I Ride for My Family, My Patients, and Because I Can

ride to conquer cancer

Leslie Rogers, director of Howard County General Hospital’s Claudia Mayer/Tina Broccolino Cancer Resource Center, supported her mother during her mother’s cancer surgery and recovery. Here, Leslie poses with her mother as they both try on her mother’s wigs. Leslie is raising funds in the Ride to Conquer Cancer in honor of her family members and patients who have been diagnosed with the disease.

I was excited when I heard about the Ride to Conquer Cancer, so I went to an in-service here at Howard County General Hospital (HCGH) to learn more. I’m always up for a new adventure, but this one is somehow different. Raising money for cancer services has always been close to my heart, but this came with an incredible physical challenge as well. What’s two days on a bike compared to months—even years—of cancer treatment?

I have been a certified oncology social worker for years, and I am also currently the director of HCGH’s Claudia Mayer/Tina Broccolino Cancer Resource Center. I have had the privilege of working with many patients and families in cancer treatment. I do not proclaim to be an expert on life, but I do know that people are resilient. I have been blessed to have worked with hundreds of people in a very intimate and professional capacity, during a very difficult period in their lives. I have watched them get through things they never thought they could! Whether it was hair loss, leave from their job, talking with their children, or even experiencing the death of a loved one, I have watched people surprise themselves every day. People are amazing.

I have always said that cancer is an equal opportunity offender. It doesn’t care where you work, if you are male or female, young or old, black or white. I have been humbled by those who have died. I am inspired by those who live with their diagnosis every day without hope for a cure, and I am hopeful for those who have heard the words, “no evidence of disease,” after months of treatment. I have sat with people who question their own mortality, question what they might have done wrong, and with families who wonder how they will make it through. I have learned many life lessons along the way, which help me to hug my family a little closer, laugh a little louder and sweat a little less about the little things.

On a more personal note, I have learned that cancer doesn’t have to define people. I sat with my mom after her surgery. I changed her dressings. I watched her and my kids giggle and play with her wigs. I even watched her bury her father in her wig, when cancer had to take a backseat to life. Since then, my mom has learned to ride a bike, swim, get a personal trainer and still be my mom, asking me, “Are you getting enough sleep? Are you taking care of yourself?” Moms worry about their kids at all ages.

I watched my dad’s ear get reconstructed with grafted tissue harvested from his thigh. I watch him rub a special chemotherapy cream on his skin to contain the many cancer cells on his face. I listen to him grumble about having to go to his dermatologist on a monthly basis for skin examinations, claiming, “She is just making up excuses to see me naked.”  Other than that, he is still my Dad. He fixes things around my house when he comes to visit.

I ride for many reasons. I ride for those who would love to ride but can’t. I ride for those who have been through so much. I ride because I believe in the cancer services provided here at HCGH. I ride because I can.


Click here to support Leslie and the 2015 Ride to Conquer Cancer, a two-day, 150-mile ride benefiting the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and Howard County General Hospital. The hospital team, led by HCGH President Steve Snelgrove and Ryan Brown, vice president of Operations, includes physicians and staff who are taking this challenge to support cancer patients everywhere. Our goal is ambitious and we can’t do it without the support of our community members.
Leslie Rogers is the director of Howard County General Hospital’s Claudia Mayer/Tina Broccolino Cancer Resource Center.

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calendar_2015_blogMonday, August 10, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Blood Pressure Screening at Savage Branch. Free, walk-in blood pressure screening and monitoring offered by Howard County General Hospital: a Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. Well & Wise event.

Monday, August 10, 2:00 p.m. Ecology at Savage Branch. Learn how organisms interact with their environment. Conduct experiments with both plants and goldfish to understand how their surrounding environments affects growth development and cellular respiration. Register for all five sessions. Registration required. Ages 11-18. Register online or by calling 410-313-0760.

Monday, August 10, 7:00 p.m. Movin’ Up to Middle School at Elkridge Branch. Starting sixth grade? Meet new classmates, discuss the big move, and learn the secrets to success. Compete in a book bag relay and combination lock time-trial! Register online or by calling 410-313-5077.

Monday, August 10, 7:00 p.m. Calming Crafts at Miller Branch. Research shows that creative activities can boost serotonin levels. Join us to use artistic expression to improve your mood. All levels of artistic ability welcome. Well & Wise event. Register online or by calling 410-313-1950.

Tuesday, August 11, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Blood Pressure Screening at Elkridge Branch. Free, walk-in blood pressure screening and monitoring offered by Howard County General Hospital: A Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. Well & Wise event.

