Written by Tara Geraghty

We were introduced to Tara late last year and were impressed by her tenacity and drive to make a difference. So much so we wanted to share her story with you, so here it is, we hope you find her as inspirational as we do.

I started by asking her to tell us a little about herself, “I’m a single mom with a soon to be teenager (even saying that makes me feel old!) “ She was born and bred in New Jersey, USA, though has been living in Colorado for 10 years or so now, as she says, “I’m too Colorado for Jersey and still too Jersey for Colorado!  I prefer flip flops to stilettos now but I’ll still take a beach over a mountain any day!”

Tara does most of what all responsible mothers do, “Mom stuff” as she calls it, like trying to figure out what to feed the family for dinner every night. She also devotes time to prayer, “I buy all sorts of pretty prayer journals so I’ll journal more.  Most of them have 10 pages filled out, which makes me feel guilty so I buy a new one so I’ll have a “clean slate

Health is also important to Tara, who now exercises daily, “I finally went back to yoga. It’s the only exercise I actually enjoy. I take a class that reminds me daily how I should have gone back to yoga a long time ago because while everyone else is planking on one leg I’m still trying to get into downward dog”.

Though what we found most inspirational about Tara was her business acumen, “I own two businesses and work from home. Sometimes I go to the coffee shop down the street just to see other humans.” You may be thinking, isn’t one business enough, well in Tara’s case it was more like she went through a life changing experience, and she thought she could help make a difference in other people’s lives, who may experience something similar. Perhaps it is best to hear it is Tara’s own words, “I started a business in direct sales in college thinking I would only be with the company for a year until I graduated and got a “real” job.  This month marks my 21st year in that business!  I fell in love with the people, the culture of women supporting women, and the leadership opportunities.” All was seemingly going well, then life threw in a curve ball no one expected, “My 3 year-old daughter was diagnosed with stage 4 high risk neuroblastoma my world changed.”  After the support and care of health care professionals she is a survivor now. From this Tara saw a need, the need to share their experiences to help others, “after years of people encouraging me to share what we did during her treatment I finally did…in a book! Now I’m building a company to support parents and medical professionals to bring fun into the scary world of childhood cancer.“ As if she didn’t have enough on here plate this wonderful person has devoted part of her time to creating Making Cancer Fun entity. To help other families out who are experiencing something similar to what she has gone through, now that is inspirational to us.

We wanted to find out a little about what makes Tara who she is today, so I asked her what she wanted to be when she was a child, “I remember watching ballerina’s on TV with my nose pressed against the screen. At 3 I told my mom I wanted to take dance lessons so I could be a ballerina!  I’m lucky that I have a great mom, she obliged and I danced from then all the way through college!” Are you passionate about food? “Yes!  I love to eat!  Mostly because, well food is social – it connects us, brings us together, and creates experiences.  (Why do you think most holidays are remembered around someone’s table?)  I especially love eating family style – sharing food – and sharing a food “experience”!”

What do you like to eat, is there a favourite? “I always joke in heaven Oreos and coffee will be healthy food!  If only…. That same mom who enrolled me in ballet also was a recovering hippy, and apparently even my great grandmothers were “nutritionists” before that was even a thing.  Growing up, I wasn’t allow to drink soda, eat white bread or cold cuts, and knew that nitrates caused cancer in kindergarten.”  “So given I can’t eat oreos for dinner, second best is I could live on sushi and Mexican food forever!”

Interested in her opinion we asked Tara, given there is a growing problem centred on unhealthy eating, poor food choices, and the lack of exercise. Why do you think we have such a problem, in particular with children? “Two words. Cost and Time. We set the eating habits for our children, and unfortunately I think as our world has become faster and busier taking the time to prepare food has been replaced with picking up dinner to eat in the car in between afterschool activities and errands. When both parents are working neither wants to come home after a long day and then start cooking, and even as a single mom cooking dinner seems like just one more chore I have to do. It is easier to pick up pizza, go out to eat, order in, etc.  I wonder too even when we do cook at home how often are we picking up pre-packaged food to make “a home cooked dinner” with? And then there is the issue of cost. It’s sometimes twice as much for me to buy organic fruits and veggies.  Want grass feed meat?  Nitrate free bacon? Almond flour vs white flour or a pound or organic cheese?  You’ll pay for it.  Rarely are those “nutritious” options on sale to stock up on the way their cheaply made nutrient- striped counterparts are.

If you could pass on any advice to parents, regarding having children eat healthy options, what would that advice be? “When my daughter was really little we said if God made it eat it, if people made it be cautious.  It was a simple (although probably not scientifically accurate) way to teach her how to choose healthier food options.  For example: if you can pick an apple off a tree, pull a carrot out of the ground, pull a berry of a bush – then those are healthy. Fish, chicken and steak are “natural” since you can find them in nature.  Hotdogs are not. Someone had to make the hotdog.  Sadly, a factory-made my Oreos.

As she started to learn to read I taught her how to read a label.  Even young children can tell if the ingredients are words they can say or words that even their parents can’t pronounce.  Then it became, if you can read the words it’s probably ok and if you can’t…again be cautious.  Even ice-cream that’s made with cream, sugar, and milk is a better choice than one that’s made with cellulose gum, artificial colors, and diglycerides.”

What are the 5 things you could not live without, other than body parts? “After living through a domestic violence divorce and childhood cancer, I have learned I can live through anything, but the five things I would rather not have to live without would be:

  • God
  • My Daughter
  • My family
  • Coffee
  • My smartphone (just being honest)

With so much on your plate what do you do to relax, with such a hectic lifestyle? “This year I really committed to going back to yoga.  For me it’s more than just a physical activity, it’s a mental one.  I also found I can’t do yoga at home. I need to physically go somewhere with no distractions, emails, or phones ringing. It forces me to be present.  I also turn everything off the first hour my daughter is home from school.  I pick her up and want to talk about her day.  Now that she’s getting older she often wants to run onto the phone with her friends, but I still try to get in at least a few minutes of mother/daughter time.  Finally, I have accepted some days I am just off.  No matter what I do I won’t feel happy, excited, or motivated.  I have learned to be kinder to myself on those days.

Finally we can see that you have experienced a lot of success in life, so what is next for you? “With the book launch finally here I’m excited to get it into the hands of as many families possible.  My goal is that EVERY family who receives a childhood cancer diagnosis also receives this resource.  I have a children’s companion workbook coming out this spring too and a list of products we want to develop.  This is just the beginning!”

I not sure how you feel now after learning a little more about this woman we like to call a SUPER HERO, but you have to admit she is inspirational. If you would like to learn more about Making Cancer Fun, or if you need support yourself feel free to check out the website her at www.makingcancerfun.com. From her story we have learnt to make the little things in life a little more fun every day, even the tedious things, appreciate life a little more.

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