I feel like I’m already losing the lessons cancer taught me

It hasn’t even been confirmed yet that I’m stopping chemotherapy. But my mind is already moving ahead. And I feel feel like I’m already starting to lose the lessons that cancer taught me.

There is enormous clarity that comes in the face of this kind of diagnosis.

It focused my mind and energy on what is really important.

It put me in touch with my body in a whole new way, and forced me to make caring for it a priority. (Whereas otherwise, it would always come last after work, the people I care about, and everything else.)

It gave me new inspiration and ideas.

Funnily enough, more difficult things were with my health, and the worse I felt, the easier it was to identify what really mattered.

For me, the list looked like this:

Number one: staying alive. Doing whatever that entailed.

A bit more energy? Connecting with and caring for Rosie.

A bit more than that? Connecting with my husband, my family, and the other people I care about.

Still a bit more energy? Making room for the creative projects or thoughts that make me come alive.

Still a little reserve? Keeping things ticking over with the daily tasks of life – a bit of a putter, tidy up, cooking some food, etc.

Throughout my treatment, getting a bit of energy or feeling well has been such a breath of fresh air. I’ve been so thrilled and grateful to have days that allowed me to do more than the bare minimum.

But also, the more energy I have, the more difficult I’ve found it to make the choices about what’s really important.

During this journey, I have felt my priorities shifting in important ways. I’m not sure I can even articulate these for myself yet. But the seedlings that have been been taking root most powerfully in my heart have to do with the value of community and caring for one another; the importance of appreciating and embracing the fact that we live in physical bodies; the value of enjoying the minutiae and routine tasks that keep life running rather than rushing through these as a hindrance.

I’ve also felt an internal rebalancing of the work and creative projects that feel most important to me. Some things that seemed critical are taking more of a backseat, as new directions and possibilities have captured my imagination. Others have retained their importance, but taken an interesting new angle. I sense that I might be at the beginning of a shift in my definitions of success – with this coming more from within, and being a bit less determined by external markers.

Still, as I face the end of this treatment chapter, I feel a bit like a rubber band.

Part of me wants to snap back to my former life – my ‘normal’ life and pretend none of this happened.

Which is great in some ways. There were many wonderful things about that life.

But I also risk losing some of the things I discovered during this time, which have enriched my life immeasurably.

Old habits and former patterns are asserting their presence and calling out to be revived. And I’m not sure I entirely want them back.

Yesterday and today, I have felt shadowed by what I like to think of as ‘to-do list’ anxiety. The tasks that call out to be done, the ‘shoulds’ and ‘coulds’ that clutter our minds in ways that feel both essential and inescapable. It’s the tightening in the chest that makes us feel like we are falling behind, and makes us feel powerful in our own lives in the face of a sea of activity that can never be complete.

In treatment, I found times where I escaped these feelings – probably for the first time in my life. While there were plenty of times I felt guilty for having such a diminished capacity, I also had freeing moments where I had to let go of these things because it was a physical impossibility for me to do anything about them. Which often made me sad, but was also incredibly freeing.

There were times this let me be so much more present, accepting and open. That is something I’d quite like to keep.

In discussing cancer recovery, people and pamphlets alike often talk about a ‘new normal.’ Previously, this has always sounded to me like a slightly negative thing: that you can’t have what you had before, so it’s settling for what works.

Yet now that I’m facing the beginning of this transition, a ‘new normal’ actually feels incredibly positive and enticing. That’s what I want. A life built around the lessons I’ve learned during this process, but woven in with the threads that existed beforehand.

Here’s what it looks like right now working towards this:

I’m reminding myself these chemotherapy drugs are still active in my body.

I’m trying to embrace the process or resuming more daily activities as a gradual process.

More than anything, I’m trying to keep hold of the clarity I had in the most difficult moments.

Knowing that I only had limited time and energy was incredible for escaping ‘to-do list’ anxiety.

