little things

Sure, two days later I had to take my Neulasta shot. Sure, two days post-chemo I was back in the ER because I felt dizzy and lightheaded all day and fell on the stairs (but NBD – no bumps or bruises). Sure, I had to go on extra antibiotics for a week to clear the minor infection that caused the dizziness.

But the next day after the minor ER scare I was out and about, dressed up, shopping, and celebrating freedom on a date at a spot in the West Village with the cocktail I’d been dreaming about all summer. Too soon? Perhaps, but sometimes ya gotta go wild and live a little. So I got my drink. And I felt too fabulously free to let the little things stop me.

Photo Cred: Rebecca Elliot

Why Cancerversaries are a big deal to me

For the past five months, I’ve been marking my one-year cancerversaries. Perhaps not everyone wants to mark these days. But I do. Because these are the dates that changed my life, forever. The first scan. The biopsy. The diagnosis. The hair loss. The start of chemo. The end of chemo. And the ups and downs in between. Because it’s kinda crazy to see how much has changed in one year. And because taking a step back provides a lot of perspective.

Day to day it’s not always easy to see the progress, especially when recovery isn’t a straight line forward and up. Recovery can be a frustrating process, and even a lonely and isolating one. You’re done, but it’s not behind you. It’s still with you, and in a way always will be.

Cancerversaries give you the perspective to appreciate the journey and to mark the progress. Being on top of a mountain sure beats being stuck in a hospital room. A quiet walk in the park sure beats walking round and around the oncology floor, IV stand in tow. Sleeping in my comfy queen bed sure beats insomnia in a hospital bed.

Photo Cred: Rebecca Elliot

Cancer in Young Adults: The social factor

Cancer is a wild journey always, but as a young adult, it’s a uniquely challenging experience. So I mark my progress and celebrate the wins. I celebrate life, I celebrate me. Whether that celebration is climbing a mountain or just a quiet moment of appreciation I take for myself. Both are wins in my book. I’m still here. I’m alive. And my life is mine.

The thing is, it’s often difficult to understand the significance of it all if you haven’t gone through it yourself. Some people just don’t get it. I certainly don’t blame them, and I hope they never do fully get it. But it’s not a snap of the fingers chemo is over, you’re out. Cancer isn’t ‘done’ when treatment ends. Cancer isn’t over after that first remission scan.

It’s all about the journey, amiright?

Even when your prognosis is excellent, like mine fortunately is, cancer is a reality you deal with every day. Recovery takes time. Diet changes are likely a new reality. Fatigue comes and goes, and chemo-brain gets in the way. You move more slowly. Your body needs to rest. Your brain needs to reset. Lifestyle shifts are a necessity if you want to keep the cancer beast at bay. True healing takes time.

Maybe you can’t keep up the way you used to. Maybe now when you’re out you’re one and done. Maybe dancing til dawn isn’t quite as realistic or even appealing. Maybe you just need to chill. And maybe sometimes the people around you – as supportive as they may try to be – just don’t fully get it. You don’t want sympathy, and you certainly don’t want pity. But you don’t always get true empathy either.

Photo Cred: Rebecca Elliot

The First Descents Fix

So when you have the opportunity to connect with other young adults who have confronted the same challenges from a similar perspective, it’s not something you can easily pass up. Which is why, as soon as I learned about First Descents, I looked it up and immediately reached out.

Serendipitously, I met another young cancer fighter at a yoga workshop last November, just a couple months out of treatment. Still, for all intents and purposes, basically bald. The (workshop) dome was packed with over 800 mostly young yogis, but at the end a mother stood up and shared her experience of being there with her daughter who was fighting thyroid cancer. At the end of the workshop, I beelined to the section they’d been and sought them out. ‘Where’s the cancer chic!?’

Selfie day on HD’s fancy cam!

After a little chit chat about type and treatment, Kim immediately told me to check out FD. She’d gone on a surfing trip in California with other young cancer fighters and survivors, all paid for by the organization. Surfing in California? For free? Heck yes sign me up!

It almost sounded too good to be true, but I checked it out and it was all legit. And they did indeed have surfing trips. After my spontaneous trip to Costa Rica pre-diagnosis and the fun surfing lesson I’d taken, I was pumped at the prospect of doing more surfing. And I always love a good excuse to go to California.

Photo Cred: Rebecca Elliot

The DL on FD: Choose your own Adventure

As it was November and the trips are outdoor adventures, the season was over with the exception of ice climbing (not exactly my thing given that I get cold all the time). So they put me on the list and told me to keep an eye out for program enrollment for the following summer in the new year.

