Philanthropy In Action
Featured Donor Stories
- Support for Children During Cancer Treatment
- Donor Story: Susan Gordon Freed
- Peter and Judy Kovler Professorship in Breast Cancer Research
- The Edith Glick Shoolman Children's Foundation
- Generosity Through The Samuel Burtoff, M.D. Foundation
- Henry's Fund - Marshall Family
- Integrative Medicine at Sibley
- Mind Body Connection
- A Gift in Honor of Friendship
- Cubbage Family Funds New Position in Sarcoma Program
- Phyllis Mindell
- The Hoffman Family: Generations of Dedication to Sibley and Our Community
- My Cleats My Cause at Sibley
- Young philanthropist raises money for Sibley breast team
- For the Love of Grace
- Supporting a Continuum of Cancer Care
- Investing in the Health and Wellness of our Nurses
- COVID Community Outreach
- Supporting PRIME to Honor a Legacy of Care
- From Nutrition Services to Nursing School, with Donor Support
Honoring Care to Help Others
- Sibley Receives Generous Donation in Memory of Beloved Patient
- Doing Good for Her Community
- Giving Back to the Front Line
- Stitching Hope
- Investing in Optimism
- Stronger and Healthier Together: Elena's Story
- Supporting Women on their Journey to Health
- Donor Support Provides Compassionate Care
- Care for Cancer Survivors
In June 2022, after a brave 18-month battle and 50 sessions of radiation at Sibley, Braden succumbed to DIPG, a deadly and aggressive form of pediatric brain cancer. Throughout his treatment journey the family found moments of grace and were grateful for the care and attention they received from the Pediatric Radiation Oncology team at Sibley.
In reflecting on the best way to honor Braden’s bravery, his father Will said they decided to focus on sick children’s quality of life during treatment with a gift from the Braden James Fund to the Pediatric Radiation Oncology program at Sibley. “Braden was an unusually empathetic person, especially for someone so young. In fact, he would willingly give his toys away to other children and help those who were sick.” Mother Alma said Braden put a great deal of thought into choosing which treats he would bring to his care team every week. “We thought he would appreciate the idea of making a difficult treatment journey a little bit easier for other children by providing music streaming, audio book subscriptions, and speakers so that kids could be distracted while they are alone in the room for treatment. We want to help children play as children for as long as possible.”
Will and Alma specifically called out the extraordinarily creative and empathetic care Braden received from Child Life specialist Anita Shea, M.Ed., CCLS. Anita helped Braden create a Flash superhero mask to make treatment less scary and to help him channel his super powers. Every day he proudly wore a portable mask to treatment with a cape like the young superhero he was. Other patients and families even asked about Braden after he passed away because of the infectious positive energy he carried with him everywhere he went. Alma remembers: “Braden was never scared to come to treatment because of the expert and compassionate care he received from Dr. Ladra, Anita, Lynn and the Pediatric Radiation Oncology team.”
Alma pointed out that radiation can take up to 10% of the life expectancy children are allotted once they are diagnosed with DIPG, so whatever small measures that can be taken to improve their quality of life during treatment can have an enormous impact. Will went on to say that audio equipment to enable parents to read to their children, and subscriptions to online streaming services like Spotify and Audible could vastly improve long, uncomfortable treatment sessions. Alma explained that “quality of life, while these children are on this earth, is the most important thing. We want to do whatever we can to support the Child Life team at Sibley because they make an indelible mark on sick children and their families.”
Says Child Life Specialist Anita: “We are so grateful to Will and Alma for honoring Braden in this way, which will provide comfort to so many children and teens.”
Prior to retiring in December 2021, donor Susan Freed served as a Financial Advisor and Managing Director at Chevy Chase Trust, privileged to help her clients make impactful philanthropic decisions. For many years, she says, she looked forward to the opportunity to be on the giving – rather than advising – side of the equation.
In her professional life, she had the benefit of a research team that identified genomic medicine as a major investment theme and had set aside the profits from stocks in early-stage biotech companies for philanthropy. In the course of being evaluated and monitored for a blood disorder, it became clear that the very technology that made her philanthropy possible was being made available to patients at Sibley under the direction of Dr. Khaled El-Shami. Susan was able to crystallize her unique giving strategy to support novel research in the field of blood cancers at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center at Sibley under the direction of Dr. El-Shami.
In her role as a financial advisor, Susan recalls that she advised physician clients who left government research and patient practices to pursue opportunities with private companies. In an initial conversation about making a gift, she wanted to ensure that her giving strategy aligned with Dr. El-Shami's professional goals and sought reassurance from him that it was his intent to remain in academic medicine.
Says Susan: "Sibley is a special place. I fully recognize how fortunate we are to have the resources Sibley offers in our own back yard and am beyond thrilled to direct my philanthropic efforts to Sibley.
"Further, I want to do whatever I can to ensure Dr. El-Shami remains at Sibley focused on patient care. It is rare to find a doctor with Dr. El-Shami's knowledge and compassion, providing front-line cancer therapies including stem cell transplants, immunotherapy, and CAR-T, all of which are rapidly evolving in real time. It is my sincere hope that my gift will enable Dr. El-Shami to pursue a meaningful research opportunity that will enhance his career and the Sibley and Johns Hopkins experience."
To learn more about Dr. El-Shami's cancer research, contact Liz Levine at [email protected].
On October 19, family, friends and Sibley Memorial Hospital and Johns Hopkins leadership gathered for the dedication of the Peter and Judy Kovler Professorship in Breast Cancer Research in the Department of Pathology and the installation of Andrea Richardson, M.D., Ph.D. as its inaugural recipient.
The Kovler Professorship is the first endowed professorship given to a faculty member at Sibley. Endowed professorships are critical to Johns Hopkins Medicine’s efforts to advance discovery and improve health. When it comes to research to advance medicine, Sibley is a leader in the National Capital Region with 120 cancer research trials underway at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center at Sibley.
The dedication ceremony—at which Dr. Richardson was presented with the professorship medallion—celebrates Judy and Peter Kovler’s long relationship with Johns Hopkins and Sibley. Sibley has benefitted from Judy’s dedicated leadership as Chair of the Sibley Memorial Hospital Foundation Board of Trustees, and Peter is a member of the Kimmel Cancer Center’s Advisory Council.
Their past support has advanced discoveries in pancreatic, kidney and breast cancer as well as public health epidemiology research. The Kovlers’ longtime generosity, leadership and continued foresight have expanded critical dimensions of cancer care in the region. From investing in a novel program to increase access to cancer services to medically-underserved communities to defining and solving screening and clinical navigation needs for disparate patients and families across the District, to assuring state-of-the-art pathology services, their impact is felt broadly.
Having academically-focused members of the multidisciplinary breast cancer team like Dr. Richardson is important for breast cancer patients and their families in the National Capital Region. Both nationally and internationally, Dr. Richardson has distinguished herself as a prominent breast cancer physician and scientist, known for her expertise in the genetics and pathobiology of breast cancer. As the Director of Breast Pathology and the Director of Pathology for the National Capital Region, she is a vital member of Sibley’s Department of Pathology.