Now that I have a bit more energy, I want to keep hold of that, and to find new ways of connecting to these core feelings.

I know deep down that unless I make a conscious decision to do this, my old life will swallow me back up.

Slowly, slowly – I have to choose to build my new normal, discovering its new shape, one puzzle piece at a time.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Not with a bang, but a whimper

I might be done with chemo. And it’s not how I pictured it at all.

First of all, I expected to feel a lot worse at the point where my body gave out. I’ve seen up close how painful cancer treatment can be (and had some rough times myself). In most ways I’m feeling much better than I did in earlier phases of my cancer treatment.

But, as it turns out, neuropathy is a deal breaker. Without a doubt, my hands and feet aren’t working properly right now. My nerves have taken a real beating.

All they can do is stop the drugs – and hope that the damage isn’t permanent.

Next week, I’m going to check in with my oncologist. If my nerves have made a massive improvement, we’ll probably crack on with trying to do the last two doses of Taxol.

Otherwise, I’m done.

I feel like everyone around me is ready to celebrate.

My own feelings are really mixed.

It’s all a jumble in my mind.

I’m in shock. I’ve only just tipped past the halfway point of the regime we originally mapped out. I was supposed to be carrying on into October. The neuropathy came on so suddenly, I haven’t had a chance to adjust to the idea of finishing sooner.

I’m relieved. I won’t have to persist, risking losing even more function.

I’m excited. Already I’m feeling better and starting to take steps to rebuild my life.

I’m unimpressed. ‘Done’ with chemotherapy doesn’t actually feel very done. Even though the drugs that fall into the category of ‘chemotherapy’ will be stopped, I’ve still got to finish my year of Herceptin, which is administered in the chemo suite, using my port like my chemo drugs, and requiring the same sort of premedications, and having a whole risk of its own side effects that requires regular cardiac monitoring. Until that is finished, this era won’t really feel over.

I’m anxious. There is so much to do to try to put my life back together and figure out what this means, especially in the unsettling wake of a move.

I’m annoyed. Most people won’t understand this, but I feel like I finally just got good at this chemotherapy thing. I figured out a rhythm. We got the dosages right. I booked a schedule of friends and other support. I worked out how to calibrate my supportive medications just right to control the side effects. I was able to perform my injections without feeling stressed about it. I finally sorted out how to make it all doable, and it’s stopping before I even get to put it in action! (While obviously, I’d rather not have chemotherapy, it’s really frustrating that it’s only just as I’ve worked it out that its stopping.)

I’m worried. I can’t shake the fear that stopping chemo early will put me at higher risk for recurrence, even though my oncologist is clear that my outcomes should still be really good. The risk of permanent nerve damage outweighs the benefit of more chemotherapy.

I’m preparing. I feel like I have focused vision on on the next chapter, which will be hormone therapy. While it’s much less invasive, this journey has been full of unexpected surprises, and I have no idea how that will be.

I’m grateful. I have the option to stop and still be optimistic that my cancer has been cured. I know how lucky I am.

I’m embarrassed. Even though I know in every way that this is not the case, I feel like I’ve failed. The achiever mentality is to push till it hurts, then keep going. This is the approach I’ve taken in so many areas of my life. And here, it doesn’t even really hurt much (it’s just numb), and the answer is to stop. It feels somehow like I’m giving up or getting off easy. (While my rational mind knows that’s not the case, the feeling is still real.)

I’m racing ahead. I feel filled with energy to leap into the future I want so very badly, and to put all of this behind me.

But more than anything else – I’m in limbo.

While I am probably done, and I can hear the excitement in my family’s voices about this, it won’t feel real to me until we actually make the call next week with my oncologist.

So, I guess this is maybe how chemo ends?

Not with a bang, but with a whole lot of feelings that will take their own time to work out.

Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash

New growth

I noticed it first in my armpits: baby hairs, soft and fine, but present. Taking root. Growing.

