Friday, May 29, 2009

Cancer Sucks and Shanewiches

"Cancer Sucks, But My Son Rocks" - those are words written by my brother-in-law (Shane's Dad) on his blog site,

Forgive me if I use this blog over the coming weeks and months to talk about our nephew.

When cancer strikes a loved one, the whole family gets cancer together. As a family we have weathered this storm before. With my father and the best husband in the world's father (prostate cancer). TBHITW's mom, breast cancer. My mom, colon cancer. All are survivors and we give thanks everyday for that.

But when cancer strikes a 10 year old boy - all reason flies out the window. All perspective can get lost in the battle.

Shane's journey into the world of cancer started with an innocent fall on a school playground just a few weeks ago. A bruise to his left side, above his hip was the beginning. When the "bruise" got worse, a second visit to the pediatrician was warranted. It wasn't a bruise. In a few short days of MRI's and tests, Shane was undergoing surgery to remove a tennis ball size tumor from his left side. TBHITW went to Michigan, the family rallied around Mark and Dee, Shane's parents, his sisters (the twins) just Irish Twins away in age, Kaitlin and Allyson and of course, Shane.

The surgeon felt 99.9% sure he got it all. Praise be! The tumor was not attached to the bone and had not spread. It was a "contained" tumor. Shane went home from the hospital, TBHITW came home from Michigan and we rejoiced that an angel pushed Shane down on the playground - otherwise the tumor would not have been found for months.

Then the pathology reports started coming in....

Confusing, infuriating, terrifying. The cancer is rare. Pathologists were consulted at the University of Michigan, the University of Boston and Emory University in Atlanta. A team of 20 tumor specialists was assembled. What was this? What path of treatment was needed? The verdict that came back has tried the faith and hope of everyone in this family. A rare cancer - rarely seen in adults and only seen 5 times in children. They are even loathe to name it. Myxiod Sarcoma? The doctors say it doesn't need a name. The diagnosis is enough.

The tumor team and all the pathologists have decided that the course of treatment will commence with chemotherapy beginning June 1. A full summer of it.

To be followed by radiation.

To be followed by surgery to remove even the skin that was covering the tumor. 

To be followed by a skin graft. 

We feel helpless in the face of this enormous disease that has captured our family. 

Some of us will pray. Some of us will cry. Some of us will yell. Some of us will shake our fists at the cancer gods and some at their very own God. 

Some, like Mark and Dee, will run in the NYC Marathon this fall - raising money for cancer research and honoring their son's struggle. 

Me, I'll cry a little (I call them my private cries - maybe in the shower, maybe when I'm all by myself in the kitchen). I'll google Myxoid Sarcoma - maybe. But mostly I'll cook. I'll rename old recipes for Shane and invent some new ones. I'll find the foods that soothe a chemotherapy racked body. I'll visit in July and take over someone's kitchen like an invading army. That is my therapy. That is where I find solace. In front of a pot. Creating, tasting, inventing, feeding. Feeding the family and feeding my soul. And somewhere in all that stirring and mixing and basting and sauteing is a prayer for a cure. 

ShaneWiches - formerly known as Whoopie Pies. (I can rename it because I changed the recipe somewhat in order to use whole wheat pastry flour and brown sugar instead of the traditional all white flour and sugar - feel free to change it back! I also feel free to rename it because if ten year olds can get cancer, they can have a cookie/cake named after them)

Cookies (Cakes):
1 c whole wheat pastry flour
1 c all purpose flour
2/3 c unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
1 c packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 c buttermilk (if you don't have buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar to one cup milk, let stand for 5 minutes)
Crystal sugar (optional)

6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 c confectioners sugar
1 jar (7 1/2 oz) marshmallow cream
2 tsp vanilla

1.  Heat oven to 350
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.  Combine flour, cocoa and baking soda.
In another bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3 min.  Add egg
and vanilla and beat to combine.  Alternately add flour mixture and
buttermilk beginning and ending with flour.  Mix until smooth.

2.  Drop 1-inch mounds of batter 2 inches apart onto baking sheets.
Sprinkle half of the mounds with crystal sugar (optional).  Bake until tops are puffed
and cookies spring back when touched, 15 min.
Transfer to rack and cool completely.

3.  To make filling:  Beat together butter, confect. sugar, marshmallow
cream, and vanilla until smooth, about 3 min.  Spread a rounded tablespoon of
filling on flat side of half of the cookies.  Top with other.

Make these for all the people you love in this world - just because you CAN. 


  1. I am so very sorry for the horrible disease that attacked your nephew. Please feel free to use your bloggy friends to vent when you need to. We are here through thick and thin, not just for your wonderful recipes. (But we do love them.) You will be a great comfort when the time comes to find foods that he will want to eat. We give our love through our food.

    Can't wait to make ShaneWiches. Thank you!

  2. Thanks for your words of encouragement. Cancer is such a roller coaster - I never thought a blog could bring me relief. But somehow writing about this journey and incorporating my cooking into it has brought me some semblance of peace. Because I am the "in-law" I guess I feel it is my duty to be strong when everyone around me is breaking in two, and cooking is my strength.

    Do try the Shanewiches - they are wicked good - but make sure you have a crowd to eat them with. They make quite a few. :-)

  3. I am so sorry to hear of this, it does make you want to scream.. and shake your fist at this ugly cancer. I will be praying with others for your Shane. My grandkids are in this same age bracket, I cannot imagine how this would feel to be going through...


  4. Man this sucks! I think all your new recipes can easily be dedicated to your young nephew.

    Thank God he ended up getting hurt that day at school!

  5. It's funny how God, the cosmos, the universe, kismit, whatever you want you want to call it works. We're just thankful it was found now, early. The battle lines have been drawn and if the sheer SIZE of this family could win a battle, then we will win this one! Thank you for reading. I will keep everyone (if you don't mind) posted on his progress. In the meantime, if anyone knows of any foods that soothe a chemo-racked body - share!!! Please!

  6. hey Aunt Linda, its allison from michigan here. Its rainy as usual... BDAY is saturday!!!! so excited. But just wanted to say hey i needed the shanewich recipe because we have a free cook day in life skills and these would be awesome!!! love from Team Skelcy to Nj Skelcys


Wow. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I love feedback... what with being a cook and all. I will respond to your comments via email (if you do not have a "noreply" address or here, below your comment) As always, Bon Appetite!

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