Johns Hopkins extends sincere gratitude to Judy and Peter Kovler whose long-standing generosity has and will continue to support novel research and patient care to benefit those in the community and celebrates Dr. Andrea Richardson for her dedication to her research, her team, and patients.
Since 2019, Henry Berman together with his wife Carole have supported Dr. Curtiland Deville's prostate cancer research—Dr. Deville is Medical Director, Johns Hopkins Proton Therapy Center at Sibley and Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology and Molecular Radiation Sciences–as well as Patty's Fund for cancer patients in financial need in honor of the excellent and compassionate cancer care Henry has received. Henry is also a co-trustee of The Edith Glick Shoolman Children's Foundation, funded by Mrs. Shoolman upon her passing in 2003. Per her designation, the Shoolman Foundation has supported a wide-range of initiatives to benefit children.
As Henry and his co-trustee were spending down funds and closing the Shoolman Foundation, they decided to create the Shoolman Fund for Pediatric Cancer at Sibley with a gift of $1 million. Their gift is helping the pediatric radiation oncology program at Sibley, a unique collaboration between Johns Hopkins Medicine, Children's National, and Sibley. The fund will support programmatic expansion, support for patients and families, and innovative research.
When talking about the motivation for this gift, Henry believes "helping children is paramount." Henry goes on to say "facing health crises can be frightening for anyone of any age, but for a child and his or her parents facing cancer or other serious issues, I imagine it must be overwhelming. I hope that by providing a range of funding opportunities for Sibley – from research to helping patients and families with transportation to treatment—we can help make a small difference in a child's life."
"I invest in people as much as I do programs. And there's an amazing team of smart, caring and compassionate people providing excellent care at Sibley," says Henry.
In response, Dr. Deville says: "I am grateful to Henry for his longtime support and for his vision to create the Shoolman Fund for Pediatric Cancer at Sibley. We will use this fund to expand patient care and support programs as well as cutting-edge research to improve treatment outcomes and minimize long-term side effects. The Shoolman Fund will have a meaningful impact on the lives of our youngest cancer patients and their families."
Thank you, Henry and The Edith Glick Shoolman Children's Foundation, for your generous and thoughtful support of Sibley and our broader community. To learn more about supporting pediatric cancer patients and their families, contact Liz Levine at [email protected].
Samuel Burtoff, M.D., Sc.D
Recently, a long-time Sibley supporter made a gift to support the Otolaryngology Program at Sibley Memorial Hospital, through The Samuel Burtoff, M.D. Foundation. Dr. Burtoff specialized in ear, nose and throat medicine and in head and neck plastic surgery, and he was recognized as a trail blazer in the field of microscopic surgery of the inner ear.
The gift supports the purchase of a cutting-edge Pentero microscope which allows magnification of up to twelve times clearer than what a surgeon might see. This specialized piece of equipment will benefit otolaryngology and head and neck plastics patients as well as the clinicians administering care.
Dr. Burtoff began his D.C. medical practice in 1946, and throughout the years, he taught surgery at Georgetown University medical school and was affiliated with Georgetown University Hospital, Capitol Hill Hospital, Northern Virginia Doctors Hospital and the old Doctors Hospital in Washington. Dr. Burtoff was a founder and chief of the ear, nose and throat section at Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Arlington, VA, and he held a similar post at Sibley Memorial Hospital. He retired in 1990.
We are grateful to the Samuel Burtoff, M.D. Foundation for honoring Dr. Burtoff through this generous gift and for providing state of the art equipment to help enhance our care for our patients.
Kelly and Blake Marshall recently made a gift to support grieving parents and staff following the devastating loss of a child in honor of their grandson Henry, who was born severely prematurely at Sibley and did not survive. Blake says he hopes that their contribution will be used to help the hospital and its staff continue to provide first class health care and emotional support to families that find themselves in a similar situation to his son and daughter-in-law. He goes on to explain that his son and daughter-in-law continue to seek emotional support to help them understand and manage their grief. “Whatever can be done to support families and staff at Sibley Hospital in Henry’s memory would give us, as a family, much comfort.
Says Blake: “Despite their devastating loss and traumatic experience, my son and daughter-in-law could not say enough about the care and compassion they received at the time. In recognition of Henry’s first birthday, Kelly and I thought we would like to do something philanthropic to honor him, and giving to Sibley Hospital Foundation would be the best way to do that. He was born in Sibley Hospital so that is forever a connection to him.”
“Henry’s Fund” will, in addition to naming a patient room in the Women’s and Infants’ Services space, fund a variety of initiatives to address the grief, fatigue and trauma felt by those impacted by a loss. To support grieving parents and families, this gift will help provide support from a licensed social worker experienced in grief counseling as well as care items such as a memory box and keepsake, a book on processing grief and a resilience kit with calming tea, aromatherapy candle, and bath salts among other items.
Caring for those experiencing grief around the devastating loss of a child also presents challenges for staff, and as such, Henry’s Fund will provide continuing education opportunities such as conferences, trainings and workshops focused on grief counseling in the event of this type of loss. To further care for our patients during such difficult times, the fund will also provide a camera, photo printer, and photo frames to create a take-home keepsake for families and resilience kits for Sibley staff similar to those created for patients and families.
Sibley is grateful to the Marshall family for their generosity and foresight in caring for patients, families and staff during uniquely challenging circumstances.
Integrative Medicine at Sibley
When Shannon Kohler, who serves as the Director of the Weist Fund for Integrative Medicine, talks about her beloved aunt Dana, the affection and admiration the two had for each other shines through. Dana, a highly regarded economist for the World Bank, was also a world traveler and world-class cook and host. Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002, and that diagnosis would be the beginning of a long, hard-fought battle. Throughout her treatment for the different phases of her illness, and even when the disease progressed, she was able to find comfort in various integrative medicine practices including yoga, massage, meditation, acupuncture, Reiki, and Chinese medicine. Those practices, which were not then as mainstream as they are today, gave her a sense of some control over her life and health. Today, a patient’s health is treated in a holistic way with a focus not only on physical health, but also on mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
As Shannon said: “Medical treatments can be rough, and Dana thought it was important to treat other aspects of one’s health as well.” Dana had the support of her physician Dr. Irene Gage and a friend from the IMF who encouraged her to leave behind a legacy focused on broader access to Integrative Medical treatments, innovation, and creating a sense of community among those in treatment for cancer. She wanted to help ensure that others in her position would have access to these types of innovative healing practices at a centralized location, which is why her family and friends established the Weist Fund for Oncology Wellness Programming, an endowed fund within the Sibley Foundation.
Patient Ken Sands describes the tremendous impact of the various Integrative Medicine offerings at Sibley in this way: “After my surgery, I was really struggling until I began attending the meditation class with Chris. At first, the introspection and quiet contemplation scared me, but then I began having true insight, and it was like a weight had been lifted off my mind. My blood pressure even went down. Then, I began attending yoga classes with Marsha. Because of my new physical limitations, it was really a struggle at first, but she is so kind and gentle and encouraging that I enjoyed doing whatever I could. With the help of Chris and Marsha, I began to look at the things I can do versus what I can't do.”
