United Breast Cancer Foundation

United Breast Cancer Foundation

As anyone will tell you, finding the right partner can be a challenge. This is true both personally and professionally. It is rare when one comes along that fits like a glove, though, but that is what Wellness House has found with United Brest Cancer Foundation. 

Founded in 2000 and going national in 2005, United Breast Cancer Foundation serves women, men, and families across the country who have been affected by this horrible disease. Beth Reichart is Director of Operations for United Breast Cancer Foundation and has been with the organization for over 16 years.  

“United Breast Cancer Foundation offers a variety of family and patient programs, including our breast screening program, which allows us to provide early detection services to women and men. We also offer our individual grant program, child sponsorship program, and the Audrey B. Mastroianni college scholarship, to just name a few.”

UBCF offers programs for people who are currently managing breast cancer, as well as those in remission. “Let’s say somebody’s managing metastatic breast cancer and they have kids who are at home. We have our individual grant program and the child sponsorship program that they can apply to for support.  One of the great things about UBCF is we can assist our clients through more than one program at a time.” 

UBCF’s individual grant program offers support to people who are in need of certain financial assistance.  

“Things like housing assistance, utility bills, COBRA, medical insurance coverage, and treatment expenses. We also offer help with alternative therapies and holistic treatments through our holistic care program. We also help with breast reconstructive surgery.” 

Children are an important focus for UBCF, “Children living at home who are directly impacted by breast cancer can receive support through our child sponsorship program. We help with things like school supplies, healthy food, sports registrations, even medical, dental, and counseling services. If you need it, we have done it.”

UBCF’s care does not end at high school. Their college scholarship program helps students who have suffered a loss of a parent due to breast cancer. Many of these students have gone on to receive degrees in the medical field, and in turn pay it forward, back to UBCF, once they are in practice.  

So where does Wellness House of Annapolis fit into UBCFs plans? “Aside from sharing our incredible programs with Wellness House and their community, the opportunities are really endless.  We are very excited to explore partnering with Wellness House’s excellent holistic program.” 

Beth also saw the direct link and connection with Wellness House from the start. “It has been a really synchronistic and interesting relationship that has developed with Wellness House. I went to the house and met with an amazing group of intelligent and caring women. 

“We are two amazing organizations helping folks in need, the sky is the limit.”  

About UBCF 

UBCF is committed to offering breast health and wellness services focused on cancer prevention, screening, treatment and overall wellness. UBCF’s mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of those affected by breast cancer and does so through seven life-supporting patient and family programs available to women, men and families nation-wide. UBCF never denies services to anyone regardless of age, race, gender, ethnicity, income or medical insurance coverage. Tax-deductible contributions may be made towards UBCF’s programs. UBCF accepts  Donor Advised Fund  contributions and  vehicle donations  as well. Combined Federal Campaign #77934.  https://www.ubcf.org  

Some Days I Need the Music and Some Days I Need the Lyrics

Some Days I Need the Music and Some Days I Need the Lyrics

“Some days I need the music and some days I need the lyrics.” – Unknown

Do you have a favorite lyric? Are there words you wait for with bright, almost childlike anticipation when you listen to your favorite song? I’ve got one, it comes from a little-known Elton John song with lyrics written by the great Bernie Taupin, John’s longtime lyricist. The song is called “Blues for Baby and Me”. It’s a simple song, with a clear message, at least for me. Listening to it, I imagine waking up early on a clear, but cool, summer morning. I pack a bag, and leave everything behind…to begin again, alone, to the west.

The lyric is this:

It’s all over now, don’t you worry no more
We’re gonna go west to the sea
The Greyhound is waiting, and the radio is playing
Some blues for baby and me

And the highway looks like she never did
Lord it looks so sweet and so free
And I can’t forget that trip to the west
Singing blues for baby and me

Now, I can’t tell you why those words move me so much, but they do. When I hear them, I remember myself. I dissolve into a world of one. A world of peace and surrender that resonates within my body. In my mind I am on a bus, alone with the window open. I’m breathing fresh air from the high desert, clean and warm. The sun is setting in the sky.

