Friday Frontline: Baltimore Restaurant Owner Drives Six Hours to Cook for Customer with Terminal Cancer, Breast Cancer Treatment Pioneer José Baselga Dies from Rare Degenerative Disorder, and More

March 26, 2021
Jamie Cesanek

From a Baltimore restaurant owner traveling six hours to cook for a terminally ill customer to the death of a pioneer in breast cancer treatment, here’s what’s happening in the cancer landscape this week.

A Baltimore restaurant owner drove six hours to surprise a customer with terminal cancer by cooking her favorite meal.

Steve Chu received an email from the woman’s son-in-law, Brandon Jones, requesting the recipe for her favorite meal from his restaurant, Ekiben. Jones was hoping to cook the meal for her, since she was located in Vermont and in the final stages of lung cancer after stopping treatment since her diagnosis in December.

Chu responded to the email that he would like to travel to Vermont and cook the food fresh for them. He was met with initial confusion and surprise, but Jones and his wife, Rina, happily accepted the offer and made arrangements to surprise his mother-in-law with the tempura broccoli meal.

“She had always told us, ‘When I’m on my death bed, I want to have that broccoli,’” said Rina Jones, in an interview with the Washington Post. “In fact, when I was packing on Friday to drive up to Vermont, I called my mom to see if she wanted us to bring anything special and she jokingly said, ‘tempura broccoli!’”

Chu, his business partner, Ephrem Abebe, and their employee, Joe Anonuevo, drove from Baltimore to Vermont on March 12 to cook the meal in the parking lot of Jones’ mother’s condo building. When her mother answered the door, she immediately recognized Chu, his coworkers and the familiar smell of the food.

“My mom cried later about their generosity and so did I,” Rina Jones said. “It’s something we’ll never forget — I’ll carry that positive memory with me, always.”

A two-time cancer survivor created a company that makes medical garments and PPE after her daughter died of cancer.

Kezia Fitzgerald initially used her sewing skills to create a garment for her then 1-year-old daughter, Saoirse, who was in treatment for a stage 4 neuroblastoma tumor, which she died from several months later.

The garment Fitzgerald made for Saoirse was intended to keep her catheters and vascular access lines out of the way while she played. After consulting with doctors and nurses treating Saoirse, Fitzgerald perfected the garment, which received positive feedback due to its effectiveness in decreasing the risk of injury and infection while allowing comfort.

Fitzgerald, who has dealt with Hodgkin lymphoma herself, went on to create CareAline, a company focused on making medical garments to improve patient and clinician comfort and safety. After 10 years, the company’s products have expanded and are being used nationwide for various purposes. Even as Fitzgerald’s lymphoma relapsed before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, she used her company to help keep frontline workers safe with PPE.

"For me, being in and out of cancer treatment for 10 years, I learned that I had to make my treatment a part of my life and not design my life around my treatment,” Fitzgerald told CNN. “When we hear comments that people were able to go back to school, go to work or hug their grandkids, those are the stories that really make me feel like we're moving the needle."

An 8-year-old cancer survivor broke the Girl Scout cookie sale record and donated boxes to children with cancer.

Lily Bumpus, from San Bernardino, California, sold over 32,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies in the span of three months, breaking the national record for the most girl scout cookies sold in one season.

Bumpus, who has been a Girl Scout for four years, also collected over 5,000 donated cookie boxes to be delivered to children with cancer.

"I thought, 'wow I never knew I could do that,'" Bumpus told KESQ-TV. "And it just meant so much to me to see that huge number. It's like the biggest number I've ever seen."

She also mentioned that it’s her dream for any proceeds to go toward childhood cancer research.

José Baselga, a pioneer in breast cancer treatment, died from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease at age 61.

Baselga was an oncologist who helped develop Herceptin (trastuzumab) and other drugs credited with extending or saving the lives of millions of women with breast cancer. He died from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare degenerative disorder of the brain.

Baselga had dedicated his work to improving breast cancer treatment through novel therapies, provision of care custom-designed to suit patients’ individual needs and the cultivation of younger oncologists to carry that work on into the future. His research focused on developing drugs that targeted specific genetic mutations and the molecular biology of particular tumors.

“Anyone who has been diagnosed knows the feeling that they have been given a death sentence,” one of his previous patients, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Jorie Graham, told the Washington Post. “José made you feel you had been given a new life, a new way to grasp what life was, a new way to be alive. He gently dusted off your soul and handed it back to you awake.”

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