Says Shannon: “It means a lot to the Weist Fund to see the legacy she left and the impact it is having and will continue to have at Sibley.”
If you are interested in supporting Sibley’s Integrative Health programs for cancer patients and their caregivers, please contact Liz Levine at [email protected].
Note: This is the first of a two-article series on the Integrative Medicine programming at Sibley and its impact on patients.
Mind-body health practices have been around for thousands of years. The concept of Integrative Medicine, where Western medicine is supplemented with Eastern holistic medicine, gained momentum in the 1980s. Integrative Medicine has come to the forefront of the medical community through its treatment of the whole person—body, mind, and spirit, and its emphasis on the therapeutic relationship between practitioner and patient. Integrative practices empower the patient to actively engage in their own healing process. Sibley began offering this type of support for cancer patients nearly a decade ago, and today, it continues to broaden the range of healing options available to cancer patients. These programs help patients better manage their symptoms and treatment side effects, and improve their quality of life.
At the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center at Sibley, cancer patients and their caregivers can take advantage of classes in restorative yoga, meditation and mindfulness, Reiki for self-care, and art therapy at no cost, thanks to our generous donor community. According to Pam Goetz, Oncology Survivorship Program Manager, “these programs support patients in managing the physical, emotional, and spiritual effects of a diagnosis and treatment, as well as in their recovery when treatment has been completed. When so much of cancer treatment is out of their control, patients tell me that engaging in mind-body classes empowers them in their own healing process. Patients and caregivers attend these classes again and again because they are helpful in restoring a sense of self, improving quality of life, and connecting with a community of those with shared cancer experience. We are fortunate at Sibley to have these philanthropic gifts—specifically from the Weist Fund and the Symington Foundation—that allow us to offer evidence-based interventions that make a big difference in peoples’ lives.”
Lloyd Symington Foundation
The Lloyd Symington Foundation (LSF) is a memorial to Lloyd Symington, a distinguished Washington, D.C. lawyer whose life was devoted to public service. According to his son Toby Symington, after Lloyd’s death from lung cancer nearly four decades ago, the family agreed that “the best way to honor his memory was to help make the many benefits which he had received from integrative medical care available to members of the larger cancer community.” During his battle with cancer, he took advantage of integrative practices such as acupuncture, guided imagery, macrobiotic nutrition, and family counseling. The LSF’s mission is in “supporting the heart and soul of cancer care.”
The Symington Foundation helped establish a Reiki healing program at Sibley for patients, their caregivers, and staff. Reiki is a light touch, meditative practice that originated in Japan; it helps relieve stress and anxiety, promote a sense of calm and ease, and elicit an innate self-healing response. Self-care Reiki is a simple practice, easily learned, that can be used every day to restore balance to the system: relaxing the body, easing the mind, and nourishing the spirit. Reiki can be offered by a Reiki Master to a client, or it can be practiced for self-care. The program at Sibley focuses on self-care Reiki, giving participants a simple practice they can use for the rest of their lives. One Sibley cancer patient described Reiki in this way: “Reiki practice brings me a sense of serenity and stillness—a respite from the chaos and emotions associated with a cancer diagnosis.”
Cathie Feather, another patient, says: “Reiki practice has been a key component in helping me navigate and manage my cancer journey. It helps calm my nerves, and I feel like I am able to soothe myself when I am anxious. What I most enjoyed about the Integrative Medicine offerings that I have attended is the teacher I had. Having a compassionate person to guide me helped provide a foundation so that I can continue with self-care on my own. I also love that the program was offered free of charge to cancer patients. Given that it was free made it an easier choice, and I’m very grateful to the donors who make this happen. There’s enough going on when one has to deal with cancer, so it is nice not to have to worry about finances for therapies like Reiki.”
According to Pam Goetz, Oncology Survivorship Program Manager: “The Symington Foundation has enabled Sibley to build a Reiki program for our community. I am grateful for the impact it continues to have on our patients actively coping with cancer, their caregivers, and the health care staff who dedicate themselves to caring for others.”
If you are interested in supporting Sibley’s Integrative Health programs for cancer patients, please contact Liz Levine at [email protected].
In a lovely gesture to honor her dear friend and Sibley Foundation Board member Alma Gildenhorn, Liz Dubin recently made a generous donation to the Sibley Foundation to support the Gildenhorn Institute for Bone and Joint Health to mark Mrs. Gildenhorn’s special birthday. Says Mrs. Dubin: “Alma Gildenhorn, besides being a very dear friend and mentor, is bright, witty, and extremely creative. More importantly, however, she is the most philanthropically-minded person I have ever met. I am happy to contribute to a cause so highly regarded by Alma and Joe.”
The Gildenhorn Institute at Sibley provides the highest quality care with state-of-the-art equipment, while concurrently conducting ground-breaking research to ensure its patients now, and for generations to come, live active lives as they age. As individuals age, musculoskeletal medicine is critically important. The Institute’s affiliation with Johns Hopkins allows Sibley to leverage their leading research and clinical practice and combine it with Sibley’s trademark dedication and compassion. The Institute utilizes rapid advancements in biomedical science to develop robust robotics and cutting-edge science research programs that deliver new treatments for patients suffering from bone and joint disease.
“I am deeply touched by Liz Dubin’s gift in honor of my birthday. Her generosity will support advanced research in orthopedic procedures and in the complex bone and joint problems that affect so many,” said Mrs. Gildenhorn.
Generous donor support allows the team to pursue research studies that will contribute to innovations in care and improved outcomes for patients. “I am grateful to donors like Mrs. Dubin and the Gildenhorns whose generosity truly helps move the needle in the research surrounding the treatment of bone and joint disease,” says Dr. Anthony Unger, medical director for the Gildenhorn Institute. He continued: “The leadership support of the Gildenhorn Institute by Ambassador and Mrs. Gildenhorn and many others has been a key factor toward its long-term success.”
If you would like to support the innovative work of the Gildenhorn Institute, please contact Kristen Pruski at [email protected].
To honor his late wife’s legacy, and to recognize the quality of care she received at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, Gary Cubbage, along with his daughters Emma and Caroline, generously supported and funded a new, sarcoma nurse navigator position. The nurse navigator is an essential part of the sarcoma program and multidisciplinary clinic, guiding sarcoma patients through every step of their comprehensive treatment plan. His gift also created an endowed fund to support the development of psychosocial programming for patients with sarcoma and their families. This endowed fund will exist in perpetuity.
Recently, funding from the Kristen P. Cubbage Endowed Fund at Sibley was used to create this video series featuring patients and members of the sarcoma care team. In addition to other educational programs offered to all new cancer patients, this targeted video series provides patients with information specific to sarcoma and its continuum of care from diagnosis, through treatment and in to survivorship. These videos are being translated into several other languages to make them widely-accessible for patients.
According to Pam Geotz, Oncology Survivorship Program Manager, “when people are diagnosed with cancer, they may experience fear and uncertainty about their treatment and would likely benefit from emotional and practical support. With these videos, we aim to provide information and resources that bring comfort and reassurance to those diagnosed with sarcoma. The patient stories are honest testimonies about how two people manage their challenges with sarcoma and offer a sense of hope to others.”