I am free.

We all know that words are powerful. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of harsh words from someone you love, you know what I mean. Words stick. Some words will even live in our minds, maybe even our hearts and souls, forever. Lyrics are simply words that are linked to another powerful form of communication: music. So… lyrics are not just words. Lyrics are poetry bound to sound, and they are changed by the unique way they intertwine with musical energy. They are designed to move you in an emotional, physical and spiritual level. Therefore, simple words on a paper, when met with the right music, can change the world. Indeed, it has. Don’t believe me? Here are a few examples of how lyrics influenced history:

Star Spangled Banner – Francis Scott Key wrote a poem after he witnessed the Maryland fort being bombarded by the British during the War of 1812. Later it was set to music and in 1931 became America’s national anthem.

We Shall Overcome – This song, with roots in the African American church, became synonymous with the civil rights movement. When Bob Seeger and other famous folksingers in the early 1960s, such as Joan Baez, sang the song at rallies, folk festivals, and concerts in the north, they helped promote the song to a national level. Since its rise to prominence, the song, and songs based on it, have been used in a variety of protests worldwide.

Feed the World / Band Aid This song has become synonymous with the plight of millions of starving African children. The song so captured people’s attention that the response to subsequent disasters has been different and millions of have benefitted because of it.

I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing / Coke Song – This jingle was so popular that it was rewritten into a full-length song and now everyone knows the difference between Coca-Cola and Pepsi. I prefer Coke, just saying.

The point is… words have power. Words, mingled with music, have magical powers. This magic can cross the boundaries of fear, loss, pain, sadness, and loneliness. Allow yourself to be moved by the magic. Open yourself up, to being moved and changed by lyrics. You can access it anytime you want and become a part of it.

Music and lyrics can change your heart, which in turn can change your mind. And when you change your mind, you change your world. As the song Imagine goes:

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope one day you’ll join me
And the world will be as one

John Lennon, there’s a guy who knew the power of a good lyric. Now go find the magic.

Terri Fevang joined the Wellness House of Annapolis team as Program & Development Director in the summer of 2020 to support the enhancement and development of our adult, child, and family support programs. Terri is also a music composer and certified music practitioner (CMP)/therapeutic musician, and a graduate of The Music for Healing and Transition Program (MHTP), a certification program that trains musicians in the art and science of using the transformative healing power of music at the bedside of the sick and dying.

Vanessa’s Army

Vanessa’s Army

Vanessa Gibson pictured above.

As you can imagine, being an assistant principal always brings challenges and Vanessa Gibson is up for the challenge. When she was diagnosed in February of 2021 with stage 3 breast cancer, she knew that now was not the time to back down. In fact, it never crossed her mind.

Vanessa always knew she was at risk for breast cancer. It was prevalent on both sides of her family. “I have a family history of breast cancer. My mom’s mom passed away from breast cancer. My father’s sister passed away from breast cancer. She was diagnosed at age 38 and passed away at age 40, it was stage 4 by the time they found it. She never had a chance. As a result, I have always been an advocate for breast cancer awareness. I had my first mammogram at age 31. I always said, ‘This will not happen to me.’”

Vanessa’s reality quickly changed in December of 2020 when she noticed something strange about her body. The texture of her skin was the red flag that prompted her to call a medical professional. “I made an appointment in January to see my doctor. She agreed there were changes to my skin’s texture and set me up for a mammogram and an ultrasound.”

Vanessa went in on February 2nd for the scheduled procedures and had a biopsy performed.

It only took one day to receive the results. “I got the call on February 3rd with the diagnosis: stage 3 breast cancer, invasive ductal carcinoma. Two weeks later, I began treatment.”

Vanessa is now in the process of receiving 6 rounds of chemotherapy, followed by what she believes will become a double mastectomy, and after that, radiation. In preparation, she already took a leave of absence from her role as an assistant principal at the school.