Tuesday, Aug. 25, 5:30-9 p.m. $55. Adult, Child and Infant CPR/AED will teach you the skills needed to clear an airway obstruction, perform CPR and how to use an AED. At the successful completion of this course, you will earn a two-year American Heart Association completion card. The class is in the Howard County General Hospital Wellness Center.

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mask-157574_640By the time you read this, I will be in Costa Rica on an exciting vacation with the hubby and our two cheeky monkeys…or possibly rocking back and forth while curled in a ball alternating between laughter and tears, having just traveled several hours on a plane with the aforementioned cheeky monkeys. This, of course, is an exaggeration (as you may have noticed, I am sometimes prone to exaggeration). The monkeys, though still only in elementary school, have become quite the seasoned travelers, having already traipsed all over the United States many times, and even to Ireland once. This, however, is their first trip where English is not the primary language, and I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit to being a bit nervous.

Though the hubby and I have been doing a lot to get our ducks in a row (everything from organizing travel documents, to making sure that there will be things our one very picky eater will eat, to arranging accommodations, to making sure we’ve purchased1 some reading material to distract the kids en route), we know and accept that, inevitably, something unplanned for will come up. Parenting is definitely not an exact science, and all the preparation in the world is still sometimes not enough.

This is RidiculousThat seems to be at the heart of a delightful little book I recently came across at HCLS: This Is Ridiculous This Is Amazing: Parenthood in 71 Lists by Jason Good. Full of lists with titles such as “How to Defend Yourself Against a Toddler Attack,” “What We’ve Googled,” “Signs That You’re a Bad Parent,” and, one of my personal favorites, “Reasons Your Toddler May be Freaking Out,” this book reminded me of some of the very frustrating and very funny early days of parenting. Even now that my kids are a bit older, there’s still plenty of humor, but the frustration factor has definitely gone down as we’ve learned to just roll with it.2

The book is mainly made up of these light-hearted lists, with the occasional mini-lesson, such as “The Arithmetic of Parenting”–apparently there are formulas for parenting that include variables such as “LI” (likelihood of injury) and CSC (current state of comfort), and “How to Threaten Your Child Effectively”–self explanatory. Remembering to laugh along the way is sometimes, I feel, the best way to get though the trickier times of family life.

Jason Good’s little book certainly brought plenty of smiles and a much-needed reminder that I’m not the only parent out there that thinks less than motherly thoughts on occasion. If you need such a reminder, a sanity check, or just a good laugh, you may also want to check out Someone Could Get Hurt: A Memoir of Twenty-First Century Parenting, Naptime Is the New Happy Hour: And Other Ways Toddlers Turn Your Life Upside Down, The Three-Martini Playdate: A Practical Guide to Happy Parenting, The Sweet Potato Queens’ Guide to Raising Children for Fun and Profit, and I Heart My Little A-Holes: A Bunch of Holy-Crap Moments No One Ever Told You about Parenting.

1 As a dedicated employee of HCLS and a member of a family that consumes books pretty rapidly, I am a firm believer in getting most of our reading materials from the library. However, I am not foolish enough to think that books will not get misplaced, damaged, or completely obliterated during world travel with children. We make the purchase to help mitigate another one of those unforeseen, unplanned for events that seems to come with parenthood.

2 Many of our friends with older kids have warned us that the frustration factor will come back into play in the teen years–let’s hope the humor also increases during these years.

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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breastfeeding tips

Dr. Natalia Colón Guzmán is an OB/GYN on staff at Howard County General Hospital. Also a mother of two, she shares her struggles with breastfeeding and the reasons she persisted until breastfeeding became a success. (Dr. Colón Guzmán with husband Eduardo Guzmán and daughters Susana and Ana Lucía.)

Breastfeeding may require some hard work, but it’s worth the effort says this OB/GYN and breastfeeding mom

In addition to being a mom of two, I am an obstetrician. So, I know how beneficial breastfeeding is to both mother and baby. When I had my firstborn, I was determined to breastfeed. Although it was more difficult than I expected, with assistance, I was able to be successful. If I can do it, anyone can.

Breastfeeding has long proven to be quite beneficial for both mother and infant. There is good evidence that it can influence many aspects of an infant’s life, including overall health, risk of infections, risk of obesity in the future and many others. Breast milk helps strengthen infants’ immune systems, which is why infants who are exclusively breastfed have fewer visits to doctors and hospitals for illnesses. Some studies even suggest that the longer a baby is breastfeed, the higher the child’s IQ could be later in life.

