Jamie Barker

She just didn’t feel right.

Fort Thomas native Jamie Baker noticed something was wrong last fall, when she began her fourth year at the University of Dayton. Always active, she began feeling weak. She’d played soccer since she was a little girl, and played all four years at Highlands High School. But she found herself having trouble getting through a normal day.

During a short break in the semester, she came home and took a blood test. It came back with shocking news.

The 21-year-old had acute myelogenous leukemia – a bone marrow cancer that also affects the blood.

Instantly, the year of college was put on hold.

Baker instead spent her time taking chemotherapy treatments and recovering. By mid-November, she was told the cancer was in remission.

The chemotherapy was working. But in her weakened state, she was unable to lead a normal life. Most of her time was spent indoors to avoid contact with germs.

Completely bored, she did something she’d never tried before. She learned to cook.

“I’d always had my mom cook for me,” says the 22-year-old Baker. “I could cook, so long as mom was on the other end of the phone telling me exactly what I needed to do.”

No more. During her recovery time, Baker began gathering recipes and trying them out. When she’d gone through her fill of family recipes, she asked for more through an online journal she’d created to update friends and relatives on her recovery.

The recipes began to add up and she got an idea.

“I created a book of the recipes, and I also told my recovery story throughout the book,” she says.

It’s called “A Taste of Hope: An Inspirational Cookbook.”

Her treatments ended in February, and by March, doctors told her the cancer had not returned. Through contacts at UD, Baker was able to publish her book, which she is selling for $17.50.

The price includes shipping and all proceeds are going to the American Cancer Society. Bracelets with the slogan “I Will” – as in, “I Will Beat This” – also are being sold for $5. So far she has raised more than $4,000.

“This has made me stronger in my life and in my faith,” she says. “I realized how many friends and family I have.”

Still, doctors have told her there is a 50 to 60 percent chance the cancer could return in the next two years. Baker is due to graduate in May 2009.

“You’re living in a state of paranoia,” she says. “But we’re able to do something good with this.”

She’s now feeling good.

“Now I’m finally getting back to exercising,” she says. “I know that if I can do that, I’ll be OK.”

Know of someone in your community with a good story to tell? Let us know. Submit nominees to Ryan Clark by e-mail:rclark@nky.com.