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January 2020 The Health & Wellness Edition







20 January 2020 The Health & Wellness Edition

january FROM THE EDITOR.........................................................................6 CONTRIBUTORS.............................................................................. 7 PAST EVENTS................................................................................. 11 FASHION Fashion Forward: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall...................... 13 SYRACUSE EATS Koinonia Apothecary - Organic Juice Bar, Cafe & Specialty Nutrition Shop ........................................ 14 KINDNESS COUNTS Annie Taylor............................................................................................. 16 SPECIAL FEATURES Nottingham Girls Club collects hygiene products for refugees........................18 'Netmom' honored for making internet accessible..................................................................... 20 Café at 407 celebrates 10 years............................................. 22 WISE WOMAN Rebecca Rose...................................................................................... 25 ON THE COVER Tafiea Stokes, Endometriosis Awareness Advocate.... 26 HEALTH & WELLNESS Self Care: Dealing with Seasonal Depression.................................. 30 Fitness Forum: The Influence of Gut Bacteria on Mental Health...... 32 Reproductive Health Clinic: The Silent Cancer: Will It Happen To You?..................34 SYRACUSE WOMEN OF DISTINCTION Dr. Sarah Loguen Fraser................................................................ 37 INSPIRE Rheta West............................................................................................ 38 AnnMarie Otis.......................................................................................42 Katie Flaherty....................................................................................... 46 UPCOMING EVENTS.................................................................. 48 MOVERS AND SHAKERS.......................................................... 50











t’s a new year, and everyone is reinventing themselves. Look inside these pages, and you’ll see we’re no exception. Our pages look a little different. We’ve got some new fonts. We’ve even got some new content, though it comes from an old friend — former SWM editor Farah Jadran will be writing a monthly column for us highlighting kindness in the community. This month also marks the start of a conversation I’d like to have with you throughout the year. It’s not always going to be an easy conversation, but it’s one we need to have: how’s your mental health? While men and women have similar rates of mental health problems, what those problems consist of tends to differ. Women are more likely to experience depression, anxiety and PTSD, and they’re more likely to attempt suicide (though men are four times more likely to complete suicide). Women are more likely to be victims of violence, more likely to be caregivers, more likely to live in poverty and earn less than men for the same job — all factors that can lead to mental stress. In addition, according to a 2018 report by the Connecticut Behavioral Health Partnership, Black and Hispanic women are more likely to report “psychological distress” than non-Hispanic whites, but less likely to seek treatment, citing lack of health insurance, the cost of treatment, stigma and a shortage of providers. You’ve probably noticed that each month, we ask our contributors a question relating to that month’s content. This month we asked how they keep themselves healthy mentally. I realized when I sent out that question that I don’t have an answer. I have two young kids. I work two jobs. I have chronic migraines that are getting worse by the day. I have clinical depression and anxiety. I really should be doing something, shouldn’t I? So why am I not? Well, as I said, I work two jobs. I have two young kids. I have chronic migraines. I hardly eat or sleep — how can I squeeze in anything else? (This is a red flag, by the way. Don’t do this to yourself.) So I started thinking — how many other women out there are doing the same thing, just scraping by, burning the candle at both ends and in the middle just trying to get through the next week, and the next task, and the next, and the next, and the next? How many of you are saying, “When X is done, it’ll get better,” only for X to pass, and a new X to take its place? We have to do better. We wouldn’t let our kids live like this. We wouldn’t let our friends treat themselves like this. Why are we willing to run ourselves into the ground? As a society we talk a lot about self-care. We pretend that going to the bathroom by ourselves or taking a walk around the block is enough. (It’s not.) We tell our friends they can’t pour from an empty cup (if we have friends) and then go home and cry in the shower. We put forth the image that having it all is easy, because to do otherwise would make us seem weak, and we know we’re not weak — we’re just so damn tired. So this year, in each issue, we’re going to talk about mental health — how it affects our physical health, what resources are available to help, and how women in Central New York are working to fix the system. I’m also going to make an effort to do something about mine. Promise me — if you’re struggling — you’ll work on yours, too.


January 2020 The Health & Wellness Edition


EDITOR Sarah Hall


Andrea Reeves

PHOTOGRAPHERS Steven J. Pallone Alice G. Patterson Maureen Tricase

CONTRIBUTORS Angela Antonello Ashley M. Casey Nichole A. Cavallaro Alyssa Dearborn Christie Donato Sarah Hall Farah Jadran Jamie Jenson Alicia Madonna Carol Radin Heather Shannon Staci Solsowitz Becca Taurisano

Cover photo by Alice G. Patterson at her studio in Baldwinsville. Makeup by j. luxe salon.


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This month, we asked our contributors: What do you do to protect your mental health?


I protect my mental health by engaging in mindful living, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises.


I care for my mental health by working out, seeing a therapist if needed and being active in my many creative outlets like photography, writing, cooking and listening to music.


To protect my mental health I remember to be completely honest about my state with my loved ones and my doctor. I also craft fun creations to curb anxiety and prevent burnout.


As corny as it sounds, I always take one day at a time and try to just focus on what's directly in front of me and not much beyond that. I'm not a worrier by nature and rarely get stressed, so along with that approach, it makes it much easier to deal with adversity or just let it slide off my shoulders.


I take lots of little actions to protect my mental health, like limiting the amount of time I watch/read the news, reaching out to friends and colleagues to meet up for coffee or lunch, encouraging others and choosing a compassionate vegan lifestyle.



I've found that exercising is the best way to combat depression, especially during the Winter.

I try to maintain my mental wellness by focusing on others and enjoying community. I also set aside contemplative time to read poetry, study artwork, and take in nature.



