I lost my wife to cancer

Posted on 02 April 2011

An excerpt from Sharing Plates, a cookbook featuring stories of people dealing with cancer, and recipes that suit cancer patients.

Scroll to the bottom for details on how you can get the book. This is a Final-Year Project by students from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information.

IT IS unnerving meeting a person to talk about his late wife. Yet, when Simon first steps into the café, he flashes us a smile that immediately puts us at ease. This is a man who has found peace within himself, even after having lost the love of his life to cancer.

Settling comfortably in with his tea, Simon calmly begins to recount the story of how he met Pei Kie in Middlesex University London some 18 years ago, colouring his tale with details only a man in love would remember: the cartoon drawing he first stuck onto Pei Kie’s school locker, their first movie together, “Mrs Doubtfire”, and the good old British fish & chips they shared after.

We ask Simon for the one thing that he remembers most about Pei Kie and without hesitation, he tells us: “She was absolutely impeccable and pure.” Simon proceeds to illustrate how his belief in her character was further affirmed when he found out that she had filled her whole life neatly away for him while going through her things after she had passed away.

“I remember all the things she told me about herself that had happened before we met. And I look into her diary, and it’s all there. There was nothing she never told me. I could look through the nice boxes she kept from when we were dating as students and I would see receipts from every restaurant we ate at… the whole memory is there.”

Inevitably, we talk about how cancer had changed both Simon and Pei Kie’s lives. When Pei Kie was first diagnosed with stage 3 stomach cancer in 2007, the couple lived life as normally as they could. “We did not give the cancer any respect because it did not deserve it. We told ourselves there was nothing to stop the way we wanted to live,” Simon says adamantly.

Photographs of Pei Kie reveal a slender young woman with a cheery smile. “She’s a pretty girl and you don’t expect her to be tough,” Simon proudly remembers, “all the doctors said they had never seen anyone fight for so long. She refused to give up; she was that determined. Even up to her last breath, she was still fighting.”

To remember Pei Kie’s courage and determination to fight cancer, Simon has started the “In Her Shoes”  event, an art and music event that aims to raise funds for various local cancer organisations as well as to celebrate her life and optimism. Why the name “In Her Shoes”? Simon explains that it is because Pei Kie used to have a pair of lime green Nike’s which she travelled a lot in. “She had them in all the photos. The exhibition is very much like travelling with her. A lot of it is inspred by her lime green shoes.”

As Simon talks about Pei Kie, we feel as though we know this amazing woman personally. Someone who never gave up, who was true in everything she did, and gave as much as she could to the people she loved. “We pretty much grew up together and learnt about life from each other,” Simon muses, “She will always be a part of me. If it wasn’t for her, I would have turned out differently.”

Simon’s Chunky Tomato Soup (serves two)

What you will need
500g of tomatoes
60g of red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp of dried basil leaves
250ml of vegetable stock
170g of tomato puree
250ml of water
1 handful of coriander leaves, finely chopped
Pepper and sea salt to taste

Method
Wash the tomatoes, run boiling water over it and let it soak for a few minutes before draining and peeling off the skin. Cut the tomatoes into small chunks.
In a deep saucepan, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic on medium heat till they are soft.
Add in the tomato chunks and basil, cook on low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add in the vegetable stock and let it simmer for another 5 minutes.
Add in the tomato puree and water, cover it but leave a little gap to avoid over boiling.
Simmer it on low heat for about 10 minutes, with regular stirring and checking.
When soup is brought down to the thickness you prefer, add in enough sea salt to your taste.
Sprinkle pepper and coriander leaves and serve with some croutons.

Tips
Lycopene found in tomatoes is a vital antioxidant that helps in the fight against cancerous cell formation. The lycopene-content is higher in cooked tomatoes, rather than raw ones.

To purchase this book, head down to Borders (Parkway Parade) this Saturday and Sunday (2nd and 3rd April) from 11am to 8pm. They will also make an appearance at Borders (Wheelock) next weekend (9th and 10th April), 11am to 8pm.

You can also purchase it online here. All proceeds will go to the NCC Foundation.

To meet the team behind the book and sample the recipes in it, head down to NTU next Monday (4th April). More details about this event here.

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