Nothing cures quite like laughter. And Elissa Banker of Polite Tumor, a Denver based nonprofit organization, holds that philosophy to be true. Through good humor and thoughtful design, Polite Tumor supports young women by alleviating some of the financial impacts breast cancer has on their lives.
Green Chef sat down with Elissa Banker to discuss how she’s changing the conversation about Breast Cancer. From humorous greeting cards to comedy shows, Elissa is overcoming her diagnosis one punch line at a time.
Q: Tell us more about yourself and why you started Polite Tumor?
A: Hi! I’m Elissa. In December of 2015 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was 31 and focused on things that young people do like planning my next vacation and updating my bitmoji. After sorting through the reality that yep, I had breast cancer, I decided to do what any aging millennial would do; I started a blog. My goal was to keep people informed and in the process of doing so, I found much more. Gratitude, sadness, reality, frustration, and above all else, humor – my guiding light through the ugliness.
How could I ever tell people how much their support meant to me? What words could I conjure to express the level of deep appreciation I have for their love and generosity? As I began to collect these thoughts and write thank you cards, the idea for Polite Tumor was born.
Q: How has Polite Tumor helped you overcome challenges within your diagnosis?
A: Starting a nonprofit during treatment helped to take the focus off of me, while still allowing me to be in this new world I was now a part of. Being very public about having cancer through crowd-funding was a great way to invite people into my life, without having to explain everything. And in my opinion, helping others is what we’re here to do. It gives purpose to life and what could be more healing than that?
Q: Why did you decide to sign up for Green Chef?
A: After going through treatment I wanted to make some life shifts to be healthier. One of the changes I implemented almost immediately was eating more vegetables. Becoming a vegetarian was on the table, but I had to sort through an entirely new way of looking at meal planning. Although I found some wonderful vegetarian cookbooks, it was time consuming. It was also difficult to make this major life change with a partner who still really loves meat (can you blame him, meat is delicious?!). I decided to sign up for Green Chef when a co-worker raved about how tailored the meals are to each individual. It sounded like a program both my husband and I could get down with.
Q: How has Green Chef helped your overall wellness plan?
A: Green Chef has taken the thinking out of meal-planning and enabled me to live a more vegetarian lifestyle, giving me the freedom to plan breakfast and lunch without the hassle of dinner. In addition to my own wellness, it’s changed the way my partner views being a vegetarian and has reinstated his sense of confidence in the kitchen. It gives me freedom to do yoga after work, knowing I don’t have to run to the grocery store after to buy dinner. I’m not the type of person that meal plans and Green Chef has taken the stress (which is bad for your overall health) out of that aspect of recovery and healing, and is ultimately helping me live a greener life.
Q: What can people do to help support Polite Tumor and Breast Cancer Awareness?
A: In my opinion there is no donation too small. We sell cards and prints and we also take monetary donations. This money goes to cover the medical deductible for young women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. They’re trying to save for their first house, pay off student debt, and deal with a life-changing experience at a very young age. She’s your best friend, your sister, your daughter. Cancer does not discriminate.
Q: What piece of wisdom would you like to share with others in similar circumstances?
A: Be kind to yourself. It’s nearly impossible to eat healthy when you’re in treatment. Do the best you can. Let others help you and take care of you. Have a voice. Let people know what you need – whether it’s chopped veggies, organic ice cream, or just a great Netflix recommendation.
Q: What are your thoughts on the relationship between food and health & wellness
A: Everything I eat is a conscious decision. I think, how does this serve me? Am I eating it because I love it, out of boredom, or to fuel my activities that day? I’m happiest when 90% of my consumption is healthy and 10% is cookies. It’s important to eat organic and lots of veggies, but it’s equally important to have a good relationship with food, and allow yourself some goodies once in awhile. Eating is part of my life, both culturally and physically. Food brings us together, and I feel full when I’m spending time with the people I love.
Q: What’s been your go-to and/or healthy comfort meal during the treatment and healing process?
A: When you’re in treatment your taste buds become pretty compromised. I ate a lot of simple foods like broth-based soups with plenty of veggies. My go-to meal now is a quinoa bowl (breakfast, lunch, or dinner). It’s a great way to pack in a lot of nutrients and an easy meal to make vegetarian and tasty!
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, Green Chef is a proud contributor to Polite Tumor’s annual fundraiser–A Night of Humor–on October 22nd at Nocturne.
This evening of comedy will raise money for women under 40 who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. With headliner Nancy Norton, and a roster of hilarious local talent, A Night of Humor is sure to deliver the best medicine, laughter. Elissa Banker, founder of Polite Tumor, is a long time Green Chef customer that we’re honored to support.