And then yesterday, I saw something even more exciting…

My eyebrows are starting to come back. There are teeny tiny hairs beginning to peek out.

There are even a few baby eyelashes making their first careful reappearance.

Today, there were the first signs of roughness on my legs.

My hair is coming back.

Even though there is a slight annoyance in contemplating shaving my armpits while I am still practically bald, it made me smile to see this life taking hold.

Those little armpit hairs, more than anything, felt like a sign of health.

I’ve read enough in online discussion forums to know that these things often cycle. It’s quite likely these hairs will fall out and grown again at least once, possibly more.

But they are there.

And I can’t begin to describe the thrill in seeing those little eyebrow hairs in the mirror. and realising that what I thought was just a shadow is actually the return of something I had lost.

New growth.

My body is maybe finding a bit of spring after the toughest storms of winter.

And in my grateful heart, I whisper words of encouragement to each of those little follicles:

Grow, grow, grow…

The calm before the storm

Tomorrow is Wednesday. Wednesdays are chemo day.

And tomorrow isn’t just any chemo day. Tomorrow, I start cycle four of my chemo.

Today – this lovely, magical Tuesday – was a good day. The best I’ve had in a long while. I had so much energy, I felt almost normal. (At least, according to the standards of my ‘new normal’.)

I felt like I had a bit of my old sparkle.

I threw Rosie up into the air and caught her to make her giggle.

I rode the tube without any anxiety.

I could even take the stairs two at a time at the station, which felt pretty darn athletic given the shape I’m in. Especially considering that two weeks ago I had to ask people to spot me going up and down stairs, because I couldn’t do it safely on my own.

I’ve come so far.


I’m only at the halfway point. I’ve got three more cycles to go, assuming my body can hold out long enough for me to finish the full course of treatment.

And tomorrow it all starts again.

I’ll be back in the chemo suite for nearly eight hours.

Following that, I will probably be in bed for the next week. If I’m lucky. If I’m less, lucky, I will have taken up semi-permanent residence in the bathroom. Or worse: the hospital.

If last cycle is any guide, I may be too unwell to make it down the stairs to play with Rose. I may not have the strength to lift her safely for days at a time. I may not even have the energy to realise how much I miss her until I start to emerge from teh fog.

We keep tinkering with my dosages – reducing the chemo, and adding more drugs to cope with the side effects. So I am optimistic that things will be easier.

But I also know now what I’m dealing with. Many of my side effects are less severe than they were in the early stages. But fatigue is cumulative. Even if I am doing better, things are going to be hard.

The uncertainty is one of the hardest parts. I have been told by my oncologist and other medical professionals that the regime I am on is tough, and is unpredictable compared to some other chemotherapy schedules.

With carboplatin, some of the side effects show up later, in the second week rather than the first. It can feel like riding waves – and like the ocean, you don’t know whether the it is going to lap gently around your legs or crash mercilessly over your head until the incoming wave finally breaks on the shore.

I am lucky I have people who love me and are here for me to support me through this.

But it is a heavy burden – just making it through the day feels like an accomplishment. And it is particularly wearing for the person in the partner/main carer role.

Three weeks ago, I had to ask my parents to come and encourage me to drink sips of water so I wouldn’t wind up dehydrated and need to be hospitalised. I knew I needed to consume liquids, but the fatigue was so extreme that I could only manage to find the strength to take little sips if people helped me sit up and encouraged me to do drink.

As I contemplate the road ahead, I feel an urge to prepare for what is to come.

But how do you prepare for the unpredictable? What contingency plan can possibly handle the magnitude of the unexpected? And when I am so tired already, how do I find the strength to get all this set up in place?

It comes down to the same advice I was given at the beginning of my journey, from another woman who has been through breast cancer and come out the other side.

Take it one day at a time. One moment at a time. One breath at a time.

