Judy is a sweet, vivacious, and outgoing lady with a spirit of joy and determination her love for life is contagious. You would never suspect that almost six years ago she weighed a mere 85lbs with a feeding tube due to her battle with laryngeal cancer. Judy was diagnosed in April 2013 and for six months she endured grueling radiation and chemotherapy treatment to fight cancer along with being food insecure. She had to leave her job as a security guard and lived on a very limited budget that left her with little to no money for food after she paid her rent, utilities, and medications. By June 2013 she was at her worst suffering from malnutrition and dehydration, doctors didn’t think she would survive the night. However, they did not know the strength and determination of Judy and the power of her faith by the next day, Judy was up and moving around visiting with other patients and sharing her magazines. Shortly after completing her treatment and going into remission Judy asked her doctor how long she would need to have the feeding tube and her doctor informed her that she would probably have to have it for the rest of her life, however, Judy was determined to have it removed. She asked her doctor exactly what would need to be done to remove it, and he informed her that she would need to eat at least 1,000 calories a day and learn how to chew her food again.
It was during this time that Judy moved into an affordable housing community for seniors and learned about the Coastal Bend Food Bank and our Mobile Pantry Program. Every third Thursday of each month the Mobile Pantry distributes to the residents of the housing community a variety of frozen meats, canned goods, bread, and fresh produce. When Judy learned about the mobile pantry, she immediately volunteered to serve her neighbors and become involved in her new community. Judy still had a feeding tube but was determined to have it removed and utilized the food she received from the mobile pantry to help her learn how to eat again and gain the weight she needed to have her feeding tube removed. In the beginning, she only ate fruit from the mobile pantry that she would cut up and suck on because she was still unable to swallow her food. Once she was able to eat more solid foods her diet consisted of homemade soups with food used from the mobile pantry, cornbread, and ice cream. Within time Judy was back at the doctor and had learned how to eat again, she had gained enough weight to have the feeding tube removed. Judy credits her housing community Sea Gulf Villa and the Coastal Bend Food Bank for helping to save her life, “the stuff we get is lifesaving.” There are 111 residents at the housing community and approximately 70 residents utilize the Mobile Pantry every month. The distribution is managed by the complex manager and volunteers from an area church, it is set up as a choice pantry which Judy says is great because she can shop and pick out the food she will eat “I still feel like a person and not a charity case.” For Judy being able to create her own meals with the food she receives is always a blessing because she can stretch what she receives. These days Judy is doing much better and will be celebrating 6 years cancer free this coming November. On any day you can see her sitting outside her apartment enjoying the afternoon visiting with her neighbors or crafting to keep her mind and hands busy creating decorative wreaths or knitting. I asked Judy if there was anything she could tell to the people in our community what would it be and, she said “I would love to see anybody who has the financial ability to donate to the food bank, I would like to see people that can volunteer to volunteer- they don’t know what a difference they make in little old peoples lives, in so many lives.”