A useful bit of information to squirrel away is that the body does not necessarily respond to your commands. No matter how much I lie on the couch and say, “Okay, brain, time to regenerate: Go!” It does not go, and I get up just as wobbly and inarticulate as I laid down.

I came home from the hospital on an increased dose of dexamethasone, the high-impact steroid that I prefer not to be on. The good news, dear reader, is that I believe that being on dex makes me write more because 1) I sleep less, and 2) I believe that I have important things to say that you need to read. This latter point is probably as harmless as it is dubious.

So I’m tapering off the dex, a prospect that makes me lie on the couch extra and hope for the best. I get up to cook and do whatever, but I am lucky enough to have few demands on me.

In other news, R/The Historian took me back to Hamilton on Friday, where the radiation oncologist pronounced me to be responding well to treatment. Last week I saw the medical oncologist, who adjusted my treatment schedule to try not to stress my system with a new drug until after the holidays, when I will probably move on to TDM1, which is the second-line treatment for HER2+ breast cancer in Ontario. Moving to a second line is a bitter sweet move, but it makes sense for where I am at. Honestly, being on a first line treatment for as long as I have — more than 2 years — is pretty great, I think.

This brings me to a burning question that I have had, and that is what is it that oncologist hope for? And do they dream of electric sheep? As Nina Riggs wrote,

Whatever it is in oncologists that makes them want to be oncologists — that crazy mix of fierceness, optimism, arrogance and compassion — I get a contact high from it. It’s like love at first sight, or touching something on fire. It’s like making a choice and refusing to look back.

Much as I’m told otherwise, I try to be the good patient, and I am grateful for the expertise of the excellent oncology team that I see regularly here in London. I wonder what is “good enough” for the team, especially in a bewildering time when we’re told that patients should be the ones to lead with their conception of quality of life, etc. I do my best — who has two thumbs and maintains a weight of 120+ lbs?  

It’s winter again, here in late November. I hate the short days, the bare trees, the icy sidewalks. I hate that I have fallen into some sort of pattern where I feel good during the summer, when it’s nice to be outside, and I feel especially rotten in the bleak winter months. It just exaggerates the normal order of things around here, except that many of the smart Canadians escape to Florida or the Caribbean. Fly away, Canadians!

My favorite new recipe recently is this white bean recipe that I snaggged off the NYT while they were offering the recipe for free to their Weeknight Recipe Newsletter subscribers. I will reprint it here for free, in protest of the NYT policy of no longer giving recipes out to their digital subscribers.

Cheesy White Bean-Tomato Bake

YIELD 4 servings


  • 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 fat garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 Tbsp (or more!) tomato paste
  • 2 (15-oz) cans white beans, such as cannelllini or Great Northern
  • 1/2 c boiling water
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/3 pound mozzarella, coursely grated (about 1 1/3 cups)

Step 1–Heat the oven to 475 degrees. In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Fry the garlic until it’s lightly golden, about 1 min. Stir in the tomato paste (be careful about splattering) and fry for 30 seconds, reducing the heat as needed to prevent the garlic from burning.

Step 2–Add the beans, water and generous pinches of salt and pepper and stir to combine. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top, then bake until the cheese has melted and browned in spots, 5-10 minutes. If the top is not as toasted as you’d like, run the skillet under the broiler for a minute or two. Serve at once.