To protect my mental health, I keep myself free of negativity. I wake up on weekdays at 2:30 a.m. for work. After I turn off the alarm, I take a deep breath and give thanks I'm alive. I make the most of each day I'm given with my loving family. A positive attitude is what makes my mind a healthy one.

I will find time to be quiet and pray. It helps me get away from all the “noise� and reestablish a positive attitude.


No matter how busy my day is, I always make time to do the things that make me happy, such as reading. Books have always been a great comfort to me, and they provide a wonderful escape when I need it.


I learned pretty early on in life that I have high anxiety and it has taken many years to develop techniques that work for me to cope with this. One of the best things I do for myself is to make sure I have time to myself to decompress and refocus my mind. I guess it is a form of meditation, but simply taking a minute to one's self and pushing out all thoughts from the day/week/month can work wonders on your mental state!

I love to do yoga and meditation.


Something I do to protect my mental health is daily meditation. Even if it is just five minutes a day I spend that time relaxing and focusing my mind before I start my day. If any stress arises later on, I repeat the mantra I focused on that morning and I am able to calm down.


I walk to protect my mental health! It is such a good stress reliever. Finding "me time" can be so difficult, but it is imperative we find time for ourselves.







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January 2020 The Health & Wellness Edition




January 2020 The Health & Wellness Edition









Photos 1-3 by Alice G. Patterson and photos 4-5 by Courtney Seamans/Sweetly Grown Photography: The Women’s Business Opportunity Connection (WBOC) held its 28th annual Holiday Auction and Party Dec. 4 at SKY Armory in Downtown Syracuse. The event raises money for the WBOC and its mission to advance and support the success of women in business. Attendees enjoyed with music by Ormond Entertainment, a special performance by CirqOvation, and other memorable surprises, while bidding on many one-of-a-kind experiences. Submitted photos 6-7: The Everson Museum of Art was once again home to the Festival of Trees, a Syracuse tradition that has taken place for the last 34 years. From Dec. 6 to 15, holiday displays, celebrated artworks, live music and dance performances filled the museum.



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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall By Angela Antonello


ow many times have you said, “New Year, new me?” Do you allow the mirror, the scale, a clothing size, or fashion advertisement dictate how you feel about yourself? For many people, the start of a new year is a chance for amazing personal transformation. As trends go, it is common practice to focus on improving your health in the new year. Having a healthy body image should be all part of that equation. The recent shift within the fashion industry has certainly improved towards greater visibility of more body types, both on the catwalk and in ad campaigns. The popularity of plus-sized models, as well as representation of more body types, has helped spread awareness surrounding the problems that were posed by underweight models. Loving your body comes from within. A healthy body image is a difficult thing to define, especially in a culture where it’s common for people to put themselves down. The simple definition of a healthy body image is where you feel happy and confident and accepting of yourself in the skin you’re in. Here are a few tips to help you improve your body image. 1. Buy yourself a new outfit that makes you feel amazing. 2. Give yourself a daily compliment, no matter how small. 3. Pick one of your favorite parts of your body and find a way to highlight it. Are you proud of your booty? Buy yourself those faux leather legging and rock that booty! Do you love your back muscles? Get yourself a backless dress that showcases your hard work. 4. Upload a picture of yourself to Instagram — work that confidence! 5. Each time you find yourself comparing yourself to others, remind yourself to celebrate their beauty and your own.

6. Plan a self-care day (or two . . . or three). Get a massage, do a face mask or get a facial, and go to a yoga class. Celebrate your body and your health! 7. Each time you feel like you have a setback, acknowledge your bad feelings, and let it go! 8. Work out because you LOVE your body, not because you hate it. Even if it’s just walking more, that added movement will increase your feelings of happiness and endorphin levels, and you’ll glow from the inside. 9. Ignore body-type fashion advice and start wearing what you love. Stop worrying about if your butt looks big — and why is bigger bad, anyway? Tweaking traditional New Year’s goals with body positive thoughts simply keeps things real. It lets you mentally combat societal norms while acknowledging your own badassery. Most importantly, it will help you learn how to embrace your body one day at a time. Bring it on, 2020! SWM Angela Antonello owns Fashion Rescue 911 Fashion Truck & Boutique, located at 52 Oswego St., Baldwinsville; (315) 857-6690. Hours are noon to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, noon to 6 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.




Not Your Average Juice Bar

Theresa Grosso (with Wheatgrass shots)



s a toddler, Theresa Grosso envisioned herself behind the counter of a cozy cafe, listening compassionately to a customer expressing their thoughts as they devoured delicious chocolate cake. This idea was carried throughout Grosso’s life and ultimately became the basis of her local business, Koinonia Apothecary - Organic Juice Bar, Cafe & Specialty Nutrition Shop in Fayetteville. January 2020 The Health & Wellness Edition

After facing some challenges of her own, Grosso envisioned the idea of her juice bar after weeks of prayer and meditation. “I was going through my own period of grief, in a state of surrender praying for what is my higher purpose to serve the greater good,” she said. Having no background in the restaurant business, she would never have thought to pursue this vision. But now she felt

Photo by Steven J. Pallone


Photo by Steven J. Pallone

Homemade soup of the day: Immunity soup with bison meatballs and Winter Solstice soup

Photo by Steven J. Pallone

Autumn Morning & T's Tonic herbal teas

includes various meals like seafood and vegetables. Grosso is willing to accommodate each customer’s needs, especially if they have any health restrictions. “If we can help you, we will,” she said. “It has become a wonderful collaboration with our customers. Their needs inspire us to keep learning and growing as well.” Despite their customizing services, Koinonia still has favorited selections among its clientele. These include their PowerBalls, Green Goddess Juice, Ginger Shot Juice, Bison Meatballs, and their homemade soups. All of the fare is meant to help customers be their best selves. “We spend a lot of time talking with our customers helping them find their next step,” Grosso said. “Everyone is unique, it’s not about them doing things our way but helping them connect with themselves and their next step.” Koinonia’s deliciously healthy menu gets a majority of its ingredients, like apples, kale, tomatoes, maple syrup, and cucumbers, from local farms. “It’s easy and more affordable to offer a menu that has clean or natural ingredients, but that doesn't mean that it is nutrient-dense, easily digestible, immune-enhancing,” Grosso said. “We pay attention to the finer and hidden details, not just in the ingredients.” They also change up the menu often, especially through the season changes. Unlike other healthy eateries that seem to have popped up everywhere, Koinonia goes even further with its services. In addition to the food menu, they offer a discount supplement shop, including hemp and CBD products, and even therapeutic massages. Grosso said incorporating CBD into their menu is a possibility as laws continue to shift. As Koinonia’s products became more popular, they found a market in local businesses like Freedom of Espresso, Syracuse Real Foods Co-Op, and Vyana Yoga. Keeping her products local, Grosso said, allows her both to maintain the quality of the products and inspire her community. That includes Grosso’s plans for The Koinonia Cares Program, which is still being planned. Through this program, the juice bar will work with other organizations to deliver high-quality food to the less fortunate. Koinonia Juice bar has developed into a go-to spot for those who need help creating a healthier lifestyle, or those just enjoy healthy foods. Grosso will continue to serve her customers and assist with their individual needs. “We keep evolving and finding ways to make better choices to manifest this vision stronger for the benefit of all.” But the most important part is the satisfaction she feels when customers enjoy the food and when customers tell her how great they felt after leaving Koinonia Organic Juice Bar. SWM


compelled. A few months later, Koinonia’s doors opened to the public. This juice bar goes beyond the normal idea of what a healthy eatery might be. Its menu of fresh, organic and nutrient-dense juices, smoothies, salads, and wraps may seem ordinary, but many customers come in with their own desires, which Grosso happily helps them to create. She offers a tailored MealPrep service which

Koinonia Organic Juice Bar is located at 6800 E. Genesee St., Fayetteville.



Kindness Counts ANNIE TAYLOR By Farah Jadran


t’s a simple message — a proposition, really. “Be kind.” The human ability is one mother of three Annie Taylor lives, breathes and works. It was more than 14 years ago when she started Annie Taylor Design, a company focused on professional and personal stationary and print designs. While Taylor’s company was growing, so was she. Becoming a mother meant more perspective in her life. Her goals changed. She became inspired and motivated to raise kind and caring children. “I want my children to care deeply about others, contribute to society in a positive way, and most importantly feel good about themselves and their place in the world,” Taylor said. Taylor chose to live her passion. A few years ago, she transformed her Dewitt-based business and began a line of kindness-inspired clothing, home decor and stationery. All of these items serve a purpose: spreading kindness. Wearing one of her favorite T-shirts, “Be Kind. Smile. Pass it on,” Taylor says she loves how it can do the talking for her. It’s so simple, but it can start a conversation or perhaps be a welcoming sign to a stranger to know they can say “hello,” or smile and walk by feeling a sense of positivity. “A local second grade little girl told me that she made a new friend to eat lunch with at school, on the day she wore her ‘I Will Be Your Friend’ shirt,” Taylor said. “That is what I dreamed of when I created them — that these T-shirts would make being kind super easy!”

January 2020 The Health & Wellness Edition

Taylor says the response to the designs have been overwhelming. In addition to wearing a message, she also encourages people to use a kindness note. Writing positive messages to a family member, friend, coworker or even a stranger is something Taylor wants everyone to try. The impact a kind note can have on someone could truly be immeasurable. Taylor’s business and personal mission is just getting started. She will soon be unveiling GratiKids, a new line she hopes will teach kids gratitude through action. “GratiKids kits include products such as Kindness Notes, kid friendly thank you notes, inspirational prints, and a daily checklist,” Taylor said. “All designed to teach compassion, gratitude and caring, and paired with a coordinating charity or organization to get kids involved in their communities.” To browse Taylor’s kindness line, visit Kindness can change someone’s heart. It can help others realize there is a world around them and more to life than possessions and petty arguments. Kindness can be the message you wear and walk with because you choose to live life with genuine gratitude for each day you are given. Tomorrow is not promised. Why not spend today being kind and being positive? SWM Farah Jadran is the anchor of CBS5 This Morning and CBS5 News at Noon for CNYCentral in Syracuse. Farah also served as editor of SWM for more than four years after she helped launch it in January 2011. If you or someone you know is spreading kindness in our community, tweet at her — @FarahJadran using #BeKindSyracuse.