My mind keeps circling back to the image of those waves. They crash the most violently when we brace ourselves against them and resist. When we relax our bodies and let the water lift us and shift us, it is a completely different experience.

I think a similar pattern probably holds for my path through treatment journey. If I can release my expectations and accept the experience, whatever it may be, and let it wash over me, the easier and gentler it will become.

Easier said than done. But I’m willing to try.

I keep thinking of the lyrics of ‘Storm Comin”, a song I love from the Wailin’ Jennys:

When that storm comes, don’t run for cover,
When that storm comes, don’t run for cover,
When that storm comes, don’t run for cover,
Don’t run from the coming storm, no there ain’t no use in running.

When that rain falls, let it wash away,
When that rain falls, let it wash away,
When that rain falls, let it wash away,
Let it wash away, that falling rain, the tears and the troubles.

Whatever comes, at least I had this lovely, golden today.

And in the end, storms always pass. No matter how hard that rain may fall.

Photo by Torsten Dederichs on Unsplash

Go on, pull the dishwasher drawer all the way open

A few weeks back, I was trying to put a glass in the dishwasher.

The prime spaces in front of the top rack had already been claimed. I nudged the drawer open, trying to find the right angle to reach around to the back.

This turned into a curious sort of gymnastics trying to contort my arm into the back of of the half-open drawer.

And of course, I ended up knocking over two sippy cups in the process, which also had to get put back in place.

Then I thought, ‘What am I doing!?’

Yes, dishwasher drawers tend to be a bit fiddly. Yes, it’s a bit annoying to have to coax them out. And yes, sometimes you can get around those facts by only pulling it out a little bit of the way.

But honestly, I would have actually saved myself time and effort if I had pulled the drawer all the way out. Trying to find a creative way to wrangle that glass in without fully committing to opening the machine ended up being even more of a hassle than just getting the drawer out properly out in the first place.

So often we take shortcuts. Sometimes this is a good thing. But other times, it costs us even more energy.

(And I always think this doubly for dishes left in the sink – if you’re going to set it down, might as well just put it in the dishwasher rather than doing it twice!)

Since then I’ve been pondering, in what other areas in my life am I doing the equivalent of only pulling the dishwasher drawer halfway out?

What other areas are there where if I exerted just the tiniest bit more effort and energy, I would find my life getting better and easier?

I wonder…

But even though there are deeper metaphorical questions that are probably worth pondering, sometimes it’s best to start with the little things.

For today, it can be as simple as this: pull the dishwasher drawer all the way out.

(And if you decide to join me, let me know how it goes! Do you already do this? Or what is your ‘dishwasher’ equivalent?)

Photo by Catt Liu on Unsplash

Am I worth it?

Today, I sobbed so hard my teeth chattered. There are times in my life when grief has hit me powerfully hard, and this was one of them.

My legs actually gave away. I lost the strength to stand.

I thought that was the sort of thing that only happened in movies. It would have been comical if it wasn’t so heartbreaking.

My husband was tired. I was tired. We had had a very long weekend, with a baby who still doesn’t sleep through the night. We weren’t at our best. And we had just spent 40 minutes trying to figure out whether we had enough energy to boil pasta or whether we should just give up and order in.

Food and eating has been a struggle through my cancer treatment, for a variety of different reasons. It has been a constant juggle between the priorities of healthiness, frugality, and energy conservation. (You generally have to choose two of the three, and it’s hard to know day to day which ones are the most important).

The dinner planning discussion was one of those nowhere debates that happen sometimes in marriages, where you find yourselves staring at each other dead-eyed and numb; trying to connect, but missing each other. (For some reason, it’s always over the stupid things, though this is the safest place for the bigger worries to come leaping out.)

Finally, my husband threw his hands up and walked into the kitchen to get a snack. (We were both also starving by this point).

And as he left the room, I thought: this is it. We’ve finally reached the place where he doesn’t love me anymore.

This may not have been entirely rational. But all I could see was his back as he walked away.

My biggest fear going into cancer treatment was not being there for Rosie. My second biggest was that we would cross the threshold where finally I became so unrecognisable or so difficult that Zach couldn’t love me as as a wife and partner anymore.

Despite all of his assurances to the contrary, I have had nightmares that there would be a point where this becomes true.

This, even though I cannot ever imagine a scenario where I would want to walk away from him if the shoe was on the other foot. Even though he surrounds me with love and makes me feel beautiful every time I look in his eyes and see his love reflected back. Even though it’s actually doesn’t do him credit for being the kind of husband he is by carrying these seeds of worry and doubt. Even though I worry that bu feeding those seeds with fantasies I cannot seem to turn off, that I will somehow make them true.

Many of us have fears that we are ‘too much’. Or we carry in our deepest roots a sense that love has to be earned – by good behaviour, achievement, or contribution to a relationship or a household (which might be financial provision, physical labour, or emotional support and connection).

Sometimes we provide those things out of love. And sometimes we do it out of fear that the people who care about us won’t love us if we stop ticking the boxes we have built our identity around.

Most days, I try to convince myself that existing is enough. And most days it works.

But other days, I ask myself – am I contributing enough?

These are thoughts I struggled with before cancer. But it has become so much harder.

I’m a playwright who hasn’t been able to work during my treatment. I’ve given up or outsourced almost all household duties during this time. While I am still a strong and loving presence, my husband has become the primary parent for our daughter Rose, with the help of our amazing nanny and some wonderful babysitters.

On top of this, I have lost my hair, my breasts, my appetite, my vision for my future, and other things I can’t begin to count.

Some of these things I will get back. (Probably.) Others are gone forever.

Over and over again, I ask myself, what do I have to offer? What makes me lovable? What gives me value and makes me worthy of love?

Some days I answer confidently and full of joy.

On tougher days, I struggle to find the answers.

That’s when I start to wonder – ‘am I worth it?’

Am I worth the time, money, effort, medical treatment, and support that is being poured into me? So often, it feels like nothing in return except for simply staying alive.

I never have these thoughts about other people. If a friend in my circumstances told me these things, I would say without a second thought ‘OF COURSE you are worth it’, and be able to give an enormous list of reasons why.

If my husband was in my position, I would be doing for him what he is doing for me (although possibly not as well). I would be encouraging him to heal, caring for him as much as I can, and believing wholeheartedly that a positive future awaits us.

I can see it for other people – both strangers and those closest to me – but I can’t find the life preserver for myself.

The main thing that gives me ballast during these dark moments is thinking about my daughter.

She just turned one. She’s a pretty bright, spunky little kid and she delights in doing things for herself. But she she needs help with almost everything. The same issues of dependency that I struggle with on a day to day basis are her everyday life.

What is she contributing? According to her paycheck, nothing. According to me, EVERYTHING. Even if she did nothing in this lifetime other than stay alive as long as possible, that would be enough. I hope she will enjoy her life. I hope she will find ways to do good. But it doesn’t matter.

Existing is enough.

It is easy to lose sight of this truth when we start to think of ourselves as machines, or quantify our contributions in hours spent or dollars earned.

People often tell me I am brave – and while it feels lovely, I can feel like a bit of an imposter accepting this praise. I am brave because so many people have picked me up, dusted me off, and kept me going during the hardest moments.

We all know some of the ways that cancer is physically hard. But dealing with the emotional component is a challenge of its own.

Being so completely and utterly dependent is humbling. And hard. And sad. And terrifying.

It is a rollercoaster of emotions, and they can change so quickly.

The joy I have had in my life during this time is genuine – and those are the moments I am always most keen to share. But these darker moments are equally part of the picture.

I think it’s important to be honest about this. Even though it feels a bit like walking outside in only underwear.

