UVA Health System Blog

Stories about the patients, staff and services of UVA


Maternity Monday: Sleep Schedules for Moms and Babies

On June 29, 2015 | At 10:37 am

Giving birth puts your body through a lot of trauma, and the baby has gone through an ordeal as well. Your body needs to relax! It may go without saying, but don’t make big plans in the days and weeks following baby’s arrival. Sleep is a priority! Visitors may come and go, but it’s OK to tell people it’s time to relax and ask them to come back another time.

Mommy and Baby Need Sleep

The new baby needs a lot of sleep, anywhere between 16 to 20 hours per day, says pediatrician Heather Quillian, MD. The baby’s sleep schedule will be disjointed and erratic, and you may not be able to predict when the baby will sleep. Your baby will only be comfortably awake for an hour or two at a time.

preconception, pregnancy and childbirth

Join us as we journey through preconception, pregnancy, childbirth and beyond in a series we call Maternity Monday.

Baby will let you know when they are sleepy. Watch for certain signs:

  • Yawning
  • Rubbing eyes
  • Fussing
  • Acting fidgety

Don’t be alarmed if baby sleeps for more than a few hours at a time, but remember your baby will need to eat every several hours, Quillian says, don’t allow or expect your new baby to sleep a full nights sleep (8 hours or more). If this is the baby’s sleeping habit, consult your pediatrician.

Mommy needs sleep, too. Doctors recommend lying down and resting every time baby sleeps, even if you don’t fall asleep. Your body has gone through a lot and needs time to recover. Pregnancy prepares you for a lack of sleep, Quillian points out. It’s rare to sleep through the night at nine months pregnant, and in the first months of baby’s life, mommy and daddy shouldn’t expect a full night’s sleep either.

Getting on a Sleep Schedule

Quillian admits it’s hard to get baby on a sleep schedule until about four months of age. A new baby doesn’t really understand the concept of daytime and nighttime, just that they feel tired and want to sleep. Don’t try to keep baby awake through the daylight hours to ensure they sleep longer at night. It won’t work and you will likely have a fussy baby.

A baby's crib or bassinet should have absolutely nothing in it. "Make it boring," says Dr. Quillian

A baby’s crib or bassinet should have absolutely nothing in it. “Make it boring,” says Dr. Quillian

During the early days and weeks, be sure to cuddle and snuggle your baby as much as you can. “There is no such thing as too much spoiling,” says Quillian. Baby loves to be held and needs the human interaction. The snuggling will help baby feel comforted and will promote sleep.

Baby may sleep as long as four hours at a time, but it may not be at night. It’s easier to adjust our schedule than to try to adjust theirs.

If you try to implement a sleep schedule too early, you may feel like you’re spinning your wheels, and, in fact, even at four months old, baby may not catch on. After a few months though, you can start a routine that implies to baby that it’s nighttime and time to sleep:

  • Keep your household at a manageable noise level during the day and quieter at night.
  • Turn the lights down low at nighttime.
  • Change baby into pajamas.

Remember, sleep promotes sleep, and babies may not learn how to sleep on a schedule if left to do their own thing. Do not leave them to their own devices, Quillian warns. With help from parents they will learn slowly over time that nighttime is sleep time. Getting a baby into a good sleep pattern can take some work, but it is worth it, Quillian advises. A good night’s sleep benefits everyone.

SIDS, Sleep and Safety

There is plenty of information out there regarding baby sleep safety and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) prevention. “Make sure there is a firm sleep surface; that’s the most important thing,” says Quillian. “A crib or bassinet will do. There should be nothing in it. No blankets, no pillows.”

Quillian adds that baby should be laid on his or her back, and pediatricians at UVA do not recommend any sleep positioners. It’s okay, she adds, to be swaddled in a light blanket or sleep sack, but keep the crib as boring as possible. All the things that make your bed cozy are an absolute no-no for your baby.

Having a new baby at home will be intimidating, and you may be worried about baby sleeping too much or too little. If you have any concerns, be sure to call your pediatrician.