Period Party Nottingham’s Girl Up club collects hygiene products for refugees By Ashley M. Casey

Members of the Girl Up club at Nottingham High School hosted a “Period Party” Dec. 3 at The Sweet Praxis. Photos by Ashley M. Casey

January 2020 The Health & Wellness Edition


ach month, thousands of adolescents in the United States and low- and middle-income countries miss school. They’re not playing hooky — they simply don’t have access to basic hygiene supplies such as pads and tampons. A group of Nottingham High School students is working to end this so-called “period poverty.” Nottingham’s Girl Up Club, in partnership with Planned Parenthood and The Sweet Praxis bakery in downtown Syracuse, held a “Period Party” Dec. 3 to collect pads and tampons for Refugee and Immigrant SelfEmpowerment (RISE) Syracuse. Girl Up is an organization formed by the United Nations with 3,300 clubs across the world dedicated to achieving gender equality. “Their main mission is girls standing up for each other across the world,” said Nottingham Girl Up member Maryam Al Mafrachi. Al Mafrachi said the club has been planning the Period Party since last year. “We didn’t have strong sponsors that were willing to work with us,” she said. “We tried again this year because it’s something we really believed in.” The period supplies drive became a reality after Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York agreed to partner with the club. Planned Parenthood volunteers brought the idea to The Sweet


Praxis, which agreed to hold the kickoff event and collect donations of pads and tampons through Dec. 18. “It just felt like a natural partnership,” said Alex Dukat, public affairs organizer for Planned Parenthood, which has organized similar menstrual supply drives in the past. Dukat said the students are starting conversations about access to hygiene supplies among LGBTQ individuals, incarcerated people and those dealing with homelessness and poverty. “Not only are they breaking down the barriers about talking about periods in general, they’re bringing in that equality piece of where menstrual products are in their school, who has access,” they said. Part of the concept behind the Period Party and supplies drive is to break down the taboo of talking about menstruation. “It’s something that everyone goes through and it’s nothing to be ashamed of,” Al Mafrachi said. “Now I’m comfortable talking about it,” said member Amina Salahou. The Nottingham Girl Up Club’s menstrual mission extends past collecting supplies for RISE. Club President Martine Dosa said the club is working to make pads and tampons more readily available in school bathrooms. As of the 2018-2019 school year,

New York state law requires schools serving grades 6-12 to provide these items for students. “We’re working with our school to make sure they’re actually following through,” Dosa said. Girl Up members put together baskets of pads and tampons with signs reading, “Don’t be shy — take one.” “We would tell our friends, ‘Oh, there are pads and tampons in the bathrooms — you don’t have to go all the way to the nurse,’” Dosa said. Nottingham’s Girl Up Club is open to students of all genders. “We decided that boys need to be aware of these things just as much as females do,” Al Mafrachi said. “When we first made the baskets, we had the males in our club help us,” said member Anisa Salahou. “Feminism isn’t just about girls. It’s about equality.” Dosa noted that trans men and nonbinary people may deal with periods, too. “Menstruators might not all be girls,” she said. Lauren Olszewski is the faculty advisor for Girl Up at Nottingham. She said the club’s efforts were “impressive.” “They used a lot of time, a lot of energy [to plan the Period Party],” she said. “Props to them for thinking of it and reaching out to people.”

To learn more about Girl Up’s mission, visit Nottingham High School’s Girl Up Club is on Instagram @nottinghamgirlup.

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January 2020 The Health & Wellness Edition


‘Net-mom’ honored for making internet accessible By Alyssa Dearborn


espite her long career as a public librarian in Central New York, Jean Polly never really thought the title suited her. “I see myself more as an information professional,” she said. “I am a connector, linking people with resources.” Polly — who retired from her post as executive director of the Liverpool Public Library in 2014 — has become an author, a leader in the field of computer science, an online technical influencer, and a 2019 inductee to the Internet Hall of Fame. The title of librarian helped her to find a unique role in the early years of the internet. “I believed that [internet accessibility] was going to be important and I saw the potential of networked information — as well as the perils — and I thought libraries and librarians had better have a seat at the table,” she said. Polly predicted that public libraries would eventually become an important center for people to explore the internet. Her vision proved to be accurate. With that vision in mind, she enabled her own library to be one of the first public libraries in the country to have internet. Today, Wi-Fi and internet accessibility are staples at most libraries in the country. Anyone can go to their local public library and expect to find a computer that

they can use for a multitude of activities. But as Polly explained, the internet in our public libraries took many years to evolve into the incredible resource that we all enjoy and rely on today. “Home computers were not widespread yet, but schoolkids were getting microcomputers in their classrooms,” she said. “I wondered how their parents were supposed to develop their own 21st-century skills.” It was a professional risk at the time for Polly to embrace the idea of the computer. “Librarians are generally not known for taking risks, but I believe that if you do take a risk you always learn something,” she said. “So we bought an Apple II Plus computer and some software and we started letting the public use it. Well, within six months the popularity was such that we had added a second computer and a printer.” Though computers and the growing power of the internet were becoming more mainstream through the 1980s and ‘90’s, many other library professionals were skeptical — even averse — to its role. “Public librarians generally considered the internet as a threat to the librarians’ role as gatekeeper to knowledge,” Polly said. “Plus, resources were largely unvetted and sometimes of dubious authority. But some of us

recognized the potential on the horizon — that the public could not only access its wealth of information but contribute to it with their thoughts and offerings.” The future of the internet as a public good and community resource became apparent to computer science pioneers like Polly. “I had a tech column in Library Journal and I traveled to more than 20 states, encouraging public librarians to jettison their 19th-century paradigms and embrace the developing online world. I challenged them to create their own online resources,” she said. “Significantly I stressed that librarians, with their anti-censorship views and belief in the importance of universal access to information, must be involved with internet policy-making.” It was the community that became an important focus of her work. As computers became more accepted, they also became invaluable resources. “It’s a social equity issue now,” Polly said. “So many things are only easily accessible online these days: Job applications, health information, online courses for life-long learning, legal and government information, and more. Just as the traditional print-oriented library was the Great Equalizer of days

past, so too is freely accessible bandwidth.” In the community, Polly integrated the library computers even more by helping the library create a community electronic bulletinboard system and install a weather station that would push observational data to the Weather Underground. Away from her post at the library, she continued to be a force in the computer sciences by writing a book called “Net-mom’s Internet Kids & Family Yellow Pages” — which was published in six editions by McGraw-Hill — and running her website, Netmom. com. It was her dedication to the field and community that helped her become an inductee of the Internet Hall of Fame. “I was very honored to be inducted,” Polly said, “and particularly happy that they chose to recognize the important work done by public libraries in growing the accessibility and reach of the internet and training people to use it.” While she was honored to be the first public librarian to be inducted, she hopes she won’t be the last. “So to all the public librarians out there, the biggest enemy is compliancy,” Polly said. “Continue to take risks.” SWM




