Sunday, May 30, 2010

Mrs. Hazelton's Cabbage Soup

Makes: 24-28 cups

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 3-4 medium carrots, chopped finely
  • 4-5 stalks celery, chopped finely
  • 0.5kg extra lean ground beef
  • 1 small/medium cabbage, chopped to 1/2" pieces
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 2 pouches Lipton Onion Soup Mix
  • 3 beef bullion cubes
  • 3 cans whole tomatoes, stewed with herbs and spices (we use Our Compliments brand)
  • 8 cups water (add more as needed)
  • 2-3 cups brown rice

  1. In a large pot, add olive oil, on medium heat. Add onions, carrots, celery as you chop them, stirring often.

  2. Break up the ground beef into ~1" size pieces as you add it to the pot. Add the onion soup mix and bullion cubes. Stir well.

  3. Chop cabbage, stirring pot, to ensure even beef browning. Add cabbage as you chop it. Add frozen peas, and stir.

  4. Open cans of tomatoes, add the juice. Squish the tomatoes with your hands as you add them. Remove any tomato skin you find.

  5. Add 8 cups of water, stir. Turn heat up to bring to a boil, then turn down to medium heat. Boil for 1-1 11/2 hours.

  6. Add brown rice, and stir. Add more water, if needed. Cook for another 1 1/2, or until rice is fully cooked and soft.

  7. Let cool, and put into containers for freezing. When warming up, add more water if you prefer a soupier soup.


I haven't posted in forever. Honestly, I've been too busy, or too tired for the most part. The last month has been a little crazy for me.

May 26th I was planning to go to Hamilton to visit my parents and get my monthly allergy shot. I get a call from my mom. I didn't answer because, well, I was exhausted and still in bed trying to actually sleep. When I got up, about twenty minutes later, I listened to the message.

My mom called to tell me to bring my keys because her and Pa weren't going to be home - Pa was taking her to the hospital. But I shouldn't worry. She was fine. A little shaky, but that was just nerves. o.0


I messaged Chris as work, nearly in a panic. Mom hates hospitals, she would not go there on a whim. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

I got ready in record time and went to the only hospital I could imagine mom going to - the General. She just told me 'the hospital'. There are lots of hospitals in Hamilton! What if I picked the wrong one? What if they sent her to another? Gah. I went to the General straight from the GO Station. I took a cab. If mom wasn't there, I'd go home and hope she left a note. If not, I'd call every hospital in town until I found her. This was my plan.

Thankfully, she was at the General. I found her in an observation room in Emergency. They had admitted her and swept her away as soon as she arrived. For all the cut backs, sometimes, sometimes they get it very right.

When I talk to mom, she's shocked I came! o.0 Oh mom, she has absolutely no idea how much me all love her. Until I saw her, my heart was in my throat thinking I might have lost her -- not the last time I'd feel that way in this ordeal.

She looked pretty good, she had colour, she was talking, trying to take care of me - she was till my mom. She was still here. whew. But she was shaking. Scared I think really.

She tells me she had a heart attack, Friday night. 2am to 4am, Saturday morning, really. She was in so much pain she was scared to move. She thought she was going to die. She said if she'd had paper and a pen, she'd have written me a letter. o.0 I'm getting married in October, she didn't want me to not have a wedding if she didn't make it through the night. Jesus. She didn't even tell Pa until 11am the next morning!!

She refused to go to the hospital. Her eldest daughter was staying with them, she was going to visit her late husband's family in Calgary Monday, and getting a flight out of Hamilton airport. My Aunt tried to get mom to go to the hospital. Pa tried. No go. Finally they got her to agree to call Dr. Roy, our GP, Monday morning. But she didn't slow down! She went grocery shopping, she did laundry, she went to church, christ, she even vacuumed the living floor Monday morning. o.0


Pa had to hound her to even get her to call Dr. Roy! Finally she did. Pa then had to push to find out what Dr. Roy said. He told her to go to the hospital. NOW. Yeah. Geez Mom!

