Maria Christodoulou credits the community’s support at her West Palm Beach restaurant, Your Greek Cousin, for helping her heal.
| Palm Beach Post
As Breast Cancer Awareness Month lights up October in pink-accented tributes, Maria Christodoulou will add her own touch this week. She has arranged for a pink fire truck to park outside her West Palm Beach restaurant, Your Greek Cousin, on Friday. And she has pledged to donate 10 percent of the day’s sales to national cancer-fighting organization Susan G. Komen.
These are not simply token gestures of a community-minded restaurant owner, but hints of her own breast cancer struggle and story of survival. Two years ago this month, Christodoulou was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer at age 40. In the months that followed, she endured a double mastectomy, 25 radiation treatments, chemotherapy and three additional operations to combat infections.
The diagnosis came at a critical time for Christodoulou and her husband, Ioakim Philippou. Their casual Greek restaurant on Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard was relatively new and still finding its footing. And, worse, they had no medical insurance.
“Two years ago, I was not in the position I am today. We had just opened when I got sick. I was not ready for that,” says Christodoulou, who manages Your Greek Cousin, a restaurant inspired by her and her husband’s Greek-Cypriot roots.
She grew up in South Africa in a Greek Cypriot family and moved to Cyprus when she was 17. It was there that she met her (also Greek) husband. Together, they operated a bar in South Africa before moving to West Palm Beach five years ago to be closer to relatives here.
But although she was new to South Florida, she says she never felt alone here. Not only did fellow South African immigrant friends step up to collect funds via GoFundMe.com for her medical expenses, loyal customers stopped by often to show their support.
And charities including Komen and the Cancer Alliance of Help and Hope pitched in with donations for her care, she says.
“They were so helpful to me,” she says.
Also helpful: Christodoulou’s brave spirit. There were many days when she would head to the restaurant after her cancer treatment and press through the day’s tasks.
“I was very lucky that I was able to carry on working,” she says.
She credits her faith for keeping her afloat on the worst days.
“That kind of strength for me comes from a higher power, and that is God. When you know you have family and the community, you keep going, but the higher power gave me energy and perseverance,” she says. “I could see there was light at the end of the tunnel.”
She says she picked Oct. 16 as her Breast Cancer Awareness Month tribute day because it is a Friday and Fridays are the busiest days at the restaurant. And even though the coronavirus crisis forced them to pivot to a takeout/delivery model and lay off staff for a while, she and her husband continue to build upon their restaurant.
The restaurant is where they feel close to their loved ones in Cyprus every time they serve a wedge of baklava (her mother’s recipe), stuffed grape leaves and lemon potatoes (his mother’s recipes) and the hands-down customer favorite: the lamb gyros. It is where they season their fries with nearly a dozen spices and where they’ve created a “Greek key lime pie” with a nutty crust. It is where they continue to dream:
“We are looking for a second location,” says Christodoulou. The concept, possibly destined for Wellington or Loxahatchee, will be more of a takeout/delivery model, she says. “Because of COVID-19.”
She says she is extra-cautious these days due to the pandemic and her cancer recovery process. She continues to take the cancer-fighting drug tamoxifen and tries to limit her time at the restaurant. But she plans to be there Friday, grateful in pink.
Your Greek Cousin
Where: 2060 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd., West Palm Beach, YourGreekCousin.com, 561-686-9126
Hours: Open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., closed Sunday
These restaurants and food shop are also observing Breast Cancer Awareness Month:
- Scusi Trattoria in Palm Beach Gardens pledges to donate $10 from every bottle of rosé sold and $2 from every glass of rosé sold during October to Komen.
- Big Rocco’s Pizzeria in Royal Palm Beach pledges to donate a portion of proceeds from a “round up for Komen” campaign.
- Nothing Bundt Cakes in Palm Beach Gardens pledges to donate $5 from each of its “breast cancer awareness” cake or bundtlet box to Komen.
Source: Thanks https://eu.palmbeachpost.com/story/entertainment/dining/2020/10/14/breast-cancer-month-west-palm-restaurant-owners-story-survival/3641028001/