Café at 407 in Liverpool recently celebrated 10 years in business. The eatery was founded to support Ophelia’s Place, which offers support for people struggling with eating disorders and seeks to promote healthy conversations about body image.


he staff at Café at 407 and Ophelia’s Place in Liverpool got into the holiday spirit by hanging twinkly lights and handmade snowflakes made from brown paper bags, and hoped their patrons would feel generous this season. Throughout December, patrons who donated $10 or more to Ophelia’s Place received a special edition Café at 407 mug. Those who donated on Dec. 3 — #GivingTuesday — were entered into a drawing to receive free coffee for a year. “We’re really just excited for folks to celebrate with us,” said Holly Lowery, education coordinator for Ophelia’s Place. “And if their hearts and their wallets are able, to help us ring in 2020 with whatever they are able to give.” MaryEllen Clausen founded Ophelia’s Place in 2002 after her daughters were struggling with eating disorders. Today, Ophelia’s Place is home to support groups for people struggling with eating disorders and their loved ones and helps connect them with treatment through the Upstate New York Eating Disorder Service. In 2017, Clausen’s daughter, Holli Zehring, opened Ophelia’s Place West in Gilbert, Arizona. Clausen opened Café at 407 in 2009 to provide a funding stream for the nonprofit organization. Lowery said the café’s revenue supports 35% of the annual budget for Ophelia’s Place. In its next 10 years, the goal for the café is to increase that to 40-45%.

January 2020 The Health & Wellness Edition

Community support has been key to the café’s success. “People feel like they can support the work that we do,” Clausen told the Star-Review in 2017. “It’s a revenue stream, but also it’s a place for people to feel like they’re part of the solution. The community is a part of the healing process.” The walls at the café are emblazoned with messages of body positivity. One wall reads, “Nourish. Honor. Accept. Every. Body.” Diet talk is discouraged at the café. Instead of fretting over calories, patrons are encouraged to “eat what sounds nourishing to you.” Many of the café’s customers are people who have sought support from Ophelia’s Place. “They come because it feels safe,” Lowery said. Others have yet to discover the café’s cause. Information about disordered eating, body image and the services Ophelia’s Place provides are readily available, and the baristas engage customers in positive self-talk. “We also hear conversations at the register with folks who are just starting to investigate their relationship with their body and food,” Lowery said. As for the café’s next 10 years, Lowery said the team hopes to “create even more awareness about disordered eating and body dissatisfaction” and to continue building community one cup of coffee at a time. SWM Cafe at 407 is located at 407 Tulip St. in the village of Liverpool. For more information, visit To learn more about Ophelia’s Place and how to support its mission, visit



January 2020 The Health & Wellness Edition







ike most tattoos, the one on Tafiea Stokes’ right wrist tells a story. The zig-zag lines of a heartbeat surround the cursive script that spells out the name of her 3-year-old son, Tyson. “We couldn’t decide on a name, but we [Stokes and her husband] are both big into UFC and fighting and boxing,” Tafiea laughed, “so we settled on Tyson.” The boxing theme runs throughout the tattoo. At the very bottom is a blue butterfly. “Muhammad Ali,” she smiled. “Float like a butterfly.” It’s the boxing gloves in the middle of the tattoo, situated just below Tyson’s name, the hovering butterfly nearly touching the wrists of the gloves, that stand out the most. They are yellow, of course, to represent the invisible disease that has wreaked both physical and emotional havoc on Tafiea since she was a young woman. “The boxing gloves represent my fight with endometriosis and how I remain strong. I’m still fighting through it,” Tafiea explained.

January 2020 The Health & Wellness Edition


Float Like a Butterf ly, Fight Like a Girl By Jamie Jenson

I was, for the longest time, very ashamed to talk about it. I felt ‘less than.’ I felt less than a wife, less than a woman, and I wasn’t able to conceive naturally. I just felt ‘less than.’ — Tafiea Stokes

Endometriosis often causes debilitating pain and excessive bleeding during menstruation, but because it can occur when a woman gets her period for the first time, those who suffer often do not realize that their pain is abnormal. Because of this, many women are not diagnosed with endometriosis until they’re older and suffering from another devastating symptom of the disease: infertility. This is exactly what happened to Tafiea, she said. “I didn’t know anything was wrong,” she said. “I just knew at 14, I was staying home from school because of my period, and I thought that was normal. Everybody thought it was normal. No one ever said anything to me until I was 17, when the school nurse finally said, ‘Something is wrong. This isn’t normal. You need to go to your doctor.’” Tafiea went to the doctor, but because the only way to get an official diagnosis of endometriosis is through invasive surgery, Tafiea opted to wait until she was older. Always the fighter, she learned how to work through the pain, especially during the years she was studying to become a nurse. Her fighting spirit only grew when Tafiea, who is now a primary care nurse practitioner at St. Joe’s, and her husband, Jesse, could not get pregnant. Tafiea went to a doctor for an ultrasound. The doctor told Tafiea she would never be able to conceive because her fallopian tubes were completely blocked with fluid. Tafiea just kept on fighting. “I stayed positive. I did a lot of research and my husband was there to help do some research,” she said. “We were doing holistic therapies. We did acupuncture. Cupping. Massage therapy. We went on diets and lost weight. We remained positive, but we were scared. Definitely scared.” Tafiea and Jesse also made an appointment with Dr. Robert Kiltz at CNY Fertility Center. “Dr. Kiltz was like a miracle worker,” Tafiea said. “I went there with some research that I had done and with the test that I wanted done, and he was agreeable to do the testing when I went there.” After taking a Hysterosalpingography, or HSG, x-ray of Tafiea’s reproductive organs, Dr. Klitz found that Tafiea’s fallopian tubes weren’t blocked at all. In September 2014, Dr. Klitz recommended laproscopy in order to have a better idea as to why Tafiea couldn’t get pregnant. Continued on page 28

