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Purpose Prize Fellow 2013
This two-time cancer survivor teaches healthy cooking to people who, like her, have been touched by cancer.
I was an artist who became a designer, which morphed into a career in fashion. I lived in Paris for 12 years and then worked in New York as a high-end design consultant for industry giants like Calvin Klein, Saks and Barneys.
My career allowed me to indulge in two personal passions: travel and food. I first traveled abroad at age 8 and began cooking at 12, learning Italian specialties from my Mom and sturdy British classics from my Dad.
In the early 90s, many in fashion were lost to AIDS. I cooked and cared for a designer friend during the last six months of his life. This experience taught me not to be afraid, and I was grateful for that when I was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2001. I had surgery and life went back to normal. I was lucky.
Not so with my second diagnosis, an unrelated breast cancer that required surgery, chemo and radiation. I took time from work to get through my treatment.
3,000 patients in the NYC area have learned simple techniques to cook healthy meals, during and after treatment for cancer
1,000 program participants in 2013 – a 33 percent increase over 2012
600,000 visitors from 10 countries to the CFYL website since its launch in 2012. The website will reach 1 million unique visitors this year
This decision changed my life. Stepping back from my career, I began to understand that my cooking skills enabled me to cope with side effects in ways my fellow travelers in cancer couldn’t. When my treatment ended and I had a meeting with a client about a fashion project, I turned it down. My heart was with the people in the cancer suite. I realized I’d been given a second chance. I made my decision to leave fashion and start Cook for Your Life in 2007.
CFYL’s mission is to give the cancer community the practical knowledge, tools and inspiration to cook their way into a healthy survivorship. To date, our free classes and programs in the New York City area have served over 3,000 patients in person, and our free website has been used by 600,000 unique visitors from 10 countries. In 2009, we were the first program in New York to offer culturally adapted healthy cooking and nutrition programs in Spanish, designed for the underserved community of Hispanic breast cancer survivors.
My journey with CFYL has been amazing. Looking back, there were signposts that pointed the way that I didn’t immediately see. I believe it is important to stay flexible and be inquisitive, because the doors that open in life may not lead to where you first thought of going. Trust where the path takes you. You’ll know when it’s right.