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A Piece of Cake: From Loss Springs Hope for Change

Classic Vanilla Cupcakes

1 cup butter, softened

1 tbsp. baking powder
¾ cup granular sugar

½ tbsp. salt
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs


Pink Frosting
½ cup butter, softened

pink food coloring
3 cups of confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 tsp. filtered water

Pre-heat oven to 350°F (175°C). Place paper baking cups in cupcake pan. Place all ingredients in a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth, about 4-5 minutes. Fill the baking cups 2/3 with the cupcake batter. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake will come out clean. Remove from oven, and allow cupcakes to cool before frosting. Prepare frosting by first creaming the butter with an electric mixer, and then combining the rest of the ingredients. Color the frosting to your desired shade of pink, and frost your cooled cupcakes! Cupcakes will keep up to 2 days in an airtight container.

This pink cupcake recipe is dedicated to Nataline Sarkisyan’s memory.

Nataline Sarkisyan was a teenage girl full of aspirations of becoming a fashion designer, filling her sketchbook with dozens of design ideas that would one day come to life by the talented designer Pol Atteu. She also loved pink cupcakes! I never knew Nataline personally, but her story is one that has shaken many, and one that helped bring America’s broken healthcare system to the limelight. Nataline was diagnosed with leukemia at age 14, and after 2 years of treatment, the cancer went into remission. But in the summer of 2007, the cancer returned, and Nataline received a bone marrow transplant from her brother. Unfortunately, she developed complications from the radiation and chemo prior to the bone marrow transplant, and as a result, her liver began to fail.

This year I had the pleasure of meeting Hilda Sarkisyan when my bakery, Shakar Bakery, was asked to donate a cake for the Nataline Sarkisyan Fashion Legacy 5.

It was Dec. 20, 2007 when I watched an emotional mother, Hilda Sarkisyan, on the news, protesting in front of the CIGNA Health Care building. “The reason I’m here today is to fight the health insurance company, CIGNA, for denial of my daughter’s coverage for the liver transplant. They’re the ones who told us to go to UCLA to get a bone marrow transplant, and that they will cover it. But now, there are complications, she needs a liver.”

Dozens of nurses, doctors, and supporters attended the protest, chanting “No more denial,” angry and frustrated that the life of one person rested in the hands of a health insurance company, instead of where it belonged: with the doctors.

Nataline’s doctors gave her a 65 percent chance of survival with the liver transplant, and on Dec, 14, 2007, they found a perfect liver match. In a perfect world, Nataline would have had the liver surgery, and would have been given that 65 percent chance to live. But that was not the case. CIGNA denied coverage of the liver transplant, saying that the surgery was an “experimental, investigational, and unproven service.” Pressured by nurses, doctors, Nataline’s parents, and many supporters, on Dec. 20, 2007, CIGNA decided to reverse its decision and opted to cover the transplant.

As happy as it made those attending the protest, and those watching the news, like me, everyone felt the full impact of “It’s too late” when a few hours after CIGNA’s announcement, news spread that Nataline Sarkisyan had passed away. Why did CIGNA need public pressure to make the right decision and help save a 17-year-old’s life?

The Sarkisyans lost their daughter, but her death led them to the forefront of the health care reform battle. As her mother likes to say, “They messed with the wrong mother.” Hilda Sarkisyan is a familiar face amongst Washington Congressmen, where she fights to repeal the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, which protects insurance companies from being sued for lack of coverage.

This year I had the pleasure of meeting Hilda Sarkisyan when my bakery, Shakar Bakery, was asked to donate a cake for the Nataline Sarkisyan Fashion Legacy 5. The event is held every July at Mercedes-Benz in Calabasas, Calif., for Nataline’s birthday and in memory of her fashion designer dreams. And every year, the family chooses one of Nataline’s sketches to be modeled, and designer Pol Atteu brings the sketch to life. Nataline Sarkisyan’s presence was felt throughout the fashion show, and it was difficult not to become frustrated with America’s broken health care system. Whether you support it or not, America is finally making an effort to shake the control of health insurance companies with President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Although the Affordable Care Act does many good things, it doesn’t address every problem, and Nataline would have sadly met the same fate today as she did in 2007. Hilda Sarkisyan said she will always keep Nataline’s story alive, so that the lawmakers and the health care industry can come together and change their policies to help people, instead of making decisions based off profit.

To learn more, visit www.natalinesarkisyan.com.

Editor’s note: Shantal Der Boghosian will be writing monthly columns for the Armenian Weekly titled “A Piece of Cake,” of which this column is the first. We welcome her to the Armenian Weekly family.

1 Comment on A Piece of Cake: From Loss Springs Hope for Change

  1. very touching!

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