Foodie Lit
Joy by Joy Clausen Soto

Click to see Joy give a fabulous Ted talk on her fight against cancer. 

Joy Clausen Soto, a young, successful dolphin trainer, finds herself fighting for her life against cancer. Her determination despite her pain and her positivity despite her losses grab our emotions.  By the end of her memoir, we feel friends.

 

Apparently, Joy feels the same way. She ends her memoir with this thought, “Life is full of obstacles. This will never change. What can change is the way you deal with those obstacles….It’s not what happens to you in life that determines your future. It is what you decide to do in those moments of struggle. It is your choices that you have control over…It all starts with today….I’m rooting for you.”

 

And we have no doubt that she is.

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I read 76 reviews on Amazon books. All rated Joy with 5 stars. All reviews were positive. Joy’s story became the reader’s story: a successful fight against the odds. Each person was moved and inspired and wanted to share Joy’s story with others. I have read and reviewed many books and have never seen this reaction before. Readers felt as if they knew Joy, suffered and rejoiced with her. They became her friend. I asked Joy about this response to her book. “I think a lot of people can relate to my journey and experiences. It's not just about cancer. It's about the highs and lows I've gone through in life. It's about being with the wrong person for too long, then finding the right person. It's about making something beautiful out of the heartbreaking moments we have in life. I let the reader into my quirky way of thinking, which makes the reader feel like we are best friends.”  Joy’s story becomes the reader’s story. A successful fight against the odds.

 

A favorite part of these memoirs is her time as a dolphin trainer. Dolphins are special animals for most of us—intelligent, caring and fun-loving. Not only did Joy find her time working with them fully engaging and absorbing, but after her own cancer survival, she established a dolphin program for children with cancer, healing their spirits.

 

Joy described the families’ reaction to me, “The kids love getting in the water to meet a dolphin! The parents look on with tears in their eyes as they watch their child, who has been through so much, laugh and play in the water with the dolphin. Cancer can really break down your self-esteem. When they get in the water and do something new and exciting like this, it helps build back their self-esteem.”

 

To heal her own spirit was not easy. After she was in remission, her doctors told her to go back to “normal” life.  “Going back to normal life seemed amazing, but the problem was I didn’t feel normal. I had just spent the last six months fighting for my life, and now I was supposed to be ‘normal.’ The doctors brought me to the brink of death and back….I was lost…I couldn’t see where I was going.”

 

Joy was fortunate in the support of her friends and family. They helped lead her off what she dubbed, the “broken road.” Her marriage and her children, which she was told she could never have after her cancer treatments, gave her much contentment. Still, she searched, and after a number of years, wrote this memoir, struggled through it, and created a story that is painful yet uplifting. Joy is humble, realizing that the story she tells is not just about her. She tells her story for individuals who are fighting cancer today, for those who are struggling against adversity, for those ready to give up.

 

Joy explained to me what she meant by the “broken road.” “I'm still living my beautiful broken road right now. I believe the keys to life are to find joy in the small moments, to spend time with the ones you love, and to take chances when going after your dreams. The gift that I gave through the program at SeaWorld came from a great heartache. That's the thing in life, you can continue to write your story and make something beautiful out of your experiences, both the good and the bad.” 

 

Joy was at a low point in her cancer treatment. Her hair was falling out, she had indigestion and vomiting. Her nose was bleeding and she was, perhaps rightfully so, feeling sorry for herself. She noted in her diary, after all the side effects of chemotherapy, “I’m going to win. I’m going to win.”

 

It is this positive determination that wins us over. Joy did not have an easy time battling cancer. And this is precisely why, we are so glad that she did win. I give her 5 stars, as did all her other reviewers. Her story gives hope to us all.

Salmon Niçoise tastes and looks fabulous and is healthy to boot. Diet is often a critical part of healing. Salmon is on that list as are most vegetables and healthy for those who aren’t fighting cancer either.

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