What Can Women Do to Prevent Early Menopause?

About Early Menopause

The average age a woman goes into menopause is 51. Menopause is considered abnormal when it begins before the age of 40 and is called “premature ovarian failure.” Common symptoms that come with menopause include hot flashes, night sweats, sleep problems, sexual issues, vaginal dryness, pain during sex, pelvic floor disorders (urine, bowel leakage, pelvic organ prolapse), losing bone mass, and mood swings.

Menopause is mostly genetically predetermined, which means you generally can’t do much to delay it from happening. What we can do is work to counter-balance or prevent the symptoms and effects that tend to develop during menopause.

What You Can Do

Women can do a lot of things to prepare themselves for changes that will come with menopause. These include modifying our lifestyles so we are eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.

Diet and Exercise

Related to diet, women should look into their caloric intake and make adjustments like eating smaller meal portions, and eating a well-balanced diet that includes lots of fiber and protein and less carbohydrates. Avoid eating late at night or snacking, which means no eating two to three hours before bed time.

Take calcium and vitamin D supplements for bone health to prevent osteoporosis. Well-balanced food with decreased caffeine intake also helps to decrease night sweats.

Exercise is one of the most important and modifiable factors that all women must take advantage of. Cardio workouts including walking or jogging three times a week will boost your cardiovascular system and endurance, and also help you control your weight. It’s also important to do weight-bearing exercises regularly to build up bones and prevent osteoporosis.

Kegels

Kegel exercises can help prevent pelvic floor disorders (urine, bowel leakage, pelvic organ prolapse). Kegel exercises should ideally be done every day three times a day. Every woman needs to know how to do Kegel exercises properly. Unfortunately, many women think they do Kegel exercises when, in fact, they do not, because the muscles are hidden inside the body. Your physician should be able to help you with it. You can do long squeezes for 10 seconds, or fast squeezes. This helps to maintain strength and endurance of the pelvic muscles in order to prevent urinary or bowel leakages in the future.

Mental Health

If possible, I recommend having regular sex. It improves vaginal lubrication and helps to prevent vaginal dryness and pain with intercourse. It is also good for your overall mood.
Finally, every women should work on developing a positive attitude, and spending time in a healthy environment helps – for example, taking frequent walks in a park or whatever makes you feel good; finding a way to de-stress and/or control any stress in your life. This will improve your mental health.

Hormone Therapy

Hormonal treatment for early menopause and menopause has been out of favor because of concerns with breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. With that said, it is still gold-standard treatment especially for hot flashes and night sweats. Hormonal therapies could offer significant benefits to women especially those going through early menopause. Talk to your doctor about what is right for you.

Fertility

A woman going through early menopause is still fertile. Unless you don’t have periods at all anymore, there is still a risk that you can get pregnant, so it’s important to use some form of contraception to avoid pregnancy.

Tatiana V. Sanses, MD, is Assistant Professor of Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery at University of Maryland School of Medicine and Director of Outreach Program for Urogynecology at University of Maryland Medical System.

 

 

Child Life Month

How Play is Helping UMMC’s Youngest Patients

By: Colleen Schmidt, System Communications Intern

As many parents know, the hospital can be a scary and unfamiliar place for a child. To help relax these fears, UMMC’s team of child life specialists and assistants use a variety of techniques to help children adjust to the hospital setting. Child life specialists, or CLS, aim to provide a positive and non-traumatic hospital experience for all patients at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital.  UMMC’s Child Life team consists of six CLS and two assistants. They work in the Pediatric Progressive Care Unit (PPCU), Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and the Pediatric ER.

Members of the Child Life Team

 

Play is one technique often used by child life team to help normalize the child’s hospital experience.  Various types of play are thoughtfully used to help children meet developmental milestones, express emotions, and understand their medical situation.  For example, during a practice called medical play, a CLS will provide their patient with a “hospital buddy” or small doll that the child can decorate. Next, with the guidance of a CLS, the child is introduced to medical equipment that they can explore and use on their new hospital buddy.  According to Aubrey Donley, a CLS at the pediatric ER, medical play is helpful in addressing misconceptions the child has about medical equipment.

