In the fall of 1951, a warm, vivacious African-American mother of five succumbed to a rare cervical cancer — she was only thirty-one. Known affectionately as Hennie, Henrietta Lacks could dance like nobody’s business and her heart was as big as her home when it came to feeding and caring for her many relatives, but she was no-nonsense with her kids and carried a secret pain for the impaired child she was once forced to give away.

A violent storm was all that marked her passing. There was no obituary. Not even a headstone. Hennie’s shoes and clothes were whisked away—like she never existed—and the little ones, with no memory of their mother, were parceled out to bitter, cunning relatives.

Only their mother’s bible and a lock of her hair remained tangible proof that Hennie ever lived until decades later when the four Lacks siblings learned that their mother—astoundingly—lived on through the very unique cells that originally generated her cancer.

Without their mother’s knowledge, or family consent, Johns Hopkins Hospital (one of a handful at the time willing to treat black Americans) studied Hennie’s tumor and recognized something distinguishing about it.

For the very first time, human cells proved not only that they could be grown outside the human body, but also that Hennie’s “workhorse” cells were spontaneously replicable! Scientists were ecstatic. Here at last was a cell culture vital to the research of disease, chromosomal study and much more. Scientists gave them a name: “HeLa,” short for Henrietta Lacks.

Immortal and vastly profitable HeLa cells (at $167.00 a vial) would come to mean big business for all those involved – except the marginalized and medically uninsured Lacks family.

To write this gripping nonfiction, author Rebecca Skloot invested ten years in the lives of Hennie’s children to record vividly the myriad emotions they grappled with after learning the truth. None of those emotions was more exquisite and tender than that joyful moment in which Deborah and Zakariyya Lacks “meet” their mother for the very first time.

Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in exploring African American History in Howard County please register online or by calling 410.313.7800 for a special presentation by the Howard County Center of African American Culture at the Central Branch on March 4, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. Wylene Sims Burch, Founder and Director of the Howard County Center of African American Culture, considers the rich history of African-Americans in Howard County. O.H. Laster, Howard County resident and community volunteer, reviews the creation of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and how he worked toward its adoption. This is a “History Lives” event.

Aimee Zuccarini is a research assistant and instructor at the East Columbia Branch. She facilitates several book discussions and writes the book reviews for The Maryland Women’s Journal.

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The garden at the Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource Center

The garden at the Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource Center

The Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource Center at Howard County General Hospital (HCGH) was founded 15 years ago as a unique combination of educational and aesthetic resources for cancer patients. It was a collaborative grassroots effort on the part of many, but it was the separate visions of two impassioned activists that gave the center its start. Columbia resident and journalist Lynne Salisbury envisioned a comprehensive cancer information center for patients and families, and activist Tina Broccolino, wife of HCGH President and CEO Vic Broccolino, recognized the needs of cancer patients for specialized aesthetic care.

During the initial planning stages, Tina asked Claudia Mayer, a Howard County resident with a true passion for life and a penchant for helping cancer patients in need, to help with the project. Claudia, wife of prominent community obstetrician and gynecologist William Mayer, M.D., had been one of the founders of the hospital’s Rave Reviews Consignment Shop.

Tragically, Claudia Mayer had been diagnosed with cancer several years earlier and died in 1996 at the young age of 47. In recognition of her spirit and courageous battle with cancer, Tina pledged to name the new image and information center in her honor. In 1998, its first year of operation, the center served 400 men, women and children with its educational resources; lending library; and full-service salon, staffed by volunteer stylists from local salons.

The center has expanded significantly throughout the past 15 years, providing more than 5,000 services last year. Counseling services, support groups, exercise classes and complementary medicine are just a few of the new services that have been added. And, 100 percent of the funding for the center is raised by the community through events, gifts and grants.

The Mayer family continues to be involved in the center, especially Claudia’s daughter, Michelle Mayer Motsko, an original member of Team CONQUER Cancer. An endurance sports training program that raises funds and awareness for the center.

If you or a loved one could benefit from these services, call 410-740-5858.


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17_BreastHealth2011

Breast Cancer Awareness Quilt

Wednesday, October 16 is Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) day.  BRA day is a collaborative effort between The American Society of Plastic Surgeons, The Plastic Surgery Foundation, plastic surgeons, breast centers, nurse navigators, corporate sponsors and breast cancer support groups designed to promote education, awareness and access regarding post-mastectomy breast reconstruction.