Dr. Phyllis Mindell is a noted author, speaker, mentor, and self-described unconventional mother and grandmother who just celebrated her 85th birthday! She is also living with stage-4 breast cancer. While she has been treated by physicians across the Johns Hopkins Health System, a visit to Sibley’s Emergency Department last summer helped her understand that she could receive exceptional medical care in her own back yard at her community hospital.
Says Dr. Mindell: “From the first moment of Sibley’s medical care, it was clear that it measures up to the standards in Baltimore. I feel so lucky to have the coordinated care of such a great medical institution so close to my home.”
Beyond the excellent care she received in the Emergency Department, she was also expertly treated by Dr. Andrew Lerner, Director of Interventional Pulmonology at Sibley and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine, which inspired her to support Sibley’s Emergency Department and the Interventional Pulmonology department.
“Each individual treated me with kindness, speed and precision throughout my time at Sibley. My gifts acknowledge all of the staff who treated me, but especially the Emergency Department, Dr. Lerner and his team. I hope I can demonstrate the joy of giving and inspire regular people like me to give to ensure that Sibley continues to offer excellent and compassionate care to our community.”
Each member of the Hoffman family has a special memory of time spent at Sibley—from receiving excellent and compassionate care, to volunteering, to working in the Foundation—and they attribute much of their deep Sibley connection to the dedicated nurses who help make the hospital what it is today.
Siblings Blair and Scott Hoffman recently shared some of their memories of Sibley, including when Scott drove a number of nurses to and from the hospital during a terrible snowstorm ensuring they made it safely to work on time. Scott went on to express his immense gratitude to nurse Martha Filler, noting that she "went above and beyond her usual duties" by staying after her shift to watch over him while he was hospitalized. Scott remarked that he was forever touched by her dedication to her patients. Additionally, Scott's sister Blair fondly recalled her own long association with Sibley – first working as a candy striper in her youth, and later in event planning and marketing for the Sibley Foundation.
Years later, the siblings' mother was treated for breast cancer at Sibley, and Blair fondly recalled the care her mother received here saying: "In the worst possible situation, nurse Suzy Schrock helped make it endurable for my mom." When Blair and Scott's mother ultimately succumbed to breast cancer, the family chose to continue their support of Sibley, this time philanthropically, "to ensure donations would stay in our community."
In addition, Blair and Scott's father Bill was involved extensively with Sibley, serving as a Trustee of the Sibley Foundation, and he was a fixture throughout the hospital often visiting friends during their treatment. Together with Dr. Carl "Butch" MacCartee, a Sibley Orthopedic Surgeon, the two launched a fund to support nursing education creating the "Suzy and Nona Fund" in honor of nurses Suzy Schrock and Nona Campion.
Suzy, who still works at Sibley, shared that the creation of the Suzy and Nona Fund was "one of the greatest honors that I ever personally received. Nursing education is so critical, and philanthropy is essential in providing this important resource."
We are so grateful to the Hoffman Family and Dr. MacCartee for their ongoing support. If you would like to learn more about how you can contribute to Nursing Education at Sibley, please contact Kristen Pruski at [email protected] or 202-537-4257.
Art Birney spent much of his adventurous life sailing around the world, and even authoring two books on celestial navigation. A lively spirit with a great sense of humor, he was often known to pull a quarter out the ear of young people he met. Just a few years ago, Art moved to Oasis, the residential memory care unit at Sibley, but he ultimately succumbed to complications from vascular dementia. While heart-broken upon his passing, the Birney family ultimately was so inspired by the compassionate care Art received, they were moved to donate to the Palliative Care Program at Sibley and the Sibley Senior Association’s Club Memory Program.
“This journey is different for everyone, and I wanted to give because dementia is not something that many people talk about.”
Art's son Lex
Given his family’s longtime association with Sibley, the Birney family appreciated that the Renaissance and Oasis were part of the hospital. Lex and his mother, Alison, wanted to recognize the people that had cared so well for Art during his time at Sibley. Lex recalled clearly the extraordinary care Art received, recognizing caregivers Regina, Bizmark and Andrew who became like family. He remembers that his family was able to gather on numerous occasions for birthdays and holidays in Grand Oaks at Sibley and how his father, an Air Force and Army veteran, was specially recognized at a Veteran’s Day celebration.
"We need to address the many issues that surround caring for our elders. Oasis was a great fit for a compassionate way to care for my dad in his last chapter. Additionally, Dr. Sandra Pedraza is indeed a gem and, I would hope the palliative care program, under her leadership, will expand and thrive beyond cancer palliative care. We are eternally thankful for the team at Oasis and the care they gave to my Dad and to us as a family.”
The National Football League's "My Cause My Cleats" program allows NFL players to design custom cleats to support a cause that is important to them. During the 2019 football season, quarterback Mike Glennon-who currently plays for the New York Giants-chose to support prostate cancer awareness at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center at Sibley. Mike, a Virginia native, chase Sibley because his dad is a grateful patient of Dr. Channing Paller and has been receiving his care here for several years.
“Everyone thinks their dad is the best, and I'm no different. He maintained the most positive attitude throughout his treatment, and we are lucky that Kimmel Cancer Center has been there to help him.”
In addition to the electric-blue cleats which are displayed outside the medical oncology waiting room, Mike and his dad have been generous donors toward Dr. Paller's research which focuses on evaluating new therapies for prostate cancer, particularly combination therapies that engage the immune system or personalized therapies that target genetic vulnerabilities in the tumor. "We are able to continue to improve our research and expand treatment of prostate cancer thanks to generous supporters like Mile. When I started treating prostate cancer patients in 2012, we had a handful of treatment options; now we have 10 options, soon to be 11." Mike continues, "I hope they come up with a cure for my dad and others."
Wynter Bramao is a recent graduate of Holton-Arms School in Bethesda. When it came time to choose a subject for her senior project and with a family member currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer at Sibley, she seized on the opportunity to raise money for the breast team at Sibley saying, "I viewed it as a way to not only do good for others but also to personalize my senior project."
On Wednesdays throughout the month of May she worked with her father to create restaurant fundraisers featuring bake sales, raffles and a donation box; additionally 10% of day-of food sales was donated.
By the conclusion of her project, Wynter raised $2,000 for the Sibley breast team, and she says she is “extremely grateful for the team at Sibley who is taking exceptional care of my family member.”
At 22 years old, Elisabeth (Grace) Wenzel, a labor and delivery nurse at Sibley, was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma. In a fight for her life, she underwent targeted treatments, immunotherapies, surgeries, and radiation therapy. Through it all, she worked as a nurse helping laboring mothers, swaddling newborns, and supporting her coworkers. Her team rallied around her to show their support and raised money in her honor. To date, more than $30,000 has been donated to benefit melanoma research at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center at Sibley under Dr. Evan Lipson, Grace’s medical oncologist. Grace sadly passed away last spring, but her legacy lives on.
