Enjoy a Healthier You through Lifestyle Improvements and Self-Care

A healthier body, mind and spirit are goals many of us strive to reach. However, the pressures of daily life make can it difficult for many women, or the women in your life, to achieve these aims. Trying to do it all — maintain a successful career, sustain stable relationships, raise children, care for aging parents — can take a serious toll on your physical and emotional health.

Therefore, it’s important that women take the time and make the effort to focus on themselves without feelings of guilt. Mercy Health would like to encourage you to take the necessary steps to jump-start positive lifestyle changes by taking better care of all aspects of your well-being.

Lifestyle modification can consist of a variety of strategies such as healthier eating, exercise and physical activity, getting adequate sleep, reducing stress and spiritual fulfillment. However, it’s important to remember that no two women are the same and you should tailor whatever strategies you use to your own life and goals.

Ensuring that you get enough physical activity will go a long way toward improving your overall quality of life. Although the benefits of physical activity far outweigh the possibility of adverse outcomes, you should still start gradually and perform the types of physical activity that are appropriate for your current fitness level. However, because we are designed to use our bodies and inactivity can be a contributing factor to many health issues, you should strive to meet the following recommendations:

  • Do at least 150 minutes (two hours and 30 minutes) per week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (one hour and 15 minutes) per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity.
  • Perform muscle-strengthening activities that are moderate or high intensity and involve all major muscle groups on two or more days a week.
  • Do activities that you enjoy, be it weightlifting, walking, yoga, swimming and biking because almost any exercise is helpful.

Women’s busy schedules can sometimes make it difficult to eat correctly. Proper nutrition is a key component of any strategy to live healthier. Keep these guidelines in mind when planning your meals:

  • Eat three meals a day. Meals should consist primarily of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts.
  • Control portion sizes. Take time to enjoy smaller amounts of food.
  • Limit foods high in salt, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and added sugar.
  • If you drink alcohol, drink it in moderation — up to one drink a day for women.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking enough water.

Poll results of all adults have shown women are more likely than men to have difficulty falling and staying asleep and to experience more daytime sleepiness at least a few nights/days a week. Additionally, new research shows that when women lose sleep, they’re at higher risk for diabetes, heart disease and depression. Here are a few tips to help you get a better night’s rest:

  • Establish a regular sleep/wake cycle. Avoid taking naps, which can make falling asleep more difficult.
  • Make your bedroom an inviting place. However, avoid using the bed for watching TV, eating or working.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine as these things can make it difficult to fall or stay asleep. Also, avoid stimulating activities close to bedtime and instead engage in calming, relaxing activities.

Making changes to improve the physical aspects of your well-being are great. But what can women do to enhance their mental and spiritual health? Physical, mental and spiritual health are deeply intertwined and have a profound effect on one another. Even though it may seem hard to find ways to de-stress with all the things you have to do, it’s important to find those ways. The following suggestions can help:

  • Stress relievers like deep breathing and muscle relaxation exercises and keeping a journal can be helpful in controlling the impact stress has on your body.
  • Don’t try to do too much at one time — make sure to have time for proper nutrition, sleep, work and play.
  • Maintaining a close circle of family and friends can provide you with emotional support when you need it.
  • Make time for meditation and/or prayer. Spend time in nature.
  • Strive to practice compassion, love, forgiveness, altruism, joy, and fulfillment.
  • Work to increase the positive moments in your work and your life, while reducing the negative.

Finally, your lifestyle improvement program should always include getting annual physicals and tests from your primary care physician (PCP). Finding a PCP is easy. Just visit your insurance carrier’s website, look for the “find a doctor” area and follow the instructions.

Find a Mercy Health provider

Mercy Health is committed to helping you live a healthy life by nurturing well-being through body, mind and spirit.

Elizabeth Hathaway Receives DAISY Award

Elizabeth Hathaway was nominated by the daughter of a patient in Mercy Health Saint Mary’s. This lady’s mother was suffering from an intestinal blockage and severe nausea. During the two nights that Elizabeth cared for her mother, the nominator described Elizabeth as “exceptional. “We were truly blessed to have her as our nurse.”

It was a scary time for the patient’s family, but Elizabeth was supportive, thoughtful and kind throughout her twelve-hour shifts. She answered questions, tip-toed softly to allow people to sleep, and worked with the doctor to keep the patient on medications to address her nausea.

Elizabeth was an advocate for the patient’s daughter as well as the patient. She encouraged her patient’s daughter to go home to rest on the second night, and assured the patient that she would leave detailed notes for the daughter to read the next morning — notes about any provider visits or change in her mother’s condition.