“It gives them a sense of control and mastery over their hospital experience and over what they’ve been through,” she explains. Medical play empowers patients and allows them to have an active role in their hospitalization. Helping the children understand their environment lessens the chances of confusing or traumatizing them.

In addition to medical play, the child life team uses therapeutic play to help children work through a variety of issues that may accompany hospitalization. Sometimes, children who are hospitalized have experienced severe trauma. Unlike adults, children may not be able to verbalize their feelings. Play is how they express themselves and work through their experiences. For instance, one of Donley’s young patients survived a house fire and used play to understand what happened to him. “He was running around in a fireman costume pretending to put out a fire. For an onlooker, it might seem like he was just playing but we understand he is trying to make sense of the chaos and trauma that he had witnessed,” she explained. Therapeutic play can also help children who are at the hospital for long periods of time meet their physical and cognitive milestones.

With backgrounds in child development, the child life team is able to make individual plans for each child that matches their medical, physical, and emotional needs.  The team advocates for the children they support, and work with an interdisciplinary team of medical professionals to provide a comprehensive plan for that child. Child life specialists also provide educational and emotional support for families. All services provided by the child life team come at no charge to families.


For more information on our child life services please visit: http://umm.edu/programs/childrens/services/inpatient/child-life

Occupational Therapist Brings Holiday Cheer to NICU with Photo Shoot

img_9300-3Just before the holiday season, Lisa Glass, an occupational therapist in The Drs. Rouben and Violet Jiji Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) set up a Christmas photo shoot to show off the festive side of some of our tiniest patients.

Glass, who enjoys photography in her spare time, developed the idea for the photo-shoot as a “cute way to give some nice holiday photos to parents”. Since NICU babies are often among the sickest children in the hospital, and need round the clock medical care, it can be difficult for parents to appreciate the traditional joys of having a newborn. Especially during the first few critical months of life, this can include newborn pictures. Glass and her coworkers wanted to be able to “highlight how beautiful [these] babies are,” and give parents a view of their child in a more upbeat and positive light.

img_9142-3After work hours, Glass and two physical therapy coworkers in the University of Maryland Department of Rehabilitation Services, Laura Evans and Carly Funk, went from room to room, and for four and a half hours, photographed over 30 babies. Following the photography session, Glass edited her pictures, emailed them to parents, and even printed a few copies to surprise parents in their babies’ rooms. Following the photo shoot, she received many happy emails thanking her for what she had done. But for Glass, going above and beyond to show compassion and joy was an easy feat.

“For me, it was a pleasure to interact with the babies and the parents”, said Glass. “Parents are used to seeing their children as sick patients, not as beautiful babies. It’s important to see your patients not just as patients, but as people, too.”

Glass also emphasized the importance of teamwork in this endeavor.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do this without [Laura and Carly’s] help the whole way through.” This NICU trio showcases the importance of working together to bring some extra joy to UMMC.

Glass’ photography serves as a great reminder to see patients as the people they are, and not simply for the medical treatment they are receiving. Although these babies may have breathing tubes and cords surrounding them, they are also enveloped in a multitude of love and support.

trilpets-single-photos



Kathy’s Story: Living Better with Mesothelioma – Possible with the Right Team of Experts

Kathy Ebright was enjoying life with her husband, 2 kids and 7 grandchildren in rural Pennsylvania, when everything changed suddenly.  This is true for thousands of people fighting cancer across the world, but hearing the word “mesothelioma” is not common.

“I went numb, I might have said a few words, but I couldn’t put words together to speak,” Kathy said.

Kathy and her husband, Doug

Almost everyone has been touched by cancer, but Kathy and her husband didn’t know anyone with mesothelioma in their small town of Richfield. They only heard of the disease from commercials for lawyers who specialize in asbestos lawsuits.

Kathy’s mesothelioma was discovered during a scan of her abdomen, which she has regularly to monitor a heart condition.  Her vascular doctor saw unusual spots on her scans, which her primary care doctor and oncologist reviewed, and they determined it was pleural mesothelioma.  This means the cancerous cells are located in the chest cavity, and sometimes the lung.  Usually, those with pleural mesothelioma experience shortness of breath, but Kathy was lucky enough to catch her mesothelioma before experiencing any symptoms.

