AMERICAN FORK — Paul Wilson loves to cook. He's also nearly blind.
After seven-year-old Paul had surgery for his brain cancer in 2006, he woke up seeing only shadows and colors. The pressure from the tumor had affected his pituitary gland, leaving him legally blind.
"It was kind of scary. I lost my balance," Paul said. "Even if I stepped outside, I would just fall right over."
The boy had six surgeries in two weeks to rid his body of the cancer. His first occurred on Jan. 13, 2006 — a Friday. He said he noticed the date on the calendar, but didn't tell his mother in case she would worry.
One could say the boy was lucky that Friday the 13th. Paul was supposed to lose much more than his sight during the surgeries. Doctors told him that he would also lose his ability to walk and hear in addition to his sight. He evaluated through the predictions like a checklist: "Lie. Lie. True."
Doctors said he might also lose his sense of humor. "Lie," he said.
Paul is 13-years-old and free of cancer now. He's learned how to live with his limited sight. He handles his situation with humor.
One story he loves involves he and his family going out to IHOP on the fourth anniversary mark of being cancer free. Instead of singing "Happy Birthday," they sang a song along the lines of "Happy four years of being cancer free." He gave the details through a fit of laughter.
He makes jokes about his vision, though he says not everyone is comfortable with it.
"Some people know that I'm OK with it. Some people are like, ‘oh my gosh, I can't believe you just said that,' " Paul said.
Since he lost his sight, Paul has attended a camp for blind and visually impaired children nearly every summer. They taught Paul to sew, but more interestingly for him, they taught him how to cook.
The dishes are simple — cheese quesadillas, scrambled eggs and hashbrowns, for example — but they teach things like how to use a knife and stove safely if you have limited sight or you can't see at all.
He cooks frequently for himself and his family, and he loves to show them the food preparation techniques he's learned.
So when the Utah Valley University Culinary Arts program got word of his enthusiasm for cooking, they got in touch with the teen through the Sub for Santa program. Last year they invited him to a dinner, which they cooked. But on Jan. 23, Paul will get to cook with Peter Sproul, an assistant professor of culinary arts and co-owner of the Chef's Table in Provo.
"(I want to) take my cooking to a new level and learn how to work the oven," Paul said. "We learned how to work the stove, but certain things I would like make require the oven."