Photo by Alice G. Patterson

According to the Endometriosis Foundation of America, an estimated 200 million women worldwide and 1 in 10 women in the United States are affected by endometriosis. The disease occurs when tissue that’s similar to the lining of a woman’s uterus, called the endometrium, starts to grow outside of the uterus, typically on the ovaries and fallopian tubes or, though rare, outside of the pelvic organs. Just as the uterine lining sheds itself every month, the tissue also breaks down and bleeds. Instead of exiting the body, however, the tissue is trapped and can become irritated. Over time, scar tissue develops, which can cause pelvic tissues and organs to adhere to each other.



Float Like a Butterf ly, Fight Like a Girl from page 26 The laproscopy revealed that Tafiea was suffering from stage four endometriosis, the most severe stage of the disease. Tafiea’s endometriosis was not contained to her reproductive organs; her bladder, diaphragm, and bowel were also affected. Dr. Klitz used a laser to remove as much of the tissue as he could. After three unsuccessful rounds of interuterine insemination, Tafiea and Jesse opted to try in-vitro fertilization. One round of in-vitro and nine months later, they had Tyson. Tafiea’s endometriosis journey did not end there, however. In fact, in some ways, it was just beginning. Thirteen months after having Tyson, Tafiea’s symptoms returned. The pain when the disease would flare was excruciating. “After I stopped breastfeeding, everything came back like a ton of bricks,” Tafiea said. “I started getting hot flashes, dizziness. I was passing out and had brain fog.” Other than suppressing your period with birth control, Tafiea said, there’s no real treatment for the disease. “I got really, really depressed,” she remembered. “I was just fed up, but it was like something said, ‘Use this,’ and so that’s when I started researching how I could start a support group, and then the support group turned into starting the advocacy group.”

The fighter continued her fight. Tafiea emailed the co-founder of the Worldwide EndoMarch, a global movement that’s fighting for changes to the ways in which endometriosis is both diagnosed and treated. “I asked her how I could start, and she emailed me the supplies right away,” Tafiea said. Within a week, Tafiea had created a Syracuse chapter of EndoMarch. In order to spread the word, Tafiea did an interview with local news and radio stations. Women started reaching out to her to tell her their stories of the disease. The Syracuse chapter grew quickly. The group wasted no time trying to raise awareness of endometriosis. They held a Tattoos for Warriors fundraiser, where people fighting the disease got endometriosis-related tattoos. Jesse, whom Tafiea calls her backbone, got a tattoo of a tattered yellow endometriosis ribbon in honor of his wife’s fight. Tafiea said it’s important to her to create a space where women who are suffering with endometriosis can be heard. “My plan is to be a voice that hopefully causes an echo of women to come out and tell their stories, too,” she said. “I was, for the longest time, very ashamed to talk about it. I felt ‘less than.’ I felt less than a wife, less than a woman, and I wasn’t able to conceive naturally. I just felt ‘less than.’” The best part about creating the group, Tafiea said, was the sense of sisterhood it’s created. “There are a few of the girls I can communicate with whenever I’m going through a flare-up or the depression comes back because

January 2020 The Health & Wellness Edition

they understand because they’re going through the same thing,” she said. Tafiea still wasn’t done, though. In order to bring more awareness to Syracuse, she knew she was going to have to reach one person in particular: Mayor Ben Walsh. Tafiea said after seeing an events notification for the 2019 Mayor’s Ball, she knew what she was going to do. “I said, ‘Oh! Now this is an opportunity!’” Tafiea laughed. “So, I went to the Mayor’s Ball with my best friend with a plan to bump into the mayor with my card in hand to get a meeting with him, and that’s exactly what I did. My husband said, ‘You’d better not come home without any results!’” Tafiea waited for an opportunity to introduce herself to Mayor Walsh. When he stood to get some food, she approached him and asked if she could schedule a meeting. Within two weeks, she had her meeting, and at the end of it, he made a proclamation for Tafiea and her group, declaring March Endometriosis Month in Syracuse. Tafiea wants to educate the public on the disease because it’s rarely discussed. She said she doesn’t even remember learning about endometriosis when she was studying to be a nurse practitioner, that she thinks there may have been one slide that discussed it during a lecture. “Because there’s a lack of education about endometriosis, a lot of people don’t know about it,” Tafiea said. “A lot of people downplay it—because right now, I’m having a flare, but I’m sitting here perfectly fine, so you wouldn’t know I’m in pain unless I told you. People kind of downplay what we go through and it’s frustrating because it’s an invisible illness but we’re dealing with it every day.” Tafiea is starting to branch out with her advocacy, concentrating not only on endometriosis but on women’s health issues in general. She started a blog that she says is dedicated to empowering, celebrating, and uplifting women, and she posts educational videos in a series she calls “Teach It Tuesdays,” where she explores different health issues women may be experiencing. Most recently, Tafiea self-published a book called Grow Through It about her struggle with endometriosis, from dealing with the pain since she was 14 years old to her infertility. She is looking forward to her book launch party, which is scheduled for Jan. 18. Tafiea is determined to continue her fight against endometriosis and provide support for those who are suffering from the disease, and to offer them some advice. “I want to tell them to not give up, to stay positive. Endo is tough, it definitely is, but there are 200 million endo sisters that you have that are in support of you and are here to help you, even with the fertility issues. Just don’t give up. It can be frustrating and it can get you down, but just keep pushing and stay strong,” she said. “And always get a second, a third, a fourth — get as many opinions as you need to feel comfortable! Don’t just settle. If you’re not comfortable with what one person is saying, definitely get a second opinion.” SWM