Kathy’s daughter, Ally, who works with the tumor registry at the Geisinger Medical Center, sprang into action after the initial shock.  They attended tumor boards at Geisinger, where physicians from multiple disciplines (radiation, medical, and surgical oncology) meet to discuss cases.  Kathy’s medical oncologist, Dr. Rajiv Panikkar, suggested to Kathy that she go to the University of Maryland Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center in Baltimore, where she would see a team skilled and experienced in the most novel treatments for mesothelioma.

On December 20, 2015, about a month after her initial diagnosis, Kathy had her first appointment with Dr. Joseph Friedberg, a nationally known expert in mesothelioma and head of thoracic surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Kathy and her family were nervous, but mesothelioma nurse navigator Colleen Norton helped them navigate the unfamiliar and frightening process of a mesothelioma diagnosis.  She made sure they were prepared for their appointment beforehand, and Colleen even handled authorization with their health insurance company.

“We just felt we were along for the ride because Colleen always had everything taken care of,” said Kathy’s husband Doug.

And they were just as impressed with Dr. Friedberg, who was calm, reassuring and explained Kathy’s situation very clearly.

“On the back of his folder, he hand drew a lung to display what was going on with me, and it could’ve been taken right from a textbook it was so good,” Kathy said.

Kathy’s granddaughter, Carleigh, who serves as her main cancer-fighting motivator

They were also impressed with Dr. Friedberg’s tenacity and understanding.  Kathy wanted to spend Christmas with her family, but Dr. Friedberg didn’t want wait too long to perform the lung sparing surgery.

Her surgery was scheduled for January 5, 2016.

Throughout the surgery, Kathy’s family couldn’t have been more comfortable and informed.

“We camped out in the Healing Garden just about the entire time,” Doug said. “Melissa Culligan, Dr. Friedberg’s nurse, was in and out of the operating room, updating us every two hours.  We were never left wondering how Kathy was doing.  We also had the option to call into the operating room if we had any questions.”

During Kathy’s recovery in the hospital, she said the nurses were “phenomenal.”  Colleen also came to see her several times a day, and they added a La-Z-Boy to Kathy’s room so her husband could more comfortably spend the nights with her.

While there is no cure for mesothelioma, yet, Kathy and her family couldn’t be happier to have the UMGCCC team in their corner.  She now returns every 3 months for the next 2 years for check-ups, and Dr. Friedberg describes her scans as “pristine.”

“It’s very reassuring to know we have such caring people looking out for my health,” Kathy said.

Learn more about the Mesothelioma and Thoracic Oncology Treatment Center at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Center by clicking here, or calling 410-328-6366.

Patient and Wife Make Their Own Success Video

It was a scary moment for Jody Wright. Her husband, Carl, needed an aortic valve replacement and the operation was being performed by a surgeon they had just met – Bradley Taylor, MD, MPH.

If the surgery went as planned, Carl could be on the path back to the life he once knew, going on walks and creating stone sculptures. If it went wrong? As Carl puts it, he might have been shaking St. Peter’s hand sooner than planned.

The surgery was a success, and Jody and Carl couldn’t have been more pleased with the care they received from the University of Maryland Medical Center and Dr. Taylor.

Jody, who has a background in film, produced this video to show her appreciation for the life-saving treatment, as well as the support UMMC provided during their stay:

We chatted with Jody to learn more about her time at the University of Maryland and why she produced the video. See her answers here:

Q: Why did you want to make this video?

A: The reason why I wanted to do this video is that I know a lot of people may be going to the UMMC with the same fears and concerns.  I wanted to address the big elephant in the room – that perhaps for a patient at age 60, surgeons wouldn’t be as concerned about your outcome as someone with all their life ahead of them. Continue reading

Living with Mesothelioma: A New Normal

In December of 2007, Timonium resident Jen Blair was pregnant with her second son, Kevin. It was a “very painful pregnancy.” She went to a few doctors, who told her the pain was normal. The pain returned, “worse than ever,” six weeks after giving birth to Kevin.  More doctors. More tests. She was first told she needed laparoscopic surgery, then that she had stage 4 cancer in her abdomen. She was told to get her affairs in order.

