Wednesday, December 05, 2007

RBC, Haemoglobin, Platelet counts - and Beef!

After my 1st chemo-cycle, I checked back with my oncologist, Doc Smiley, as to whether there were any dietary concerns, no-nos and what-nots that I should be aware of... and his immediate response was, "you can eat anything and everything.. in fact, you can even go ahead and eat a hamburger!" .... In my heart, I clapped with joy! Being the food-loving creature that I am, it looked like my relationship with my oncologist was on to a smashing start!

However, I did have some reservations about that hamburger advice - having read in some macrobiotic book that red meat was a no-no and should be off the recommended food list. The nurses at Doc Smiley's clinic insisted though that I needed to pack in at least 3 to 5 servings of beef a week during my chemo-treatment to replenish my red blood cells and haemoglobin levels that would be diminishing from the onslaught of the chemo drugs. For my first three cycles, I ate conservatively 1 to 2 servings of beef a week and thought I could get away with it!

By the time I reached my 4th chemo-cycle, my blood test came back with red marks (just like an errant student's primary school report card) - my red blood cells or corpuscles (RBCs) and haemoglobin counts had dropped below the recommended levels. Doc Smiley insisted on giving me a booster jab to increase these counts - sheesh... the result of not listening to well-meaning advice cost me a bunch of $$$, which could probably purchase more than a month's supply of beef!

Not wishing to fork out more wads of $$$ in booster jabs at the next cycles, I have been upping my beef intake at least for the time being until the chemotreatments are completed.

This is one of my favourite recipes for beef slow-cooked until it reached a tender texture - a very oriental beef stew with carrots, with flavours heightened by an assortment of aromatics (onions, red chillies, ginger, garlic, lemon grass), and spices (cinnamon stick, star anise, fennel seeds, black peppercorns and 5-spice powder).
food for my red blood cells
  • heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a wok or saute pan - though I much preferred to use my Le Creuset enameled cast iron casserole pot for slow-cooking - and add 1 large onion (chopped), a few slices of fresh ginger (peeled and chopped), and 2 fresh red chillies (deseeded and sliced) and let these aromatics cooked over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring
  • increase heat to high and add about 500 gm of lean braising or stewing cuts of beef (cut into 3/4-inch or 1-inch thick cubes) and stir-fry for about 5 to 8 minutes until lightly browned
  • next, add the remaining aromatics, 2 garlic cloves (crushed or chopped), 1 lemon grass (sliced thinly), and the spices - 1 cinnamon stick, about 5 star anise, a teaspoon of chinese 5-spice powder, a teaspoon of fennel seeds, a teaspoon of black peppercorns (crush coarsely, if you prefer an increased peppery flavour), about 2 tablespoons of light soya sauce to taste, and 600ml of water (if you have home-made beef stock, that would be preferred as it would give the stew a much richer meaty flavour)
  • bring the whole mixture to a boil and then turn down the heat to a low simmer - cover the pot and cook for about 1 and 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally so that the beef does not stick to the pot
  • add carrots (which have been cut into thick chunks) and continue to cook covered over low heat for another 1/2 hour or until the carrots and the beef cubes have softened
  • wonderful served with brown rice - the red chillies, ginger, lemon grass and spiced flavours are great for igniting a tired appetite!
Despite my best efforts, there are days though when I cannot bring myself to chomp down another sliver of beef (a condition called 'meat overkill') - and that's when dear Mum comes to the rescue with her steamed/double-boiled beef essence!
down to the essence
  • selecting a choice cut of lean beef (generally from the ribeye) - the same is chopped and minced at home (try not to use the minced beef sold in the supermarkets, which sometimes contain bits of fatty tissue, in an attempt to reduce the amount of fat in this soup)
  • place the minced beef in a big bowl, sprinkle a handful of wolfberries (or in place, one can use deseeded red dates - which is reputed to be effective in building up strength and blood levels), a codonopsis root (dang shen/dong sum) cut into short 1-cm lengths (to improve blood circulation and promote general good health) , a few slices of american ginseng (optional), and pour in a rice bowl or 1 cup of water (just one bowl will do - we are pursuing essence here and not soup quantity!)
  • place the big bowl into a pot filled with water about half way up the big bowl - bring the pot water to a boil, cover pot and lower heat - steam/double-boil on slow fire for about 1 hour or so
  • all the goodness of the beef (its very essence) together with the benefits of the chinese herbs are then ready to be drunk in a single bowl - the serving size is just right for one (me!)
  • the beef in the above recipe can also be substituted with minced pork taken from pork tenderloin (one of the leanest cuts of pork) if one gets tired of the taste of beef - though I must add that having tasted both, the beef essence is definitely a notch higher up in flavour as compared to the white meat of pork!
I just completed my 5th cycle today and managed to convince Doc Smiley to refrain from prescribing that $$$-booster jab - hopefully my meaty constitution can put me in good stead with my RBC, haemoglobin and platelet counts for the next couple of weeks until I complete my final 6th cycle!

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Blogger MamaBoK said...

Thanks for the update.. ;) yes.. eating beef or even liver.. i heard can help.. ;)
Stay well..!

12/06/2007 01:56:00 PM  
Blogger eatzycath said...