#MyHospital: Sharing How UVA Gives Back [VIDEO]

On May 15, 2015 | At 9:51 am

“What does my hospital bring to the community?” Last week, the American Hospital Association encouraged hospitals to answer this question through videos and photos and share on social media.

We talked to four Health System employees with vastly different jobs. Watch what they had to say.

Filed under : Nursing,The People of UVA | By
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Watch MLK Day at the Health System [VIDEO]

On January 23, 2015 | At 9:11 am

For many, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was more than a holiday from work and school. Middle and high school students spent their afternoon learning about health care careers, even getting some hands-on practice in the School of Nursing’s simulation center.

Afterward, UVA hosted a program on diversity in healthcare education, featuring guest speaker Marc A. Nivet, chief diversity officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges. Congratulations to nursing school dean Dorrie K. Fontaine, who received the Health System’s 2015 Martin Luther King, Jr. Award.

Watch us celebrate MLK Day:

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Patricia Conant Saves Choking Victim By Performing Heimlich Maneuver

On January 22, 2015 | At 10:10 am

It was an average day in the hospital cafeteria for Pat Conant and her coworker, Marie Spilman. That was, of course, until they noticed a man stand up and appear to be regurgitating. He did not grasp at his throat but instead, experienced one particular characteristic of a choking victim.

While choking, the body produces extra saliva in an attempt to lubricate the lodged item — a telltale sign Conant had seen before. A nurse practitioner with over 20 years of experience, her instincts sent her into action. She feared she wasn’t strong enough, but in a matter of seconds and three pumps under the man’s breastbone, the emergency was over.

Place fist under the breastbone and press into the abdomen with a quick, upward thrust

Before coming to UVA’s Advanced Cardiac Valve Center, Conant worked in cardiology, interventional radiology and the ER. She also gained experience performing the Heimlich maneuver in two other emergency situations. “I’ve done the Heimlich three times. Many people have never done it before, ever, even healthcare professionals,” she says.

Bystander Intervention Act On Your Instinct

Conant, Spilman and their coworker, Kanwar Singh, MD, were the first responders in the cafeteria that day. Conant recalls knocking over a chair on her way to the man’s side, making noise and alerting others to the scene. But reactions from the onlookers went unnoticed as she blocked out all background noise and focused on the task at hand.

“I knew what was happening, so I just ran over and did the Heimlich,” says Conant nonchalantly. Although she understands the impact of her actions, she knows it was just what she was meant to do. “I think anyone would have done it, I really do. I’m not any hero,” she says.

The three coworkers agree the situation would have been more difficult if the man had been sitting or fallen to the floor. Conant was thankful for the support of Spilman and Singh by her side. They later found out that the 32-year-old man has a young baby with another on the way. “Somehow he found me and wrote me an email and said, ‘Thanks for saving my life,’” she says.

After the incident, others approached Conant praising her actions. She received an award from her managers and staff recognizing her. Dr. Heimlich, the patented inventor of the maneuver, even personally mentioned her in a tweet!

Steps to Perform the Heimlich Maneuver

There are a few variations for performing the Heimlich maneuver. However, there really isn’t an incorrect way. And for those worried about hurting the individual? Well, you should be covered under the Good Samaritan Law, which offers legal protection to those who give reasonable assistance to ill or incapacitated individuals.

Choking can happen to anyone, anywhere. Conant strongly urges everyone to become CPR certified and know how to perform the Heimlich. Meat is the most common type of choking hazard and usually occurs when an individual is eating quickly and taking large bites. The American Heart Association technique:

    1. Stand behind the person. Wrap your arms around their waist. Tip the person forward slightly
    2. Make a fist with one hand. Position it slightly above the person’s navel, underneath the breastbone and avoiding any ribs.
    3. Grasp the fist with the other hand. Press hard into the abdomen with a quick, upward thrust — as if trying to lift the person up.
    4. Perform a total of five abdominal thrusts. If the blockage doesn’t dislodge, repeat the cycle.

