Scott Foeller holds this OM symbol -- the touchstone that called him back to what is real and true during a long battle with cancer. On Friday, hundreds will gather at Rotary Raceway Park for Middleton's annual Relay For Life.
By Heather Killen
Scott Foeller pries at the knotted cord that fastens the OM symbol around his neck. He says that loosening this knot could take a few minutes as he has tied it so it won’t come off.
The last time he took off this pendant, he was undergoing cancer treatment. It’s a souvenir from his travels in India at a time before he was diagnosed with throat cancer.
Throughout 35 rounds of radiation and three bouts of chemotherapy this symbol remained constant, like a touchstone that called him back to what is real and true.
For many, OM is a mantra that represents the sound of everything that is, was, ever will be, and more. Chanting this mantra brings us in harmony with God, the divine in ourselves, and each other.
The Hindus believe there was nothing before this sound, simply a darkness of latent potential and that all of creation was manifested in this divine vibration.
Passion For Food
Foeller, the chef at the Falcourt Inn, has built his 32-year profession around his passion for food. While others may follow recipes for the tried and true, he says he prefers to cook in the moment and so he never really makes the same dish twice.
It was after he returned from India that he began noticing symptoms, painful reactions to chocolate and bananas. His doctors were baffled and ordered a series of tests.
When he finally heard the news he had cancer, the wheel of his life came to a grinding halt.
“We’re all dreamers in some ways,” he says. “But some of us dream more than we live. We live in the past, the future. What we think is important, my perspective on all that has changed.”
Whatever he imagined the day before, Foeller was now facing a future of aggressive regiment of radiation and chemotherapy. In trying to save his life, the treatment nearly killed him.
He was separated from the people he loves the most-- his wife, his daughters and stepchildren. And he feared it would take away his career. For months he was forced to get his nourishment from a tube, and was unable to experience his full palate.
This darkness forced him to re-evaluate what was truly important and how he could do better if he was given a second chance at life. He says he began to live the way he likes to cook, making the most of the ingredients around him and preparing a dish others will enjoy.
Foeller says at first he was skeptical of the prospect of staying at the Lodge That Gives. The Canadian Cancer Society provides this lodge in Halifax for cancer patients who are forced to travel there for treatment.
He worried it would be a grim place, filled with very troubled people. Instead he found an eclectic community of all ages and backgrounds. Most people had nothing in common except cancer.
But the funny thing was, nobody talked about cancer, or even being sick. The people at the lodge were all fighting for their lives, but chose to find things to be happy about.
“It’s easy to be angry, “ he says. “We all have reasons to be angry. We’re faced with so many crappy things. People at the lodge didn’t dwell on what they were going through. They weren’t sad and they weren’t talking about being sick. They were talking about life.”
While he was staying there, he found he couldn’t sleep. His treatment made it so he couldn’t lie down and he was forced to sleep upright in a chair. The staff at the lodge gave him all-night access to the kitchen, where he wiled away his lonely and sleepless hours creating delicious treats that he couldn’t eat.
A Little Bit Of Light
Many mornings the residents would awaken to the aroma of warm muffins and other creations that Chef Foeller whipped up during some of his darkest hours. And this is when he found little bit of light.
“The idea that you can create something new from what is around and know it makes other people happy,” he said. “It’s a gift. I think of the positive impact I can have on each person.”
Foeller is now in recovery and his taste buds have returned, even more refined than before. He stays in touch with survivors he met during his time at the lodge. When he’s in Halifax, he visits and spends time with the newest group of residents and usually tries to brighten the day by bringing along something delicious.
“You have to keep faith and believe that you have a purpose,” he said. “Everyone has a gift. People often use these gifts for themselves, but the purpose of a gift is to give it away. My gift is my cooking.”
Editor's Note: Middleton's annual Relay For Life fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society begins Friday evening at Rotary Raceway Park.