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New York City

Ann Ogden Gaffney, founder of Cook for Your Life

Ever since I was diagnosed with cancer I feel an instant kinship with anyone else who’s had the same label slapped on them. It’s an afterthought to me to find out what kind.

The word cancer though actually encompasses a myriad of forms of cells growing out of control inside the body. But hearing that someone else has the Big C, whether it’s the same form or not, instantly creates a bond.

I know what it’s like to have the idea put into a more concrete form that I may not live as long as the rest of you.

It’s after that initial wave passes that a strange and wonderful thing happens to a lot of survivors. We look for ways to insert ourselves back into life while being of service to others with our newfound appreciation.

Blessings pop up as we create a way for all of our fellow survivors to plug back into a new definition for their life.

Ann Ogden Gaffney who is a 10 year survivor of kidney cancer and a five year breast cancer survivor took that universal philosophy and melded it with her love of cooking and created, Cook For Your Life, in 2007 by teaching patients at St. Luke’s in New York City and that’s when she saw the huge demand and decided to make a change.

Classes are held in the NYC area for both cancer patients, survivors and even caregivers to offer them a chance to learn how to cook, pour their emotions into chopping and stirring and find some understanding among fellow travelers. “The cooking classes help them get through difficult times,” said Ann. “It’s a warm situation with a lot of chopping and chatting.” Classes are also offered in Spanish and Ann hopes that Cook For Your Life will eventually spread to other cities.

I’m hoping Chicago is next.

Somewhere in the middle of being diagnosed so many times with skin cancer I realized that eating better would probably benefit my immune system. The trick was going to be finding a way to learn how to eat what they call “closer to the ground”, or less packaged food without overwhelming myself. [click to continue…]


Cancer Zero & Martha One

In October of 2009 Dr. Jeffrey Wayne at Northwestern said there was a good possibility that I was looking at just one more year of life. I remember him quickly flipping through a notebook that his nurse, Jennifer had put together for me that showed the various stages I would probably be going through shortly.

I was looking in the general direction of the notebook but I was making a point not to really look at any of it. My brain was stuck back on that part of ‘most likely one more year’ and I was thinking about how fast a year spins past.

My son, Louie, who was 21 at the time, was sitting right next to me. We had recently reconnected on a day-to-day basis in August when I moved from NYC to Chicago where he lives.

My whole body was shaking on such a small scale it felt like a deep hum and I don’t know if it was visible on the outside but I couldn’t be sure of any of my movements.

Louie took one look at me just after Dr. Wayne and his nurse left the small, windowless room and said, “You weren’t listening. He said there was hope.” I could feel part of me instantly relax and not because I was able to grasp that concept just yet. I could see in my son’s face a determination to believe in something better.

We say that someone, Cowboyed Up in the South and he had done a great job at it. I knew in that moment that no mattered what happened he’d be okay.

The day of the surgery he had my iPhone and when I got it back it was filled with gun apps so not everything had changed. It gave me a good laugh even while just coming out of the sedation. I left them there for months and yes, it was partially because I didn’t know how to get rid of them. [click to continue…]