The 71-year-old resident of Huntington Beach is spending a fifth holiday season with her family after being diagnosed with cancer that had spread through her body on Sept. 28, 2012.
“When you’re diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, you have a choice of how to live,” said Eisen-Cohen. “I chose the path of being positive and enjoying every moment. It’s not an easy journey by any means.”
As Eisen-Cohen was sharing her message of thankfulness, she couldn’t see out of one eye after surgery earlier in the day. One of the side effects of her latest round of chemotherapy, beyond the loss of hair, the physical pain that never goes away and the exhaustion – is cataracts.
It is estimated that more than 230,000 people in the U.S. – less than 1 percent are men – are living with breast cancer that has metastasized, or traveled, through the bloodstream to create tumors in various parts of the body, including the liver, lungs, brain and bones.
There is no cure, but there is treatment. Median survival is three years after diagnosis, and about 40,000 die annually, experts said.
For that reason, among others, Eisen-Cohen said she feels blessed to be spending another Thankgiving with her family, including two grandchildren, 6 and 1 years old.
Rather than dwell on her remaining time, in 2014 Eisen-Cohen launched the nonprofit Purple Power to raise funds for research and eradication of metastatic breast cancer with groups such as City of Hope, the cancer research, treatment and prevention organization.
She raised $10,000 at a benefit party she hosted recently at her Huntington Beach home during which she returned to her roots as a jazz singer and performed for guests.
“I don’t think I sang better – ever,” Eisen-Cohen said, adding she debuted a song she co-wrote titled “Live to Live.”
Her friends and family marvel at her ability to persevere.
“I met her at a hair salon. She was putting purple in her hair,” Kimberly Geigele Oswald recalled about her introduction to Eisen-Cohen and her charity.
By the time she left the salon, Oswald, now a board member with Purple Power, had a friend, a cause and a streak in her hair.
Chick Cohen, Eisen-Cohen’s husband of 20 years, says of the cancer charity, “Next to her music, this has given her more of a boost than anything in the last four years. She has purpose and a single-mindedness.”
Those interested in helping cancer patients can visit purple-power.org
FEEDING THE MASSES
Even after 23 years, Frank Tahvildari still struggles to talk about the death of his beloved wife, Jeanie. But in her loss, Tahvildari rediscovered the gift of giving.
First he and his daughter, Layla, packed Thanksgiving lunches in the back of his SUV and gave them out to the homeless in Long Beach for a couple of years. Then he and his family moved the event into his Tumbleweeds Bar and Grill in Huntington Beach and opened the doors to all.
“The next thing you know, it was a tradition,” said Tahvildari, 64.
With help from his three children, 10 grandkids and friends and donors, Tahvildari has turned the holiday into a family, friends and community celebration.
“She was just very loving and giving and going out of her way to help people,” Tahvildari said of his wife and inspiration. “There’s more pleasure in giving than receiving.”
Last year, about 750 people came for servings of traditional holiday fare.
“It’s a day for giving back to the community,” Tahvildari said. “You can’t put a label on it.”
Through his meals, Tahvildari said he has found a whole community of like-minded friends.
“We get a lot of people who enjoy serving, cutting and cleaning,” he said. “They look forward to it too.”
Tahvaldari invites all: “We have plenty of food.”
Tumbleweeds Bar and Grill is at 21094 Beach Blvd. The dinner is served 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Information: tumbleweedshb.com