Inspired to Cook Her Husband Back to Health

Faced with the prospect of losing the man she loved, she prayed for guidance in helping him.

Posted in , Feb 7, 2012

Dwan Reed and husband, Thomas

Improve Your Marriage! Find Time for Love! Secrets to a Happier Relationship! The quick-fix self-help books near the register at the grocery store called my name. My marriage wasn’t on the rocks, but after 18 years and two kids, it was in the doldrums.

Thomas and I were both so locked in to our busy work schedules—he as an exploration manager for an oil company, me as a realtor, writer and public speaker—that we scarcely had time for each other.

We went to bed at different times. We never went on dates anymore. I’d joined a writers’ group to become a better writer. Our lives had become routine. Maybe that’s why Thomas had been listless and fatigued lately, falling asleep on the sofa before I’d even served dinner.

He was at the doctor now getting checked out. Too bad there wasn’t a medicine to put the spark back in our relationship.

My cell phone rang and Thomas’s name popped up on the screen. I stepped out of line and picked up. “What did the doctor say?” I asked.

His voice was so shaky I almost didn’t recognize it. “Dwan, I have prostate cancer. It’s aggressive. The doctor wants to begin treatment right away.”

Prostate cancer? Wasn’t it an older man’s disease? Thomas was only 49! Besides, he took care of himself—didn’t smoke, exercised regularly.

“I can’t believe it,” I said, stunned. “I’ll be right home.”

Cancer. Aggressive. Immediate treatment. How could this have happened to the happy, caring, hardworking man I’d met at church and fallen in love with? How had I missed the signs that something was really wrong? All Thomas ever said was that he just felt tired.

I walked into the house and one glance at Thomas’s face confirmed the worst. Fear swept through me. I collapsed in his arms. Lord, Thomas is the best husband and father in the world. You can’t take him from me!

Thomas began his treatment—proton therapy—at MD Anderson, the renowned cancer center in Houston. His cancer was so advanced, the doctor also put him on a powerful hormone.

The combination gave Thomas hot flashes. He tossed and turned all night, exhausted but too uncomfortable to sleep. He took a leave of absence from work. He gained 30 pounds in a matter of weeks due to the hormone therapy.

One night, as we sat awake in bed, I suggested that we pray together. We hadn’t done that in a long time.

“Lord, I’m so scared,” Thomas began. “What if I leave my wife and my kids alone? Will you take care of them?”

I’d never seen Thomas like this. He was terrified too. I held him close. “We’re not going to lose you,” I said. “We’ll do whatever we can.”

But what could I do? I lay awake racking my brain and asking God’s guidance. Finally it came to me. I’d heard there were cancer-fighting diets. What if I began cooking food for Thomas that was both good and healing?

The next afternoon I got online and researched cancer-fighting therapies and diets. “Take a look at this,” I said to Thomas. He got up from the couch and sat down beside me.

We found a nutritionist who specialized in diet plans for men with prostate cancer. Thomas was interested. The nutritionist’s patients had remarkable recoveries. “It’s too bad she’s based in Atlanta,” Thomas said.

“We’ll make the trip,” I said.

We did. “No meat, no sugar, no white flour,” the nutritionist recommended. Thomas should avoid carbohydrates and lower his cholesterol. She emphasized vegetables and raw food.

When we returned, I got some new cookbooks and headed to the grocery store. I bought flaxseed, wheatgrass, other grains and things I’d never heard of. I read the labels. How could I cook this stuff and make it taste good? Every time I tried it ended up like gray, flavorless porridge.

Everything I learned about cooking came from my mother, who made little more than overcooked roasted chicken when I was growing up. I was at my wit’s end. Lord, I’m making a mess of this. Thomas needs me. Help me to help him.

One day, I was meeting with a group of fellow writers but my mind was on Thomas. One of the group brought a visitor that day, a food blogger named Mitzi Curtis. “She’s known as The Healthy Green Chef,” the member announced. I perked up.

Mitzi shared her blog’s focus—vegetarian, raw food. At the end of her talk, I walked up and introduced myself. “My husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer,” I told her. “A specialist recommended this diet. I just wish I could make it.”

“Let me show you,” Mitzi said.

My first lesson was a shake containing collard greens, cilantro, grapefruit, blue-green algae, wheatgrass, mango and agave nectar. Our 13-year-old, Noah, cringed. “It smells like a horse pasture,” he said.

“It’s hard to swallow,” Thomas agreed.

The next night, though, flaxseed burritos and veggie tacos went over better. “Not bad,” Thomas said. Noah and our 15-year-old daughter, Serrae, nodded and took seconds.

I tried Mexican corn chowder and a date-nut torte. Salads were easy and quick to make, and Mitzi showed me how to make them exciting—and healthy—by adding fruits and berries or flaxseeds to the mix. Often, Thomas, the kids and I stayed at the table long after the plates were cleared, talking about how we could improve the taste even more.

Thomas’s energy returned bit by bit. We dug up the phone number of our old babysitter and set weekly date nights for just the two of us. A show at The Ensemble Theatre, a new documentary or foreign film, a lecture on African-American issues or health topics.

One afternoon, Thomas returned from therapy with a smile on his face. “The doctor says my PSA score has fallen,” he said. “The cancer isn’t spreading.”

“That’s great news!” I wrapped my arms around him.

“Why don’t we go out to celebrate?” Thomas suggested.

We went out to a new restaurant in town. We talked about whatever came into our minds. We had so much fun, I lost track of the time. “Oh, my,” I said, finally glancing at my watch, thinking about the sitter. “Shouldn’t we be getting back?”

“Don’t worry about it,” Thomas said. “I want to enjoy every moment with you.”

That night, we prayed together and just talked...talked like we hadn’t in years. In fact, it seemed like I was getting to know Thomas all over again. He told a story about his childhood I’d never heard before. “I went through this phase where all I ate were hot dogs. Can you imagine?”

“I bet you wish you could have a hot dog now,” I said.

“I like what you’ve been making,” Thomas said. “I really appreciate all you’re doing with the kids, and with me. I don’t think I ever told you that.”

This was the man I fell in love with. The kind, sweet man I’d first laid eyes on in church. Eighteen years of marriage hadn’t dimmed the love we had for each other. Now, though, we were finally slowing down enough to see it.

A little over a year after his diagnosis, Thomas is cancer-free. He’s back at work, but we haven’t stopped the weekly date nights, the nightly prayers, the talks or our healthy dinners.

His illness turned our world upside down—but maybe that’s just what we needed. Thomas and I are closer than we ever were before, and healthier—in more ways than one.

Try one of Dwan's healthy recipes for yourself!

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