It turns out Jen had peritoneal (in the abdomen) mesothelioma, in which cancer cells are found in the membranes around organs in the abdomen. This is very rare — only about 350-500 cases are diagnosed annually in the US – and the five-year survival rate is just 16 percent.

“It was overwhelming,” Blair said.

Now that she knew what she was up against, it was time to find a doctor.
Her brother did an Internet search of the best Mesothelioma doctors, and up popped H. Richard Alexander, MD, an internationally recognized surgical oncologist and clinical researcher at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMGCCC). UMGCCC is only a half hour from her house, but Blair said her choice had much more to do than travel time from home.

“Dr. Alexander’s team was incredibly supportive,” Blair said. “When I called with literally dozens of questions, some of which, thinking back now, were ridiculous, they always took time to give me an answer. That really impressed me.”
Just a week after calling UMGCCC about her condition, Blair met with Dr. Alexander.  After an examination, Dr. Alexander told Blair that she was a candidate for surgery. For surgery to be an option in  treating mesothelioma, it has to be considered a safe operation, and the disease has to be confined to one area. Blair decided to have surgery.

“That one decision changes everything for a patient,” Blair said.  “Not all doctors specializing in mesothelioma have the patient’s best interest at heart.”

Many doctors, Blair said, are motivated by money.  She said she’s heard horror stories from other mesothelioma patients, where doctors demanded an upfront sum of money—sometimes adding up to hundreds of thousands of dollars—before operating.  But not at UMGCCC.

In March 2008, Dr. Alexander performed surgery with HIPEC (hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy), which uses heated chemotherapy in combination with surgery to treat cancers that have spread to the abdomen lining.  While surgery to treat mesothelioma isn’t a cure, Jen’s quality and quantity of life have been greatly improved.

Blair was virtually pain free for more than seven years after the surgery, and was able to spend time with her family, and watch her two sons, Kevin and Nick, as they grew up. She had a second surgery with HIPEC in March 2015, and more than a year later, suffers very few episodes of pain.

While the days are still hard and life won’t ever be normal, Jen says it’s a huge relief having Dr. Alexander and his team in her corner.

“Dr. Alexander is hopeful, but realistic,” Blair said. “That’s important.”

Jen now works as a volunteer at UMGCCC, comforting and supporting other patients going through the same things as her.  She also works closely with the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, which is a non-profit “dedicated to ending mesothelioma and the suffering caused by it, by funding research, providing education and support for patients and their families, and by advocating for federal funding of mesothelioma research.”

Learn more about the Mesothelioma and Thoracic Oncology Treatment Center at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Center by clicking here.

Taking Treatment & a Half Marathon, Together, One Step at A Time

The relationship between a cancer patient and their care provider is a special one.  Between radiation therapy appointments, hours of chemotherapy, and even sometimes surgery and recovery, there’s not much that can strengthen this bond, besides running a half marathon.

Dana and Tiffani

But Tiffani Tyer, a nurse practitioner in Radiation Oncology at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMGCCC), and Dana Deighton’s journey started long before this year’s Maryland Half Marathon & 5K.

About 3 years ago Dana was diagnosed with stage IV esophageal cancer.  At 43 years old with 3 young children, it was, in Dana’s words, “unfathomable.” She traveled up and down the East Coast looking for a treatment plan that would give her the most hope. Many acted like she was naïve and unrealistic for even seeking out treatments beyond palliative chemotherapy.

After much deliberation, Dana settled on a plan of 8 cycles of chemotherapy at one local hospital. During this treatment, a friend introduced Dana to Mohan Suntha, MD, a radiation oncologist at UMGCCC.

Within an hour of getting Dana’s information, Dr. Suntha gave her a call. While he agreed the appropriate preliminary step was chemotherapy, he did not close the door on her like many others.  Dr. Suntha and Dana continued to check in with each other throughout her chemotherapy treatments to see how things were going.

