Watch: Great American Solar Eclipse as it happens ☀️
Coverage of the Great American Solar Eclipse ☀️ set to occur today

Cooking with compassion: Chef who prepares meals for cancer patients can relate to their health struggles

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Twice a week, Steve Paradowski gets on a bus with a backpack full of food, and he rides for an hour-and-a-half. Then, the real work begins.

On a cold day, there was warmth in the kitchen at "Kathy's House." There, Steve Paradowski and his sister Linda worked to prepare a meal for dozens of guests -- like Barbara Klebba, whose life has been uprooted by leukemia. She now spends two days a week at Froedtert Hospital.

"Getting chemo treatments and seeing the doctor, infusions," Klebba said.

After a long day at the hospital, there's nothing quite like a warm, home-cooked meal.

"It just feels like this is your home away from home when people do that," Klebba said.

"Most times when they come in here, they're not expecting to see the spread that I put out," Steve Paradowski said.

Paradowski has been a fixture at Kathy's House since he saw an ad in the paper seeking volunteer chefs.

"Came out and met some of the staff and said, 'tell you what, I'll make lunch for you guys, and you can see what I can do,'" Paradowski said.

That was a year-and-a-half ago.

"One thing we try and do here is really make our house a home and Steve has really helped create that home-like atmosphere," Patty Metropulos - CEO of Kathy's House said.

Kathy's House is a temporary home for adults seeking treatment in the area. Seventy-five percent of the guests are dealing with a cancer diagnosis.

Most of what Paradowski cooks is paid for with his own limited income.

"The second time I made pork here they actually applauded.  I was embarrassed. I really didn't expect that. But it made me understand what it meant to these people," Paradowski said.

There is always music in the kitchen when Paradowski cooks. By filling stomachs, he has become a part of the guest's lives.

"I hope for that half-hour when they're eating, they're not thinking about whoever's got cancer or is going through this operation," Paradowski said.

After all, Paradowski knows what it's like to have life interrupted.

Paradowski was a professional chef for 35 years -- until his career came to an abrupt halt.

"I was talking to Linda on the phone and she said 'it sounds like you had a stroke,'" Paradowski said.

At first, you might not notice Paradowski's limp, or the way he uses his left hand to position a knife in his right.

"At first I was so slow, I didn't even want to be in the kitchen," Paradowski said.

The stroke in 2009 left him paralyzed on his right side. Once again, he had to learn how to walk, and just as imporant -- how to hold a knife.

"I've come a long way. It was very frustrating," Paradowski said.

In a commercial kitchen, speed is everything.

"If you asked me to pick up a penny I hope you have half-an-hour," Paradowski said.

That's why Paradowski won't work as a professional chef again.

"You gotta figure, who's gonna hire someone like that? When even normal cooks can't find jobs?" Paradowski said.

Paradowski's sister Linda says he's found something more rewarding at Kathy's House.

"He's really happy, and it seems like lately he's happier than he has been," Linda Prochnow said.

Cooking for those whose struggles he understands, Paradowski couldn't be more grateful.

"I'm a total stranger to you, but I cooked for you, so now I'm kind of part of your life," Paradowski said.

Paradowski was recently invited to a luncheon at Lambeau Field, where he was presented with the "Community Quarterback" award.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Kathy's House.