So, she's admitted to the hospital, much to her dismay. I stay in Hamilton - of course. Everyone's asking me how long I'm staying. I say, until mom is better. How could I leave?! Also, my Pa is 84. He's more capable than he lets on, but he still doesn't know which meds to take when, or even which are his or mom's. I can't leave him alone! They raised me. I'm not going anywhere until mom's home and okay.

In all this I learn she had a heart attack seven years ago! But it was no where near as bad she says. She did go to the hospital then, but they didn't test her as thoroughly, and said she was fine. o.0 My bet it she wasn't really fine, it just wasn't as obvious then.

They did all kinds of tests. We learn she did have a heart attack, and that there was damage to her heart, but they don't know how much. They schedule a angioplasty for the Wednesday, which was as soon as they could. There was this wonderful young female doctor, I wish I could remember her name! She was amazing. I really liked her. I can picture her face perfectly, but her name, I'm at a loss. doh. I'm not too positive, but I believe she was a cardiac specialist resident. She didn't look more than 28. She was a full doctor, but she had a boss, which is why I'm thinking resident. If she's the future of medicine, we don't have anything to worry about, I tell you what. Smart as a whip, friendly, caring, so so so good at explaining things! Oh, I can't speak well enough of her.

Anyway! The lovely doctor explains that they'll inject a die into one of mom's arteries, and take 'pictures' of her heart to see how it looks. If there is damage/partial blockage to one of her arteries that supplies blood to the heart muscle, which they believe there is, they will put a balloon in to compress the blockage, and then put a stint in to keep it open.

We don't find out until Wednesday night what they did/found. What a long ass day waiting! omg! My Aunt Alice and I go in to see mom Wednesday night. We meet Aunt Christine just leaviing, she's a mess. Crying, distraught. She tells us there is a LOT of damage to mom's heart. Way more than they or we thought. They couldn't fix it that way. But they can do something right, we ask. There has to be something else they can do? Right? Aunt Christine tells us all three of mom's arteries are blocked, and the only option is surgery, but mom doesn't want to do it. We all freaked out. Tears streamed down our faces. We shook. We sobbed. I thought my knees where going to give out. All three? All three blocked? Well she has to do it, I say. We'll convince her Alice and I tell Christine. We're all mom's daughters. We won't lose her. Not without a fight.

Aunt Alice and I wipe away our tears. Blow our noses. Put on our brave faces, and go to see mom. We see the drawing the doctor did of her heart. This doctor being the boss of the wonderful lady I mentioned above. He did the angioplasty. He even came by while we were there to explain to us how blocked her heart is. One of her arteries is blocked solid all the way along. The second is 80% blocked! The third is fully blocked in two places, making it unusable. Her entire heart is running on 20% of the capacity of ONE of her veins. Oh my fucking god. The doctor said they're really surprised she's still waling around. Woah. He said he's done what he can, and has referred mom to a surgeon, who will come talk to her soon.

Mom is still adamant that she doesn't want to do it at this point. She says everyone that has it done spends a year being an invalid, in pain, unable to do anything, then dies. She doesn't want that. My heart was in my throat again. I tell her to at least wait until she hears what the surgeon says before she makes a decision. Aunt Alice tells her about her husband's golf buddy who has had two heart surgeries, ten years apart, and he's fine. He's out playing golf! We try to tell mom medicine has come a long way, it doesn't have to be like that. Aunt Alice reminds her of all the great grandchildren that are going to be born in the next year - 3 more! She wants to be around to see them, doesn't she? I tell her, I'm getting married in October! She has to be there. The only reason I'm having a wedding is - my heart catches in my throat as I try to finish my sentence. I let the tears come and try again. The only reason I'm having a wedding is because I want you there mom, I tell her as I squeeze her hand. We beg her to at least not decide until she talk to the doctor.