Sure enough, the first email came in January. But, to my great disappointment, there were no surfing trips in California. They were in North Carolina, and very soon before a busy month of traveling already on my schedule. As beautiful as the Outer Banks are, I was not enthused about those options. And as I learned more about the programs, part of me, perhaps subconsciously, was looking for a totally new experience. A brand new adventure in a brand new state.

Photo cred: Scooter aka Rooster.

Alas, white water kayaking did not appeal either. I’m not much of a water person unless we’re talking Caribbean temps. And I’m not into kayaking. Rock climbing in the Adirondacks sounded ok, but I spent much of my childhood skiing up there. Again, not brand new. And let’s be honest, did I really want to go rock climbing? Rocks are hard. And rough. My hands are soft. I’m not exactly outdoorsy.

So, I did nothing. There was mention of programs later in the summer, so I thought I  might wait for word on that. The very end of March brought another email with more programs: a slew of whitewater kayacking, and a few August programs rock climbing in Estes Park, Colorado. Still, I did nothing. I was distracted by my courses and planning my other trips. August was too far away to think about.

Photo Cred: Rebecca Elliot

Out Livin It

Mid-May rolled around, and I got another update with trip availability. More kayacking. And one spot left each for a climbing trip in the Adirondacks in June and a Colorado trip in August. I looked at the one spot left for Colorado. I had no plans for August. I’d never been to Colorado. I was still unsure about the rock climbing, but the Rocky Mountains sounded quite lovely. I do love nature. Nature heals. I missed the mountains. So, hesitantly, I replied. ‘I’d love to go to Colorado. Yes, I think.’

After assurance that it’s low pressure and as much about hanging out in a cool place with other people who’d been through a similar experience, I finally got on board and replied. Let’s do it.

Photo Cred: Rebecca Elliot

And, I’m so glad I did. The Rocky Mountains in the summer were as beautiful as I’d imagined. And it really was just as much about bonding with the other participants. As luck would have it, the other participants were awesome. We shared our experiences in a way we can’t with people who haven’t gone through what we have. By virtue of our crazy cancer diagnoses, we automatically bonded. We laughed, we cried, and we became instant friends.

As it turns out, I’m actually pretty good at climbing. And, I actually liked it. All that gymnastics growing up served me well. We all took on new challenges many of us never thought possible. We climbed vertical rock faces and on our last day we all rappelled down a nearly 200 foot cliff. I’d have thought you were insane if you told me I’d be doing that, ever.

Photo Cred: Rebecca Elliot

Queenie got a Nickname and other FD trip perks

As per FD tradition, upon arrival, we all got nicknames. Not big on nicknames, I was not sure how I felt about the whole thing. I launched into a spiel about this almost immediately, indicating that something girly or feminine might be appropriate. I was dubbed Queen while still at the airport. So much for not sounding high maintenance, but ok, I can totally take on royal status. So I was officially Queen for the week.

Selfie day on the fancy cam!

Queen of the lodge and its majestic surroundings. Seriously, we had amazing views from our windows and doorsteps. I meditated with the sunrise to my back, facing perfectly-shaped pine trees and mountain peaks. I taught yoga with the sunrise on my face and the mountains in the distance. The sunsets were spectacular, and the starry night sky was pure magic. Layers upon layers of sparkling diamonds lit up the darkness. We even caught a small glimpse of the eclipse glow, in spite of the cloud-cover.

Clouded eclipse.

To top off all this fabulousness, the staff were all amazing, and the food was spectacular: super healthy, cancer-healing-friendly (organic, vegan, paleo, dairy-free, soy-free, allergy-free, you-name-it-friendly), and, crucially, delicious. Having been so focused on cleansing and clean eating for well over a year, not having to prep or even worry about my food for an entire week, and then actually enjoy it (yes, I have high standards on this front) was seriously fabulous.

Photo Cred: Rebecca Elliot

Shout-outs to my tribe

I can’t reiterate enough how amazing the people were – both the staff and the participants. The people are what make an experience like this so unique, so special. So once again, shout outs to the whole warm, supportive, and inclusive crew for making this week so incredible. In no particular order:

  • Shout out to Spearmint for being an awesome roomie, meditating with me, and sharing the omg-yes-me-too commonalities in our hit-it-from-all-angles approach to kicking cancer’s ass.
  • Shout out to Dawg Pound and Huckleberry for their badassery on the rocks, showing the rest of us the way, and for actually allowing themselves to show their vulnerabilities, the most difficult and badass thing any of us can do.
  • Shout out to Bumble for her can’t-stop-won’t-stop fabulousness and for attacking the rocks like a champ all-day-errday even in her bday elf suit.
  • Shout out to our resident comedians Buttercup and Scooter for keeping us laughing the whole damn trip. DGAF defined. In the absolute best way possible. Don’t ever stop, even if the Queen isn’t entirely thrilled.
  • Shout out to Pistil for showing up in the middle of treatment, two days post-chemo, and pushing through like a champ all week. Inspiring doesn’t begin to cut it. And for having the best name IRL 😉
  • Shout out to Dexter for her fierce determination and never giving up even when the going got a little rough. Your kids are so lucky to have you. And shout out for indulging my Mexican craving at the airport and suffering through the too-spicy guac.
  • Shout out to Rocky for both the sweetness and sarcasm and the persistent #Imwinning attitude, complete with the fresh out of radiation glow. You are a role model of strength to your kids and all of us for sure. (It’s really too bad we all hate sarcasm though.)
  • Shout out to Cricket and Peanut for their calm and quiet yet deep presence. They tackled the rock with an enviable cool confidence and indefatigable determination and kept on keepin on.
  • Shout out to Pyro for having one of the most badass jobs I’ve ever heard of and for scorchin those rocks all week. Boom.
  • Shout out to Big Papi for the inevitable and immaculately timed one-liners. #nailediteverytime And for powering through insane challenges like a true champ. Soon-to-be coolest-dad-ever. Congrats buddy.
  • Shout out to Pow Pow for being a super-chill and super-positive dude, mature beyond your years, and with legit taste in music to boot.

And to the staff and volunteers who made it all happen and casual-cool encouraged us all to push our limits:

  • Shout out to Shaman for patching us up all week, for big smiles and quirky humor, for encouraging me to teach yoga for the first time in years, and for being a tiny being with a giant heart.
  • Shout out to Ice Cream Man and Rio Gordo for the constant support, for lugging our water around all week, and for volunteering their time to do the millions of dishes none of us wanted to deal with. (Seriously, thanks for that.) Chillest father-son duo eva.
  • Shout out to HD for the bestowing upon me the best name ever, and for clambering around the rocks to get the best photo-ops and angles of us all week long – undeniable evidence that we all rocked it.
  • Shout out to Bumblebee and CK for toiling away in the kitchen all day every day to keep us well-fed and uber-nourished. Healthy deliciousness defined, made with lots of love.
  • Shout out to our climbing guides Meatball, Hans, and Again for making us feel safe, enabling us to trust ourselves, and for the slick undercover nudges to reevaluate our own limiting perceptions of our abilities. We climbed again, and again, and again. Because science, And T-swift, And meatballs Apparently equal a winning combo. Who knew. And FTR sarcasm sucks.
  • And last but most certainly not least: MASSIVE shout-outs to Paco and Princess Bear for making it all happen. For stretching our boundaries and helping us push past our perceived limitations. For putting up with the Queen and her subjects. For indulging the campfire shenanigans. For the sick beats all week. And most of all for genuine awesomeness.

Video Cred: HD aka Rebecca Elliot

Finally, shout out to all ya’ll for elevating the Queen’s best-week-ever status, in true royal highness style.

I celebrated my one-year finishing chemo-cancerversary on top of a mountain, next to a waterfall, surrounded by amazing people who just got it. Queen of the mountains. Young, wild and free, with a life full of possibility. With all ya’ll around me. Ain’t Nothin’ sweeter than that.

Get Involved

Interested in participating? You totally should! Check out their site and don’t hesitate to reach out to me with questions. 

And if you think the program is as cool as I do, check out the ways you can get involved and help other young adult cancer survivors get out living it.

Truth be told, there’s not a huge amount of resources available to young adult cancer fighters and survivors. These organizations definitely deserve the full credit their due.  

 

Photography: Rebecca Elliot @ Sunnybrook Photo

Why Cleanse: The benefits of cleansing and signs your body needs one

Why Cleanse: The benefits of cleansing and signs your body needs one

Cleanse your system the fun way The words cleanse and detox often cause strong, guarded reactions. The idea of deprivation or consuming bizarre foods you can’t even pronounce is simply not appealing to most. But before you turn and run… truth bomb: you don’t have to […]


Life in Progress

My One Year Cancerversary

My One Year Cancerversary

The Preliminary C Diagnosis: Looking Back

A year ago today I received a call when I was at work. It was the director of the Lymphoma center at Columbia. I went into the bathroom to take the call. Gently but without mincing any words, he informed me that the preliminary results of my needle biopsy were in: I had lymphoma.  (more…)