 Get Yourself CPR Certified

Check out what is available in your community. Local Red Cross and rescue squad affiliates offer various health and safety training programs. UVA offers the Heartsaver First-Aid overview class with the optional inclusion of a CPR certification. UVA’s Heartsaver CPR AED Course teaches individuals:

    • How to perform adult, child and infant CPR
    • How to use an automatic external defibrillator (AED)
    • Hot to perform the Heimlich maneuver

So, take a class and be prepared! And don’t be afraid to use your knowledge in case of emergency. You never know when it can come in handy — it just might be while taking a casual lunch break with a friend.


Watch A Children’s Hospital Patient Light Our Tree [VIDEO]

On December 17, 2014 | At 9:47 am

Santa and 2-year-old Children’s Hospital patient Wes Chang co-starred at last week’s Lights of Love celebration, an annual tradition to ring in the holiday season. We also had guest appearances from:

  • RN Anna Dietrich-Covington
  • Hospital chaplain Yoshiya Takahashi
  • Medical Center CEO Pamela Sutton-Wallace
  • The Charlottesville High School choirs

Watch us celebrate!


Who Lives Well? Understanding What Makes People Flourish

On July 14, 2014 | At 9:58 am

While some people thrive throughout their lifetimes, other struggle.

Peggy Kern, postdoctoral fellow at University of Pennsylvania

Peggy Kern, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, researches well-being.

Peggy Kern, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, wants to know why.

Her research seeks to answer fundamental questions she posed to UVA employees during a recent presentation.

“How can we understand who lives a healthier life than others?” she asks. “How can we help people live the best life they can within whatever circumstances they have?”

To answer those questions, it’s important to adopt a lifespan perspective, or in other words, understand “where a person’s been, where they are now and where they’re going,” Kern says.

Extraverted? Agreeable? Linking Personality and Health

Using the Terman Life Cycle Study, Kern looked at how five personality traits — extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and intellect — are linked to a person’s health and well-being over time.

The Terman study began in 1922 with 1,528 gifted children. It followed up with the participants in intervals of five to ten years throughout their lives, building a comprehensive collection of interviews and questionnaires about a wide array of topics.

Kern found elements of the participants’ personalities at age 30 predicted measures of wellbeing 45 years later at age 75.

For example, those high in extraversion and agreeableness at age 30 reported higher levels of social competence and subjective well-being at age 75.

Kern also found that conscientiousness predicted longer life, which prompted to her combine the results of 20 studies with more than 9,000 participants that measured both traits.

“It wasn’t always significant, but it was always protective,” she says. “Conscientiousness had a stronger effect than socioeconomic status or intelligence. It produced a two to four year difference in when people died.”

Kern also found other ways that personality influenced well-being in the Terman study participants:

  • People who were more successful in their careers tended to live longer, but conscientiousness made a difference: Unsuccessful but highly conscientious people also had a lower mortality risk.
  • Men who scored high in neuroticism were less active than men who scored lower, but neuroticism made no difference for women.

“Oftentimes we look at someone at a single point in time and try to tell them what to do,” Kern says. “But that doesn’t take into account who they are as a person and where they are in their life journey. Understanding that is important.”

By looking at personality, “we can start to tailor things in ways that are going to better fit with intervention and hopefully be more effective,” Kern says.

“When personality is ignored, interventions can be shortsighted, wasting precious time, energy, and resources,” she says.

Well-being: Lack of Disease or Something More?

At the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center, Kern’s work is part of a shift in focus from traditional psychology’s mission to eradicate mental illness to positive psychology.

“In positive psychology, we’re saying neutral is not enough,” she says. “We want people to thrive. We focus on what’s going good in life and how we can start to build more of that.”

Kern’s latest work has focused on social and mental well-being, specifically “how we can use measures as a way to shift some of these perspectives,” she says.

The first step to improving well-being is to measure it, Kern says.

“We measure what we value and we value what we measure,” she says.

