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Jan 30 / suzanne

Meet This Grateful Neighbor: Suzanne

Suzanne Brandsen and her husband, Josh

Cheesey, buttery, sour-creamy casseroles and salty, gravy-drenched roasts — these are the dishes that nutritionists are imploring us to cut back on, slim down with low-fat, low-sodium ingredients or avoid altogether.

And they’re just what Suzanne Brandsen needs most.

Suzanne, who’s 29 and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that causes mucus to clog the lungs and digestive tract. Cystic fibrosis makes it difficult for her body to absorb all the nutrients she eats and causes her to sweat excess amounts of salt.

“With my CF, the more calories and salt the better,” says Suzanne, who chronicles her life here. “We eat a lot of ice cream in our house, and everything is made with whole milk and butter. I love sauces and gravy and salad dressings. I know it flies in the face of what everyone else is trying to do!”

Recently Suzanne was the recipient of a comfort-food-packed meal train, after she underwent surgery for a large ovarian tumor that turned out to be benign. “Since there was no cancer after all, all of our visits and meals were filled with joy.”

In honor of Suzanne, and for anyone else seeking to pack on the pounds or indulge in cheesy yumminess, here is a wonderful Baked Ziti recipe.

And here are some thoughts from Suzanne on being the recipient of a meal train.

Stick with the basics, or make sure you’re cooking for someone who likes Thai food. The weirder you go, the more confident you want to be that the recipient will enjoy the dish. I happen to like Thai food, but you never know.

Receiving meals through mealTrain is incredibly helpful. I loved being able to see who would be stopping by each day, so I could mentally prepare, and it was great knowing ahead of time what they were planning to bring.

If you make a big portion, cook something freezable. It’s just me and my husband, so there’s only so much we can eat. Sometimes it was hard to keep up with all the wonderful food we were given. A recipient might want to spread out the meals so they are delivered every second or third day rather than daily.

Know that delivering a meal is a tremendous gift. Before and after my surgery, many people offered to do “whatever they could” to help us out. It helps everyone deal with tough situations if they can do something tangible, and organizing a meal train provided a way for our friends to do something meaningful for us that filled a real need. It took pressure off of my husband, who was already taking on extra responsibilities.

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