In December 2013, after Dana finished chemotherapy, she learned she would not be considered for radiation or surgery by the hospital where she was initially treated. She was told that the data did not support it. She was devastated. Dana returned to UMGCCC, where Dr. Suntha and Tiffani were always willing to reassess her situation and provide guidance when obstacles seemed insurmountable.  Knowing that every case is different, he agreed to reevaluate her.

tiffani dana and dr sunthaAfter careful consideration and determining that her distant disease had indeed resolved, he offered her local treatment with chemotherapy and radiation targeting the primary site in her esophagus.  While the local treatment helped, the primary site still showed evidence of persistent disease at the end of her treatment.  To try to avoid major thoracic surgery, an endoscopic mucosal resection was attempted, but was unfortunately unsuccessful. Dana was again devastated. She felt like it was just another blow to her journey to health and she was running out of options.

Dr. Suntha and Tiffani encouraged Dana to stay hopeful. They agreed along with many other providers that indeed she was in a difficult position. After many tumor board discussions and repeat imaging studies to confirm her extent of local disease thoracic surgeon Whitney Burrows, MD, was consulted. He discussed surgical salvage to address her only site of cancer.  Albeit risky, with no guarantee of a survival benefit, it was her only remaining local treatment option.  Recognized as a long shot with a real possibility of acute complications related to such a long and complicated surgery, she willingly consented to undergo the esophagectomy. From Dana’s view the benefit far outweighed the risk. She believed in her team and her surgeon, whose expertise is well established in post chemoradiation patients. It proved to be a good choice and offered a huge reward.  Dana recovered well and was cancer free and feeling great–until July 2015.

It was then that a routine interval scan revealed a new lymph node mass in her Axilla (near the armpit) was biopsied and confirmed to be recurrent esophageal cancer.  Dana had resigned herself to more draining rounds of chemotherapy after another surgery could not remove all of the cancer.  But again, Dr. Suntha, Tiffani, and medical oncologist, Dan Zandberg, MD, always made sure all options were presented and considered.

tiffani zandberg and sunthaDana’s case was represented to  their colleagues at a tumor board meeting on the Friday before she was supposed to start chemotherapy.  Drs. Suntha and  Zandberg called her that evening to  recommend  immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of a  patient’s immune system to fight cancer.  After a sleepless night, Dana agreed.   She now receives treatments of Nivolumab every 2 weeks for at least a year.

Dr. Suntha has always recognized that there’s something unusual about Dana’s case, and has often asked, “Is there something different about her biology? We don’t know.”

Dr. Suntha, he also believes that Dana’s strong will and clear ability to advocate for herself has facilitated part of the success of her care.

dana and tiffaniThroughout these three years, Dana describes herself as lucky enough to continue her usual regimen of walking, running, and exercising consistently.  She donated money to the Maryland Half Marathon & 5K to fund cancer research in the past, but feeling much healthier and up to a new challenge, she promised to run it in 2016. She has always ran 10 milers in her hometown of Alexandria, Virginia, but knew those 3 extra miles of hills in the Half Marathon would be challenging.
Despite her reservations, in a partnership with Tiffani, the Radiation Oncology Greene Street Dream Team was born. On May 14th, Tiffani and Dana ran the entire race together (even though, according to Dana, Tiffani could’ve run circles around her).  To date, they’ve raised more than $10,000. They’ve taken every step together in cancer treatment and every step in the half marathon & 5K – a true bond that will continue.

Fundraising for the Maryland Half Marathon and 5K that supports this Radiation Oncology Dream Team and their patients continues until June 30th.

You can donate to Tiffani & Dana’s team here.

UM Children’s Hospital Patient Gives Back in a Big Way

Michelle Kaminaris, a kindergarten teacher at Hampstead Hill Academy in East Baltimore, has seen kids miss school for all kinds of reasons. Like most of us, she never expected her own child to miss school due to a serious illness. But when her daughter Eva (an eighth grader at Hampstead Hill Academy) started showing flu-like symptoms, a trip to the doctor confirmed that Eva would be missing school due to pneumonia.