Sure enough, the next morning, there was a handwritten note waiting for the family, along with aromatherapy diffusers in the room to provide comfort and help with the nausea.

The nominator was very appreciative of the care her mother received from all of the staff at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s during her stay, as well as that from Elizabeth. “Any future patients will be blessed to have her [Elizabeth] as their nurse,” she said. We couldn’t agree more.

Congratulations, Elizabeth!

Touched by a Saint Mary’s Nurse Angel

“I think we have been touched by a Saint Mary’s nurse angel…actually three nurse angels in the week I’ve been here,” said patient Stephen Dontje.

On Wednesday, December 4, 2019, Stephen underwent lung cancer surgery performed at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s.

A patient from the Cadillac area, several years ago, Stephen’s Primary Care Physician (PCP) had ordered a low-dose CT lung cancer screening due to Stephen’s years of smoking. The screening detected a very small nodule in the upper lobe of his left lung. Stephen’s PCP monitored it until it became larger and showed significant changes.

In August 2019, the scans indicated it was time to remove the nodule. Stephen’s physician referred him to Bruce Shabahang, MD, at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s in Grand Rapids.

“I was a little bit apprehensive. Through our discussion, he gave me the realization of what the surgery was. He explained that it was removal of the entire lobe — major surgery,” said Stephen.

Kathy, Stephen’s wife, attended her husband’s medical appointments. “Dr. Shabahang puts you at ease when he talks to you. I was concerned about this [diagnosis and surgery] but I knew Steve was in good hands.”

“After our first visit, I told Kathy that Dr. Shabahang is a marvelous person. It’s the way he relates to the patient. He is straightforward because he wants survival,” added Stephen.

The day before his surgery, a preregistration nurse from Mercy Health Saint Mary’s called Stephen. Her name was Virginia.

“I answered a couple of questions, and that was it,” Stephen recalled. “I mentioned to my wife Kathy that the nurse’s name was coincidental. In 1942, my mother began training as an RN at Saint Mary’s, and her name was also Virginia. My mother then moved to Cadillac, where she worked during her career, met my father and started a family. I grew up with a Mercy nurse mom.”

When he arrived for registration on the day of the surgery, Stephen told the registrar the story about his mother (now deceased) and the phone call the day before from Virginia.

“The lady at registration said that it was funny, because Virginia had trained at Mercy in Cadillac (now called Munson Healthcare Cadillac) and moved to Grand Rapids for her career,” Stephen said. Another coincidence!

During his stay, Stephen shared this “coincidence” with numerous people he encountered. One evening when he was in the Intensive Care Unit following surgery, he thought that his experiences at Saint Mary’s and these coincidences might make a nice article to put in a newsletter, if there was one for nurses.

“The head nurse on duty was Lucas, and I don’t know why, but I had this feeling that he could help. I asked him if, first, could he arrange for me to meet the Virginia, who had called me the day before surgery? Second, could he find out how I could share my story? He said he would take care of my requests,” said Stephen.

Stephen did meet Virginia, who shared that she had trained for nursing in Cadillac from 1964-1966. As he recalled, Stephen thinks his mom was working at Mercy in Cadillac at that time. “They might even have crossed paths,” he added. Another coincidence…

Later that night, Stephen did something he never does. “I picked up my phone to find out the biblical meaning of the name Lucas. I had a premonition that it meant something that fits into the ‘coincidences’ happening with my case. I found out it means ‘bringer of light, giver of light’.

“You need to know that l am not the kind of person who reaches out to touch other people,” said Stephen. “But later I grabbed Lucas’ hand [in gratitude] and said, ‘I think I’ve been touched by a Saint Mary’s nurse angel.’ Throughout my stay, I have physically touched and said that to three of the medical staff.”

Steve’s mother, Virginia Atchison

With the cancer removed and the pathology report indicating that the nearby lymph nodes were clear, Stephen’s prognosis is excellent. He does not require chemotherapy or radiation treatment. The Dontjes headed back to Cadillac in time for Christmas, which they planned to spend with their daughter and granddaughter. “You know, I think my mother was here with me,” said Stephen with a smile.

Thankful for the early detection of his cancer and for the remarkable care he received, Stephen described his week at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s as an “uplifting experience…kind of spiritual.

“It’s all those nurse angels. I was cared for excellently…the meals, the care, the people. I would rate my care a 12 out of 10! I was being embraced by angels.”

Find out more about Mercy Health’s low-dose CT lung cancer screening.

A Christmas to Remember

Greg (l) and John (r) LaPres of Muskegon

John LaPres’ doctor called on Christmas Eve 2013. Weeks before, John had been diagnosed with a large stomach ulcer.