Grace became an advocate for melanoma research, prevention, and detection before her passing, which included leaving a contribution to the cause in her will. Additionally, she delivered the Patient Advocate opening remarks at the National Melanoma Research Conference in February 2020 via a videotaped recording from her hospital bed. Her family believes she would be proud to know that the substantial sum of money contributed in her honor – from over 250 donors – has had a meaningful impact on our ability to advance our understanding and treatment of this cruel disease.
Dr. Lipson's work continues to focus on evaluating novel therapies for patients with high-risk or advanced disease. He is currently the primary investigator on several early-phase clinical trials for patients with melanoma and other skin cancers, which rely on philanthropy for their success. Dr. Lipson is a member of the Hopkins Melanoma and Cancer Immunology Programs, and collaborates with scientists and clinicians from a wide range of disciplines. Their work together over the last several years has enhanced our understanding of the human immune system and sparked the development of novel immunotherapies, which have brought new hope to patients and their loved ones touched by cancer.
Thanks to the support of so many, and to mark one year since her passing, a plaque was unveiled on May 7th in Grace's honor and has been placed on Sibley’s labor and delivery floor – what was Grace's second home and where she touched so many. The sheer number of donors who supported Grace speaks to her warm and genuine nature, and to how many people felt connected to her. She is remembered as a caring spirit who was passionate about her work.
On the plaque reads one of Grace's favorite quotes:
“Where we love is home. Home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
On behalf of everyone at Sibley – her friends, colleagues, and care team – we thank you for making this possible. To make a gift towards Dr. Lipson’s melanoma research "For the Love of Grace," click here, and to learn more about his efforts, please reach out to Liz Levine, Director of Development, at [email protected] or 202-660-6537.
When Judy Zickler was treated for breast cancer at Johns Hopkins, Lillie D. Shockney, R.N., M.A.S., was her nurse navigator and helped Judy with everything from pre-surgical testing to follow-up care. Most importantly, Lillie was there to listen and offer needed advice to help ease her concerns.
“I didn’t have anyone to talk to except Lillie,” says Judy. “None of my friends at the time had had breast cancer. Lillie was great. I could talk to her anytime.”
Judy’s experience with Lillie encouraged the Zicklers to make a philanthropic gift to emphasize the importance of a full continuum of care for cancer patients. They see follow-up care as just as important as the treatment itself. “It’s vital for a patient and family’s psychological health,” says Leo, Judy’s husband.
In honor of the attention Judy received and to support this vision of comprehensive care, Leo and Judy chose to continue their investment in Sibley this year through a challenge grant to support the development of a Life After Cancer program at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center at Sibley. This includes the hiring of a nurse practitioner who will see patients after they finish their cancer treatment. This position will develop a follow-up care plan for each patient, see them for routine visits, and provide guidance as they transition back to working with their primary care provider.
Ultimately, the Zicklers want others to receive the same kind of one-on-one care and attention that Lillie provided to Judy.
“It’s important for the nurse practitioner to help people understand the emotional impact of cancer,” says Judy. “It’s not just which tests you need or whether you need chemotherapy.”
Over the years, the Zicklers have provided critical support to various divisions of Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Center for Patient and Family Services team within the Kimmel Cancer Center at Sibley. These contributions have helped Sibley grow its oncology nurse navigation program. They say they choose to support Johns Hopkins and Sibley not only because of the excellent quality of care, but because of the quality of leadership and the strong humanistic qualities of those leaders.
For more information about the life after cancer and oncology survivorship program at Sibley, and how you can help match the Zicklers’ contribution, please contact Andrea Travis at [email protected].
A champion of self-care and wellness throughout her 43-year career at Sibley Memorial Hospital, Patty Haresign, along with her husband, David, recently decided to further invest in our community of nurses with a planned gift, creating The Patricia and David Haresign Nursing Support Endowment Fund. The gift will be used to foster the health and wellness of nurses at Sibley in hopes of building resilience, to include integrative medicine opportunities and workshops, self-care promotion and morale-boosting activities, and nursing education, training, and certification.
While employed at Sibley as a Registered Nurse, and having served most recently as a clinical educator for enhancing service excellence and the patient experience, Patty was the recipient of philanthropic funds to assist in her completion of graduate school, attain multiple certifications, and attend national conferences. She was also provided with funds to complete a certificate program in health and wellness coaching, and since retiring has launched her own business in the field. Supporting Sibley through a philanthropic gift, she says, is their way of giving back.
We spoke with Patty further about what this gift means to her and David.
How do you hope this legacy gift will have an impact?
We want to focus on the health and wellness of nurses at all levels within the organization; we trust that the funds will assist in promoting their access to necessary life-long learning, professional and personal development skills. Our hope is that administrators and leaders will put an increased value on an environment that promotes care for their nurses, demonstrating how stress-reducing strategies can be woven into the work day. This could include routine breaks, mindfulness, starting a shift with positivity, setting an intention, taking the time to use the gym, and more.
The end goal is to alleviate feelings of burnout, and in turn our patients will experience clinically-competent, empathetic care in the safest environment.
Why did you choose to support the health and wellness of our nurses through the creation of The Patricia and David Haresign Nursing Support Endowment Fund?
The fact that nursing has been regarded as the most honest and ethical profession is a testament to the public’s trust in our ability to care for them. Nurses are committed to patient advocacy and establishing caring relationships with patients and families, even in the most adverse and highly emotional situations. Taking time to listen and understand a patient’s emotional needs, observe them closely to assess clinically their physical needs, provide patient education, and administer medications on time, all while being able to turn on a dime to take action in any given moment, are some visible ways our nurses touch patients’ lives.
Yet underneath all of that, what we don’t see is how nurses are constantly using critical thinking skills to make decisions. They have the most updated information on each of their patients and are called to communicate with other nurses, physicians, health disciplines, patients, and families to coordinate care.
Any given shift may also be physically challenging, literally walking miles on the unit or lifting patients and adjusting their positions to ensure proper body alignment and maintain skin integrity. All of this can take an emotional toll, and we have not even mentioned sharing sorrow in the death of a patient with whom they have established a caring relationship or to support a family during this time of loss. Over time, this can lead to a nurse exceeding his or her resources and can make a significant impact on their well-being.
Our hope is that this Fund will assist in promoting the teachable strategies that help to mitigate compassion fatigue as a side effect of care giving stress.
Is there anything you would like others to know about Sibley and why they might consider making a gift to support the hospital and its unique programs?
Sibley started as a small community hospital touching many residents in our local neighborhoods. Joining with Johns Hopkins Medicine enhanced the Hospital’s ability to deliver world-class care to an expanded community.
In our complex economic and healthcare environment, I encourage you to discover ways you might support a program, a specific service, staff- and leadership-focused education, or an infrastructure that is important to you. Funds are always needed to support professional education and certification, like when it comes to traveling to national conferences where clinicians are kept abreast of evidence-based best practices, share poster presentations, and engage in professional networking.
Whatever your philanthropic motivation, generous support to Sibley’s healthcare services is a great opportunity to bring to life Sibley’s mission to deliver excellence and compassionate care, every person every time.
All of us at Sibley Memorial Hospital are grateful to Patty and David for their years of service and their ongoing commitment to our community. With a planned gift to Sibley Memorial Hospital, you can help us continue to provide the best care possible for future generations, while addressing your own financial goals.