To that end, Kern worked with other well-being experts to develop a brief questionnaire to measure five areas of well-being — positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment.

They also developed a similar measure for adolescents.

“Using the measures, we can compare things, gain insight and provide a metric of change,” Kern says.

In recent studies, Kern measured well-being in the workplace and in general.

“Feeling engaged and positive relationships with coworkers were most important for job satisfaction,” she says. “For life satisfaction, a sense of meaning was much more important.”

Kern also recently partnered with linguists and computer scientists to look at “big data” from social media.

The studies revealed that the words people use correlate to personality traits, life satisfaction, and likelihood of disease.

Overall, Kern has an important goal for her research.

“We hope to figure out who lives well and help more people do that,” she says.

Get more information about Kern’s research.

Tips for Your Wisdom and Well-Being

Kern’s presentation was the first in the Wisdom and Well-being Speaker Series, sponsored jointly by the Center for Appreciative Practice, School of Nursing and Mindfulness Center.

“This series is intended to start a conversation across our health system about how we can become our very best selves together,” says Dorrie Fontaine, dean of the UVA School of Nursing. “We want wisdom and well-being to be a signature of the health system.”

Presentations are free and include lunch.

View additional dates and speakers in the series.

Filed under : Events,Healthy Living,Nursing,Research | By
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7 Quick Questions: Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Mary E. Thompson

On February 20, 2014 | At 10:34 am

Ever wonder what your doctor or health provider does outside the exam room? Our 7 Quick Questions series gives you a personal glimpse into the people of UVA.

Mary E. Thompson, RN, CPNP, PhD, is a pediatric nurse practitioner.

image of pediatric NP Mary E. Thompson

Pediatric nurse practitioner Mary E. Thompson works with teens who have epilepsy.

What did you want to be when you were little?

My father was a surgeon and my mother was a nurse. It was expected that I would go into medicine, like my older brother, because I did well in school. However, I knew early on that I was not attracted to the biomedical aspects of care. Beginning with my first baby-sitting jobs, I was interested in promoting healthy children and families.

I became a pediatric nurse practitioner early on in my career, which was a perfect role for me in that our training and focus of care is in optimizing and supporting children’s health. In 2010, I completed my PhD in nursing through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at UVA. My dissertation was a qualitative study of parent feeding practices as a risk factor for childhood obesity. It is fun to see how I carried through with my original interest in promoting healthy children.

Where’s your favorite place to travel?

My family and I love to camp in Maine – the Bar Harbor area. In the summer, the weather is perfect for camping. There are beautiful hikes, beaches, biking trails, and the town of Bar Harbor has great restaurants. As a college student, my father worked summers at the Asticou Inn and told us wonderful stories about the area. One of my favorites is hiking around Jordan Pond and stopping at the Jordan Pond House for tea and warm popovers.  Jordan Pond is now part of Acadia National Park, and you can still enjoy tea and popovers while overlooking the beautiful scenery.

What’s one thing you always have in your fridge?

I always have skim milk in my fridge. I am a tea fanatic and cannot drink tea without milk. Skim milk is also a great way to quench your thirst and hunger.

What’s the most unhealthy thing you eat?

Candy – I love candy. The American Heart Association recently issued recommendations for adults to limit added sugars to 100–150 calories per day. So, that is my New Year’s resolution.

Why pediatric neurology?

I first worked in the Department of Pediatric Neurology in 2009 as a clinical care coordinator. It is a fascinating population to work with and a perfect area for my interest in optimizing health of children and families. In 2012, I joined the group as a pediatric nurse practitioner. We have a dynamic group of providers, and there is much work to be done, in both clinical practice and research, to improve the health and well-being of children with epilepsy, migraine headaches, post concussive syndrome and other pediatric neurological disorders.

What’s the most exciting thing/research happening in your field right now?

I am working with Dr. Jennifer Langer, who is developing a clinic that focuses on the specialized health care needs of adolescents with epilepsy. This specialty clinic will help prepare adolescents to become independent in managing their care. We are also working with Debora Morley, RN, who is an integral part of the patient education. I am currently developing a study where we’ll meet with adolescents through focus groups to hear their questions, needs and concerns, so that we can better tailor our care.