I know my mom, if she makes up her mind, she's not going to change it. She's the most stubborn, strong willed person I know. So all I ask of her is not to decide. In my head I pray to Fria. It's been a long time, but she's the only one that's every answered. With all my heart and soul, I pray my mom just listens, just waits to decide until she knows all the facts.

We leave mom hours later, having at least gotten her to promise not to make up her mind until she talks to the doctor. Now we have to go home and tell grandpa. How are we going to tell him, we ask each other. Aunt Alice wants to wait till morning. She doesn't want to worry him. But he's already worried. This is his wife. He's been worried since Saturday morning. I decide, if he's up, we tell him. He has to know.

When we get home, poor Pa is beside himself. We left hours ago! What happened he asks. I say lets go and sit down. I can't tell him standing up. I almost fell down when I heard, I don't want him loosing his feet! So we tell him. He's just as shocked as we are. We all three agree we have to convince her. She has to do it. She just has to. We can't loose her. Pa says he'd be lost without her. And you know, it's so true. They've spent the last 63 years together! I can't even fathom it.

When Pa and I go in the next morning, we're ready for a fight. We are going to convince her. But when we get there, she's already decided she has to do it. Thank the gods. They are keeping her in the hospital - there was some question last night as to what they were going to do with her. They're keeping her until they can do the surgery. They've got it scheduled for Monday afternoon, the soonest they can manage it.

We meet the surgeon on Friday. I say we because it was Aunt Alice, myself, and uncle Russell. He tells us they are going to take veins from mom's legs, and maybe her arms, and replace the blocked arteries. Mom's heart muscle is very strong, but because there is so many blockages, it makes things slightly more risky. Yet again my heart is in my throat waiting for him to tell us the percentages. I'm thinking he'll say there's a 30% chance of her dying. I'm scared, and yet, I'll take those odds. If she doesn't do it, she might live a few days or a few months, but she won't be with us long. Dr. Lami (his name I remember because I saw it written a few times) tells us there is a 5% chance mom could have a heart attack or stroke during the surgery. Only 5%! That's a 95% chance of success I tell mom! That's great! I'll take those odds!

Mom seemed pretty stable, so I go home to visit Chris. I'd called him every night. I fell apart talking to him more than once. He was my rock. He tole me I was his wife. In sickness and in health. That's what he was there for. Sweet man. I needed to see him. I needed to spend some times with my friends. I felt a lot better coming home Sunday after some time with my beloved. He even came home with me to see my mommy. I told him he didn't have to. He said I sounded just like my mom (who I had been complaining was trying to take care of everyone but herself). Yeah. Caught. So he came home with me.

Everyone came to visit mom that Sunday. Alice, her hubby, her eldest son and his girlfriend. Christine and her youngest son, her eldest daughter, her hubby and daughter had already been in I believe. Her daughter Beatrice who hadn't really been talking to mom for. well, years. How good it was to see her there! I know just how much it meant to mom. Even two of mom's great-grandchildren who were visiting Hamilton, came in. Heck, even one of her daughters that lives in New Brunswick, came up with her husband to see mom!!

Monday Morning Aunt Alice came over around 9am, saying she was going to the hospital to see mom, she couldn't wait any longer. Pa went up with Rick and Doris (our N.B. travellers). Aunt Alice had said she was going to come back. I wasn't in a hurry. I'm just so not a morning person. But I was ready by 10 am, and wondering if Aunt Alice really was coming back. I had the phone in my hand and was looking for her cell number when she called. She said they were prepping mom for surgery and if I wanted to see her I better hurry. I called a cab as soon as I hung up with here. Heart in my throat again. I was feeling like it might just take up permanent residence there. I just had to see her. I had to. Oh gods. I couldn't miss her.

