Honoring Fatima Ali
- The family of celebrity chef Fatima Ali recently published her posthumous memoir: Savor: A Chef’s Hunger for More. Prior to her passing, she used her cancer “as the excuse [she] needed to actually go and get things done.”
- Ali passed away from a battle with Ewing sarcoma at age 29 in 2019.
- Grief is an unavoidable and essential part of the healing process following the loss of a loved one to cancer, but things like therapy can help.
- Ewing sarcoma is a type of sarcoma that occurs in bones or in the soft tissue surrounding the bones, and “lifelong monitoring” is generally recommended after treatment for the disease.
The memoir is titled Savor: A Chef’s Hunger for More. It was written by Ali, herself, with author and food writer Tarajia Morrell and with contributions from Ali’s mother, Farezeh. The book tells the story of the Top Chef season 15 fan favorite with glimpses into her past and present.Read More
He’s happy the book came to fruition because it was exactly what Ali would have wanted.
“It was a promise we made, however, and a dream we dreamed with Fatima – that no matter what her cancer had to say, and no matter what the doctors had to say, it was Fatima that would have the last word,” he said. “She wanted to do so much good in the world and enrich every life she came across. And she did.
“With this book, she and her story will outlive us all. That makes us proud. Fulfilling our promise to her makes us proud. Her story needs to be shared far and wide and this book is part of that plan.”
Fatima Ali’s Cancer Journey
Fatima Ali was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma in 2017 shortly after she finished filming Top Chef in Colorado.
“I’d had this weird ache in my shoulder for the past couple of months that I’d been ignoring,” Ali wrote in an essay prior to her death. “You know, popping a couple of Advils, going to sleep. But one day, in the middle of lunch, my shoulder swelled up and the pain was mounting literally by the minute. I had to go to the emergency room.”
After she received her diagnosis, Ali underwent surgery to remove the tumor from her left shoulder and eight rounds of chemotherapy.
“It was horrible, but at the end, my scans were all clear,” she wrote. “I thought I’d beaten it.”
Devastatingly enough, the cancer returned. This time it was metastatic with a spread to her lungs. She had more chemotherapy, but ultimately passed away in January 2019. Despite her harrowing cancer battle, Ali always made a very conscious decision to enjoy every day she was given.
“I decided not to spend whatever time I had left (whether it’s a year, a month, another ten years—you don’t know until you’re gone) lamenting all the things that weren’t right,” she wrote. “Instead, I’d make the most of it. I’m using cancer as the excuse I needed to actually go and get things done, and the more people I share those thoughts with, the more I hold myself to them.”
Losing a Loved One to Cancer
Grief is an inevitable – and essential – part of the healing process after losing a loved one to cancer. And there’s definitely no one way to cope, but Doug Wendt shared his thoughts on grief in a previous interview with SurvivorNet after losing his wife Alice to ovarian cancer.
“I Don’t Want to Move On; I Do Want To Move Forward”: Doug Wendt On Being A Caregiver and Tragically Losing His Wife to Ovarian Cancer
“We’re never gonna move on, I don’t even think I want to move on, but I do want to move forward,” Wendt said. “That’s an important distinction, and I encourage anybody who goes through this journey as a caregiver and then has to face loss, to think very carefully about how to move forward.”
Everyone’s journey of grief looks different, but therapy and support groups can also be wonderful options to explore. It’s also important to keep in mind that time does not heal everything, but it certainly helps.
In an earlier interview with SurvivorNet, Camila Legaspi shared her own advice on grief after her mother died of breast cancer. For her, therapy made all the difference.
“Therapy Saved My Life”: After Losing A Loved One, Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
“Therapy saved my life,” Legaspi said. “I was dealing with some really intense anxiety and depression at that point. It just changed my life, because I was so drained by all the negativity that was going on. Going to a therapist helped me realize that there was still so much out there for me, that I still had my family, that I still had my siblings.”
Legaspi also wanted to remind people that even though it can be an incredibly difficult experience to process, things will get better.
“When you lose someone, it’s really, really, really hard,” Legaspi said. “I’m so happy that I talked to my therapist. Keep your chin up, and it’s going to be OK. No matter what happens, it’s going to be OK.”
Learning about Sarcomas
The term sarcoma is used to describe an array of more than 70 rare cancers that begin in the bones and the soft tissues. This diverse group of diseases accounts for only about one percent of tumors in adults and just over 10 percent of tumors in children.
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The main symptom of sarcomas is generally a slow-growing, painless mass, but symptoms can be hard to detect as soft tissue sarcomas are typically painless and bone sarcomas can be mistakenly diagnosed as orthopedic injuries.
“Unfortunately, most sarcomas do not cause many of the symptoms that may be associated with other cancers,” Dr. Dale Shepard, director of the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute Phase I and Sarcoma Programs, tells SurvivorNet. “A mass the size of a golf ball or larger and growing should be evaluated as a potential sarcoma. It’s important that patients who do have symptoms are not dismissive of them.”
Understanding Ewing Sarcoma
Ewing sarcoma is a specific type of cancer that occurs in bones or in the soft tissue surrounding the bones. It is most commonly found in adolescents, but younger children, as well as adults (in their 20s and 30s) can also be diagnosed with this disease.
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According to the Mayo Clinic, some signs and symptoms of Ewing sarcoma include:
- Pain, swelling or tenderness near the affected area
- Bone pain
- Unexplained tiredness
- Fever with no known cause
- Losing weight without trying
Treatment for Ewing sarcoma depends on the location of the cancer and the size of the tumor at the time of diagnosis. A doctor’s treatment plan may involve a combination of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.
Sometimes the aggressive nature of these treatments can cause both short-term and long-term side effects. According to the Mayo Clinic, “lifelong monitoring is recommended” after completing treatment to watch for potential late effects of the intense treatment.
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