Your support during this holiday season will help us continue to help communities most impacted by this crisis. Please consider a gift today.
In this season of gratitude, Sibley is thankful to the many donors who have made it possible for us to reach out beyond our neighborhood to vulnerable populations in high-need communities.
“The partnership between Unity Health Care and Johns Hopkins Medicine brings together passionate leaders who deeply care about delivering emotionally resonant care for our most vulnerable patients. When we consider the needs of patients who need our help the most, we not only elevate care for them, we elevate care for everyone.”
Veronica X. Vela, DrPH, MEng, Director of Community Health Design and Innovation, Sibley Memorial Hospital
The public health crisis has exposed and deepened inequities in Washington, DC and across the region. Under the weight of existing health and socio-economic disparities, Black and Latinx communities have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, experiencing higher rates of infections and deaths while also grappling with the elevated economic burden of the pandemic due to loss of jobs. Through generous philanthropic support, Sibley launched the COVID-19 Health Disparities Fund, which enables us to meet the needs of neighborhoods and residents most impacted.
At the onset of the pandemic, Sibley recognized the importance of a public health approach in our response, first making sure that our most vulnerable populations have the basic necessities – access to PPE to reduce the spread of the virus and a continuous supply of healthy food within low-income food deserts. Donor support has allowed Sibley to distribute nearly 50,000 cloth masks to residents, gift 40,000 surgical masks and gloves to community health centers, and donate to local food banks and nonprofits preparing meals for children, families, and seniors in Wards 7 and 8 amid food supply disruptions.
“Ward 8 neighborhoods are some of the most resilient in the District. Now more than ever, it’s vital that we keep our neighbors in Ward 8 at the forefront of our minds. Ensuring those in Ward 8 have a safe, happy, and healthy holiday season will provide a level of comfort to individuals and families who have faced a lifetime of challenges and certainly a year full of uncertainty.”
Chloe Swanson, Senior Management Associate, A Wider Circle
Since the crisis started, we moved our community programming for seniors to a virtual environment in order to reduce isolation. The Sibley Senior Association (SSA) began offering support groups, classes and workshops to members online via webinars, conference calls and Zoom meetings. This virtual programming includes SSA’s flagship Club Memory® program, which provides critical support and connection to people with dementia and their care partners, in all wards of DC. Sibley is also leading an effort to enhance technology and internet access for seniors in Wards 7 and 8 to support their ability to connect with family, resources and clinical care. Working with DC government and key stakeholders, Sibley conducted in-depth interviews with seniors to understand their needs and is providing pilot participants with devices and internet services at no cost.
Now, more than 8 months into this public health crisis, Sibley is working to address longer term solutions for improving access and health outcomes in communities. We are partnering with Unity Health Care to redesign the telemedicine experience for patients in Wards 7 and 8. Sibley will assess the telemedicine experience of vulnerable older adults in these communities and the primary care providers who treat them. This project allows Sibley and Unity to focus on patients who may experience digital divide issues, racial and socio-economic bias, isolation challenges, and fear of COVID-19 exposure to enhance our understanding on how to deliver meaningful telemedicine care.
“This generous support allows AoH Healthcare Career pathways learners to continue their career training in virtual and small group environments through access to devices, the internet, and clinical simulation. The support also provides critical resources for AoH to expand the available seats to DC residents interested in pursuing high demand career pathways in healthcare. We are so grateful for the partnership and generosity of Sibley Memorial Hospital.”
Lecester Jones, CEO of Academy of Hope Adult PCS
We’re also working with Academy of Hope Adult Public Charter School to invest in healthcare career pathways for underemployed and unemployed DC residents. With support from Sibley, Academy of Hope is bridging the digital divide for learners in their healthcare career pathways programs through the purchase of technology, broadband access, and clinical simulation software. Learners have been able to maintain their participation in career and workforce development programs, which is vital to their ability to continue classes, graduate successfully and seek employment in the healthcare workforce.
We can’t thank our donors enough for all you do to support our hospital and our community. Your compassion and kindness are an inspiration to our Sibley team.
Dr. David Bachhuber was many things to many people. As a husband, father, grandparent, and surgeon, he devoted his life to caring for others. During his 35-year career at Sibley Memorial Hospital, Dr. Bachhuber was a dedicated general surgeon, eventually becoming Chairman of the Department of Surgery. He received numerous accolades including physician of the year and forged life-long relationships with his patients, nurses and fellow doctors. Over the years, he was often a patient at Sibley himself.
When Dr. Bachhuber passed away in 2019, his family wanted to make a donation to Sibley to show their appreciation for the care he received there. “When dad was in the hospital, we saw the incredible impact the nurses had firsthand. Dad had amazing nurses and therapists who really helped him through his many surgeries over the years,” his daughter Stefanie says. “One in particular, Matt - a nurse specializing in geriatric care - would come talk with him every day while he was recovering in the hospital and help him through his rehab.”
In the spring of 2020, Stefanie, her sisters Lisa and Julie, and their mother Lee decided to give a more permanent gift in memory of Dr. Bachhuber as a way to thank the nurses, doctors, and all of Dr. Bachhuber’s colleagues for their decades of friendship and care. “We thought the perfect way to honor him would be by naming a bench near the old hospital where he spent most of his career,” says Stefanie.
The Bachhuber family’s gift will support the PRIME (Presurgical Rehabilitation and Integrative Medicine for Elders) program at Sibley to honor Dr. Bachhuber’s legacy as a surgeon and to further expand the exemplary elder care that he himself received. When the Bachhubers learned that the PRIME program was created by Dr. Marty Paul, one of Dr. Bachhuber’s longtime friends and colleagues, they knew they had found the perfect program to support. PRIME is designed to help geriatric patients recover from surgery faster and with fewer complications. The program provides pre-operative consultations with anesthesiologists, geriatric nurse navigators, physical therapists, and nutrition services. PRIME also provides a personalized, targeted plan to address a patient’s vulnerabilities prior to surgery.
“I have known Dr. Bachhuber since my early days at Sibley as a surgical resident, and he was a great mentor to young surgeons,” says Dr. Paul. “I was always impressed with not just his surgical skill but for always seeming to know what the right thing to do was in any clinical situation. One thing he was always particularly passionate about is treating his patients with dignity, especially the elderly who have a need for very specialized postoperative care. Our PRIME program is built around those concepts, and this donation from his family is a wonderful way of honoring his legacy.”
“I want to be a nurse because it allows me to offer myself and have a personal and influential relationship with patients,” says Sade Bailey. “It allows me to touch the lives of different people, from different cultures all over the world.”
Thanks to generous donor support, Sade, a Sterile Processing Technician at Sibley, is receiving tuition assistance to pursue her nursing degree. She started working at Sibley in 2015 as a catering assistant, cashier, and server in Sibley’s nutrition services department. Soon, she transferred to telecommunications and after serving there for nearly a year she learned about training opportunities in the Sterile Processing Department (SPD). She submitted her application and was accepted into the course. Within three months of starting her new position as a Sterile Processing Technician, she took and passed the Certified Registered Central Service Technician (CRCST) exam.
