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November 3, 2016

Connie: “I was living on the edge until Food & Friends came along.”

Living with cancer is challenging – no matter what the circumstances. But for those with a limited income, or no income, a cancer diagnosis can present seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Connie, 65, understands this all too well. She is one of over 2,000 breast cancer clients to have received meals or groceries from Food & Friends. Without those nutritious groceries, Connie would be skipping meals and putting her health at greater risk.

Connie learned about Food & Friends during a visit to Washington Hospital Center, where she was being fitted for a wig. “I was crying,” she recalls, “because I couldn’t afford the wig, but also because I couldn’t afford to buy food.” 

Founded at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Food & Friends expanded its mission in the year 2000 to meet the growing needs of people in our region living with cancer.

A special education professional at John F. Kennedy High School in Wheaton, Maryland, Connie was diagnosed with cancer four years ago. Since then, she has been treated with chemotherapy and radiation – twice. As a result, she exhausted her annual leave and sick leave. On top of that, she has no family in this area that she could rely on for emotional or financial support. 

At her lowest point, Connie would go the entire workday without eating. She occasionally borrowed money from co-workers for lunch. Other times she would tell them, “I’ll eat when I get home” or “I’m dieting.”

“I was living on the edge,” she says. “Until Food & Friends came along.”

Twice a month, she now receives four bags of fresh food and pantry staples through Food & Friends’ “Groceries to Go” program. With two weeks’ supply of food, she prepares healthy meals like chicken breast sautéed with onions and garlic over brown rice or turkey burgers with a side of greens. 

Connie believes that having access to nutritious food has improved her health. She has more energy and gets sick less often. In turn, she adds, “I feel more confident at work.”

“When you have cancer, you feel bad enough as it is,” Connie says. “Your self-esteem is low. You are living with uncertainly about the future. A good meal is not only a boost to your confidence, but a comfort like nothing else.”

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