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Fruit Salad and Garden Salad

When I had breast cancer in 2012, Mom showed her loved through food.
PUBLISHED June 27, 2017
As well as being a cancer blogger, Laura Yeager is a religious essayist and a mental health blogger. A graduate of The Writers’ Workshop at The University of Iowa, she teaches writing at Kent State University and Gotham Writers’ Workshop. Laura survived cancer twice.
The first time I had cancer, I had radiation treatment. This was in 2012. The treatments were every day at 4:00. My older brother Mike drove me to them, and while we were there, my mother fixed dinner for the family.  

One of the things that she did that I’ll always remember is that for every meal, she fixed a fruit salad and a garden salad.   

This might seem like nothing at all, but it was a true act of love. Mom was showing her care for her family though nice food.   

We’re not a big fruit and vegetable family, so this was a treat.   

The fruit was fresh, not canned, and every day, she cut the strawberries and the melon up into bit-size pieces. But she never added bananas because she didn’t like them in fruit salad, and consequently, neither did we. Apples and grapes, every day.   

The garden salads were also meticulously prepared. Mom loved olives, so each salad had both black and green little olive pieces. Delicious grape tomatoes and pieces of yellow pepper. 

  Her daughter might have breast cancer, but she was going to eat well during the process.   

One salad a night would have seemed normal, but two every night, there was a message in that.   

Not only did Mom prepare the salads, she bought the ingredients for them. This meant that every day she journeyed to the grocery store for fresh fruit and vegetables.   

My husband loved the fresh food for every meal. He was always trying to get me to “eat fresh,” as the saying goes. Maybe my mother knew this. Maybe she was doing it for Steve, as a consolation to compensate for her sickly daughter.   

Whatever the reason, health was in the air.   

As my skin turned redder and redder from the radiation, I seemed to be getting healthier and healthier from the two salads every night.   

My mother had always been a foodie, but during those cancer months she was an even truer one. She was falling back on what she knew. Good food will carry you through.   

For the main courses, she fixed pork chops and fried potatoes. We liked to break up bread on our plates and cover the pieces pork chop gravy. There was nothing better.   

Crock pot roasts and root vegetables and potatoes.   

Spaghetti.   

Let’s put it this way: We ate well.   

As I said earlier, my older brother drove me to radiation. There was something comforting knowing that he was out there in the waiting room while I was in there being fried.   

My husband, of course, also pitched in. He took care of my 6-year-old son, held down a 50-hour-a-week job and did all the laundry and the cleaning. But most importantly, he was strong for me while I was weak.   

My middle brother brought me orange popsicles.   

Everyone did what they could.   

When one family member has cancer, the whole family pulls together. At least that’s the way it was in my family.   

But those salads I will never forget. Salads of love. Perhaps, it was the salad that cured me. 

  My mother, the Patron Saint of Fruit and Garden Salads.   

It’s funny what sticks with you from hard times. I’ve blocked out the pain, but I remember the salads.   

Go figure.   

I can still taste them.
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