Photo by Alice G. Patterson

My plan is to be a voice that hopefully causes an echo of women to come out and tell their stories, too. — Tafiea Stokes




Dealing with Seasonal Depression By Nichole A. Cavallaro


ell here we are! 2020 and another January in CNY and everywhere else! And what wintery season would be complete without lake effect snow, frigid temps and a touch of seasonal depression? I’ve written about this before and, naturally, it bears repeating when the seasons change. And we tend to change with them! Although I would like to focus on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), Depression is something that hits us in waves and on many different levels. For this month, let’s focus on ways we can treat depression affected by the season. If you know my style

of writing, you know I love lists. Below, I am going to rank recommendations based on my personal experience with them and what I’ve experienced with my patients’ preferences. 1. Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. You should always be open to another set of eyes on you. You can certainly consider your needs, however, if depressive symptoms start to get in the way of everyday functioning, it’s best to just get a gauge on where you’re at. 2. Increase Vitamin D. I consume Vitamin D drops in my water each day, usually in the morning. I prefer liquid to a pill, so it’s easy. 3. Consider light therapy. There are these interesting devices called light therapy boxes which give off light that replicates Mr. Golden Sun. It can help with seasonal affective disorder and depression, and the light is brighter

than regular bulbs. It’s also provided in different wavelengths. I actually have one in our living room, but it’s a bulb in one of our lamps! If you can’t foresee yourself purchasing a light therapy box, a light therapy bulb is an excellent alternative. The way a light box works is you’d have to sit in front of it for about 30 minutes. Perhaps, it can sit on your desk or a kitchen counter, where ever you are working or comfortable. It stimulates your body’s circadian rhythms (that daylight savings time derailed) and suppresses your natural release of melatonin. 4. Stick to a schedule. We are creatures of habit and routine and we don’t really appreciate the routine of our daily lives until we lose them. Routines provide structure. They are the bones of our day. The simplest schedule to try and stick to is your morning and nighttime routine. Sleep is one of the basic needs for survival so make the effort to care for yourself and start with a bedtime hour. For mornings, (I know, they can stink) be


January 2020 The Health & Wellness Edition

mindful of an appropriate hour for waking. 5. Dawn Simulator. If you really want to be a warrior on your seasonal depression, or to stop hitting snooze seven times in the winter, consider a dawn simulator. You can find them on (you can find anything on Amazon!). It helps just like a light therapy box. It provides assistance in naturally waking you up with sounds and light levels based on the settings it has. 6. Keep a journal OR use the notes section in your phone. I mean, you’re on your phone anyways most of the time, you may as well try this! I am constantly recommending to patients that jotting down your thoughts and any symptoms as they happen is so helpful. Some like it, some do not prefer it. It can only help you and, most importantly, it helps track any symptoms you may be having. Also, the next time you have a wellness appointment, you have a record from which to pull from. Look at you, the expert historian!


7. Aromatherapy. Okay, I was not one for this back in my “what’s that gonna do for me” days. However, I have two diffusers in my home for three important reasons: my daughter’s asthma, keeping the air moist and breathable, and for a good mood. So yes, lavender is often on replay, and eucalyptus and grapefruit tend to join the natural party. I just decided to try it and that’s all you have to do is try. 8. Move. No, don’t move to an island (although…) but move your body! I am not suggesting you join a boot camp, a gym, a class that doesn’t offer hours conducive to your lifestyle. I am suggesting a quick walk at lunch, early in the morning if you wish, an evening stroll (that cold weather will definitely motivate your speed) or sure, join that gym or class. I have to admit: I disliked exercise so much and then one cold day in February (because I was bored) I just did the elliptical for five minutes. Then that turned to buying some weights from Target ($15).

Then that turned into an exercise ball. Then the Vitamin D drops made their way into my water bottle… do you see where I am going with this? Your body craves movement, you just have to wake it up at your pace. I am not an athlete or marathon runner — I do me at my speed. In fact, I am missing my workout by writing this, but it’s worth it. 9. Be proactive. Do you like to plan and do things with people? I know a lot of people like that. I am not a huge event planner, but I am thankful for those who can carry that torch. Start booking lunch dates or mall trips or simple things into your calendars where time allows. Do not let depression bully you into a onesie, sleeping on the couch all day and letting life pass you by. You matter more than that and you can treat yourself better. SWM Nichole is a mental health provider and writes about mental health and wellness issues on her blog, found at and




