Today’s inspiring reader story is by Adrianne, a stay-at-home mom who lives with her husband and three sons in Wasilla, Alaska. She recently started a blog where she shares recipes and stories about the joy of ordinary days after a battle with childhood cancer. If you’d like to submit your own real food story, you can do so here.
When I first began cooking and preparing real food from scratch for my three little boys and husband, I had no idea how handy that new skill would eventually become.
We made the switch in 2011 after watching Food Inc., like many other individuals. I’m a stay-at-home mom who already enjoyed cooking, so switching from cans of soup casseroles to fresh, real ingredients was a fun challenge. My twins were 4-years old and my littlest was 2, and it was the perfect time to swap processed crackers and snacks for fruit, homemade ice cream, and yogurts.
Not only did we all feel better – my blood sugar stopped plummeting daily, regularity felt like a gift from Heaven, and I lost a few pounds – but my boys were learning to be adventurous eaters.
Feeding My Sick Son Well
Then in February 2013, we got the devastating news that one of the twins, then 5, had leukemia. With three and a half years of chemo in front of us, I knew the only thing I could “do” was to feed my son well. When he craved comfort food, I had childhood favorites “real-foodified” at the ready and in our freezer. When he had no appetite, I had nutrient-dense soups and smoothies for him to sip all day long. Even PB&J was beneficial with peanut-only peanut butter, homemade jam, and fresh whole wheat bread.
Every evening I would take an hour and make overnight slow-cooker broth, muffins and quick breads, smoothie pops, and homemade coffee creamer to treat tired parents. I won’t lie, it was tiring during hospital weeks, but it mattered so much to me. We all benefited from eating real food made with love.
Doing My Best with Limited Resources
Since we live in Alaska, there is no Whole Foods, there is no Trader Joe’s, there is no year-round gardening or year-round farmers’ markets. I had to be creative and thoughtful about sourcing high-quality ingredients without breaking our very tight budget. Planning ahead, stashing even the smallest leftovers in my freezer, and giving myself a little grace when the end of a long week resulted in take-out helped keep my family strong during the longest years of our lives.
Our Life Now
My son finished chemo in April of 2016 and is strong and healthy and beautiful. I can’t ignore what an important part real food played in his strength as we asked his already growing body to take on a war.
Now that we’re returning to regular life, my sons have taken on a love of cooking. When my cancer-fighter couldn’t do so much of what the other kids his age were doing, he always knew he could cook something amazing. Watching the grilled cheese video on 100 Days of Real Food was his favorite pastime when he had the steroid munchies. ;)
The boys also take a huge amount of pride in knowing they have a taste for high-quality homemade food. Given that they attend school outside the home, I know they will have birthday cupcakes, fruit roll-ups from friends at lunch, and “fun food” at numerous school parties. I’ve learned that it’s what is fed at home that makes the biggest difference in their attitude toward nutrition and I won’t rob them of the learning experiences that come with eating “sometimes foods.” They can forget they have leftover Halloween party candy in the pantry if I just don’t make a big deal about it.
Real food has become a part of who my family is and we’re always looking forward to the next thing we can make “better!” Most importantly, we’re always looking to encourage and share real food with families on the same path unfortunately caring for loved ones battling illness.