Who’s your inspiration/hero?

My hero is my dad. He is a great role model in living a productive and happy life. He has always been my great supporter and yet one of my most valued critics! My dad is 88 years old now and struggles with health issues. I am still learning from him – that with challenges in life, your attitude is what counts. He has a wonderful way of maintaining balance and serenity through it all.


10 Most Popular Blog Posts of 2013: Larry Sabato, Restless Leg Syndrome and Surviving Breast Cancer

On December 30, 2013 | At 10:31 am

The most popular blog posts of 2013 were a diverse group, although many shared themes of exciting research and dedicated caregivers.

1. Larry Sabato: His Experience With High-Risk Pancreatic Cancer Clinic [VIDEO]. The well-known UVA professor discussed the history of pancreatic cancer in his family, and why he chose UVA for his own care.

2. Restless Leg Syndrome: A Creepy, Crawly Sensation and Sleepless Nights. A UVA doctor told us more about this common condition, how it’s treated and how those who suffer from it can finally get some rest.

3. When the Provider Becomes the Patient: A Nurse’s Breast Cancer Story. UVA nurse Donna Markey told us about the experience of becoming a patient at UVA after being diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.

4. Happy Thanksgiving! A Pediatric Nurse’s Story [VIDEO]. Children’s Hospital nurse Nancy Addison told us about taking care of a boy who came to UVA with a brain and spine injury.

5. Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease: Supplement Chiro-inositol May Help. We learned about exciting research that may have implications for the prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Alden Moreton

12-year-old Alden Moreton, who collapsed from cardiac arrest

6. Preventing Teen Pregnancy. Mary Sullivan of the Teen Health Center told us about teen pregnancy and what measures could be taken to prevent teen pregnancies.

7. In a Heartbeat: Alden’s Cardiac Arrest Story. We learned about a healthy 12-year-old boy who went into cardiac arrest while running a 5k race.

8. The Necessity of Sleep: Why Your Teen Isn’t Lazy and Your Kids Aren’t Crazy. UVA doctor Pearl Yu told us all about teenagers and sleep.

9. 7 Quick Questions: Dr. John Jane Jr. Readers loved hearing more about UVA neurosurgeon John Jane.

10. Glioblastoma: Deadly Cancer, Meet Your Match. New research from UVA suggested that there may be a new and effective treatment for brain tumors.


After the Hospital: Supporting Breastfeeding Moms

On June 14, 2013 | At 8:00 am

I will never forget what it was like going home from the hospital after the birth of my first child. It was a bit of a shock to be alone and clueless in my house after the comforting environment of supportive, experienced nurses who helped me care for and feed myself and my infant. That first sleepless night, while I was glad to be home, I also wished I could be whisked back.

A tired mother finds breastfeeding her baby challenging.I’m not the only one who’s experienced this post-hospital helplessness, especially when it comes to breastfeeding. Many new mothers are still in the process of figuring out breastfeeding when discharged and, when challenges occur at home, discouragement sets in. Many give up.

The Breastfeeding Drop-Off

And this is fairly typical behavior. About 75 percent of babies breastfeed at birth, but six months later only 13 percent are still exclusively breastfeeding.

Clearly, support – or the lack of it – is key. “A gap exists for extending care for breastfeeding mothers following hospital discharge,” says Sharon Corriveau. She’s a recent graduate of UVA’s School of Nursing doctoral program whose research project on this issue garnered her the Outstanding Capstone Project Award last year.

For her project, Corriveau wanted to see if added support would improve the outcomes.

“I was very excited to be able to apply the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Clinical Protocol, ‘Breastfeeding-Friendly Physician’s Office,’ within my pediatric primary care setting, and to then evaluate its effectiveness.”