Being the person with a cancer diagnosis can feel a bit like being a Team Captain, if you’re lucky enough to have people supporting you. there is a huge desire to share positivity and hope with other people. In some ways, showing the underbelly feels like a betrayal of that ethos.

The longer my treatment drags on (hot on the heals of a difficult pregnancy and birth), the greater the fear becomes:

Have I asked too much? Are the people that I love finally fed up with this (and me)? Are they going to walk away?

Have I finally reached the limit where I am no longer worth the effort being put into me?

Have I finally reached the point where it is so overwhelming that it hasn’t left any room for love?

Then, the more I try to do to prove myself worthy of love, the more irrational I become. I spin my wheels, often trying to stretch myself in stupid and unhealthy ways. No matter how outlandish the plan or irrational the feelings, it comes from the same place – wanting to prove that I am worth all that has been invested in me.

I would suspect I am not the only person with caner / chronic illness / disability to have these feelings.

And yet, I think the clunking of these internal gears is often invisible to the people around us. They love us so much they would never imagine the questions of self-worth we are entertaining.

Back to the dinner discussion…

I took a moment to just let the tears pour – all the fear, sadness and feelings of unworthiness that were building up inside.

I went and found my husband in the kitchen. He put down the hummus. He was shocked to see me so upset. I told him what I was feeling. I told him how I was scared, and why.

It is terrifying to be so boldly honest and vulnerable, even with a partner who almost unfailingly responds with wisdom and kindness. But I shared those dark places, the fears this latest round of struggle and side effects had caused to surface. And he listened.

He gave me a big hug. He held me up as my legs gave way – both physically and metaphorically.

He still loved me.

There might be a day my marriage would end – life has no guarantees – but it was not this night. And as he told me, he was not going to let me go easy.

It wasn’t his words that told me this. (Although, as he has said time before, he comforted me with widsom and kindness.) I could feel it in that warm, steady grip. I could see it in his eyes.

Life tests us and our relationships to the fullest.

Somehow, our marriage keeps taking these knocks and bouncing back stronger. Our bond is being forged in the fire. This isn’t the first hard moment, it won’t be the last, but we still keep reaching for each other. That is a powerful thing.

I wish I could say the fear has gone. It hasn’t. Not if I’m really being honest.

It’s been put to bed for now, but it still lurks in the shadows. I still worry the moment will come when there won’t be any love left because it will have been squeezed out by other things.

I’m worried that the friends who have rallied around me will get tired and drop away. I’ve heard so many stories of people losing friends during cancer treatment. My experience has been the opposite, but I keep worrying this lonely fate awaits me.

It’s tough to manage this fear with all my relationships, but hardest in a marriage.

Still, I am lucky to feel love. And I am lucky to feel hope – that even if I never get to be truly healthy again, or to contribute as much to this world as I would like, that I will still be loved.

Our current reality is surrounded by moving boxes, and buried in to-do lists. But we tried to take a few moments to do something together that is actually fun, and had a lovely time watching a very strange anime series on Netflix.

We cuddled. And we laughed. The best kindling for love. Also the best medicine of all.

PS We ordered sushi.

Photo by Julia Forsman

Imagine a seed in the palm of your hand

Imagine a seed in the palm of your hand.

Imagine it bursting, carefully, into life.

Imagine the roots curling around your fingers, up your arm – around, and over and under, and through your entire body – delicate and flexible, but with the unbreakable promise of finely spun wire.

Imagine those roots filling your body with energy and strength.

Imagine tender leaves sprouting upward from that seed – green and curious, reaching upwards towards the sun.

Imagine those leaves growing into stems, then twigs, then thick strong branches, creating a dappled canopy – a shelter for you and all those you invite to join you under the shade of its majestic limbs.

Breathe in. Feel the peaceful embrace of those loving roots.

Breathe out. Feel the powerful possibility of those adventurous branches.

The roots are your past – the skeleton that gives your inner life meaning and shape.

The branches are your future – your opportunity to reach into the world, and find your own special way to connect with it.

