Cooking My Way Out of a “Health Hole”

Q & A, Survivor May 10, 2017

Candy Lesher
Tempe, AZ
Uterine Cancer,Stage 3 Estrogen-Induced,10 year survivor
Owner, Your Kitchen Rx
Culinary Wellness Coach, Chef, Instructor, Speaker, Writer

1. What was the darkest moment in your cancer journey?
It was after the surgery. I expected to hear “removed it all and you’re cancer clear!” Instead, I was told they discovered it was Stage 3, they had removed 26 lymph nodes, and I would now need to go through an aggressive period of chemo and radiation, in addition to the intimately invasive Brachy-treatment radiations. I felt like I had stepped through a mirror and was listening to someone else’s cancer diagnosis. What I heard couldn’t actually be for me, could it?

2. If you could go back and talk to your pre-cancer self, what would you say?
Stop, look and listen – but not necessarily in that order. Listen to what my body was actually telling me . Look at how my lifestyle was affecting my health and weigh. And stop putting so much importance on feeding my “taste buds’ desire” rather than feeding personal wellness.

3. How has cancer changed you?
I recognized I had been given a 2nd Act, but shouldn’t stop there, not at mere acknowledgment. I needed to put it into verb-form: into action. I am now so much more appreciative and aware of life’s blessings, verbalizing it frequently. You quickly learn that it’s not about the what (what I do, what I have, what people think, what I accomplish), but rather the who that I have in my life (God, family, friends)!

Professionally, I now use my years of culinary knowledge as a chef and instructor – along with post-cancer interest in disease nutrition – to be a positive influence on the health of others. What I thought was so very important, creating and/or writing about the most decadent, over-the-top, mind-blowing restaurants and foods, has been replaced with the joy of creating extraordinary bursts of deliciousness from nutrient rich ingredients, and teaching others how to do the same.

4. What motivated you to pursue your 2nd Act?
My faith and hope motivated me! I had faith that God had healed me for a reason, and hope that He would use me to better the lives of others. God gave me the opportunity to first make changes within myself, so ultimately that that could later be a blessing in the lives of others. That shift in my thinking and direction didn’t happen overnight. It started as a small, but growing whisper that stirred within me, that continued to expand and was reaffirmed every time I began to doubt. I was left with no doubt whatsoever. His healing wasn’t about ME, it was about the significance I should be adding to the life and wellbeing of others.

5. What has been your brightest moment in your 2nd Act?
No pun intended, but my brightest moments are when I see the light bulb blare on within those I’m coaching! It’s that “ahaaaa” moment when they were sure that closing the door on their favorite unhealthy foods would be painful and doom them to dreary, tasteless food for the rest of their lives only to find themselves stepping through an expansive entry that welcomes them to a whole world of vivid, breathtaking flavors and gratifying textures.

6. Where do you see yourself going from here?
I will continue to expand my reach in order to positively impact a wider spectrum of people who want to change their health through food. Not only to equip them with basic skills and techniques along with innovative recipes for preparing their daily fare, but with the sustained excitement that comes from knowing what a major difference this will make in their overall wellbeing, and ultimately, their quality of life in the future.

7.What’s your favorite quote and how does it fit into your 2nd Act?
“When you’ve dug yourself into a ‘health hole,’ the first rule is to stop digging. The second rule is to start cooking your way out!”

This is my personal mantra. It encapsulates my approach to wellness. There simply aren’t enough healthy or affordable restaurant options to “eat yourself back to health,” nor will you find those nutritious options in the processed foods aisle. At a minimum, learning to prep vegetables and fruits, like peeling and cutting jicama and mango, then learning just a few ways to cook your two favorite proteins, can be the beginning to a lifetime of healthier eating habits.