Susan Stachler, 36, was told to be less optimistic when writing about her battle with cancer in The Cookie Cure: A Mother-Daughter Memoir of Cookies and Cancer.
“Our publisher was like, ‘You must have had a bad day,’” she says. “Write about it.”
Susan and her mother, Laura Stachler, 64, co-own a gourmet gingersnaps shop in Sandy Springs called
Susansnaps. It reflects the charm and optimism of its owners; white displays with differently flavored gingersnaps adorn the store, and large bags of green packing peanuts sit in polka-dotted corners. The space is the tip of the duo’s cookie empire. Their gingersnaps have been sold in gift stores across the company and at the Ebar at Nordstrom. Bobby Flay, Martha Stewart and Katie Couric are fans. The Stachlers have been featured in O, The Oprah Magazine and Redbook and appeared on The Today Show.
Not bad for a business started out of their garage in 2005.
The humor and easygoing storytelling style of The Cookie Cure, due out in February, is immediately identifiable when talking to the two authors. Both women are laid-back; they quickly settle into the natural rhythms of people who enjoy one another’s company.
“It’s no big deal,” Susan says, explaining what “It’s just cookies,” means, a phrase that’s an oft-repeated mantra between the two women.
“At the same time,” Laura chimes in, “We still remember what we’ve been through. What we’ve seen.”
Susan was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease her senior year at Auburn University. Hodgkin’s is a blood cancer that starts in the lymphatic system. The American Cancer Society estimates 1,070 deaths from Hodgkin’s in 2017 so far.
Chemotherapy now dominated Susan’s post-graduation plans; a black suit bought for job interviews hung unused in her closet. The diagnosis was amplified by the Stachler’s history with Hodgkin’s. Her father has Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a similar, more common cancer of the lymphatic system. Susan started chemo on June 4, the same day her mother’s sister, also named Susan, died from Hodgkin’s lymphoma 27 years prior.
Laura describes the pain of watching her daughter fight the same cancer that killed her sister in “Dear Sue” letters included at the end of each chapter of The Cookie Cure. “A lot of people will have thoughts like ‘I want to tell someone who’s past that,’ or they’ll look at the Grand Canyon and wanna tell their grandmother about it,” says Laura. “This was just me channeling that.”
When asked to recount a bad day, Susan wrote about undergoing radiation. Chemo left her weak and created a metallic flavor in her mouth that was like “constantly licking an aluminum can.” Her mother’s gingersnaps, however, tasted great. Laura had started a dessert business, Laura’s Delectable Desserts, in their garage and often had Susan taste new recipes. Susan writes that the round, brown cookie, “melted in my mouth, and I could actually taste it, which was never a given these days considering my whacked-out taste buds. It was delicious.”
Others agreed. The cookies quickly became a hit, especially among cancer patients — ginger acts as a natural antidote to the upset stomach chemo causes. Laura’s Delectable Desserts began focusing on producing gingersnaps, and Laura renamed her company Susansnaps in honor of her daughter and sister. Susan went to work for her mother as she recovered. Their hard work began to snowball; a chance deal with Nordstrom led to newspaper articles, national recognition and moving the business out of the garage and into a shop in Sandy Springs.
They’ve had the storefront for eight years now. Susan has been officially cancer-free for five. The Stachlers’ incredible journey is baked into the success of Susansnaps; customers frequently stop by the shop to ask for updates about Susan’s cancer or to share their own tales. The family’s story touches and inspires people — one of the primary reasons the mother-daughter duo decided to write The Cookie Cure. “It’s a unique story,” says Laura. “It’s not so much we wanted to tell our story as we wanted to tell this story.”
Added Susan, “We didn’t want to write a cancer story; we wanted to write an entertaining story. A story that has heart and just so happens to have cancer in it.”
The Cookie Cure is an obvious act of love by the Stachlers. Laura and Susan write about their burgeoning cookie business and cancer treatment with intense detail, creating a roadmap to help others spin struggle into gingersnaps. It’s a reminder the best stories are meant to be gifts.
Susan pens, “Mom and I are here to encourage you not to stop, but instead to persevere because a better version of you may well be waiting on the other side.”