That amount of chemotherapy is a lot for anyone to handle, but Vanessa Gibson is not just anyone, and she is not taking this diagnosis lying down. She is not feeling sorry for herself either. Vanessa is a natural born fighter and she’s ready to fight. If you talk to her about her diagnosis, she will tell you she has an entire team of people supporting her that includes family members, friends, students, and parents.

“I am not alone in this. I have an entire army fighting with me.”

Vanessa is a woman with a big personality, wonderful laugh, and an infectious smile. According to Vanessa, there is one thing that helps identify her and that is her hair, it’s big and curly. It is a huge part of who she is, her personality, and of her identity.

Of course, part of chemotherapy is losing one’s hair, and this was something that caused Vanessa to struggle, she felt losing her hair would mean losing a part of herself. As her hair began to fall out, she first cut it short, but clumps continued to fall out. Finally, she knew it had to go.

So, what did Vanessa do? She threw a party of course.

Vanessa decided to throw both a Facebook and Instagram live party simultaneously while broadcasting her head being shaved. A friend offered a barber, but Vanessa knew this would be more personal than that. She would not just give up her hair to anyone, she wanted to be in control of letting it go. Vanessa asked her mother and brother to do the honor of shaving her head.

Just after her diagnosis, Vanessa learned of Wellness House of Annapolis and its services. She immediately became a member. It was because of her appreciation of the unique offerings of the organization that she decided to use her Facebook Live event to raise money for Wellness House of Annapolis.

Wellness House of Annapolis is a nonprofit situated on 200 bucolic acres of Mas Que Farm where members come to experience true respite from the day-to-day challenges of living with a cancer diagnosis. All programs and services are offered for free to individuals diagnosed with cancer, their family, and caretakers. The organization raises funds to support its free offerings through fundraising, donations, and grants.

To Vanessa, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to bring awareness to breast cancer while supporting the mission of Wellness House of Annapolis. She said, “Wellness House is this great organization. So, when I decided to go live, I thought, ‘Why not have people donate to this amazing cause?’”

“To take an event that could be seen as a negative and turn it into something beautiful. I think in life there are moments that can be challenging, and the question is, do we search long enough to find that one thing that can make it beautiful?”

She put a donation up on her Facebook page for the event and set a modest goal of $200. Vanessa was sitting in chemo the day of her hair cutting event and had not even started the live stream yet when she realized the goal of $200 was met. Vanessa thought, “If I can raise $200, maybe I can raise $500,” and she raised the donation limit.

As she still sat in chemo, her target of $500 was hit. When the livestream began, she set the limit to $1,000. Boom. Friends and family began donating, matching each other, and cheering on Vanessa as her brother began shaving her head.

Then, it reached $2,000.

Then, $3,000.

Vanessa ended up raising a grand total of $4,275.00.

“It’s humbling to see the amount of love that was shown, and I know it’s going to a great cause. It also underscores the power of the internet, and the ability to get your message out.”

Vanessa is not done, nor does she think her challenge is harder than the challenges of others. “If this is my path, then so be it. I’m ready to walk this path.”

Wellness House of Annapolis cannot thank Vanessa, her friends, and her family enough for hosting this incredible live event and donating all the money raised. This organization cannot do what it does without support from individuals like Vanessa, her friends, and family. It is people like Vanessa Gibson that make Wellness House of Annapolis what it is, a true reprieve from the challenges of a cancer diagnosis for individuals, their families, and caretakers.

Vanessa Gibson is an assistant principal and certified make-up artist living in District Heights, MD. She sees the inner beauty in everyone and believes in building women’s self-worth so that their beauty translates from the inside to the outside. Check out her website at: www.vanessasroyaldesigns.com or Instagram at: @msvgibson.

Wellness House and MBSR

Wellness House and MBSR


The benefits of meditation have been well documented in many studies and something that most of you already know. Meditation reduces stress, it helps control anxiety, and lengthens your attention span. One of its best features is boosting meditators’ emotional and mental health, something that is paramount for anyone dealing with a cancer diagnosis.