The call was to let John know it was cancer, not an ulcer, and not just any cancer; it rarely had been diagnosed in the United States. And, it was stage IV.

“I didn’t know what it meant,” said John. “All I knew was that anyone who had cancer died. In my mind, it was a death sentence.”

The LaPres family — all seven sons and their families — came for Christmas. John told each son, one by one, about his diagnosis. There were tears and prayers. Yet, from the start, John placed his future in God’s hands.

John’s chance of survival was less than 20 percent.

The chemotherapy and surgery made him ill for months. On top of that was the cost of his medication each week — $456. Unbeknownst to John, the Mercy Health Johnson Family Cancer Center staff arranged for his co-pays to be covered 100 percent. It was a huge relief.

As time went on, John began to feel better. He asked his doctor about his chances again and, he said, “We’re up to 75 percent.” Later, at his five-year checkup, the doctor reported even more good news. “We don’t get many stage IV cancers that after five years haven’t returned.”

“I really felt the miracle of my survival,” said John. “I knew that no matter what happens it is going to be okay because He holds the reigns.” John drew strength from his family as well.

“When Dad first got cancer, he had to tell everyone on Christmas Day,” said Greg LaPres, John’s second son. “I didn’t know how bad it was. He didn’t tell us he had stage IV. I thought they had caught it early, but that is not how it turned out. As we learned more and more, it got scary. He seemed upbeat, but we knew the odds weren’t good.”

Ever since his father’s cancer battle, Greg’s work with Cars for Cancer has become more meaningful. For the past 14 years, Greg has been helping to raise funds for the Mercy Health Johnson Family Cancer Center through the Labor Day Cars for Cancer Car Show and the pancake breakfast hosted by the Different Strokes Car Club and the Knights of Columbus. In 2019, the event organizers presented an astounding $54,400 in proceeds to the Johnson Family Cancer Center (JFCC) for services, technologies and patients in need.

When you don’t have some of the worries that go with cancer — and have some of those taken off of your mind — that can give you peace,” said John. “That’s what Cars for Cancer is about.”

Greg hopes those who are touched by cancer will see the good Cars for Cancer does for people they do not know.

“Maybe this will lighten the mental burden for others. I hope they feel they are not alone, that someone’s already there waiting for them,” said Greg. “When it is your turn to get cancer we are already here.”

“My dad was not supposed to beat this; almost everybody with this cancer is a fatality,” said Greg. “It’s a great feeling that he’s still out there and active. He says he has a lazy life, but he does errands and yard work, encourages others through AA meetings, works the fish fries at our church, visits friends, and even helps my brother who is disabled.”

This year, John LaPres and his family will have a Christmas to remember thanks to his medical team at Mercy Health Johnson Family Cancer Center. And, thanks to Cars for Cancer, many Mercy Health cancer patients will feel the impact of Cars for Cancer throughout the new year.

Mercy Health Muskegon Office of Philanthropy

Jen Rak Receives 2019 Luminescence Award from Susan G. Komen

On Thursday, December 12, Jennifer Rak, practice coordinator, Mercy Health Muskegon Comprehensive Breast Center, High Risk Clinic, received the Luminescence Award at the 2019 Susan G. Komen Powerfully Pink Luncheon.

Recipients of this award are described in this way:

This person brings light to others. They are a continuous source of inspiration as a pillar of the breast cancer community.

Also in attendance and presenting this award to Jen was Jamie Caughran, MD, FACS, medical director of Oncologic Surgical Subspecialties, Comprehensive Breast Center, Mercy Health in Grand Rapids.

Congratulations, Jen, for your outstanding care with our patients.

Make Advance Care Planning a Part of Your Holiday Preparations

With holiday family gatherings upon us, delicious meals and gift giving come to mind.

Many of these festive activities need to be planned carefully if they are to come off without a hitch. But how many of us consider incorporating a plan for end-of-life health care into our hectic holiday schedules? Too somber? It doesn’t have to be.

Think about your preferences and use the holiday gathering season to discuss these preferences with loved ones. For example:

  • What kind of treatment do you want, or not want, in a medical emergency?
  • Is your main desire to have the most days of life that are medically possible? Or, would your focus be on quality of life, as you see it?
  • What makes life meaningful to you?

When you are ready to have these conversations, think about the basics.

  • When would be the best time?
  • Who do you want to be present? For example, it may be a good idea to wait until the children have gone off to play or are in bed.

Before, during or right after the “big game” may not be the best time. A couple of conversation starters might be, “I need to think about the future. Will you help me?” Or, “I was thinking about what happened to (insert family member/friend who went through a difficult health care situation), and it made me realize that I want to be better prepared.”