Not satisfied with stopping there, Sade began studying for the TEAS exam to get into nursing school. she started as a full-time nursing student in 2019. Along the way it hasn’t been easy. “I kept going no matter the obstacle. My mom always raised me to be a strong African American woman, to be confident in who I am, and to go after any goal I set my mind to.”
With only a few semesters of nursing school left, Sade says support from Sibley has been key. “The Sibley team has helped me in crucial ways, from tuition assistance, to developing an appropriate schedule for schooling and time for myself. It takes a village, and I’m indebted and appreciative for everything Sibley has done for me while finishing my BSN.” She’s already planning her next steps — to pursue an MSN and DNP, and ultimately become a Nurse Practitioner at Sibley. We’re proud of Sade for her drive and determination, and thankful to the donors who are helping her pursue her dream!
“What I want is for my traumatic event to be the catalyst for meaningful change in your life.”
Jonathan Cherner in a Caringbridge journal entry from January 2019
Prior to his prostate cancer diagnosis in October 2018, Jonathan thought of himself as a "regular, healthy guy." He decided to share his experience with family and friends via the online platform soon after. It quickly turned into an outlet to motivate others to stay on top of their own well-being, and educate them about the importance of early detection.
Jonathan was born and raised in Washington, D.C. and now lives in South Florida. Sibley Memorial Hospital has served as his family's community hospital for many years, and his treatments, which included chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation, were at Sibley and Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He says, "The staff is kind and understanding. They know why you are visiting and try to make it all as pleasant as possible."
Last year, Jonathan's father, Harvey, who had also received care at Sibley, passed away. Wanting to acknowledge how kind the staff was to their family, Jonathan's mother, Arlene Cherner, decided to make a philanthropic gift to Sibley in memory of Harvey especially honoring Dr. Nicholas Constantinople and Dr. Armine Smith to support the urology department, Dr. Jim Williams to support nursing education, and Dr. Anthony Unger to support the Gildenhorn Institute for Bone and Joint Health.
Jonathan wasn't far behind in making a contribution of his own to Johns Hopkins Medicine, which included a gift to support the research of Dr. Curtiland Deville, Clinical Director of Radiation Oncology and Co-Director of the Prostate Cancer Multidisciplinary Clinic at Sibley. Their names will be acknowledged publicly on Sibley's donor wall, so others might see their names and inquire about their experiences and be encouraged to give. Jonathan sees it as an opportunity not only to tell others about the care he received, but above all, educate them to make sure their own health remains a priority, as he believes early testing saved his life.
"I hope one day someone tells me that a friend was saved because my story pushed them to be more vigilant about their health in one way or another," he says.
Thank you to Jonathan and Randee Cherner, and Arlene Cherner and the late Harvey Cherner, for your ongoing support of Sibley and belief in the power and importance of preventative healthcare. Philanthropy is what continues to drive our hospital and care teams forward, particularly during this uncertain time. Sibley and all of Johns Hopkins Medicine is grateful!
When the in-person celebration of her Bat Mitzvah was cancelled because of COVID-19, she decided she would use her mitzvah project as an opportunity to show appreciation for her family’s community hospital by raising money to provide meals for Sibley’s front-line care teams. Through the support of friends and family, Lucy raised $3,500 and provided 300 meals to our care teams. Lucy says, “I hope this makes a difference, and helps show them how much we appreciate all their courage and hard-work.” Congratulations, Lucy, and thank you for your kindness and generosity during this uncertain time!
“Sibley is on my team – they’re not just doing their job, they’re with you.”
Audrey, a cancer survivor who works for a human rights organization, says caring for one’s emotional health is as important as one’s physical health. From her primary care physician, Dr. Andrea Hulse, to her surgeon and radiation oncologist, Drs. Mildred Chernofsky and Victoria Croog, Audrey has always been impressed with the concern Sibley’s clinicians have shown for her overall well-being. From having her physician personally come to her bedside after surgery, to the many programs offered to cancer survivors under Oncology Survivorship Navigator Pam Goetz, Audrey loves how “Sibley feels like your neighborhood hospital, even though large and impressive.”
Audrey not only continues to travel to Sibley for her care since moving to Maryland, but also has contributed to both Sibley Memorial Hospital Foundation’s Doctors Day campaign and the Foundation’s Feed the Frontline Fund, which helps feed our care teams amidst COVID-19. Audrey remarks that she is confident Sibley’s staff is meeting this current challenge by providing excellent care to COVID-19 patients and communicating with their families, since they have already shown her they attend not only to a patient’s physical needs, but provide emotional care to patients and families as well.
Thank you, Audrey, for your support and trust in Sibley!
Margaret Fisher became acquainted with Sibley over 13 years ago after she and her family moved to Washington, DC and she began taking care of her elderly mother. Margaret wanted to get more involved with the hospital through volunteering, so she began to sew heart-shaped pillows for breast cancer patients to aid in their recovery. The pillows fit comfortably under a patient’s arm and can relieve surgical incision pain, protect against accidental bumps, help ease edema, and relieve shoulder tension. The heart pillows are given to patients immediately post-op to aid in recuperation.
By 2015, Margaret was sewing up to 50 pillows each month. A breast cancer survivor herself, Margaret says while she can’t meet the patients and recipients of her efforts, she wants to encourage them. Along with each heart pillow, Margaret includes a note of encouragement and one of her favorite quotes, “May you weather this storm cloud and quickly see the rainbow of HOPE with comfort and healing."
Margaret used the rainbow as a visual to help her through her own chemotherapy when she received treatment at Sibley during her second reoccurrence of cancer. On her last day of treatment, Margaret brought in rainbow roses and rainbow tarts for all of the Sibley staff who had helped her along the way. "Sibley is my family," Margaret said in reflecting upon the staff and volunteers she has met throughout her journey.
"It is my personal celebration every time I deliver these pillows to Sibley," says Margaret, who hopes her pillows and messages bring someone the same hope that the rainbow brought her.
“I don’t invest in programs, I invest in people. And there's a pretty cool group of people at Sibley.”
Henry and his wife Carole recently chose to make a philanthropic contribution to Sibley in honor of the care he received. His gift will support the research of Dr. Curtiland Deville, Clinical Director of Radiation Oncology at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center at Sibley Memorial Hospital, and the Patricia Liberatore Fund, which supports cancer patients in need.
Henry came to the Kimmel Cancer Center at Sibley to explore treatment options after his cancer diagnosis. After meeting multiple physicians, Henry felt confident in his decision to pursue radiation treatment with Dr. Deville, whose comprehensive explanation and treatment plan, along with his understated confidence and calming demeanor, set the tone for Henry’s time at the Kimmel Cancer Center.
From Freddy, a radiation oncology aide, to Vivian, a radiation oncology nurse (who Henry calls the "crown jewel" of the department), and Dr. Deville himself – Henry says everyone made him feel like the only patient they had. His positive attitude no doubt contributed to his experience. "You have to find a way to make it fun. You can go in and be really depressed and think the world is ending or you can go in and have fun —people hit the pitches you throw."
Henry quickly started referring to Dr. Deville as "Dr. Chill" and wearing themed t-shirts to his treatments. On his last day of treatment, Henry wore a Looney Tunes tee with "That’s All Folks" plastered across the front.
Henry and Carole hope their contribution will improve the quality of life for future patients and help those who struggle financially with cancer treatment. Above all, he wants to make a difference for all who cared for him along his journey. Thank you, Henry, for your generous support and for being such a positive force in our community!
Before cancer, Elena Rudenko had been very active. In addition to working full time as a programmer, she had a subscription to the Metropolitan Opera in New York and traveled there regularly to go to shows, visit friends, and spend time with her daughter and granddaughter. The year before she was treated for cancer, she went hiking in Iceland with her daughter and her family.
Then came surgery and a diagnosis of cancer, and chemotherapy. Everything changed. “Suddenly I was doing nothing. I forgot what it was like to be normal,” says Elena. Friends and family were supportive and helpful, but Elena was feeling lost and in need of something else. So she decided to try Sibley’s cancer survivorship series, Stronger and Healthier Together, bit.ly/strongerhealthier.
The free, four-week program, which is made possible through generous donor contributions, provides education and resources to help cancer survivors improve their physical and emotional well-being through exercise, mind-body practices, nutrition, and more.
"This program was exactly the missing piece in the larger support network," says Elena. "The information and support I received from the group was different from what I got from my doctors, my family and friends, coworkers, or online communities."
As part of the series, Elena had three meetings with Jill, a health coach. “She told me, ‘This is the new normal.’ She helped me see what I could do.” While she isn’t yet up to traveling to New York to go to the opera, she instead goes to a local movie theater and watches broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera there.
“It’s a great series,” says Elena, who is thankful for the donor support that makes Stronger and Healthier Together possible. “It’s money well spent—it’s an investment in people, in us.”
“For many women, hair is a symbol of who they are,” says Carolyn Keller, founder of EBeauty, a nonprofit organization that runs the only national wig exchange in the country. Carolyn has a long relationship with Sibley—her daughter and her grandchildren were Sibley babies, and Sibley was her hospital when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and needed a mastectomy, and later, chemotherapy.
After completing chemotherapy, Carolyn put away the wigs that she had used during treatment. When her sister-in-law was diagnosed with cancer, Carolyn gave her one of the wigs, telling her to pass it on to someone else when she was done with treatments.
“When another sister-in-law was diagnosed, I had an ‘Aha’ moment with the wigs.” Today, her nonprofit organization, EBeauty, runs the only national wig exchange in the country.
EBeauty has worked with Sibley since it was created in 2011 and last year Sibley became one of the first hospitals to open a small kiosk to provide wigs on-site to women who need them. Carolyn works closely with Sibley’s breast cancer navigator, Jennie Tarica. “Jennie has been a major influence on our program, but more importantly she has taken patient navigation care to another level.”
In addition to partnering with Sibley through EBeauty, Carolyn has also chosen to support the hospital through philanthropic contributions that benefit cancer survivorship programs and the Johns Hopkins Women’s Health Center at Sibley. “The new Women’s Health Center is the future of care for women,” she says. “It’s important to support your local hospital and to bring this kind of quality care to your community.”
“The staff in Dr. Magnant's office could not have been more helpful, efficient, patient, and warm.”
Ana Steele Clark
Ana Steele Clark discovered the lump in her breast unexpectedly, but she was fortunate to find a team that was ready to move swiftly to provide treatment and get her back to health. "I believe the speed saved me from God knows what kind of outcome," she says.
Ana had been having heartbeat irregularities for about a year, so her cardiologist, Dr. Edward Bodurian, had her wear a heart monitor for 30 days. One day, she was removing the wiring to take a shower when she discovered a lump in her breast. She immediately contacted her gynecologist, Dr. Susan Hurson. "She examined me, looked me in the eye, and said 'We need a surgeon'." She then called the office of Dr. Colette Magnant, Director of Sibley's Sullivan Breast Cancer Center.
Dr. Magnant examined Ana and ordered a same-day biopsy, which revealed a small but highly aggressive cancer. Two weeks later, Dr. Magnant removed the cancer—less than a month after Ana had discovered the lump. After surgery, Ana received radiation treatment at Sibley under the watchful eye of Dr. Jean Wright, Director of the Breast Cancer Program, Department of Radiation Oncology and Molecular Radiation Sciences at Johns Hopkins.
One day, about half way through her radiation treatments, Ana suddenly felt overwhelmed with panic. "I had been feeling fine," she says. "I had no idea where it suddenly came from." She went to her appointment and didn't say anything about how she was feeling. As she was being prepped for treatment, one of the technicians working with her that day asked about the music routinely playing in the treatment room and asked Ana if she would like something else, saying, "Do you like opera?"
Ana was stunned. She had worked at the National Endowment for the Arts for 33 years, and served as Acting Chair of the Endowment in the early 1990s, but she had never mentioned her work nor her love of classical music to anyone during her treatments. Ana said yes and the technicians stepped into the other room and started the music—Andrea Bocelli singing Schubert's "Ave Maria."
"All of my terrible worry and terror just went away. I was suddenly in another place—calm and peaceful." Ana says that to this day, she wonders how the technician could have guessed that she loved that music, or the effect that it would have on her. She calls it a "lovely mystery."
Ana, now cancer-free, continues to follow up with hormone therapy and regular check-ups with Dr. Patricia Rizzo, a medical oncologist affiliated with Sibley. Of the team that swung into action to treat her that spring she says "The care and support of the team—the receptionists, technicians, and nurses, as well as the amazing Dr. Magnant herself and my other wonderful doctors—all worked to keep me from being upset, overwrought, and frightened. Such a lovely group of skilled and caring women!"
“Yoga saved my mental health.”
She had always thought of yoga as something that was a bit alternative, but when she read about Sibley’s weekly Yoga for Cancer Survivors class in the Sibley Senior Association newsletter she decided to give it a try. There, she met Judy Evans, a fellow cancer survivor who had recently moved to Washington and was looking for a community that she could be part of. After meeting in class they discovered they lived only blocks away from each other, and quickly became friends. They are part of a close-knit group of patients and survivors who come to class at Sibley each week.
Since 2014, Sibley has offered free yoga and meditation classes for cancer patients, survivors, and family members, thanks to generous support from the Weist Fund. The classes are one of the ways we help people address the challenges of cancer treatment and survivorship. “It really creates community for people during an anxious time in their lives,” says Pam Goetz, Sibley’s Survivorship Navigator.
Cancer survivors may be dealing with the trauma of a diagnosis and the side effects of treatment. They may feel betrayed by or disconnected from their bodies. Yoga becomes a way for people to trust their body again and learn how to safely exercise after treatment. Meditation can help with anxiety and manage stress. “These classes help people put their lives back together after cancer derails them,” says Pam.
Both women love that the class is gentle, with an emphasis on relaxation and breathing, and the appreciate the knowledge of Erica, the yoga instructor, who has specialized training in yoga for cancer survivors. They also love the camaraderie of the group. Or, as Judy describes it, "It's more than just a support group—we are a class of warriors!”