@mamabok - still trying to get my tongue and palate to accept pork liver.. not my favourite texture nor protein filler ;-(( thanks for the support!

12/06/2007 10:45:00 PM  
Blogger Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

That beerf dish looks very good! Yummy!



12/07/2007 10:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Cath, I have been lurking around your blog for sometime now and I was wondering why you had stopped blogging. I finally pop by again tonight and I'm delighted to see that you have updated but I'm so sorry to hear about your cancer. I just want you to know that both my grandma and my mum are breast cancer survivers. My grandma had bilateral breast cancer, the 2nd a few years after she beat the 1st one but she lived to a ripe old age of 90 years before passing on due to old age. My mum had breast cancer more than 10 years ago, with no grandchildren then but today, she's a proud grandma to 9 grandchildren! After their illness, I realised you need to take real good care of yourself i.e. eat well, sleep well and exercise and let the body start the healing process. We are so lucky these days in term of buying organic stuff which wasn't easily available then when my mum was ill. Good thing my mum was sensible when it came to eating, no real restriction but everything and anything that was nutritious. Try liver soup? Just drink the soup because the iron seeps into the soup and throw away the cholesterol laden liver.
I still don't fully understand why my family was put through so much stress but I know He can be so very good and I'm truly thankful. Get well Cath and I look forward to you blogging for eons!


12/12/2007 11:58:00 PM  
Blogger eatzycath said...

@rosa - thanks so much for dropping by :-))

@Lu - thanks for sharing about your family - it is inspirational and comforting to hear about cancer survivors - please send my best regards and kudos to your mum! And yes, the Lord is good in all ways and we should place our trust in Him in all things :-)

12/22/2007 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger jasmine said...

nice blog i like it a lot


2/09/2008 01:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Cath,

Hope to see u blog soon, and hope u're ok!


2/21/2008 12:12:00 AM  
Blogger AK said...

1st time reading yr blog...Intesresting and details blog..Get well soon ! Tomorrow will be better day.

2/22/2008 10:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Cath, haven seen your blog or hear from you. Hope u're okay...


3/19/2008 12:00:00 AM  
Blogger FooDcrazEE said...

havent been back for long . . .r u better ?

4/05/2008 01:57:00 PM  
Blogger Precious Moments said...

C, for a moment, I thought you stopped blogging. Today I managed to have some time alone and check into here. First I am sorry to hear that you went through a trying period. But yet I am happy to hear that you are recovering well. Not too long ago, my youngest sister had a lump removed from her breast too. Luckily it wasn't negative. Now my second sister also discovered one in her breast too. now waiting for the result. I am getting worried and too chicken to go for it. :)

Speedy recovery.

4/24/2008 09:22:00 AM  
Blogger min~* said...

may the joy of the Lord be your strength :) my prayer for you is in jeremiah 29:11-13- for i know the plans i have for you says the Lord. plans to prosper you and plans to give you hope and a future. You call out to me and i will listen to you. You will find me when you seek me with all your heart. It's one of my scripture memory verses. i mightn't have memorized it so well. i love your food. so keep cooking and stay happy. :) In His love,

5/02/2008 12:01:00 AM  
Blogger Private Chef said...

Hi there

I have just stumbled upon your blog. I love the clean design and fantastic photos. I am a blogger myself and always thought that design was key and you have certainly captured that! There are so many food blogs out there these days and being different to all the others is key. I have just started which is a website for chefs, foodies and food bloggers to hand out, share recipes, photos and videos. When i was blogging I always thought i should be getting more traffic as my blog was getting lost in the masses of stuff out there so my new site is aimed at giving food bloggers and chefs a bigger platform! Hope you enjoy it and keep up the good writing and design here! I have now bookmarked you so will be regular reader, Cheers!

5/05/2008 04:28:00 PM  
Blogger the cook without an oven said...

hi Cath,

Hope things are going well for you. Take care

5/12/2008 01:02:00 PM  
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8/20/2008 04:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I chance upon your blog today! Pray that things are all right for you. You are a brave lady! Though I do not know you, my tears just drop when I read your blog from the time you start out till Dec 07. I believe God has his reasons for putting you through this. I pray that He will see you through this trial. Diana

8/31/2008 11:22:00 PM  
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11/12/2008 09:10:00 AM  
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The beef is very essensial to make this.

12/02/2008 10:10:00 PM  
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12/03/2008 01:57:00 AM  
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12/16/2008 07:09:00 PM  
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2/10/2009 03:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Kelly J. said...

Good luck on your treatments. I hope they are successful! The Beef Stew looks crazy good. Thank you for posting it!

2/14/2009 02:24:00 AM  
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5/05/2011 01:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Appliance Parts said...

its a new idea having carrots with beef. I never tried it before. I will try this on coming weekend. Hope it would be good.

6/28/2011 10:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Neilesh Patel (Recruiter focused on Food Manufacturing Jobs) said...

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1/13/2012 06:23:00 PM  
Anonymous alternative cancer treatment said...

WOW! I am not eating meat anymore, but this seams so delicious! And I would like to try this out. I hope I can try this out real soon.

6/22/2012 03:18:00 PM  

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