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.”

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!

A Virtual Tour While We’re Away

A Virtual Tour While We’re Away

A Virtual Tour While We’re Away

When we open again, I will look forward to the pleasure of giving tours of the picturesque, historic house that is home to the Wellness House of Annapolis.  Janet Richardson-Pearson and Bill Pearson have graciously donated the use of this lovely structure since 2009, located on a portion of their horse farm property on Mas Que Farm Road.

This two-story white frame farm house has a front door but the actual entrance is from the parking area through an attractive garden or by ramp to a covered porch with pink cushioned wicker rocking chairs and inviting decor. Once inside, noticeable warmth emerges from the welcoming staff and members, original deep hardwood floors, comfortable seating, country kitchen, as well as a delightful screened-in porch for relaxing and savoring the views, like this:

On the second floor there are several rooms. One serves as an office for staff, and two others provide private space for practitioners who volunteer their skills with Reiki, healing touch, reflexology, and general massage. The largest room is used for support group meetings and all types of activities including yoga, art, music, jewelry making classes, and game time. This rectangular space is brightened by large windows bringing in the sun and showing magnificent vistas of the property. 

A remarkable feature on two of the walls is a hand-painted mural by local artist, Sharon Hayes. Her mural brings the outdoors inside. It’s the actual view from the window recreated in rich colors. It reflects rolling green pastures with horses grazing and bright white rail fences snaking around the site and along the gravel road. Butterflies, turtles, and birds come alive. There is a cherry blossom tree that Sharon kept perfecting, even when others thought she had finished. As a talented medical illustrator, she certainly paid attention to detail. She had lost her father to cancer and I was told that working on this mural project was therapeutic for her. Sharon spent many hours creating this work of art, while feeling the heartbeat of Wellness House.

Speaking of art, Paul (my husband) and I have enjoyed our first two sessions of Zentangle® Meditative Art on Zoom with Dawn Schulman. If you haven’t heard of this type of meditative art, be assured that you don’t have to be an artist to feel the joy of creating dazzling designs. With only a pen,  pencil, and a square of paper, it’s an amazing outlet for when you’re stressed – or just to take time to quiet your thoughts and regain your inner peace after a long day. Try it with our Wellness House community some time, the next online class will be held in a few weeks (see the Wellness House calendar here). And if you’re interested in getting started before then, see below a recorded guided Zentangle practice for whenever suits you best.

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Lois Villemaire

Lois Villemaire

Lois Villemaire is a dear friend of Wellness House of Annapolis. She came to know our community first as a caregiver for her sister who fought and sadly lost her battle with cancer, then as a caregiver for her husband who is a cancer survivor. She has graciously given her time as a House Hostess since, always glad to help us welcome members old and new into our community. When she is not volunteering at the Wellness House, Lois can be found writing for the Annapolis Discovered blog, discovering new and intriguing books, and critiquing the latest movies with her husband Paul.

Finding Silver Linings Amidst Our Unexpected Clouds

Finding Silver Linings Amidst Our Unexpected Clouds

Finding Silver Linings Amidst Our Unexpected Clouds

I’ve been volunteering at the Wellness House of Annapolis for over four years. Living nearby, I was aware of this wonderful community resource and drove by the picturesque entrance daily. There’s something remarkable about the rural horse farm setting. Maybe it’s the long curving gravel driveway on the other side of an alluring gate leading to a white clapboard farmhouse at a slightly higher elevation in the distance.

Initially, the advertisement of a Yoga-Thon fundraiser event caught my eye for two reasons: yoga is one of my favorite things to do and more importantly, my 10-year younger sister had been diagnosed with lung cancer. She was a life-long nonsmoker and a runner. So, I signed up to attend the event with her in mind. It was there that I met Kay Hunter, the member services manager. I asked about volunteer opportunities at the House.

“Why don’t you stop by on Friday.” she said.

And after that, it was history.

What does a house hostess do? Think of it as what needs to be done around any home. Throw in some laundry, empty the dishwasher, or fluff up the pillows in the living room. It’s the same at Wellness House. Additionally, we set up for classes, put out snacks, answer the phone, and whatever else is needed.

What I enjoy most is greeting members as they sign in for activities like a yoga, jewelry-making or art class, counseling session, or special time with our dedicated volunteers who share their expertise in Reiki, Healing Touch and general massage.

Welcoming new members and their caregivers to the House for the first time is especially gratifying. I’m given the opportunity to make them feel at home and to describe the many support services available to them at no charge. Providing a tour of the House is my favorite thing to do, but I will save those details for my next blog.

Though the House is currently physically closed for visits, new members are still encouraged and welcomed to join in the online programs and groups. If you or someone you know could benefit from this warm community, click here to apply and our Member Services Manager, Kay, will be in touch with you directly.

