Cook for the Cure is helping Cuero cancer patient live life to the fullest

May 11, 2009 at 12:11 a.m.
Updated May 12, 2009 at 12:12 a.m.



Several weeks ago, my friend Gay Wickham called to ask me if I wanted to participate in a "Cook for the Cure" evening she was hosting at her home.

Gay had come to visit me one Sunday night many moons ago and caught me in the making-up-a-recipe stage of my evening. She knew I loved to experiment, so she proposed I join several of her friends and cook.

Gay, Cheri Travis and Kelly Young have been gathering on Sunday evenings to prepare food for friends. In exchange for a casserole or entree, they ask these friends to make a donation to help Shanna Kurtz with medical expenses. They have only been doing the project for about a month and have already raised more than $1,100.

Even Gay's husband, Matt, does his part by making the grocery run to shop for ingredients.

Shanna Kurtz is 30 years old and lives in Cuero. She is a decorator and works for Hall Electric. At age 20, while attending North Arizona University, she was diagnosed with Peritoneal Mesothelioma, which is a rare form of cancer that attacks the abdominal cavity. She was told that 80 percent of people with this disease would not live very long.

To most people this information would be devastating, but she decided to be optimistic and figured that she had a 20 percent chance of survival and would pin her hopes on that.

"Her zeal for life is infectious," says Gay, after I called her to talk about some of the recipes she was preparing.

Shanna has not allowed cancer to silence her spirit or her enthusiasm for life. In fact, she is not just surviving, but thriving. She is a member of the Junior League of Victoria and has participated in decorating for many of the Charity Balls. The money raised from these events go to help organizations in need.

She recently chaired Project Cinderella, where underprivileged boys and girls are given a chance to go to the prom. The project provides a prom dress or tux, dinner for two and makeup for the girls.

At home, she relaxes with her dogs who roam freely on her property. Shanna loves dogs and takes in strays who have been abandoned by their owners. In addition to chasing after all her pets, she loves gardening and growing fresh vegetables to give to friends.

Shanna is such an example of hope and living for each day as a new gift, that her friends have pitched in to help with medical expenses. Cheri serves as the treasurer of the group. They hope to help her pay for the mounting medical expenses associated with prolonged hospital stays and the long-term illness.

Cheri, Gay and Kelly have also joined hearts and hands with other friends and family in her hometown of Cuero and are helping to sponsor a bike ride and benefit barbecue. The bike ride will leave from Grace Lutheran Church in Victoria this Saturday around 2 p.m.

Bike riders will pay an entry fee of $30 to ride in honor of Shanna, and then be treated to a barbecue with all the trimmings at Lindenau Dance Hall. The ride to the dance hall is about 33 miles from Victoria.

For those who cannot pedal the entire distance, a pick-up truck will be driving the route to give a ride to the destination. The evening will include dancing, an auction, food and music and will start officially at about 4 p.m. at Lindenau.

Gay and the Cooking for the Cure team were generous to share the Thai Shrimp Curry recipe with me. It is delicious and is great from freezer to table. Hats off to everyone who is helping Shanna thrive.

You can learn more about Shanna at

Other specialties include, King Ranch Chicken, Chicken Tetrazini, Tortilla Soup and Gazpacho.

For information concerning Cooking for the Cure or the Shanna Kurtz Benefit Barbecue, contact Cheri at

Get your boots and bikes and come to Lindenau on Saturday.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or e-mail



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