Phebe Duff is a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) facilitator and meditation practitioner based in Annapolis, MD. MBSR is an eight-week educational course based on mindfulness techniques. This course allows individuals a viewpoint that is separate from their thoughts about the stressful event. In these courses, people learn to examine their emotions without judgment to see them instead as mental events. Wellness House of Annapolis saw the potential benefits of MBSR and invited Phebe to pilot the course with its members.

Phebe taught MBSR for more than fifteen years and until three years ago, she was never involved in leading a group of people diagnosed with cancer. She noticed the stress of these individuals was more acute than any she experienced before as a practitioner.

“Wellness House was a unique experience for me at that time. These are people who have looked death and trauma in the face.”

What started out as an exercise became one of the programs offered at Wellness House of Annapolis. MBSR is an 8-week program, and the beauty of it is witnessing the change that occurs in members both physically and mentally. With any type of meditation, giving in and being able to let go of control is the key. This is challenging for almost anyone but can be especially difficult for those facing a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment. However, the difficulty individuals undergo during this time is precisely why this program is so vital.

“Members come out the other end of MBSR as transformed people. What meditation and mindfulness bring to them is a way to feel more in control of their life. To be able to say, ‘Yes, this terrible thing has happened to me, but I do not have to let it define me. I can now relate to it in a completely different way.’”

One of the most exciting things for Phebe is watching the change in members as they progress through the program. “The first thing you notice is they begin to sleep better. The wrinkles lessen. All of a sudden, about halfway through, there becomes a joy, a release. They begin to see the results of this class. It becomes very clear and prominent.”

The result of MBSR is an understanding that while someone may be afflicted with a cancer diagnosis, they do not have to give in to their fear, they can still control their lives. As Phebe explains it, “You see it in their faces. Members go from being totally overwhelmed by their diagnosis, treatment and their future, to deciding this diagnosis would not define them or their lives. A philosophy takes over of: Ok. This is my life right now. I’m going to live the best life that I can.”

Through the process of the first MBSR program at Wellness House of Annapolis, and in subsequent programs, Phebe saw something she never experienced in other MBSR classes. She saw that even though these people went through different cancer diagnoses and procedures, they all experienced cancer together. It created a bond.

“I began to see people caring for others in the group. Not like a support group, but something more long term. A thought process of ‘We are going to support each other after this class ends.’” Friendships and bonds form and extend far past the end of the class and continue to be sources of intimate connection and support for members that participate.

Over the years, the MBSR program at Wellness House of Annapolis not only transformed the members, it transformed Phebe. “These people are amazing. They are so open to exploring every facet of their life. They are not the people they were before their cancer diagnosis. Through the class, Wellness House members go to a lot of places mentally and emotionally. I never experienced that with other meditation groups.”

Phebe Duff is a certified MBSR instructor with over 10 years of experience teaching this method and researching its benefits. She is a long-time meditator who has led sitting groups and meditation classes for 20 years. Currently, Phebe instructs online classes for the Wellness House of Annapolis every Monday.

The Silver Lining

The Silver Lining

Artwork by Liz Carren, Member, Wellness House of Annapolis

“I am a big believer in mind and body. I knew I had to have a good attitude. No one was more freaked out about my cancer diagnosis and with a worse attitude than me. I was so demolished by the news.”

Liz Carren has always been a creative person, a positive person, an artist and illustrator living in Annapolis, MD. She has produced artwork for years involving the space where unique stories and joyful art come together, celebrating wellness and the earth. In between the time spent working at Apple and her artwork, Liz developed a pet project that would become her passion called, “Botanical Beauties and Beasties.”

The project began out of environmental concern, and morphed to include many other characters, 35 now in total. It is a mystical world where the mantra is kindness, and it is something Liz has worked on for the last 10 years until her world changed in the fall of 2020.

Liz was diagnosed with stage III endometrial cancer. The cancer diagnosis was enough to distract her focus from Botanical Beauties and Beasties as Liz entered the uncharted waters of a cancer diagnosis.