  • According to The American Society of Plastic Surgeons Website, studies show:
  • 89% of women want to see the results of breast reconstruction surgery before undergoing cancer treatment.
  • Less than 23% of women know the wide range of breast reconstruction options available.
  • Only 22% of women are familiar with the quality of outcomes that can be expected.
  • Only 19% of women understand that the timing of their treatment for breast cancer and the timing of their decision to undergo reconstruction greatly impacts their options and results.

These numbers tell us that we simply aren’t doing enough to educate women about their reconstructive options.  The choice to undergo reconstructive surgery after mastectomy or lumpectomy is a personal choice.  Some women have a basic understanding of breast reconstruction after going through the process with a mother, sister or friend who themselves are breast cancer survivors.  However, for many women, the diagnosis of breast cancer is their first time dealing with these issues.  In addition to coping with the new diagnosis of cancer, these women are faced with the options of surgical treatment that they fear will leave them “disfigured” or “less of a woman.”

The breast can be reconstructed after mastectomy on one side (unilateral) or both sides (bilateral).  Reconstructive options include saline or silicone breast implants, tissue expanders followed by the placement of breast implants, or even the use of the patients own tissue to reconstruct the breast (known as autologous reconstruction).  The latter option uses tissue from the abdomen, back, inner thighs or buttocks to reshape the breast mound.  Following breast reconstruction, the nipples can be reconstructed and the areola can even be tattooed on the reconstruction to make the breast appear more real and natural.

For women undergoing partial mastectomy or lumpectomy, the amount of tissue needed to remove the full tumor is often so large that they are left with a significant deformity of the breast.  Plastic surgeons have expanded on our breast reduction techniques to develop a technique called Oncoplastic Surgery.  This procedure is planned much like a traditional breast reduction or breast lift.  The tissue that is normally discarded after a breast reduction is left attached to the breast and used to fill in the defect left by the removal of the tumor.  Unfortunately, to be a candidate for this type of reconstruction, your breasts need to be large enough that you would benefit from a reduction or a lift.  Women with smaller breasts will need to explore other options.

Breast reconstruction is a highly individualized process.  To find out what options are available to you or your loved one, it’s best to make an appointment with a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon.

Many people associate plastic surgery with “cosmetic surgery,” when in fact our job is often repairing defects and restoring the body to a more natural state.  We have the fortunate job of giving back to women what their diagnosis of breast cancer may have taken away.  Our goal is not only to reshape and rebuild the breast, but also to rebuild our patient’s self-esteem, dignity and confidence.

Learn more about BRA Day.

Statistical information above provided by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

To compare all options for breast reconstruction after cancer treatment, including animations of the surgical procedures for breast reconstruction using a patient’s own tissue, visit the Johns Hopkins Medicine Avon Foundation Breast Center website.

 

 

Troy Pittman, M.D., is an Assistant Professor of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He practices both at the Johns Hopkins Breast Center at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and the Medical Pavilion at Howard County General Hospital. Dr. Pittman specializes in reconstructive breast surgery. His clinical interests include breast reconstruction as well as revisionary and cosmetic surgery of the breast.

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Photo by Antonella Beccari
October 1 marked the five-year anniversary (yuck, there has to be a better word for this than “anniversary”) of my mother’s death. The grief of losing my mother is something that lives with me every single day, but it’s not something I easily discuss. In fact, a friend who has recently suffered a loss asked me how long it took me to get over my mom’s passing. I told her I’d let her know when that happens. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to write about the great sorrow and pain my siblings and I faced having to make some wretched decisions as well as suffer the loss of the person who was most influential in our lives, but not today.

My mom had many health issues, but also, I think, her health was affected by how much time she spent as a caregiver. You see, my mom had five kids, cared for my father for eight years after he fell ill (while her youngest children were still adolescents), and cared for her elderly mother who lived with us for the last eleven years of her life. She was always taking care of someone but usually not herself. This, sadly, seems to be a common problem among caregivers in our society, and our society is full of caregivers.

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, “65.7 million caregivers make up 29% of the U.S. adult population providing care to someone who is ill, disabled or aged.” The Caregiver Action Network indicates that a caregiver is anyone who cares for loved ones with chronic conditions, disabilities, disease, or the frailties of old age.

Caregivers can help with anything and everything from shopping, cooking, cleaning, paying bills, giving medicine, going to the toilet, bathing, dressing, eating, to providing company and emotional support. As MedlinePlus states: “Caregiving is hard, and caregivers of chronically ill people often feel stress. They are ‘on call’ 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you’re caring for someone with mental problems like Alzheimer’s disease, it can be especially difficult. Support groups can help.”