Help With Breastfeeding… Helps

The result? The research, which was published in the May issue of Pediatrics, found that “providing support in a setting mothers are already expected to visit, the pediatrician’s office, creates an environment where support can be accessed. Pairing lactation consultant services with pediatricians creates a team with shared intentions and removes barriers to care for breastfeeding families,” Corriveau explains. That is, it worked: they found “ increased initiation rates and exclusive breastfeeding rates after implementation of the ABM’s breastfeeding-friendly protocol.”

The research – and the attention it’s received – has provided a host of ways that healthcare providers can encourage breastfeeding. Emily Drake, PhD, RN, CNL, associate professor at the UVA School of Nursing, notes how Corriveau’s practice added “lactation rooms where families can meet with the lactation consultant during their routine visits or anytime. We now have this at UVA too! It’s part of the Breastfeeding Medicine Program.”

Drake adds, “I think the bottom line is there is a lot more we can do at the hospital and in the clinic to support breastfeeding moms starting before they deliver and after—and it does make a difference.”

Struggling with breastfeeding? The Breastfeeding Medicine Program can help.

You can also:


When the Provider Becomes the Patient: A Nurse’s Breast Cancer Story

On April 11, 2013 | At 11:30 am

Donna Markey, RN, MSN, ACNP-CS, is a nurse practitioner at UVA’s Hope Cancer Care Augusta in Fishersville, where she teaches patients about the chemotherapy process, tests and other aspects of their condition, writes prescriptions and helps patients manage side effects and symptoms. She enjoys the opportunity the job gives her to spend time with her patients and explain often-difficult topics.

“It meant the world to me to have them take care of me,” UVA nurse practitioner Donna Markey says of her coworkers.

“It meant the world to me to have them take care of me,” UVA nurse practitioner Donna Markey says of her coworkers. (Photo courtesy of Karen Pape)

But on April 18, 2012, Markey became a patient herself when she felt a lump under her right arm. “I knew immediately I was in trouble,” she says. She went to work and told her coworkers. She had an ultrasound and a biopsy that day, and two days later was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. Chemotherapy started about a week later.

Markey’s oncologist was Maya Ghaemmaghami, MD, who works with her. “It was natural for me to get care from the people I know best and who I know and trust,” says Markey, who’s worked at Hope Augusta since 2009. “It was natural for me to seek their guidance and support and go where I was the most comfortable.”

And she didn’t really have a choice. “They would’ve been mad at me if I went somewhere else,” she laughs.

Breast Cancer Treatment

Over the nine months following her diagnosis, Markey’s cancer was treated with chemotherapy, surgery and radiation.


The first step was chemotherapy: Six treatments, three weeks apart, each for 6 ½ hours. Markey took off the Fridays she had chemotherapy and came to work late the following Mondays. A flexible work schedule allowed her the time to recover from the chemo. “They were happy to adjust my hours for me. I was tired. By the end of 18 weeks, you’re exhausted.”

Markey chose to get chemotherapy at Hope Cancer Care Charlottesville. “I didn’t have to get chemotherapy sitting next to one of my own patients or with the staff who I work with every day.

“I just figured it was stressful enough for them. When I was first diagnosed and I went around telling everybody, they were devastated. I love them and they love me and I just knew how hard that was going to be for them potentially if I had a problem or I got sick.” She still got her blood work and other tests at work.

Mastectomies, Breast Reconstruction

Markey had surgery in October 2012 — bilateral mastectomies with immediate breast reconstruction. While she thought she only had cancer in one breast, doctors discovered it in both breasts during surgery (her type of cancer, lobular, doesn’t show up well on a mammogram). One month later, she had lymph node surgery.

Radiation Treatment

After the surgeries, Markey went back to work in early December and started 5½ weeks of radiation therapy the following week. Her radiation treatments were five days a week at the Moser Radiation Therapy Center in Ivy and lasted about 15 minutes each.

Side Effects of Cancer Treatment

Cancer treatment takes its toll on a patient’s body and Markey was no different. Toward the end of her chemotherapy treatment, she experienced nausea, hair loss, digestive problems and swollen feet. “It was August. It was hot and my feet were swollen. By the end of the day I could barely stand to walk on them anymore.”