“My way of coping with any issue has always been to create art. So, when this cancer happened, I knew I wanted to make some kind of art around it to document it.” The problem was that Liz needed a clear mind to create her art, and now it was anything but clear.

“I really didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do or how to do it.”

Liz’s cousin Claudia, a cancer survivor herself, suggested Liz use artwork to describe her experience and as a way to gain greater control over her emotions.

“It’s the silver lining of me having cancer. Cancer changed my artwork significantly. It allowed me to begin abstract work.”

“My first thought was one of a healing light. I could see it in my mind’s eye. It was a white light, kind of cycling, that’s the only way I can describe it and what started the whole process. I kept seeing it, and finally said ‘This is something I need to draw.’” She used high-resolution digital illustrations to create the first piece and has used this method ever since.

“That’s what started the whole thing and then all the tests and machines, everything started happening, and all the fear came with it.”

After the diagnosis, Liz spoke with her acupuncturist, Peter, and they discussed how visualization aids those undergoing a cancer diagnosis. She further described her next art project, “My 2nd project was a visualization of acupuncture. How it feels and how it’s supposed to be helping me, it’s still one of my favorites. From there, I opened up and began to process all of this visually.”

“CAT Scans, MRI’s, PET Scans, all the fear and drugs, the chemotherapy, and my having to deal with it all. I decided to draw the machines, but not draw the machine as what it looked like, instead to draw what it looked like and what it felt like, my own reaction to what the machine was doing to me. “

“And somewhere, somehow, I flipped from being a hundred thousand percent miserable and scared out of my mind, to an incredibly positive person with a positive attitude. Honestly, I have no idea how that manifested itself. I wish I could bottle it and sell it because it’s gold. I do know the artwork and creative process dug me out of so many of the holes I was in.”

As the artwork evolved, she saw it not just as her therapy, but another way to describe to others what she was going through. “I wanted people to understand, see, and feel what I was going through. And it was not just for cancer patients. I wanted my friends to understand a little bit better.”

These days, Liz is continuing her treatment and hopeful to get back to work at Apple, and on her Beasties as soon as she can. You can view her breathtaking work on the Botanical BB Instagram page (@botanicalbb).

Just One More Test

Just One More Test

Pictured above: Schmitt Family

“Just one more test.”

It was June 24th, 2015, and Emily Karcher Schmitt saw her doctor for what was supposed to be a routine appointment. Emily was being monitored for another non-cancer-related health issue, a benign lump in her breast, and was having some testing done.

“So much of my story is divine intervention. It was the monitoring of that benign lump that led to the discovery of my cancer. Decisions were made to not remove that lump. We discussed removing it. For some reason, we decided not to.”

And if it were not for that decision, to NOT remove that benign fatty lump, Emily’s cancer might not have been discovered until it was too late.

On that June date, Emily’s doctor, after performing all the routine tests, for reasons even she does not understand, still was not convinced. The scans and ultrasounds all looked normal, but something was not right. She suggested getting one more test, a high-resolution ultrasound.
“You are fine. All is good. Let’s do one more test, and you can go live your life…”

And there it was:
It was bad.
It was large.
And completely hidden.

“It looked like an octopus. No matter how many times I got a scan, no matter how many times I got an ultrasound, it didn’t matter. It was hiding.”

Everything went incredibly fast after that.

“Our choice was simple. In fact, there was no choice. To survive, you must begin this treatment immediately.”

At the time, Emily’s children were 2, 4, and 6 years old. She was about to celebrate her 10th wedding anniversary and now, they were all about to go through cancer together. Emily and her husband not only had to deal with this life-threatening situation, but their three young children were about to see their mom in quite a different light. “We were very concerned about what to say to the kids. How would they deal with this? How would WE deal with this?”

Emily begins her treatment:
Breast cancer.
Double mastectomy.

“Fast forward; I am in a wig shop in Annapolis. This is where I would first hear about Wellness House. It was the program they had called, ‘Look Good, Feel Better,’ and I remember wanting so much to be that, and to be a part of that program.”