From there, Eva had more tests and doctors found a tumor on her ovaries. The tumor was removed after an emergency surgery, but she still had to spend time recovering at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital (UMCH). While she endured a slew of poking and prodding and scary medical diagnoses, it was the Child Life team and other skilled nurses at UMCH who made her hospital stay a positive experience.

Group Photo

Eva (fourth from left) and Hampstead Hill Academy’s Kiwanis Builders Club pose with their donation to UMCH

“We had unbelievably phenomenal care. I never had to leave my daughter,” Michelle said. “One of the nurses even gave up his lunch hour to take Eva to play and walk around.”

Post-discharge and feeling better, Eva was determined to give back to the place that took such great care of her. She started looking online for ways to help and found UMCH’s toy wish list.

She sought help from her school’s Kiwanis Builders Club, and recruited some of her friends and classmates to help. The club, seven members strong, started planning fundraisers, bake sales, art supply and Band-Aid drives, and a paint night.

Shannon Joslin Builders Club

Shannon Joslin, Child Life Manager, describes the Child Life Program to the Hampstead Hill Academy Kiwanis Builders Club

The students stayed after school one day to stretch the canvases for the paint night by hand and helped cook food for the event. Thirty-five families came out after school to support the club and raise money for the cause.

The club went shopping for items on the UMCH wish list with the money from the fundraisers. They picked out high-demand items like DVDs, video games, building block sets and card games, all which they personally delivered to the hospital.

As Eva heads to high school, she wants to ensure that this is not a one-time donation. Even if she can’t start the club at her new high school, she plans to keep in touch and continue giving back to UMCH. Michelle’s youngest child, inspired by Eva’s involvement and by UMCH’s great care, plans continue the family tradition and join the Hampstead Hill Builders Club next year.

Many thanks to the Hampstead Hill Academy’s Kiwanis Builders Club! Your continued support of the Children’s Hospital ensures we have the resources available to make every patient’s stay comfortable and fun.

Learn more about the Child Life Program and meet the team.

Interested in giving to the Children’s Hospital? Here’s how you can help.


 

My Journey

By: Madhu Thibaudeau

When I was 13 years old, my mom got very sick and was in the hospital. After many days in the hospital, we found out she had a genetic disease that destroys kidney tissue function over time. The disease is called Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD).  Our family took care of her as she underwent many tests, and a kidney transplant in 1984. Since then, my brother and I have watched our mom endure many hardships, including a second transplant (in 1992) that has lasted over 20 years (first one only lasted 8 years). My brother donated the second kidney to her, and it was at that point that I knew I would one day face the same fate she did.

Madhu and Roger Thibaudeau

Madhu and her husband, Roger, before her transplant and his donor surgery

I found out in my 20s that I had PKD as well. I researched about PKD and tried to live my life as best as I could, given the news. I took care of myself, ate a proper diet and exercised, knowing I would eventually need a transplant.

Fast forward to 2014, I had completed my transplant evaluation and was contacting friends and family for a living donor. In an unlikely place, a good friend’s husband wanted to get tested and we ending up matching a week before Christmas. What a gift!!

I had the transplant at the University of Maryland Medical Center in February 2015. We both recovered quickly and things seemed to go well, until I got a fever in mid-April. Only 2 ½ months after the transplant, what started out as a fever turned into my worst nightmare.

The new kidney wasn’t working and over 15 doctors were desperately trying to find out why this happened. It wasn’t rejection. After many tests and 2 weeks in the hospital, the only result was that the new kidney had developed microscopic blood clots that reduced blood flow.  No one at UMMC had ever seen this before, thus placing me in a very rare group of undiagnosed patients.

From April to August 2015, I was hospitalized 7 times. In that time, I had to start dialysis, have the donor kidney removed in June and had lots of other health issues that landed me in the ER. It was definitely stressful and depressing. My family was enduring along with me, and the worst was for my two teenage boys. Each time I was in the hospital, it would be for at least a week, and they had a hard time understanding why this was happening.

