Pinky Pie

Greasing the skids, chemo brain, Andy & me

Posted on: November 3, 2009

Andy & me attempting to grease the skids at Steak n Shake


When your only sibling lives in Portland, Oregon, visits are few and far between. While our mother lived here, Andy came twice yearly. Otherwise, it’s weddings, funerals and occasional visits to the Northwest.


With the addition of my breast cancer diagnosis, Andy decided to visit his baby sister. I’m sure he was expecting me to be in bed, wearing a bed jacket, pink of course, and surrounded by pillows to give me support. There, he’d pat my hand and softly offer expressions of encouragement.

Yeah, right.

Not quite what we’re doing.

First he gave me some great advice (big brothers do that). If I am having trouble sleeping, then a little alcohol in the evening might relax me. Duh.

And with another suggestion recommending a tablespoon of mineral oil with juice at night for another problem, I have created an evening cocktail of vodka, cranberry juice and mineral oil. I’m calling it the All Systems Go drink.

Not yet sold in bars.

We planned Andy’s visit for my good week in my chemotherapy cycle and have not stopped laughing unless we were watching the Packers or his team, the San Francisco 49ers, losing.  We were thrilled when the University of Oregon slapped USC, however.

We also discussed the novel that he is writing that is part of a trilogy of thrillers and is very good.  And we talked about the potential for my blog becoming a book, comments I’ve heard a lot.

The highlight of the visit came Monday. I’ve been avoiding crowds in this year of H1N1 because of my immune systems beaten down by the chemotherapy.

But I’m not perfectly consistent in this.

Thus, we decided to take a spiritual journey to a place that was like our youth culinary home in St. Louis:  Steak n Shake. Not an easy journey considering the closest was three hours a way in Waukesha, Wisconsin. But it was so worth it.

Going to Steak n Shake was a spiritual quest, a cultural experience and a culinary delight mixed in one. If you have not grown up on Steak n Shake you have no idea what you are missing. Andy once planned a ten-day trip to watch baseball spring training in Florida with as many visits to Steak n Shake as was humanly possible – eight. Two days there simply were no close ones.

This wasn’t just about over filling our bellies with memories, we thought it also had a medical benefit to it all: greasing the skids.  A little extra fat would be a good cause for keeping all systems going.

A friend said when she is stuffed from the nose to the toes as I had been, a burger and fries is the ticket.

Supposedly that concept was mentioned to a healthcare professional friend who said, “Oh yes, fried fish would be even better.” I thought that gave me carte blanche to enjoy fried fish that I hadn’t eaten since the 1970s. But when I raised this issue with the health professional friend personally, she laughed and said she didn’t remember saying that. Dang, I just wanted a little fried carte blanche.

Good thing I didn’t hear this before we went to Steak N Shake.

Of course, some preparation was in order to get to S &S, like MapQuesting to determine the closest one and then calling to make sure it was open. Sadly, there were only short-lived S & S’s in Madison and Janesville, Wisconsin.

I printed out the map, handed it to Andy, who then gave it back to me in the car. I promptly lost it. GPS on my phone helped get us there, although because I had typed in the wrong address in the phone GPS, we were off a bit.

But my Steakburger with lots and lots and lots and lots of pickles and lots and lots of mustard was terrific. Always known for its wonderful shakes, I was thrilled to discover Steak N Shake had a seasonal peppermint chocolate shake.

And Andy, only ate two double cheeseburgers so he could honestly tell his wife that he had not had two triples. It may be illusions of grandeur on his part, but Andy takes credit for the development of Steak n Shake triple Steakburger. It was was not on the menu when he and his high school friend, Randy, went there one night after dinner for a light bonus meal. He asked for a triple and Steak n Shake was only too willing to oblige.

Oh, the good news is I found the MapQuest instructions once we arrived at Steak n Shake.

Chemo brain lives!


5 Responses to "Greasing the skids, chemo brain, Andy & me"

Glad to hear you and Andy made it to Steak N Shake. Sounds like you and your big brother are having a great time, except for the football part that is. Love the picture – Hi Andy!

This makes me want to drive to Steak N Shake in Overland Park and have a burger in honor or you two. Why didn’t I think of this sooner?? I could have gone there for lunch on Monday and we could have chatted via cell phone about our burgers. Dang! An opportunity missed!
I can’t wait until your next visit to KC when we can reenact this at the local S & S.
Love you!

Sounds like you & Andy had a great visit – you are both so funny – how’s the Taft’s thing coming along? Better I hope

talk soon – love you

PTD has left the building. 🙂
But chemotherapy today …
Stay tuned and enjoy prunes, my mantra for the day.

Hey, Sue,
Just because one doesn’t write doesn’t mean one doesn’t read and…think…about you…every day. Somehow it’s a comfort to hear about your brother – that such past relationships and memories last.

Your walk experience was so real I thought I had to go lie down. I, too, had exhaustion events after my brain surgery and also on a trip once when I thought for sure I would end up on the sidewalk (It was so scary I thought it would keep me home for good.).

Your attitude reminds me of a book someone just gave me: “I Feel Bad About Neck.” It’s hilarious.

Nancy Ellingson

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