Emily had a close friend, Tara, whose mother had gone through cancer. Tara’s mother was also a Wellness House member. As the conversation shifted to their children, Emily fell back to how concerned she and her husband were about the kids, and how they were handling what she was going through.

Tara told Emily about the Wellness House of Annapolis, specifically their Paint Your Rainbow Summer Camp. Tara had just signed her kids up to participate in the camp to help them deal with their grandmother’s cancer diagnosis.

Emily thought about this opportunity after speaking to Tara and about sending her children to the summer camp. “I am the kind of person who isn’t the first to do anything. Even though this was all so new to me, I felt my kids could benefit from this.”

The response, and result of the Wellness House kids’ camp, was immediate for the entire family. “It took one day for us to realize what an amazing experience the Wellness House provides. My kids were, and still are, so excited to be a part of everything they have to offer. It continues to be a feeling of, ‘This is too good to be true. How on earth is this free? How can it be this all-encompassing good feeling, with no strings attached?’”

Programs like Paint Your Rainbow Summer Camp and Kidz Coping helped her children connect with other kids who were going through or had gone through exactly what they were going through. As the Schmitt family went through this process, it opened a brand-new world up to them, one of selflessness and giving. The Wellness House of Annapolis is an organization explicitly designed to help people like the Schmitt family – one that lets those dealing with a cancer diagnosis know that they are not alone in their struggle.

“Going through cancer, you realize there are these groups where you feel like YOU are the lucky ones. You don’t wish cancer on your worst enemy. As unlucky as you are to be going through the fear and trauma of the cancer experience, you wish everyone could have access to groups like this. The fact is that they are not just fun, encouraging, and backed by therapy, they’re also amazing.”

“Everyone talks of 2020 being the worst year, and it certainly was, but 2015 was our 2020. Everything that could go wrong went wrong and I felt my kids needed something like this. To be surrounded by other kids, to be supported by an organization like this. They made an immediate bond with the other kids in the program. I remember seeing the counselors giving my kids piggyback rides, and my response was to call my husband and tell him, ‘You will never believe this place. It was exactly what they needed.’”

Emily Karcher Schmitt is a Crofton-based photographer and owner of Picture the Good: Studio & Workshop. She is the proud mother of three kids, now 7, 9, and 11 years old respectively, and she has been married for 15 years and counting.

You Are Stronger Than You Think

You Are Stronger Than You Think

A cancer diagnosis is one of the most shocking things to hear and share. As an 11-year-old, I was not prepared to hear “Your dad has cancer.” Ten years later, as a 21-year-old, I still have not forgotten the feeling that I had after my mother shared the diagnosis.

My dad was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, which had invaded his spine’s bone marrow through multiple tumors. When my dad was first given his cancer diagnosis, he was told that if he lived, he would likely never walk again or do the things he loved, like golfing or boating. My parents tried to protect my brother and I from the scary reality that my dad was facing.

During the summer that my dad was diagnosed and treated, my brother and I spent the majority of time at the houses of friends and family, so my mom could be with my dad and protect us from seeing his battle with cancer. Telling people that he had cancer didn’t feel real, and I couldn’t accept the possibility of losing him to cancer.

The reality was that in the months following his diagnosis, my dad would go on to receive chemotherapy, radiation, and a stem cell transplant. My brother and I didn’t see my dad much during these treatments and procedures, but we visited whenever we could. It was hard not having my dad home, and when he finally came home after he finished treatment and rehab, I was so excited. I created a giant poster for him and couldn’t stop hugging him once he got home. My dad coming home from treatment was a blessing, but it was just the start of his healing. The thing that is so scary about cancer is that there is the possibility that it can come back.

No two people have the same experience with cancer. Although cancer can do a lot of things, there are also a lot of things cancer can’t do. It can never take away love, someone’s determination, or spirit. Throughout the whole process, my dad never stopped fighting to beat cancer and he told us that our family and having more time with us is what kept him focused. My dad beat the odds by going into remission, walking again, and playing golf.