November is National Caregiver month, according to the American Society on Aging. So it might be the perfect time to start thinking of ways to look out for any caregivers you know (including yourself if you are one). Just about all the organizations linked to in this post have resources for caregivers and family and friends of caregivers. You may also wish to try some books such as: The Caregiving Wife’s Handbook, American Cancer Society Complete Guide to Family Caregiving, Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias: The Caregiver’s Complete Survival Guide. Remember, caregivers in our lives spend so much time and energy on others, like my mother did, we should try to help them, especially when it comes to taking care of themselves.

Joanne Sobieck-Lingg is glad to blog about her many, disparate interests (though expert in none, except maybe parenthetical asides). In past lives, she was a writer, proofreader, editor, project manager, teacher, and even co-coordinator of a certain health blog. She has been happily ensconced among the fiction and teen books at the Central Branch of HCLS since 2003.


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September 27, 10:15 a.m. & 11:15 a.m. Parachute Play. Take time for zany aerodynamic fun as you practice teamwork, coordination, and cooperation through parachute games at the Elkridge Branch. Ages 3-6, with adult; 30 min. Ticket required due to limited space.Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15-30 minutes before class.

September 27, 2-6:00 p.m. HCGH Farmers’ Market. Join us every Friday for the HCGH Farmers Market. Keep your family healthy with fresh fruits, vegetables, bread, cheese, eggs, meat and other farm products grown and produced on local Howard County Farms. New vendors this year include Misty Meadows Milk and a jewelry vendor once a month. Market is at the rear of Visitor Lot C at HCGH.

September 27, 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Game Day. Get up and move! Meet and compete with friends at the Glenwood Branch. Light refreshments provided. 3 – 4:30 pm. Ages 11-17. No registration required.

September 27 – October 4, Various times and Branches. Play Partners. Stories, baby games, and musical activities. Ages infant-23 months with adult; 20-30 min. Contact your Branch for registration requirements.

September 28, 10:00 a.m. Ask A Master Gardener. Discuss gardening questions and concerns at the Miller Branch. April through September. Saturdays, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. (except holiday weekends). University of Maryland Extension – Howard County Master Gardeners. Offered again 9/30, 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. No registration required.

September 28, 11:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m. “Adults: Navigating to Better Health” Health Fair. Participate in essential screenings including total cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure and body mass index. Receive information on heart disease and diabetes prevention as well as healthy lifestyle demonstrations, healthy food and gifts that promote good health. Free. At the Mall in Columbia (The Columbia Mall).

September 30, 10-11:30 a.m. Medicare 102: Why Medicare Isn’t Enough. Learn about Medicare Advantage/Health Plans (Part C) and Medicare Supplement Policies (Medigap). What should you consider when deciding which Medicare choices are right for you? Understand how plans vary, your costs, and when is the best time to enroll. Learn how to protect yourself and Medicare from healthcare fraud. Presented by the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), Howard County Office on Aging. Howard County General Hospital Wellness Center, 10710 Charter Drive, Columbia, MD.

September 30, 10:15 a.m. & 11:30 a.m. What’s the Sense?: The Five Senses. Explore the five senses and how we use them at Miller Branch. Ages 3-5; 30 min. Multi-week series. Limited space; tickets available at Children’s Desk 15-30 minutes before class.

September 30, 7:00 p.m. What’s in Season? Dan Wecker, executive chef and owner of the Elkridge Furnace Inn, teaches how to prepare delicious, farm fresh meals with local seasonal ingredients from the best of Maryland’s fall produce at the Miller Branch. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950

October 1 – 3, 10:15 a.m. & 11:15 a.m. All Together Now classes now available at HCLS Savage Branch Express. Register online or by calling 410.880.5975.

October 1, 3:30 p.m. Care Giver’s Support Group. Meets on the first Tuesday of each month at 3:30 p.m. or the third Saturday of each month at 10:30 a.m.- noon. (Saturday group is on hiatus for the summer). FREE. Registration is required.  Call the Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource Center at 410 740-5858 for more information. 10710 Charter Drive, Columbia MD.

October 1, 6:00 p.m. Babysitting 101. A University of Maryland Extension-Howard County 4-H instructor teaches child safety, first aid, and strategies to transition a child to bedtime at the Glenwood Branch. Participants receive a certificate. Ages 13 & up. Register online or by calling 410.313.5577. A Well & Wise Event.

