Cyndi, a friendly, slender woman with long red hair, was in her mid 50s when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. A nutritionist by training, she knew all too well how serious her diagnosis was.

Cyndi grew up on a farm in the Midwest and, after college, spent three years in the Peace Corps. She earned degrees in nutrition and spent her career sharing her knowledge with people around the world. An advocate for vegetarianism, Cyndi traveled the globe – the Middle East, India and West Africa, to name a few – sharing both her love for food and her passion for proper nutrition. She worked with malnourished families to help them make the most of food they had. She was the lead nutritionist for a major health initiative at George Washington University. Over the years she amassed a collection of recipes and cooking techniques so vast and diverse it would be the envy of even the most discriminating gourmet.

Pancreatic cancer is only rarely curable. It is generally caught late, by which time the tumor has spread to involve the surrounding blood vessels and organs. In select patients surgery is helpful, but in most cases chemotherapy and radiation are the only weapons in the arsenal. Cyndi realized her opportunity to share her knowledge and passion with the world was coming to a close. She began to think about ways to create an everlasting message – one that would live beyond her own short life. She started by giving a cooking lesson to two women she knew and ended up, with the encouragement of some friends, writing a cookbook.

A perfectionist by nature, Cyndi knew exactly how she wanted the cookbook to look. She had strong opinions about how the foods should be grouped: entrees in one section, meat and fish together in another. Even in her last weeks of life, when she slept most of the day and spoke little if at all, Cyndi would indicate a preference when it came time to make a decision about the cookbook. She made it clear that she wanted the book shared far and wide, without regard to copyrights or royalties. She wanted, more than anything, the satisfaction of knowing that her work, her creation, would go on long after she died.

Cyndi died in the Fall of 2006, shortly before the book was finished. In a tribute to her legacy, her friends threw a party to celebrate Cyndi’s life. It was a potluck where everyone made one of Cyndi’s recipes.

In a way, the book and Cyndi kept each other alive. Had she not gotten sick, the book might never have been written. And as her friends will tell you, creating the book gave Cyndi a unique reason to fight the cancer for one more day. She lived over a year longer than her doctors had predicted.

Shortly after her death, the cookbook was published.  You can purchase a copy here: