Featured Donor Stories
For the Love of Grace
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@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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 Berman
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"
- Kay Cartwright
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!”