October 1, 7:00 p.m. Guided Meditation. Presented by Star Ferguson-Gooden, M.Ac., L.Ac. at the Miller Branch. Enjoy a guided mindfulness meditation designed to impart a feeling of peacefulness and connection. 1st Tuesdays; 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.. Register for each class separately. Please bring a cushion or meditation pillow. All sessions will be in the Enchanted Garden, weather permitting.Register online or by calling 410.313.1950. A Well & Wise Event.

October 2, 10:15 a.m. & 11:30 a.m. Twist & Shout: Rodeo! Get those wiggles out with music and movement for little ones at the Miller Branch. Ages 2-5 with adult; 30 min. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.

October 3, 7:00-8:30 p.m. Get the Skinny on Weight Loss. Research shows a healthy weight is important for better health. Make the decision to weigh less now and learn a new perspective that will support you in your weight-loss management. Presented by Raj Dua, M.D. Free. Howard County General Hospital Wellness Center, 10710 Charter Drive, Columbia MD.

October 3, 7:00 p.m. Promoting Civility By Example. Discover the meaning, significance, and benefits of civility; the individual’s role in advancing it; and how civility contributes to healthy, harmonious relationships within a community. Presented by Dr. Gopal Dorai, Professor Emeritus at William Paterson University, at the Miller Branch. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.

October 4, 2-6:00 p.m. HCGH Farmers’ Market. Join us every Friday for the HCGH Farmers Market. Keep your family healthy with fresh fruits, vegetables, bread, cheese, eggs, meat and other farm products grown and produced on local Howard County Farms. New vendors this year include Misty Meadows Milk and a jewelry vendor once a month. Market is at the rear of Visitor Lot C at HCGH.

October 7, 7-8:30 p.m. Kitchen Wisdom. Sample foods and learn how to spice up healthy meals with herbs and spices for a variety of taste. Howard County General Hospital Wellness Center, 10710 Charter Drive, Columbia MD.

October 8, 1:00-3:00 p.m. Quilting Support Group for cancer patients, survivors and caregivers. Join us on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month to learn quilting and hand piecing techniques and to for time to work on projects. Free. Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource Center, 10710 Medical Pavilion, Columbia MD. Call 410-740-5858 for more information.

October 9, 5:30-9:00 p.m. Adult, Child  & Infant CPR and AED. $55. Learn the skills needed to clear an airway obstruction, perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). Earn a two-year American Heart Association completion card. Howard County General Hospital Wellness Center, 10710 Charter Drive, Columbia MD.


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September 20, 10:30 a.m. Care Giver’s Support Group. Meets on the first Tuesday of each month at 3:30 p.m. or the third Saturday of each month at 10:30 a.m.- noon. (Saturday group is on hiatus for the summer). FREE. Registration is required.  Call the Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource Center at 410 740-5858 for more information. 10710 Charter Drive, Columbia MD.

September 20, 10:15 a.m. & 11:15 a.m. Just For Me. A class at the East Columbia Branch for children ages 3-5 who are ready for an independent class that includes creative expression, listening comprehension, and early reading skills. 30 min. Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15-30 minutes before class. Offered again 9/23 at 10:15 & 11:30 a.m. at the Central Branch. Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15-30 minutes before class. Also offered 9/24 at 2:00 p.m at Miller Branch. Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15-30 minutes before class. Elkridge Branch offers this class on 9/25 at 10:15 a.m. & 11:15 a.m. No registration required.

September 20-24, Various times and Branches. Play Partners. Stories, baby games, and musical activities. Ages infant-23 months with adult; 20-30 min. Contact your Branch for registration requirements.

September 21, 9:00 a.m.- 1:00 p.m. Essentials in Babysitting. $50. Teens 11-14 will learn to manage children, create a safe environment, and apply basic emergency techniques. Howard County General Hospital Wellness Center, 10710 Charter Drive, Columbia MD.

September 21, 10:00 a.m. Ask A Master Gardener. Discuss gardening questions and concerns at the Miller Branch. April through September. Saturdays, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. (except holiday weekends). University of Maryland Extension – Howard County Master Gardeners. Also offered 9/21 at 10:00 a.m. at Glenwood Branch. No registration required. Offered again at Miller Branch on 9/23, 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. No registration required.

September 21, 10:30 a.m. Care Giver’s Support Group. Meets on the first Tuesday of each month at 3:30 p.m. or the third Saturday of each month at 10:30 a.m.- noon. (Saturday group is on hiatus for the summer). FREE. Registration is required.  Call the Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource Center at 410 740-5858 for more information. 10710 Charter Drive, Columbia MD.

