Community Champion Spotlight
"Top Chef" Javier
"Top Chef" Javier
Where Are They Now?
Sometimes dreams come true.
Javier was a seemingly healthy high school sophomore who happened to enjoy cooking when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2008. His brother and sister had just started college, but the whole family pulled together to stay by Javier's side as he battled the disease with chemotherapy. The cancer's progress slowed, but four months later it returned worse than before. Javier received more chemotherapy plus radiation, but still there was no improvement.
Javier's mom took a leave of absence from work to take care of him. Between the reduced family income and all the illness-related bills, their savings was disappearing quickly. That's when they turned to Friends of Karen.
"It is difficult to ask for help," says Javier's mom, "but Friends of Karen was there for my whole family. I could talk to them about things I could not talk to other people about, because they understood."
For over a year, Friends of Karen paid many of their household bills and medical co-payments, and provided emotional support for Javier, his parents, his brother and his sister. Friends of Karen spent months working with Javier's parent to get a mortgage modification from their bank. His mom says, "If it were not for Friends of Karen, we would not have this house today."
In 2009, Javier had a stem cell transplant, but a month later tests showed that the cancer had spread to his lungs. He had more radiation treatments and a second stem cell transplant. Yet during this ordeal, his enjoyment of cooking grew into a passion. "I got into cooking because it was something I could do even when I was in treatment," he says. He decided to become a chef.
In June 2010, Javier graduated high school and applied to culinary school. In July 2011, he achieved his goal: he graduated from The Institute of Culinary Education, a top training ground for future chefs. He remains cancer-free, and has started an "internship" at a restaurant in New York City.
His mom says, "There are no words that I can use to describe Friends of Karen to someone. They are just incredible."