In addition to having the conversation, it’s also important to choose a health care proxy (durable power of attorney) who will make decisions for you in the event that you can’t make them yourself. Being a proxy is not for everyone. Your proxy may have to make tough decisions on your behalf – decisions that should be in accordance with your wishes. Therefore, it’s important you choose wisely.

You probably don’t want to dampen your holidays with thoughts and conversations about the kind of health care you’d want when the time comes where you couldn’t speak for yourself. However, by making it a point this holiday season to set aside some special time to talk with loved ones about your desires and values, you may bring everyone even closer together.

Because advance care planning can relieve some of the burden and stress around difficult end-of-life health care decisions, you may even view the conversation as an act of caring as family and friends gather for the holidays.

Want more information? Contact Nikki Lewis, LMSW, Advance Care Planning coordinator, Mercy Health.



Jennifer Schaub Receives Friends of Nursing Award

Jennifer Schaub works as a physical therapist at the Mercy Rehab Center. She was the recipient of the October 2019 Friends of Nursing Award! The following description of Jen was written by one of Jen’s patients:

I met Jennifer Schaub while attending physical therapy for both my medical issues throughout the years, from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and the 11 surgeries I have had in the past seven years. Due to the TBI, I have suffered from very severe anxiety and have had trouble expressing my thoughts over the past 19 years.

Jen has always been very patient and understanding with me. She takes the time to help me feel calm and always explains things in ways I can understand, even if that means she needs to explain things in multiple different ways. I never feel like I am treated like less of a person or talked down to by her.

I was very nervous to start at yet another new medical facility; Jen made it a million times easier than I ever expected it to be. She always encourages me to try new things that I don’t think I’m capable of doing. Whether I accomplish or fail at those things, Jen always gives me praise for at least trying.

Jen always tries to accommodate my appointment times with my transportation availability, even if that means cutting her lunch hour short. She knows that I no longer drive due to my medical issues from the TBI.

I am certain I would not be where I am today physically, mentally, or emotionally if I hadn’t been blessed by her coming into my life when she did. Her job may be a physical therapist, but she is so much more than that and she goes above and beyond what is expected of her. I will forever be beyond thankful for Jen.

Katy Vallie

Creating an Opportunity for Those “Whose Voices Have Never Been Heard”

Improving Population Health through the Livability Lab and the 100-Day Challenge

Michael Ramsey

What if community members from all walks of life — not just government, health or social service experts — could come together to identify barriers to livability (a community’s quality of life) and then test ways to remove those barriers?

The Health Project in Muskegon County — a community benefit ministry of Mercy Health — is leading a first-of-its-kind communitywide project to do just that. It consists of 100 days of experiments, complete with 19 Action Teams to conduct the experiments.

Known as the Livability Lab and 100-DayChallenge, they serve as a platform that gives “individuals living in Muskegon County a place at the table and time to speak — people whose voices have never been heard,” according to Michael Ramsey, program implementation coordinator, Community Health Innovation Region (CHIR), Health Project.

This project is funded through a grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

First, the Data

The first step began by surveying as many people as possible in Muskegon County about the barriers they face, known as the “social influencers of health,” which were identified through a collaboration between CHIR and the State of Michigan. The social influencers that were surveyed are the following: Health Care, Food, Employment & Income, Housing & Shelter, Utilities, Clothing & Household, Childcare, Eldercare and Personal & Environmental Safety.

Since November 2017, more than 145,000 surveys have been completed through the efforts of a dozen traditional and non-traditional community organizations, in addition to all the Mercy Health Physician Partners offices and the broader Mercy Health medical community.

The Livability Lab and the 100-Day Challenge Summit

On September 10, 2019, Mercy Health Muskegon, United Way of the Lakeshore, the CHIR and other organizations convened a 100-Day Challenge Summit to launch the Livability Lab.

“The 100-Day Challenge Summit brought together individuals from the community and groups from every sector of our county to mobilize around a common vision of livability,” said Ramsey. During the summit, 300 community members took the information from the surveys and coupled them with community, county and state data about social influencers of health to identify specific barriers.

The community members then formed 19 Action Teams that came up with creative solutions to address specific barriers. They were given 100 days to implement their plans. The teams will report their results to the group of 300 at a celebration on January 23, 2020.

Gary Allore

Mercy Health Muskegon President Gary Allore was also part of the Core Team behind the 100-Day Challenge. “We are proud to partner with the CHIR and the Livability Lab and 100-Day Challenge, which has energized people to engage in action planning that meets the needs of the community,” said Gary Allore, president, Mercy Health Muskegon. “Having just completed our Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA), this process helped jump start our action planning and created exciting collaboration with people we may not have engaged in the past.”

