The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Life!

April 20, 2014

Kitchen comfort

Cancer patient publishes cookbook for the heart and soul

— For Janet Crow of Quinwood, this Easter marks a deeply personal miracle — that of countless prayers for her physical restoration whispered by people who cared more than she could’ve ever imagined.

Crow is visiting her doctor on Wednesday with the hopes that he’ll pronounce her “in remission for one year.”

And, as she approaches the one-year anniversary of finishing treatments to fight cancer, Crow is publishing “Janet’s Appalachian Kitchen” — a collection of recipes Crow created while she was undergoing radiation and chemotherapy, along with some southern-style, family recipes.

“It’s a way for me to pay it forward,” said Crow. “I had so many people who prayed for me and supported me, and if doing it through recipes is a way to give back, I’m trying to give back.”

“Janet’s Appalachian Kitchen” turns Crow’s lifelong love of cooking and her experience with cancer into something that she hopes will help others as they battle cancer or just decide to eat healthier.

With recipes like Corn Casserole and Oven Roasted Asparagus, Crow desired to express her love of cooking by including a few of her family favorite comfort dishes, as well as healthy alternatives made with simple and fresh ingredients.

When Crow’s gynecologist diagnosed her with an aggressive form of cancer in December 2012, she was given the bleak news that she had a 30 percent chance of beating it, she said.

Crow started radiation immediately at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

“I went in for my radiation treatment first,” she recalled. “About an hour afterward, I started feeling real nauseous.

“I was thinking, ‘Radiation shouldn’t make me feel this way.’”

Doctors told Crow that radiation had weakened her immune system.

“I hadn’t started the chemo yet,” Crow said. “I knew that with chemo starting about a week later, I wanted to make sure my body was strong enough to handle it.”

Crow had seen family members and others get “deathly ill” with chemo side effects, and she wanted to prepare for it.

Crow, who has always loved to cook, turned to the supermarket to prepare herself.

She was staying at Hospitality House at UVa, a “home away from home” unit provided for cancer patients undergoing treatments.

The cabinets were stocked with pre-packaged, donated food items that contained preservatives.

“I did some research and went to the local grocery store and started buying fresh fruits and vegetables, especially tons of green vegetables like kale and spinach,” she said.

Both are known by nutritionists to be rich in anti-cancer carotenoids, according to online nutrition sites.

“I put in a whole lot of seafood — salmon, tuna, any type of fish I could get there,” she said.

After her first chemo treatment, she waited for the nausea, but it never came, she reported.

“After the second or third treatment, the doctor was expecting me to be suffering from nausea, and I never had a problem,” Crow said. “I just kept eating these foods and adding to it.”

During chemo sessions, Crow found that her mind often turned to the kitchen.

“That helped me get through my treatments, because I had radiation and six hours of chemo every time,” she recalled. “I would just lie there while I was getting the chemo, and a lot of my Facebook friends would e-mail me magazines and cookbooks to help me, just to have something to read.

“I’d lie there and read them and try to figure out what I could make ... with food that I had back at the house.”

She sometimes turned basic recipes into cancer-fighting super foods during these sessions.

“Tuna cakes is a recipe I came up with during one of my chemo treatments,” she reported. “They were talking about crab cakes, and I thought, ‘Surely you can do the same thing with tuna.’

“And sure enough, you can!”

Throughout treatments, Crow said, her doctors were surprised when her white and red blood cell counts didn’t dip drastically — a common side effect of chemotherapy.

“Finally, my OB/GYN oncologist came in and asked what I was doing, and I said, ‘I’m just eating good,’” said Crow. “I’m cooking my own food there in my little room.

“He said, ‘That’s amazing, we just don’t see this every day.’”

Crow said she’d noticed some of her house mates regularly carrying fast food bags into the House, and she learned that they often had to postpone chemo treatments due to negative lab results.

“I started cooking and inviting some of them up,” she said. “They’d eat salmon or asparagus, and they got their energy back.”

When she saw that her recipes had the potential to help others, she started posting them on Facebook, she said.

“People said, ‘You should write a cookbook,’” she said.

Her husband of 13 years, Don Crow — usually the first to try one of her new dishes — is the one who finally convinced her to write “Janet’s Appalachian Kitchen.”

On a camping trip, Don snapped a picture as Crow cooked, she recalled.

“He said, ‘You should put that on the cover of a cookbook,’” said Crow. “So that’s kind of how it all began.”

Back home in Quinwood, Crow started Janet’s Appalachian Kitchen page on Facebook and began posting her recipes.

The page has around 12,000 “likes,” and people from around the country and Ukraine, Australia and other countries began copying recipes Crow posted to the page.

“People were just e-mailing me and sending me messages on how much they enjoy the recipes,” she said. “They started encouraging me to do a cookbook.”

Just before Christmas, she started collecting her recipes into “Janet’s Appalachian Kitchen.”

Crow said folks who love biscuits and ham won’t be left “stewing.” The cookbook has plenty of country favorites like southern-style biscuits and Crow’s grandmother’s Fried Sweet Potatoes recipe.

“I grew up in Georgia, and there’s a lot of cooking with lard,” she said. “I don’t make biscuits without lard.

“I still love fried foods,” she added. “I’m not afraid of having fat in my diet.”

She said the cookbook isn’t just a way of helping people eat healthier, but it’s also a way of preserving her family’s heritage.

“I want to keep a lot of our family recipes alive and pass them down to our grandchildren so one day they can share them with their families and realize where they came from,” said Crow, who is the grandmother of  two boys and a girl and is expecting a second granddaughter on May 11.

“Janet’s Appalachian Kitchen” may be ordered via Facebook (www.facebook.com/JanetsAppalachianKitchen) or by contacting Crow via e-mail at jcrow216@suddenlink.net.

The cost is $10 per book plus $2.95 for shipping.

For every cookbook sold, Crow plans to donate $1 to stock Hospitality House at UVa with healthy foods.

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