A year ago today, I was two weeks away from my second hand surgery to repair damage from severe ulcers in five fingers—damage that had exposed bone and broken two of my knuckles. My left index and right pinky were held together by steel pins, and I didn’t know if I would lose them in the next procedure. My hand surgeon felt that skin grafts were worth trying, but we didn’t know if they would heal properly. He had warned me at the outset that these were the first of many surgeries.
What a difference a year makes! I’ve been extremely fortunate. A gifted surgeon, excellent wound care and 60 dives in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, plus effective occupational therapy sessions (and health insurance to cover it all), combined with a lot of support from family and friends enabled me to heal.
And I am cooking again. Al had picked up the slack in the kitchen for well over a year, ever since the ulcers became too painful for me to handle any utensils. He cooked up some great meals and discovered that he really enjoyed experimenting with new recipes. I was grateful for all that good and healthy food.
But a part of me missed cooking. It’s never been a major focus in my life. I don’t spend hours pouring over cookbooks and savoring the thought of new recipes. However, I do like making a good meal, especially for the holidays. It’s exhausting, but satisfying to turn out a gourmet, multi-course dinner. It gives me pleasure to prepare food that brings others enjoyment.
At some point over the summer, I began baking bread again for our Friday night Shabbat dinners. Al had gotten quite good at this, and he was deservedly proud of his delicious braided loaves, but he was happy to have me pick it up again. I also was able to help clean up after meals, which had been impossible with the ulcers and ensuing surgery.
The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, arrived just a few days after we came home from Europe last month. I knew it would be too much to have a big crowd, so we just invited a few close family members for the first night. But, to my and Al’s surprise, I was able to do most of the cooking myself. He served as sous chef, cutting vegetables. Even still, I was able to handle the chef’s knife and do a lot of prep myself. Everyone enjoyed the meal, and I felt like I had crossed the finish line.
I have been doing most of the cooking ever since, although I still have to be careful. I developed an ulcer in one of my skin grafts shortly after we returned from our trip, but I think this was actually caused by some calcinosis lurking just under the surface. It is gradually healing. Al is enjoying a well-earned reprieve, although I recruit him for help as needed.
Mostly, I’m amazed and extremely grateful that I can actually do so much with my hands again. It’s taken all this time to relearn how to use them, and I certainly have my limits. But it’s wonderful to see that, despite all the challenges, my body can truly heal.