The seed is this moment right now… and now… and now. It is the ever-constant present that is always with you. The seed is you: your body, your soul, your precious heart, your unique mind.

Which roots will you choose to water, and which will you uproot?

Which branches will you train skyward, and which will you prune away?

How tenderly will you hold and nourish that little seed?

What kind of magic are you going to grow today?

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Guess what we did this weekend?

It was never in our plan to move in the middle of chemotherapy.

When our landlord let us know he needed to sell our flat, we were shocked, devastated, and pretty worried about how to manage it all.

In the end, it has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We love our new home, and it’s been a welcome relief going from living on the busiest part of the high street to somewhere green and peaceful, with our own little patio bordering a garden filled with roses.

With the help of friends and some amazing movers, we did it.

We are very tired, but very happy.

New home, new chapter – full of healing, laughter, and green, growing things.

And at least someone enjoyed the move – helpfully pointing to the movers from the vantage point of her high chair!

Photo by A.C. Smith

A quick solution for an Indian food craving during chemo (or anytime!)

Guys, I cooked!!! (Please see photographic evidence.)

Technically, ‘cooked’ might be an overstatement. But I bought food, made it hot, and put it on plates. Given the fact that I haven’t been able to do this – or even set foot into a grocery store for months – this feels like a big win!

I’ve always been a pragmatic cook – the kind of person who thinks about how many dishes a recipe uses before I decide I want to make it – and these labour-saving skills served me well in my hour of need.

Yesterday, I was craving the spice and flavour or Indian food so badly. But stomachs tend to be a bit touchy during chemo which means to avoid potentially unwelcome triggers it had to be:

  1. Very light on chilli spice
  2. Dairy/milk free (including ghee, ideally)

This is quite a tough ask if getting it from a restaurant or in 90% of the prepared meals at the grocery store.

I have some brilliant homemade recipes that fit the bill, but I didn’t have the energy (or, to be frank, the nausea control) to cook from scratch.

Nevertheless, I came up with a fantastic lunch that I then repurposed into dinner on the patio for Zach and I tonight.

It relied entirely on combining things that are more or less ready to go in the supermarket already. (Sainsburys does fantastic ready Indian food snacks that are remarkably milk free and very low spice. A great way to sneak in vegetables if (like me) these are on your aversions list.)

It was delicious and took less than 15 minutes (and could be faster if you are even lazier), so I have a feeling I may bust this out again for busy nights even when I have more cooking options!

What to buy:

  1. Pre-made Indian Snack pack (from fresh or frozen section). At least at Sainsbury’s these are milk free and very low spice!
  2. Pre-made parathas. You can usually freeze the extras. (Note: naan usually have milk, but other breads also work.)
  3. Precooked chicken pieces.
  4. Indian sauce packets. (Leave out cream or other additions. If struggling to find something without milk, look for pastes instead and just let it be a bit drier.)
  5. Fresh coriander. (Look, Ma – I’m eating my vegetables!)

Here is the magic ‘recipe’:

  1. Preheat the oven and when hot put in pre-made starters/snacks. (They really do taste so much better crisped. But if you are truly exhausted or lazy, microwave with zero guilt.)
  2. Microwave in bag rice. Takes 2 minutes. Sits for 1. Done!
  3. Tear the cooked chicken into pieces and pour the sauce on top. Zap in microwave.
  4. Tear coriander and put on top of chicken.
  5. Give the breads one minute in the oven after the starters come out. (If you want to feel artsy and also make then fit on the plate, you can fold them like I did.)
  6. Ready to serve!

Zach said it was absolutely delicious. Granted, standards are pretty low right now, but it was fun to enjoy a meal together – and such a pleasure and relief to be able to work with and enjoy food tonight!

Plus, the next time I get a craving for Indian food that it seems impossible to respond too without risking some gastro repercussions, I now have a solution!

Photo: Z Rothstein