His fight didn’t stop there, after he survived cancer, he began doing research, donating to cancer organizations, and talking to people in the community about his journey. When my dad heard about anyone he knew being diagnosed with cancer, he reached out and gave advice about doctors and treatment facilities he had used. His journey inspired me, and it is just one of many examples of the strength of the cancer community.

No matter how lonely a cancer diagnosis can feel, no one is alone in their battle. The doctors, nurses, and organizations dedicated to helping those touched by cancer and their families are there every step of the way. Additionally, outside of the medical field, the community of cancer survivors is unparalleled in strength.

Throughout the process of a cancer diagnosis, it is important to find comfort and support from friends, family, neighbors, and teachers. Looking back on this experience, I was blessed to have such a strong support system help me to get through the coping process. Everyone will go through their own journey, but everyone should remain hopeful because one day there will be a cure.

Throughout his battle with cancer, my dad showed me that the values of strength, determination, and hope can go a lot further than you think. He was the strongest person I have ever known and beat cancer after being in remission for five years.

When he was diagnosed with cancer, I was in seventh grade, and after he beat cancer, I was lucky enough for him to live on to see me graduate high school, as well as attend my freshman year of college. My dad lived every day after his cancer diagnosis to the fullest until the day he died in 2018 following a sudden heart attack. Losing my dad was the hardest experience, but it was a gift to still have that time to spend with him after his cancer diagnosis.

My dad always told me, “you are stronger than you think.” I want people to know from reading this blog that although there are things we can and cannot control, it is important to have hope and never give up. Now more than ever, health and wellness are not guaranteed, but we must always fight on for ourselves and the loved ones we have lost because there is still so much to live and hope for.

Today and every day, I am choosing to fight on for my dad, and I know if he were here, he would be joining me to help with my work at the Wellness House of Annapolis.

Clare Costa circle

Article by Clare Costa, Social Media Intern at Wellness House of Annapolis 

Clare Costa is a senior majoring in Integrated Marketing Communication at Pepperdine University. As an Annapolis native, Clare is excited to give back to the community through her marketing internship with the Wellness House of Annapolis. When asked why she chose to intern for the Wellness House of Annapolis, Clare said, “As soon as I found out about the opportunity, I couldn’t wait to start. As someone who has seen my loved ones battle cancer, I feel connected to the mission of the organization, and I value the work the Wellness House does to support the cancer community.”

Why Imagine?

Why Imagine?


Many of us start the New Year with an intention and a word that will be a source of inspiration throughout the year. I would offer that it is more important now more than ever to set a positive intention for 2021.

If you haven’t already done so, I challenge you to pick a word. Think about it. Not just any word, but one that will inspire and motivate you to think positively and create.

How would you follow a year like 2020, exploring the potential of what’s next? A new year of rethinking the life we desire–our good health, friends, colleagues, family, jobs and careers. As we move out of the darkness of the year that has tested us in many ways, we are also shifting the energy into the light of imagination.

That’s why my word for the year is Imagine.

Imagine social gatherings with family and loved ones.
Imagine kids running and playing with friends.
Imagine businesses and restaurants in full operation.
Imagine a healthy community free from the fear of the pandemic.
Imagine the Wellness House’s doors once again open for in-person connections with members and volunteers, sharing the beauty of the House and of human connection.                                                                                   

The song “Imagine” is a dream for a better world, a better living for humankind. The song encourages us to imagine a life free from greediness, selfishness, evil acts, ego-centered desires, and rather to pursue better versions of ourselves that can make the world a better place for us.

In the words of John Lennon, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope you will join me.” Let’s imagine the possibilities of the future, and then create it.

When you choose your word for 2021, open the door to possibility and let the new year unfold and become what you imagine.

Article by Mary Jermann, Executive Director, Wellness House of Annapolis

Voices from the House – Why Volunteer?

Voices from the House – Why Volunteer?

The new year is a popular time to make resolutions or intentions. You may be looking for a new approach to being happier, healthier, more productive, or finding a way to show gratitude. I can offer from experience that volunteering is a satisfying resolution to explore.