The chemo also left her with sore feet, which was tough because she spends a lot of time on her feet at work. Radiation therapy came with its own side effects. Seven days after it was over, her skin blistered and peeled and she had second-degree burns under her arm. “That was pretty painful,” she admits.

Continuing to work while experiencing those symptoms couldn’t have been easy, but, as Markey herself says: “I am pretty tough.”

And today, thankfully, most of her symptoms are gone.

“I feel good. I have stiffness and there’s a lot of scar tissue [from surgery]. You constantly have to stretch to keep things loose and keep being able to move. But my skin has healed from the radiation already and my energy is good.”

Donna Markey, RN, MSN, ACNP-CS, is a nurse practitioner at UVA’s Hope Cancer Care Augusta. In April 2012, she became a patient when she felt a lump under her right arm.

Donna Markey, RN, MSN, ACNP-CS, is a nurse practitioner at UVA’s Hope Cancer Care Augusta. In April 2012, she became a patient when she felt a lump under her right arm. (Photo courtesy of Karen Pape)

Cancer Free

The surgery removed Markey’s cancer, and the radiation and chemotherapy treatments were intended to prevent a future occurrence. She’s cancer free now. “And we hope that I stay that way,” she says.

Taking Control with Alternative Therapies

While it’s clear that Markey is naturally a tough woman, she also credits part of her ability to withstand her cancer treatment and those side effects to complementary and alternative therapies she says helped give her good energy and support her immune system.

“I think that’s why I’ve done as well as I’ve done. People look at me and they can’t believe I’ve been through the last nine months. I think that had a big part.”

Dietary Changes

Markey changed her diet significantly, changes she intends to stick with:

  • She stopped eating most dairy, except yogurt.
  • She gave up sugar.
  • She limited animal protein and fat.

She also ate a lot of fruits and vegetables and juiced when she couldn’t eat solid foods due to nausea.


Markey did Pilates before her diagnosis and continued to do so during her treatment. She’s also incorporated yoga into her exercise regime.


Markey also used acupuncture to help deal with nausea and give herself more energy.


Her husband, Kevin, had a massage therapist come to their Crozet home the night before each chemotherapy appointment for a full-body massage. “That was amazing and it just helped me relax and be calm and peaceful about the whole thing.”

Markey encourages her patients to try these alternative therapies. “If they don’t think of it, I recommend it. More and more patients ask about those kinds of things, and they’re all very interested in my experience.”

Caring Coworkers

In addition to the flexible work schedule Markey had during her illness, her coworkers helped in other ways. “Everybody picked up the slack for me.” Markey notes that the other nurse practitioner in her office, Kathleen Haden, RN, MSN, ANP-C, took on a lot of her work, as did doctors at the practice. “They just made it happen.”

And her coworkers helped her outside the office, too. They offered to cook for her, but she didn’t want that because of her dietary changes, so she mentioned she’d like to have someone weed her garden. “In one afternoon, they completely weeded and mulched my entire yard. It was amazing,” she says, tears welling in her eyes.

And when she arrived home from the hospital after her surgery, she was greeted by a lovely surprise. “They had decorated my front porch for Halloween with pumpkins and mums. Just really sweet things. I have awesome coworkers.”

Connecting with Her Patients, Facing Cancer

Markey’s experience has given her a new perspective when it comes to working with her patients, many of whom have sent her cards or letters.

“I don’t think I had a problem with credibility before, but when they understand that you understand what they’ve been through, they listen to you differently. It has a different impact on them.”

She hopes to work on survivorship issues, especially looking at how to best help patients after their treatment is complete. “You are on a treadmill for nine months. When the treadmill stops, you say, ‘What now?’ Obviously I have a lot of insight into that, but the general patient doesn’t. My hope for the future is to be able to continue to share that information and help patients as they face their cancer.”

Do you know a cancer survivor with a story to tell? We’d love to hear it! Share with us below.