Ongoing Efforts to Improve Livability

Hoping for many reports of success at the celebration, Ramsey added that “what is unique about this program is that teams are allowed to fail…because sometimes the best lessons come from failure. The work of these Action Teams will be ongoing: They will Define a problem, Design a solution, Do [implement the plan and measure the results] and Learn from their efforts and then start over.”

In January, the Action Teams will share their processes developed for the Livability Lab with the other teams. The final document from the 100-Day Challenge will be a “data playbook” based on key learnings from all 19 Action Teams, highlighting specific processes that can be replicated to address other social influencers of health.

For example, one team is working to create a Resilience Zone in Muskegon Heights by asking community members how to meet their needs. This work is being done through surveys and one-on-one meetings with a facilitator.

The result so far? South Muskegon Heights has already formed three new neighborhood associations so they can begin to identify and address their barriers and opportunities. Moving forward, these associations will have a voice and seat at the table, which is a first for those residents in Muskegon County.

Sharing Success

The work of the Action Teams and their results may go even further.

The Health Project and Mercy Health Muskegon plan to use the outcomes of the 100-Day Challenge to inform the work of the Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) Board of Advisors. When appropriate, the CHNA Board of Advisors will support the work of Action Teams by incorporating their community action plans into their Community Health Improvement Plan.

There is no need to duplicate efforts and reinvent solutions.

Looking Forward

After the Livability Lab Celebration on January 23, 2020 at the Folkhert Community Hub in Muskegon, Ramsey will turn his focus to finding more funding for the Livability Lab, so this innovative, community-based effort that addresses livability may continue.

“In February 2020, funding will switch from CMS to the State of Michigan, but that funding will end in October 2020. We’ll look for sustainable funding, including more support from the State, so we may continue to move the needle when it comes to population health and livability,” said Ramsey.

Proud of the work of so many to improve the quality of life in Muskegon County, Ramsey is hopeful about the future.

“The Livability Lab speaks a lot about Mercy Health because we are committed to making real and relevant changes in our community, for our community, with our community.”

To get involved in the work of the Livability Lab or to learn more, please visit www.livabilitylab.com.








Michelle Rabideau Receives Tribute Professions Award from YWCA West Central Michigan

Michelle Rabideau, CFRE, president of The Saint Mary’s Foundation, is in great company.

In November 2019, she was among seven women honored during the Tribute Luncheon, sponsored by the YWCA West Central Michigan. Since 1977, more than 250 women have been for their outstanding contributions to our community. Michelle was the recipient of the Tribute Professions Award.

Michelle was nominated by Deb Bailey, former director of global corporate relations at Steelcase, who wrote: “For the last 24 years, Michelle has led development efforts in the healthcare world and has strong experience in fundraising, strategic planning, donor stewardship, board leadership and development and community relations… In the last 18 years, she has raised over 75 million dollars that has been returned to the community through the work of Mercy Health Saint Mary’s. She has also worked in development at Hospice of Michigan, where she led statewide fundraising efforts and exceeded revenue goals for six years.”

Recognizing how delivering quality health care can transform a community, Michelle said, “It’s all about the people and purpose. In my profession, building trusting relationships to inspire philanthropic giving is so rewarding and seeing how the thoughtful gifts from people directly impact the lives of those we serve is why I come back every day feeling grateful.”

Congratulations, Michelle, for making such a positive impact on so many lives.

Ashley Herbert, RN, Receives DAISY Award

Ashley Herbert, RN, works in the Birth Center on the Mercy Health Hackley Campus. She was the DAISY Award recipient for September 2019.

For the first-time parents who arrived at the Birth Center in July 2019, Ashley was a calming influence that the couple continues to appreciate today. Her sense of humor, expertise and compassion were also highlighted in the nomination.

However, it was when their baby had difficulties immediately following birth that Ashley became this new mom’s source of support and strength, for which she is forever grateful.

It was terrifying for the couple to see their baby in distress upon delivery. What was supposed to be a happy time quickly became traumatic.

Thankfully, this precious newborn recovered. For his safety, he was taken to the special care nursery on another floor so he could be observed and given specialized care, if necessary.

Recognizing that this new mom was seeking to blame herself for her baby’s condition, Ashley intuitively assured her that she was not responsible. Ashley helped her patient draw upon her inner strength to remain positive during that difficult time.

Today, these appreciative parents describe Ashley as “amazing” and the doctors and other nurses at Mercy Health as “exceptional.”

Congratulations, Ashley, for demonstrating how remarkable care is delivered to our patients!