Check out this article on how important volunteering can be to health and well-being. There seems to be a magical elixir which connects helping others to helping yourself.

On a personal level, my initial connection with Wellness House began with my husband, Paul’s diagnosis of prostate cancer in 2012. His treatment consisted of external radiation and was very successful. He’s doing great.

Then in 2013, my 10-year younger sister began an arduous 3.5 year battle with lung cancer. She lived in another state, and couldn’t take advantage of the services of Wellness House. During certain times of treatment, I became her caregiver. She was fiercely independent, so by her choice my stays were limited.

In 2015, I volunteered as a house hostess because I felt the need to absorb the strength and support of the House and hoped to find ideas for my sister to explore. I attended the Caregiver Support Group and met others in similar situations. Sadly, she passed away on June 20, 2016. My bond with Wellness House was set.

Volunteering means so much to me. Everyone is different and brings unique skills and interests to the table. The Wellness House has many needs and volunteers can find a satisfying place. For me, it has been organizing the book club, occasionally writing blogs, and working on research. When the time is right, I plan to return to being a house hostess.

Due to the challenges of Covid, all events are online and as we have seen, the excellent programs being offered are bringing members, volunteers, and staff together – face to face on Zoom. If you would like to volunteer in any way, please contact the Wellness House team at admin@annapoliswellnesshouse.org

Currently Recruiting for:
  • Administrative Support                                                                                                                                                          Data entry, scanning, electronic filing, follow-up phone calls… If you love supporting an administrative role, we have it all! Of course some of these tasks will need to wait until we can safely return to the house… but much can be done from afar. We would really appreciate someone or a couple of people  who are computer savvy and would like to help with scheduling, and various ongoing projects, which can be done from home with internet access and a computer. 
  • Prayer Chain Support                                                                                                                                                      Wellness House understands the need for connection and positivity. That type of support comes in many forms and we want to embrace them all! If you are interested in participating in a Wellness Prayer Chain (on either end of the chain) offering positive energy or receiving positive energy in a way that suits your spiritual practice.
  • Wellness House Well-Wisher                                                                                                                                      Sometimes you just need someone to talk to, someone to listen… and those people who are there for you are so important! We are looking for well-wishers to connect with members who need that kindness and compassion.
  • ZOOM Meeting Support                                                                                                                                                Recurring support starting meetings, and recording member attendance.

If you would like to help support any of these roles, please send us an email at admin@annapoliswellnesshouse.org (specifying what you are interested in helping with) and we will give you a call to discuss all of the details.                      We can’t wait to speak with you!

Books+Friends=Book Club

Books+Friends=Book Club

When I was growing up, my mother often took us to the public library. She was an energetic reader and encouraged us to borrow lots of books. We would haul them to the check-out desk, creating a huge pile. I couldn’t wait to get home and start reading.

When visiting my grandparents, there was a bookshop across the street from their house. My grandmother would sometimes allow us to choose a brand new book as a special treat. One time I remember selecting a book of short stories and poems for children. It was a favorite for years.

Bookclubs are a valuable way for readers to get more involved and explore their love of books. I’ve been in three bookclubs and have found that the experience is enriching for many reasons including:

  1. Reading books that you might not have otherwise chosen.
  2. Creating friendships with other readers.
  3. Finding and sharing favorite authors.
  4. Discovering the opportunity to talk about books and exchange ideas.
  5. Being part of the book selection process.
  6. Discussion often leads to interesting topics beyond the book itself.

Wellness House has a thriving monthly bookclub that has been in operation for five years. It’s open to all members, including survivors, caregivers, family members, and volunteers. Books are chosen by members and include both fiction and nonfiction. It’s a friendly group, and everyone has a chance to participate in the conversation.

Even during these challenging months while the House has been closed, the book club has not missed a beat. Meetings, which are held regularly on the third Monday of each month at 6pm, have been happening successfully on Zoom. Logging in from home is easy and we are still able to enjoy and experience the bond of being together and talking about books.