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Lois Villemaire

Lois Villemaire

Lois Villemaire is a dear friend of Wellness House of Annapolis. She came to know our community first as a caregiver for her sister who fought and sadly lost her battle with cancer, then as a caregiver for her husband who is a cancer survivor. She has graciously given her time as a House Hostess since, always glad to help us welcome members old and new into our community. When she is not volunteering at the Wellness House, Lois can be found writing for the Annapolis Discovered blog, discovering new and intriguing books, and critiquing the latest movies with her husband Paul.

More Than Just a Word

More Than Just a Word

More Than Just a Word

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In the beginning of 2019, my manager instructed our team to pick a “word.” It would serve as an intention, a personal guide for each of us. Mine was “transformation.” With the selection of that word, I realized I was contemplating a change without knowing what I wanted.

There was so much I loved about leading the volunteer department at Hospice of the Chesapeake (HOC). While it was not necessarily the next logical step from my previous role at a local financial services firm, I found that it was exactly where I was meant to be at the time. I gave a lot and I received much more. I felt the same as the many volunteers do when they say, “it was a gift for me.” Yet – there was something tugging at me. And after much contemplation, there was still no epiphany in the way I had hoped. However, what I came to realize is that I didn’t need to have the answer at that time. All I needed to know was that I was ready for transformation.

What happened within the next several months paradoxically made no sense and all the sense. It started with a meeting that I had in HOC’s Wellness Space – a space that was created as a gift for the hospice staff and volunteers, and turned into much more than a project as a graduate from Leadership Anne Arundel. I sat in the space, along with a few of the healing arts practitioners, and we imagined big dreams. We spoke of wellness in a variety of settings — a wellness that soothes the soul and that heals beyond what seems attainable.

Jokingly I offered, maybe I will move on to lead something else, but Wellness House is already taken. LOL. Immediately after this discussion, I returned to my office and checked my email, and a new email popped up with a question: “Do you know anyone who is interested? – Executive Director, Wellness House.” As many know, synchronicity sometimes works in unexpected ways.

While I have been the Executive Director at Wellness House for less than a year, it has been over a year since I declared my word to be transformation. And it continues. The significant change that is implied by the word is the very thing our team is working through here and now. Through my work, I have transitioned through several major career shifts, and I am at Wellness House now to lead through these uncertain times. I know it is exactly where I am meant to be.

I encourage you to reflect on a personal intention and with it the potential to grow in a positive way throughout this spring and the remainder of the year. Here are some resources to help you get started:

 

Mary Jermann

Mary Jermann

Mary Jermann joined Wellness House of Annapolis as Executive Director in the summer of 2019. Prior to Wellness House, Mary was Director of Volunteer Services at Hospice of the Chesapeake. This important work, similar to ours, diligently served the needs of hospice patients, caregivers, families, and friends. Mary’s background also includes decades of experience in corporate and non-profit organizational leadership. She has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to team leadership, business administration and management, fundraising, and creative direction. As Executive Director, Mary’s depth of compassion and experience serves as a powerful connection to the heart of our mission at Wellness House.

Making New Traditions from Old During COVID-19

Making New Traditions from Old During COVID-19

Making New Traditions from Old During COVID-19

One Monday during my afternoon as a House Hostess, I slipped into the kitchen to plug in the electric kettle. Even though I didn’t normally drink hot tea, the idea was appealing on that chilly day. When I looked over the boxes of tea selections, there were plenty of flavors that sounded inviting. Peach, strawberry, or apple spice. Cinnamon, green, black, or herbal. The choice was getting difficult. Then my eyes came to rest on a very captivating option – vanilla caramel. That was it! I tore open the foil pouch which contained an individual tea bag and dunked it up and down into the steaming hot water in my cup. The rich aroma smelled delicious and tasted smooth and yummy. It was delightful to inhale the fragrance as I sipped. 

When Covid-19 changed our lives and staying safe at home began in mid-March, my husband Paul and I set out to create ways to organize our time under quarantine. One afternoon he mentioned having a cup of tea, which triggered memories of my vanilla caramel discovery at Wellness House of Annapolis. We didn’t have that flavor on hand, so Country Peach Passion had to do. I ordered a couple of boxes on Amazon and two days later, we were well stocked with vanilla caramel.

That was the start of our tradition of tea time each afternoon, reminding us of the Wellness House. Of course, this new custom includes a little something on the side, like banana bread, cookies, or Paul’s favorite – fig newtons.

We have enjoyed adopting a Wellness House practice and making it our own. If you haven’t already done so, consider meeting up with old and new friends at the virtual Tea Time. It’s happening on Zoom on Thursdays at 2 pm and you’ll feel like you’re sitting and chatting around the living room.

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Lois Villemaire

Lois Villemaire

Lois Villemaire is a dear friend of Wellness House of Annapolis. She came to know our community first as a caregiver for her sister who fought and sadly lost her battle with cancer, then as a caregiver for her husband who is a cancer survivor. She has graciously given her time as a House Hostess since, always glad to help us welcome members old and new into our community. When she is not volunteering at the Wellness House, Lois can be found writing for the Annapolis Discovered blog, discovering new and intriguing books, and critiquing the latest movies with her husband Paul.