When I got to the hospital, I asked Information where she was, in case they'd moved her. I went to the bank of the slowest moving elevators I've ever had to deal with. There was none near the main floor. Screw this, I thought. It's only two floor ups, I can do those stairs. I have bad knees. Stairs in general just don't like me. On bad days my knees scream even going down, and up is always worse. But I just didn't care. I had to see my mom. I could take a little pain, hell, I could take a lot. I ran up the stairs as fast as I could. It took all I had not to run through the hallways. Actually, I was pretty winded, the main floor and one above it are extra tall, so it was more like three flights of stairs.

Mom was just coming out of the bathroom when I got there. She'd just had a bath. They already had the bed in the hall that they were taking her downstairs to surgery in! Jeez! Aunt Alice apologized for leaving me. She's such a sweetheart. She felt bad I was left without a way to the hospital. That's what cabs are for I told her. It's no big deal. I got to give my mom a hug. That's what was important. I told her she was the bravest woman I know. Alice, Pa, Doris and I all got to take the huge patient elevator downstairs with mom. Pa and I went into the surgery prep room and said our "I love you"s.

You know, if mom hadn't been in the hospital that weekend we would have lost her then. She had a few small attacks over the weekend. But she was getting better at telling the nurses when she had a problem. In the week she'd been in the hospital there had been an army of Hazeltons come to visit her. And we all told her the same thing: you have to TELL US when something is wrong! Geez. So she was slowly getting better at it. It's a hard habit to break. I have it too, I know. But things work out better when you tell people you aren't feeling well. Especially when you are in the hospital - they can do something about it.

They kicked us out at 1pm. They asked who the representative for the family was going to be when Pa and I were with her. I looked at mom. I said, she's always our rep. Who do you want mom, I asked. She said I better do it. Usually it would be the husband, but Pa is hard of hearing, and can't understand people with accents, like at all. It's best to be me. Same number, and then I can tell him, and everyone else. They tell us Dr. Lami will come see us in the heart investigation waiting room, at 5pm. We plan to be back there by 4:30pm. We don't want to miss him!

Alice, Pa and I end up arriving by 4:20pm. Just before 5pm Doris, Rick and Jean(another of mom's daughters) show up. Uncle Russell shows up just after 5pm. Our doctor is a no show, but we learn they didn't take her into surgery until 2pm, an hour later than planned. Richard, Aunt Barb's youngest arrives around 6pm. Felicia, Aunt Chistine's eldest daughter, arrives just after him. At 6:40pm, Dr. Lami finally comes to see us. He tells us the surgery went 'reasonably well'. Mom is being prepped for a blood transfusion. She's a little woman, with little veins, it was technically challenging, Dr. Lami said, but he's happy with the results. When can we see her, we all want to know. He said we should wait 40 minutes or so for them to to the transfusion and move her to the ICU. Then we can go to the ICU waiting room and call ICU West to see if we can see her. But only two of us can go in at a time he warns us.

Richard leaves, he has to go take care of his family. I can't remember if Felicia left just after him or not. Doh. Aunt Christine found us at some point. I think we'd moved to the ICU waiting room by the time she caught up with us. After we got the news Jean and Doris went for a walk. I think Alice and Pa just went to the other waiting room. I went for some food, I was freaking staring, and I had to take my meds. Taking them on an empty stomach would have been a bad idea. I wanted to call Chris, but I don't have a cell phone, I couldn't remember our 905 number, and calling our 416 would be $5 on a pay phone. And I really didn't feel comfy sticking my VISA in a pay phone.

We called 45 minutes after seeing Dr. Lami. They were still working with mom, and we couldn't see her. They asked us to call back in another 40 minutes. When we called back, they let us all come in to see her. She was in a bed near a window. She had tubes down her throat. She had needles hooked into her, and tubes everywhere. She was covered in this odd moving blanket. She was soooooo swollen. None of us had ever seen her look like this before. Pa nearly fell over when he saw her. Thank goodness he had three of his girls beside him. They kept him standing. All them with tears in their eyes, streaming down their face. It occured to me then that they were all the same height, the same small frame. I wasn't crying. She was still with us! She was here. She made it. The ICU nurse explained the odd blanket was keeping her warm with warm air. She'd had two blood transfusions. She was on lots of drugs, for pain, to help her heart work, all sorts. The nurse said she'd woken up, and squeezed their hand when they asked, and that now she was resting - they'd put her out.

