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A 35-Year Old in a 70-Something Body


They say if you do what you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life. Betty N. figured that out for herself a long time ago. For the Chicago native doing what she loved meant being in the kitchen.

“I love to cook – cooking is my everything,” says the 53-year-old. “I can cook and find peace – I just love being in my kitchen.”

The mother of two turned her passion into a business when she started catering on the side while she worked as a toll collector.

“I did catering on my own, and I did it for 10 years,” Betty says. “You had to book me early because I was always busy.”

But Betty’s dream came to a slow, grinding halt when she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the young age of 35. Her doctor gave her devastating news: her health was at the level of a 70-year-old woman and she wouldn’t have a long life span.

Betty lived with constant pain.

“I could not get out of bed, I could not walk, I could not dress myself,” she says. ”

In addition to a medication regimen, Betty’s doctor strongly recommended she move to a drier climate to extend her life. Moving away from Chicago meant leaving behind friends and family and her catering business.

“People there were begging me to please come back and do their daughter’s wedding, come back and do another event, but I knew that was the end,” Betty says.

"People there were begging me to please come back and do their daughter's wedding, come back and do another event, but I knew that was the end"

The move in 1996 – along with her medications – had a positive impact on Betty’s health. But two years after moving to Arizona, Betty got more devastating news from her doctor. She was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer that originates in the lymphatic system, the body’s disease-fighting system.

Betty began the second battle for her life, but knew she had to move back to her beloved hometown of Chicago.

For years she had been on a medication that made her depressed and tired. Back in Chicago, her doctor wanted to change her prescription, but because she was on disability, the co-pay would be more than she could afford.

“My doctor told me about the Patient Access Network Foundation,” Betty says. He said, ‘I know that you will feel better… I’m going to see if we can get you assistance.’”

Today, Betty has greater mobility and energy again. She says she feels like a normal person again.

“I’m just glad that there is an organization like the Patient Access Network Foundation out there,” Betty says. “I’m so glad that my doctor was able to recommend me to them because I don’t know what I would have done.”

These days, Betty spends her time doing what she loves most: being back in the kitchen and cooking again.