There are also many benefits to the mother, including helping to achieve a quicker recovery from delivery and reducing her levels of stress. It can enhance weight loss for many mothers and can be a method of birth control, although not quite perfect. Breastfeeding can reduce the risks of maternal ovarian and breast cancer and it is also good for the household economy as it is free (it is estimated it can save $1,000 in one year).

While it has many benefits, breastfeeding can, unfortunately, be challenging for many mothers. Sometimes the infant has issues, such as a tongue tie or congenital deformities, and sometimes the mother can have problems, such as flat nipples and low milk supply. Some women have to work very hard to achieve their breastfeeding goals.

When I had my first child, my milk came in a bit later than expected and the baby was not gaining as much weight as the pediatrician wanted. It was very hard work for me; I had to pump and supplement feedings with my own milk, but perseverance is one of my personality traits and I sought support and was able to pull through. Now I am breastfeeding my second child, and it is so natural to me that it feels as if I have been doing it my whole life.

In order to be successful at breastfeeding, I think it is important to take care of yourself. Eat well, stay hydrated by drinking lots of fluids/water, take your vitamins, and rest as much as you can. It is important to be persistent, even if the breastfeeding is not going as planned. In my practice, I find many women give up easily. I know how they feel…I almost gave up myself. But, a good lactation consultant, pediatrician and/or a lactation support group, will help women pull through and allow them many months of successful breastfeeding.

Howard County General Hospital hosts a Breastfeeding Support Group every Wednesday, 12:30-2:30 p.m. in our Wellness Center. No appointment is needed.

Natalia Colón Guzmán, M.D., FACOG, is an OB/GYN on staff at Howard County General Hospital. She and her husband, Eduardo Guzmán, are the proud parents of two little girls, Susana and Ana Lucía.

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calendar_2015_blogMonday, August 03, 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Blood Pressure Screening at Glenwood Branch. Free, walk-in blood pressure screening and monitoring offered by Howard County General Hospital: A Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. Well & Wise event.

Monday, August 03, 7:00 p.m. Ask A Master Gardener at Miller Branch. Discuss gardening questions. University of Maryland Extension – Howard County Master Gardeners.

Tuesday, August 04, 10:00 a.m. Curie, Radiology, and Pathology Fury at Savage Branch. Learn about Nobel Prize winning Scientist Marie Curie, her discovery of two chemical elements, and the importance of radiation in medical treatments and pathology. Explore how her scientific findings relate to current day medicine and everyday life by performing experiments to demonstrate key concepts that Dr. Curie taught her students. Register for all five sessions. Registration required. Ages 11-18. Register online or by calling 410-313-0760.

Tuesday, August 04, 12:00 p.m. Anatomy Part 1 at Savage Branch. Discover the gross anatomy of the human body. Learn about seven body systems that allow us function. Body systems to be discussed include: Integumentary, Skeletal, Muscular, Nervous, Endocrine, Lymphatic and Immune. Register for all five sessions. Registration required. Ages 11-18. Register online or by calling 410-313-0760.

Wednesday, August 05, 7:00 p.m. Wee Science: 5 Senses at Savage Branch. A class exploring simple science concepts through stories, songs and activities. Various food products may be handled. Ages 2-5 with adult; 45 min. Ticket required. Limited space; tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class.

Wednesday, Aug. 5. $40. Dietary Counseling appointments. Meet with a registered dietician one-on-one. Discuss goals, concerns, weight loss, healthier bones, blood pressure, cholesterol and diet health. Held in the Howard County General Hospital Wellness Center.

Thursday, Aug. 6, 5:30-9 p.m. $55. Adult, Child and Infant CPR/AED will teach you the skills needed to clear an airway obstruction, perform CPR and how to use an AED. At the successful completion of this course, you will earn a two-year American Heart Association completion card. The class is in the Howard County General Hospital Wellness Center.

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every dog has a giftAny pet owner knows that spending time with their pets can be a big source of stress relief. Cuddling my cats – and of course I have cats, I’m a librarian! – always makes me feel better, no matter what the problem. It’s not just their calming presence when they sit nearby and let me pet them, I’ve heard that a cat’s purr hits a frequency that can aid in healing. Their furry company is comforting, whether the healing bit is true or not, and I’m glad to say I’m not the only person that holds that opinion.

