Women honor husbands by delivering soup

LACEY -- Two Olympia women who lost their husbands to cancer are giving the gift of soup to cancer patients at the Providence Regional Cancer System in Lacey.

Madeleine Lindaas and Gail Crayne take turns delivering soup to chemotherapy patients at the center at 4523 Third Ave. S.E., near the Lacey City Hall.

"We're going on our third year, I think," Lindaas said.

The two volunteers, who typically deliver soup on the first and third Wednesdays of the month, were on hand Tuesday to deliver Swiss butter cookies for the holidays.

Crayne lost her husband to brain cancer; Lindaas lost hers to kidney cancer, Lindaas said. Both were treated at the cancer center here.

Lindaas is a cancer survivor herself, having battled non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. They know the pain of chemotherapy, both for the patient and for loved ones.

So about three years ago, Lindaas came up with the idea of delivering soup to patients.

It's a comfort food but a nutritious one, and it soothes chemo patients who have altered appetites.

"We realized that both of our husbands, when they wouldn't eat something at home, would eat whatever is here" at the cancer center, Lindaas said. "We just asked if we could do it."

The answer was yes. Providence paid for the pair to get food-handling permits, said Georgia Akin, chemotherapy infusion nurse.

"Madeline does one week, and I do the other Wednesday," Crayne said. "We usually confer about what we're making."

Lindaas said they bring about 25 bowls' worth each time.

"That will usually feed the patients who are here at the time," she said. "We also offer it to a caregiver if they're here with a patient."

They bring a wide variety of soup, including flavors such as tomato, minestrone and Moroccan chicken. Lindaas is more of a newcomer to making soup; Crayne is a longtime soup maker. She credits her Scandinavian roots. Soup was essential for her ancestors to stay warm.

The key to the soup, Lindaas said, is it must have a lot of flavor, it can't be hard to eat and it shouldn't be too spicy.

Akin said chemotherapy can alter a patient's sense of taste.

"Foods that might have been a favorite are no longer a favorite," she said.

Betty Schotts of Tumwater, a patient at the center for two years, loves the soup.

"I've had the soup every Wednesday when I've been out here," she said.

The two volunteers plan to continue their work and were talking to Schotts' sister about her contributing soup of her own.

"Somehow, soup is a real comfort food that makes you feel good," Lindaas said.