Entrepreneur

Meet The Woman Who Built Her Own Culinary Academy In M'sia While Battling Cancer

There have been a few studies done to find out whether there is any relation between a cancer patient’s attitude towards illness and their recovery rate.

The topic is still heavily debated between medical experts and there is yet to be definite evidence supporting this, yet doctors have always advised patients to adopt a positive outlook in order to keep fighting against cancer.

Geeta Lachmandas-Jayabalan, an expert in the field of healthy eating and wellness, personally believes in this. She refuses to succumb to the woes of her own breast cancer and instead, uses it as a mantra to keep pushing forward and living her life as best as she can.

From leaving her home in Singapore to building her own cooking academy in Malaysia, this is her story.

Off To A Bumpy Start

Geeta first moved to Malaysia to accompany her husband for work, leaving her life in Singapore so they could have a fresh beginning.

She had pursued law for her education so upon coming here, her initial goal was to find herself a spot in the local law field. But, she was denied such an opportunity when she was told that it would be easier for employers to hire locals than her.

Feeling devastated, Geeta wondered what else could she do so her husband advised her to take a step back and just focus on taking care of herself as she was pregnant at that time.

He also suggested that she pick up a new skill, cooking.

She went for a few cooking lessons while also getting advice from her relatives to help build up her skills. Sooner than she knew, she discovered a new passion for it and was always experimenting through trial and error to see what kind of dishes she could come up with.

After getting positive feedback from those who had tried her cooking, she decided to pursue the art of teaching culinary and open up her own academy in the comforts of her own kitchen. That was how Culinary Capers Academy started back in 2012.

Image Credit: Geeta Lachmandas

After holding classes for various types of cuisine, Geeta noticed a weight gain that was affecting her overall health. So she was curious to find out if there was a way to maintain her usual delicious meals but keep within the right nutritional intake to watch her diet.

“That was how my interest in wholegrains and wholefoods began, things I had no clue about before researching. I experimented with a few recipes and incorporated this into my classes. Soon, I found myself reinventing some popular local dishes such as Nasi Lemak but with a healthier twist.”

“This was how Culinary Capers changed direction and focused on cooking healthier dishes. I cooked, catered and conducted a series of classes called the ‘Healthy Cooking and Living’ with an emphasis on holistic living,” shared Geeta.

Image Credit: purelyb.com

It wasn’t until 2015 that she was connected to a person who gave her a commercial kitchen in Bukit Bintang for her to conduct her classes in.

“My classes naturally lasted for around 4 hours where I teach about 4 to 6 recipes. My students learn appetisers, main courses and desserts so they can go back and cook their own healthy and wholesome meals,” said Geeta.

A Bolt Out Of The Blue

But just as her business was at its peak, she received the devastating news about her health.

During one of her routine checkups, she was alarmed to find out that she was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. However, instead of wallowing in misery over her fate, Geeta chose to do the opposite and accept the fact she had cancer but remain strong to fight it.

“For me, being diagnosed with breast cancer was nothing more than a small obstacle I had to get through. I just wanted to finish my treatments and move on with my life. I never asked why I was chosen to be afflicted with cancer or stay somber about it because I believe a positive mindset is key in battling cancer,” said Geeta to Vulcan Post.

Image Credit: Geeta Lachmandas Facebook

Geeta underwent all therapy and the reconstruction surgery for her cancer at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Singapore. Her oncologist was surprised himself at her positivity but commended her for it and reassured her that her attitude would help her recovery.

In mid-2015, she closed her kitchen temporarily to focus on healing. Some side effects she saw from her cancer included ulcers from intense treatments, having her sense of taste reduced which affected her appetite and of course, loss of weight.

“Yes, I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t fully affected by these side effects but I always tried to find ways to combat them and feel positive again. I took this chance to increase my knowledge and switch my diet to help with recovering from my cancer so that I could teach other patients too,” said Geeta.

Aiding Others Regain A Measure Of Confidence

Having gone through chemotherapy, her hair loss was expected.

That didn’t bring Geeta down in the slightest. Instead of worrying about her image, she took that time to learn how to tie scarves. She learnt different styles of how to tie scarves prettily and mix it as her fashion sense dictated.

Image Credit: Geeta Lachmandas Facebook

So in partnership with CanHOPE, Geeta started conducting a scarf tying class for breast cancer survivors called Knots of Hope.

“I understand how other women suffering from cancer can feel when they start losing hair. So through this class, I want to reassure women that they can still feel and look beautiful in scarves,” said Geeta.

Close to a year since her diagnosis, Geeta is doing well with her life. She has gone back to teaching cooking once more with Culinary Capers while taking an intensive online course at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) to further deepen her knowledge about nutrition.

She still undergoes therapy sessions to keep her cancer in check while also coaching fellow patients on the dos and don’ts of their diet to help with the recovery process.

Right now at the age of 56, she balances three major roles; a mother to three daughters, a nutritional chef with her own cooking academy, and an aspiring motivational coach for cancer patients.

When asked for advice for other patients who face the same fate as she, Geeta said “Please know that it’s not the end of the world. This is just a small glitch that you can get through. Having a good mindset plays an important role. My oncologist tells me that going through cancer is 80% attitude and 20% treatment and I wholeheartedly agree with him,” said Geeta.

Feature Image Credit: Geeta Lachmandas Facebook 

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