When it comes to man’s best friend, the ever-loving dog, it’s not surprising that there are a plethora of books to choose from concerning how dogs have helped people. There’s You Had Me At Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness, Love At First Bark: How Saving an Animal Can Sometimes Help You Save Yourself, Every Dog Has a Gift: True Stories of Dogs Who Bring Hope and Healing Into Our Lives, A Dog Walks Into a Nursing Home: Lessons In The Good Life From an Unlikely Teacher, and The Possibility Dogs: What a Handful of Unadoptables Taught Me About Service, Hope, and Healing. Plus loads more! Dog people just can’t help writing about the awesomeness of their furry friends. Of course I jest! Despite being a cat person now, I grew up with a great big dog who was a vital companion for me through my high school years, so I get it. Those lovable, loyal, attentive creatures give their everything, and seem to often bring out the best in their owners (as evidenced by all those titles I mentioned). Dogs in particular can perform animal therapy by visiting patients in a hospital or by being a friendly, nonjudgmental audience for struggling readers as in HCLS’s A+ signature initiative Dogs Educating & Assisting Readers (DEAR).

saved rescued animalsDon’t worry, I didn’t forget about cats. Although not as popular a topic as dogs, there is still Making Rounds With Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat about a cat providing comfort and companionship to patients of a hospice when their time is about to come to an end, Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life With a Blind Wonder Cat, and A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life. While most of the pets and animals written about are the most common, cats and dogs, there are still stories like Saving Simon: How a Rescue Donkey Taught Me the Meaning of Compassion or Saved: Rescued Animals and the Lives They Transform which includes many dogs, some cats, horses, birds, turtles, and even a rescued deer.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m gonna go hug my cat and tell her she’s done a good job.

Jessica Seipel is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She has worked for the Howard County Library System, in various positions, since 2003. When not at work, she spends her time reading science fiction and comics, visiting local breweries, watching horror movies, and playing video games.

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Before deep brain stimulation, Howard County resident Andrea Freeman suffered from Parkinson’s disease. “I could barely walk…trips to the mall with my daughters were filled with worry that I wouldn’t get back to the car. I was totally hopeless.” Now she’s back to hiking and biking again, completing a 20-mile ride this past spring.

Deep brain stimulation gives Howard County resident new life after Parkinson’s diagnosis

In 2005, at age 34, Andrea Freeman, a longtime Howard County resident, found herself off-balance –literally. An avid hiker, she began tripping and falling frequently. She went from feeling energetic and active with her family to a state of utter exhaustion. Her most strange symptom was a slight shake in her little finger.

“For four years I sought answers and was tested for fibromyalgia and Lyme disease among other conditions and diseases,” recalls Andrea. “But the doctors couldn’t determine what was causing these strange symptoms in someone so young.”

Throughout those four years, Andrea continued to deteriorate. Andrea remembers “shaking a lot and dragging my right leg. My right arm and hand were rigid and stuck, and I started having a blank look on my face. “

In 2009, she started seeing Howard County General Hospital neurologist Joseph Savitt, M.D. who finally gave Andrea the answer she was looking for—a diagnosis: Parkinson’s disease.

Dr. Savitt started Andrea on a regimen of medications. “Many of the medicines had side effects that you take different medicines to counteract,” says Andrea. “I would get dyskinesia (twisting of my limbs) but at least I wasn’t shaking. Holding a job was no longer possible.”

By 2014, Andrea found herself withdrawn and overwhelmed by her symptoms. “I couldn’t take any more medicine—it made me tired, and I was already chronically exhausted but I couldn’t sleep,” she remembers. “I could barely walk—my leg would twist—and I would fall a lot. I would go for a walk in the woods and panic I wouldn’t get out. Trips to the mall with my daughters were filled with worry that I wouldn’t get back to the car. I was totally hopeless. I had reached the point that nothing else could be done for me except deep brain stimulation.”

Andrea began the process of being evaluated and was approved as a candidate for the surgery.

According to The Johns Hopkins Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Center, DBS is an FDA-approved neurosurgical procedure where electrodes are implanted in the brain to send mild electrical signals to the area that controls movement. These electrodes are connected to a stimulator (implantable pulse generator) that is implanted under the collar bone, similar to a pace maker.

“In November of 2014, my brain was turned back on,” says Andrea. “I am so grateful that I have my life back. I can cook, rollover in bed and smile again. I can put my feet on the ground, get out of bed and dress myself. The rigidity released immediately in my arm. It was like a switch was turned on. I am still building back my muscle, but this winter I did a six-mile hike up a mountain in Western Maryland. In the spring, I completed a 20-mile bike ride—it was hard and I went slowly—but I did it.

“You just can’t imagine the things that I couldn’t do that were simple tasks and the ability to be able to do those again—I can’t put into words. Not being able to work was the worst feeling. I was literally wasting away mentally, emotionally and physically. Now I am back at work full-time and have a purpose again. I start every day with complete gratitude.”

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