I will never forget August 5th, 2015. Dialysis equipment was being setup in my house, and my husband came home and told me promising news. He had signed up to be a Paired Donor in the University of Maryland Paired Kidney Exchange Program. Since he wasn’t a match for me, he would donate his kidney to someone, and I would get a kidney from someone that matched me. He told me he got a call about a kidney chain of 12 people and that we may fit into it. We both got additional testing done and waited to hear if this would work out. I tried not to get too invested because I knew many things could break the chain (if someone got sick, the chain could be cancelled) with multiple people involved.

Luck was with me because on August 26th, I got my second kidney transplant only 6 months after the first one. The second transplant involved removing my original kidneys, so it was a complex surgery.

Today I can happily report that I am doing great! Due to the first transplant complications, I am on the world’s most expensive drug, eculizumab, to prevent blood clots in the kidney. I receive an infusion twice a month for now to keep the kidney running smoothly. University of Maryland is conducting research and collecting information about this drug with me, in hopes of gaining knowledge if ever my situation arises with another patient.

Having endured the worst year of my life, I can honestly say I learned a lot about myself. I faced things that I never expected too, at times felt like giving up, and wasn’t sure it would all be OK. By having loving family and friends support me, I was able to make it through and have a deeper appreciation for life.

But I have to say, what impressed me most was the dedication of my doctors [at the University of Maryland Medical Center] who spent many long hours, weeks and months to help me each step of the way. I know I would not have been able to get through this without them. I’m specifically appreciative of Dr. Eugene Schweitzer, Dr. Matthew Weir and Dr. Beje Thomas, not to mention the fantastic nurses, technicians and hospital dialysis staff. They took care of me like I was part of their family. For that and so much more, I will be forever grateful. I would recommend to all who are in need of a transplant to visit University of Maryland.

I’ve learned that this disease doesn’t have to encompass my entire life. This is only a small part of who I am, and I won’t let this dictate the happiness I can find throughout my life. For those reading this, I hope this give you comfort and peace knowing that although this journey maybe long and arduous, it doesn’t have to feel like the end.  It’s just the beginning of great things to come.


 

To learn more about UMMC’s Transplant Center and the Paired Kidney Exchange Program, visit our website. To make an appointment, call: 410-328-5408.

Double Divas Visit UMMC Breast Center

The Breast Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) welcomed two very special guests on Wednesday, September 16: Lifetime TV’s “Double Divas,” Molly Hopkins and Cynthia Decker of LiviRae Lingerie, offered their unique custom bra fittings to the women of Maryland. The event was sponsored by the Department of Diagnostic Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, with a portion of proceeds donated to the Breast Center. Each woman in attendance received a bra fitting and LiviRae Lingerie merchandise.

Big-name stores simply don’t carry the array of sizes most women need, which makes bra shopping difficult and the final purchase disappointing. Even with tape-measured fittings, many stores sell women incorrect sizes. LiviaRae Lingerie is working hard to change the way women shop for bras. With a visual fitting, backed by years of product knowledge and experience, customers are sent away with a great-fitting bra and often a new perspective on undergarments.

To give back, Molly and Cynthia offered free bra fittings to several breast cancer fighters and survivors. As they waited for their turns, they shared their breast cancer stories. Linda Adamson, a 49-year-old woman living with stage IV metastatic breast cancer, was in good spirits and rocking some seriously stylish heels. She credits her optimism to her family, who is her biggest support system.

Linda PosingWomen like Linda who live in the Baltimore area have another support system too: The Baltimore City Cancer Program (BCCP), a community-based initiative of the UM Greenebaum Cancer Center that seeks to reduce the city’s rates of cancer morbidity and develop a framework for delivering cancer care to uninsured and underinsured populations. BCCP also provides free breast and cervical cancer screenings. Linda is a beneficiary of BCCP’s services. Her treatment, which included chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, was completely covered.

Linda’s turn finally came, and Molly and Cynthia set her up in the dressing room with a few options to try on. When she emerged, Linda triumphantly threw her old bra into the trash can. “This bra fits like a dream—and it‘s cute too! I finally feel like myself again,” she raved.

Each woman left confident, comfortable and with a smile on her face. We’ll consider this visit from the Double Divas a much-needed mid-week lift.

Group Shot Double Divas