September 22, 10 a.m.- 3:00 p.m. CUTS Against Cancer- Annual Haircut-a-thon benefitting the Howard County General Hospital Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource Center.  Lobbies of the Medical Pavilion at Howard County, 10710 Charter Drive, Columbia MD.

September 23, 10:15 a.m. & 11:30 a.m. What’s the Sense?: The Five Senses. Explore the five senses and how we use them at Miller Branch. Ages 3-5; 30 min. Multi-week series. Limited space; tickets available at Children’s Desk 15-30 minutes before class.

September 23, 5:30-9:00 p.m. Adult, Child  & Infant CPR and AED. $55. Learn the skills needed to clear an airway obstruction, perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). Earn a two-year American Heart Association completion card. Howard County General Hospital Wellness Center,10710 Charter Drive, Columbia MD.

September 23, 7:00 p.m. Meet the Author: Brian Boyle. Brian Boyle spent two months in a medically-induced coma after suffering a near fatal car accident at the age of 18. In Iron Heart: the True Story of How I Came Back From the Dead, he recounts how he finished the Hawaii Ironman race in 2007, just three years after being in the intensive care unit. It was one of the greatest sports comebacks ever. The book has been featured on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, NBC’s Today Show, and ESPN. The American Red Cross has twice named Brian Boyle as Spokesperson of the Year. Registration is required. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950. In partnership with the American Red Cross. Red Cross Bloodmobile: 2 – 8:30 pm.

September 24 – 26, 10:15 a.m. & 11:15 a.m. All Together Now classes now available at HCLS Savage Branch Express. For more information or to register call 410.880.5975 or register online.

September 24, 1:00-3:00 p.m. Quilting Support Group for cancer patients, survivors and caregivers. Join us on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month to learn quilting and hand piecing techniques and to for time to work on projects. Free. Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource Center, 10710 Charter Drive, Columbia MD. Call 410-740-5858 for more information.

September 24 or September 26. 6:30-7:30 p.m. Prenatal Exercise Taught by a Certified Instructor. Physician permission required. Eight-week session beginning Tuesdays on 9/24, 6:30–7:30 p.m. or Thursdays on 9/26, 6:30–7:30 p.m. $88/eight sessions. Howard County General Hospital Wellness Center, 10710 Charter Drive, Columbia MD.

September 26, 10:30 a.m. I’m Going to Be a Big Brother or Sister! Prepare for the arrival of a baby in this class for new siblings at the East Columbia Branch. Enjoy stories, activities, and bring a favorite doll or stuffed animal to practice holding a baby. Resources for parents, too. Families; 30 – 45 min. Limited space; tickets available at Children’s Desk 15-30 minutes before class. In partnership with Howard County General Hospital: A Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. A Well & Wise Event.

September 26, 7:00-9:00 p.m. Smoke-Free Lungs. Education and support for those wanting to quit or who have quit. Attend one or all sessions. 9/26, 10/17 or 11/14. Free. Howard County General Hospital Wellness Center, 10710 Charter Drive, Columbia MD.

September 26, 7:00-8:30 p.m. Living with Breast Cancer Support Group. This group facilitated by Mary Dowling, LCSW-C for patients with a stage IV cancer diagnosis meets each fourth Thursday of the month. Registration requested. Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource Center, 10710 Charter Drive, Columbia MD. Call 410-740-5858 for more information.

September 28, 11:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m. “Adults: Navigating to Better Health” Health Fair. Participate in essential screenings including total cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure and body mass index. Receive information on heart disease and diabetes prevention as well as healthy lifestyle demonstrations, healthy food and gifts that promote good health. Free. At the Mall in Columbia (The Columbia Mall).

September 30, 10-11:30 a.m. Medicare 102: Why Medicare Isn’t Enough. Learn about Medicare Advantage/Health Plans (Part C) and Medicare Supplement Policies (Medigap). What should you consider when deciding which Medicare choices are right for you? Understand how plans vary, your costs, and when is the best time to enroll. Learn how to protect yourself and Medicare from healthcare fraud. Presented by the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), Howard County Office on Aging. Howard County General Hospital Wellness Center, 10710 Charter Drive, Columbia MD.

October 3, 7:00-8:30 p.m. Get the Skinny on Weight Loss. Research shows a healthy weight is important for better health. Make the decision to weigh less now and learn a new perspective that will support you in your weight-loss management. Presented by Raj Dua, M.D. Free. Howard County General Hospital Wellness Center, 10710 Charter Drive, Columbia MD.

 


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