Her first night was a little rough. Tuesday morning they did more tests, and found out that either during or soon after her surgery she'd had another attack and had done damage to the back of her heart. She was on lots of drugs to let her heart rest as much as it could, so her heart could heal. Scared. So very very scared. I didn't find all this out until Tuesday night or was it Wednesday? I think it was Wednesday that I learned all this. Yes, Wednesday. She was still the same, still needing lots of support. Still with the damaged heart. Jesus.

I was so scared I called Chris with no pretense even of not crying. I was so scared I was going to lose her. After all this and we were going to lose her. I couldn't lose her! I just couldn't. Heart in my throat. Tears streaming down my face. I needed him. I asked Chris to come to Hamilton, or maybe I begged, my heart was begging, I'm not sure what words were coming out; if he could swing it with work, that is. I was so scared. So very very scared.

I think it was Thursday when Chris came down to see mom. Pa and I went to the hospital in the morning and Chris met me there. We went up to see mom. He told mom he wanted her at his wedding, that he was expecting her there. She squeezed his hand. She was still hooked up to so many tubes, and that horrible tube down her throat! But she was doing better. She was stable now.

I didn't go home that weekend, Chris was sick. But mom had her tube out of her throat by Friday, and was telling me to go! I was not about to risk getting sick. I told her I was staying and why so she wouldn't worry about me. She's all hooked up, just had open heart surgery, and she's worried about me! That's my mom. I love her, and sometimes she makes me crazy.

It was a full week before she was out of ICU. But by that Saturday she was home! I left Friday to visit Chris. Mom had said they didn't think they were letting her out until next week, but she called me Saturday afternoon to tell me she was home! She told me Alice was there, did some laundry, had bought her some groceries, and that she didn't want for anything. So I came home Sunday as planned. You know, I was shocked to see her up and walking around the house. Go mom!

She's still recovering. It's a long ass road. I've been spending my weekends in Toronto and my weeks in Hamilton taking care of my parents as much as they'll let me. Mom can shower all by herself, cook dinner for her and Pa, fill both their pill cases, order prescription refills, all sorts, but she isn't leaving the house, she not that well yet. I think she's doing great! All I really do is get groceries, and do laundry, as that's in the basement.

We're working on plan to get the washer and dryer upstairs. I am finally moving out of my bedroom. Really, we're just playing tetris with the house. Most of my clothes and stuff are going up into the attic. I'm giving Pa my chair, TV, VCR, and DVD player, and letting him borrow the armour it's in. I think at some point I might want the armour back, but that might not be for many years. We're going to take apart my bed, put the frame up int he attic, and the mattress in what is no Pa's room. He'll get my room. And his room can be a pantry/laundry room I think. So much to do. Mom is thinking we don't need to move stuff up from downstairs, but frig, when I'm there I go up and down those stairs about 14 times a day! She can't be doing that. Dr. Lami said when she came home she wouldn't have any restrictions on what she could do, but how well she is makes restrictions. I'm not sure she can handle doing that many stairs! And why should she if she doesn't have to? So yeah, that's where I've been for the past month.

I have always been very very grateful to have my parents as my parents. They took me in when they didn't have to. They loved me and raised me like their own. They spoiled me, loved me, and taught me how to love, and what was really important in life. I'm so very lucky to have them. And after all this, I feel even more lucky. My mommy is going to be at my wedding. My guest of honour.

I told Chris, when we can, I want to donate to the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation. And I want to keep doing it. If it wasn't for them, for organizations like them, my mom would not be with us. There just isn't anything more valuable to me. I still have my mommy. And I'm hoping I'll get to keep her for many more years to come.