Food + Creativity

My nickname is McGyver and I’m not much of a cook, so this isn’t going to be a cooking story.

While I was in cancer treatment, I was offered some creams and ointments to use to manage the “side effects” of radiation poisoning, unfortunately, the products all had parabens in them. Parabens are a chemical preservative which, now that you know to look, you will notice is in nearly every personal care product, from KY jelly to your moisturizer, to your lipstick to your shampoo. Since I was being treated for CANCER, it didn’t, and still doesn’t, make sense to me to slather a known carcinogen on my body.

But the burn. Oh my god, the burn. After a week it looked like a mild sunburn, but over the 33 consecutive days of radiation treatment, my skin became increasingly vivid: glowing in fuchsia tones, then turning purple, before finally, on the last day, after my final treatment, the skin split open, like a roasted eggplant, exposing the tender lava field of burning flesh below.

The nurses, helpless, had nothing else to offer me. I researched aloe. First of all, I DARE you to find organic aloe vera gel, although I did finally find a farm in Texas that sent me a 2′ aloe vera sword. I kept it wrapped in the refrigerator and used it sparingly, since further research told me that the reason aloe vera is known to help with sunburn is that the phytochemicals in the plant bind with the free radicals of the radiation – so that excessive use, and no-one could tell me what was “excessive,” could actually reduce the efficacy of my radiation treatment.

Time for McGyver to step in. I decided to make a poultice of ground cucumber (my research couldn’t turn up any reason not to use cucumber). I squeezed the juice through a cheese cloth, like making latkes. I reserved the liquid in a spray bottle, and it, along with the cucumber mash was kept in cheesecloth packets in the refrigerator.Ā  When the burning on my chest became unbearable, I would pull up my shirt and spray heavenly cooling cucumber juice on my bony purpling ribs (if I were at work) or lay down with cooling balm when I was at home. Oh so cool. Oh such relief!

Cancer 0, McGyver 1


From writing prompt provided in the Edible Memories Retreat at The Inky Path.


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