I grew up in Northern California most of my life. Growing up I loved being active, which included skiing, gymnastics, and tennis. I loved (and still love) cooking for friends, and trying all sorts of new foods. Fitness, nutrition and health care were my focus while attending college. I worked in both tennis and athletic clubs, as well as hospitals beginning in 1987. I graduated from an RN Nursing program in the spring of 1995.
In March 2004 I was diagnosed with a very aggressive lymphoma which had spread everywhere following a ski accident in Aspen, when I broke some ribs. A chest x ray revealed I was in “Vena Cava Syndrome”, an oncology emergency where my aorta and my lungs were being compressed and crushed by a tumor the size of two tennis balls in my chest cavity. Cat scans and other diagnostic tests indicated I did not have more than a few weeks at best to live without treatment. Within 24 hours, my O2 Sats were decompensating rapidly to 55 on room air, I could barely breathe, so I was taken by emergency ambulance down to Denver and hospitalized for 2 weeks while they stabilized me. That ski accident apparently saved my life, because I had absolutely no idea I was even sick, let alone have cancer.
My cancer, while responding the treatment, continued to spread to new places, and I never reached remission. I needed a stem cell transplant, summer of 2005. My stem cell transplant attempt did not go well at all, aside from a multitude of serious complications, I contracted a usually deadly fungal infection called “Invasive Aspirgilosis”, while I had zero immune system. I wound up in the hospital for much longer than expected. I needed an 8 hour life saving surgery removing most of my left lung and other infected tissues, barely making it out alive. I left with a pretty beaten down body and emotionally traumatized.
Not wanting to relapse, I became much more interested in an overall lifestyle which would promote health and keep me not only cancer free, but return to me a high state of physical health and well being. Initially following treatment, when I was too tired, I watched cooking shows and began studying current nutritional and medical research all I could. When I started feeling better I began going to seminars and taking university classes, keeping up to date on all the current research and studies on health, integrative medicine, disease prevention, as well as local cooking and nutrition classes. I focused my “cooking” energy on creating dishes that not only only tasted GREAT, but were good for the body too. I began organizing a community outdoor fitness/hiking group which grew to 850 members, restarted weightlifting and circuit training to boost body mass and increase my immunity, and picked up a new yoga addiction. I also focused by reducing my stress load through an overhaul of my lifestyle: completely simplifying my life, practicing being present, mindfulness, and living by needs instead of wants, giving more back to the community, and setting weekly exercise and personal goals.
Currently, I am a member of Marin Organic. Over the past year, I’ve been a participant at the “First Annual Stanford University Food Summit”, an invited participant for Stanford University’s “at risk” child nutrition committee , and began teaching cooking classes to low income families for Cooking Matters – a non-profit that empowers families with the skills, knowledge and confidence to prepare healthy and affordable meals. Currently I spend the majority of my time taking university classes and seminars, researching nutrition, integrative medicine, and healthy lifestyle choices. I am always looking for new hikes, workout regimes, setting higher goals for my physical and mental capabilities, finding ways to increase the nutritional values of what I eat, testing out new recipes, exercising to rebuild my health and immune system, taking cooking classes, and visiting local farms and farmers markets.
TV Shows: Top Chef, Chopped, Frontline, Nova, Charlie Rose, The Daily Show, Colbert
Workouts: Vinyansa and Deep Flow Yoga, Weight Training, Hiking and Downhill Skiing, and my local bootcamp in the park
Book: “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl, and Leo Tolstoy’s “Death of Ivan Illyich”
Chefs: Jamie Oliver, Rebecca Katz (Cancer Fighting Kitchen), Cat Cora
Way to Relax: Reading, Exercising, Cooking, Going out to Dinner with Friends, Hot baths, Meditating, listening to books on mp3
Food: I love food that is fresh and prepared with lots of colors/textures, flavors, spices and herbs. I am fascinated with global cuisines, their flavor profiles, and the history behind each culture’s signature dishes. I love nothing more than eating food and paying homage to the history of that particular culture and its people.
Work: Chef instructor for low income children and families with www.cookingmatters.org
Place to Eat: There are so many great restaurants in the Bay Area and Monterey Bay area I absolutely love, but one of my constant favorites is the Chez Panisse Cafe in Berkeley. I love how Alice Water’s is always changing up the menu, with a consistent focus on seasonal ingredients. Whenever I have had the pleasure of eating at Chez Panisse Cafe, I love I am eating in a business that, quite possibly, blazed the path for our current “Slow Food” movement, which supports organic and local farms.
Click here to read Cancer Story and Diagnosis…