The Influence of Gut Bacteria on Mental Health By Christie Donato


n just the past few years fermented foods and beverages have made a big comeback. Kombucha, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, kefir and other fermented options from across the globe have officially gone mainstream, making their way into both professional and home kitchens everywhere. It should come as no surprise that the popularity of these foods comes at a time when a growing body of research suggests that the relationship between the gut and the brain is stronger than we realized. Could it be that integrating the fermented food choices of our ancestors into our modern-day diet is the key to lasting gut health, and, by extension, an important component of our mental health? Every single person’s gut is populated with trillions and trillions of microbes, most of which are bacteria. This teeny tiny ecosystem living inside every creature on Earth is referred to as the gut microbiota. Most people realize that they have miniscule organisms living inside of them, but were you aware that there are so many bacterial cells in your body that they actually outnumber human cells overall? This means that the bacteria living inside us have a significant role to play in our body’s health, and, as a general rule, the more diverse the population of bacteria in the gut, the healthier you’ll be. The simplest way to promote your gut microbiome’s diversity is by consuming different kinds of food, which is where fermented foods come into the picture. While the process of fermentation has been around for thousands of years, and was originally used as a means of food preservation, it wasn’t until the 1900s when scientists began to hypothesize that certain bacteria present in these foods could be responsible for the longevity of particular groups of people with a diet high in fermented foods. Far more recently, scientists have also begun to explore the links between the gut microbiome and mental health. According to the article “Fermented Foods, Microbiota, and Mental Health: Ancient Practice Meets Nutritional Psychiatry” from the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, “...the fermented foods so often included in traditional dietary practices have the potential to influence brain health by virtue of the microbial action that has

January 2020 The Health & Wellness Edition

been applied to the fermented food or beverage, and by the ways in which the fermented food or beverage directly influences our own microbiota.” In some promising studies of mice and humans with depression and generalized anxiety, ingesting probiotics with the Bifidobacterium infantis strain has been shown to increase levels of tryptophan, an amino acid that promotes the production of serotonin in the body. According to WebMD, serotonin is notable for being the chemical neurotransmitter that regulates our “mood, sexual desire and function, appetite, sleep, memory and learning, temperature regulation, and some social behavior.” This is just one example, and while more research still needs to be done on the subject, there’s a real possibility that probiotics, a live yeast or bacteria species that has been added to either food or a supplement, can be harnessed to combat mood disorders like depression. Probiotics are cheaper, more available, and don’t have the side effects that an antidepressant (SSRI) does, which makes replacing them an attractive option for many. The link between good bacteria and a healthy mind is becoming more and more apparent, which is why many people are looking to incorporate them into their daily diet, often in the form of probiotics. Foods and supplements with probiotics are a useful way to regulate gut health, but it’s important to note that as of right now, probiotics are considered a supplement, and, as such, are not currently regulated by the FDA. This means that companies are not being held accountable for what bacterial species are actually present in products with probiotics. Before you pick any old yogurt with a “probiotic” label off the grocery store shelf, do your research. The first thing to look out for is what specific bacterial species are present, you want one that has been proven to address gut health, such as Bifidobacterium or Lactobacillus. The next step is to find a company with a third-party certification, meaning they use an independent organization to test their products. The third step, of course, is to fully embrace the use of fermented foods in your home cooking, which tend to naturally include these good bacteria. SWM







The Silent Cancer: Will it Happen to You? By Heather Shannon, MS, CNM, WHNP, MPH


anuary is national cervical cancer awareness month. Would you know if you had cervical cancer? Let us look at it more closely. According to American Cancer Society (ACA, 2019), it is estimated approximately 13,170 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will occur in 2019 and approximately 4,250 women will die. At one time, cervical cancer was the most common cancer death in women. With the new cervical cancer screening guidelines and HPV vaccine, death from cervical cancer has dropped significantly at a rate of 2 percent per year. Midlife, ages 35 through 44, is when cervical cancer tends to occur. In women under the age of 20, cervical cancer will rarely develop. However, 15 percent of women older than 65 are diagnosed with cervical cancer and is commonly related to not receiving regular screening. It has also been found that most women who have abnormal cervical cancer screenings that progressed to cancer either have not had screening ever or in the past three to five years. Hispanic women are most likely to get cervical cancer, followed by African American women. American Indians and Alaskan natives have the lowest risk of cervical cancer in the United States. (ACS, 2019 and NCCC. 2019) As reported in July 2019 SWM article “HPV Vaccine. What is the real deal?” HPV accounts for most all diagnosed cervical cancers. We learned that receivingtheHPV vaccineseriesandabstinencecould prevent cervical cancer. Keeping up with your cervical cancer screening (Cotesting: Pap smear and human papillomavirus screen) will help reduce the chance of abnormal findings progress-ing to cervical cancer. In addition, limiting the number sex partners and properly using a condom along with cervical cancer screening per current recommendations will greatly reduce your risk. Please talk to your health care provider to determine your risks and screening needs. According to the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP), United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) Consensus Screening Guidelines, and American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG), women should have recommended cervical cancer screening as follows:

January 2020 The Health & Wellness Edition

• <21: no screening – even if sexually active • Age 21-29: a pap smear alone every three years or HPV screen alone every five years • Age 30-65: co-testing every five years or pap only every three years until the age of 65 • >65: no longer need screening if there is no cervical cancer history or severe cervical dysplasia (pre cancer/abnormal cells) and have had adequate screenings • >65: continue screening for at least 20 years with cervical cancer history or more severe cervical dysplasia • Hysterectomy: no screening unless history of cervical cancer or more severe cervical dysplasia


For a better understanding, we will review the female anatomy. (Figure 1) The uterus is a hollow muscle that is responsible for carrying a baby or shedding its lining during menses. The cervix is located in the lower part of the uterus and is the opening that allows the passage of a baby, semen and menstrual blood. The cervix has two parts and contain different types of cells. When the two cells come together, it is called the trans-formation zone. Here is where cervical cancer starts. The endocervix is the furthest away from the vaginal opening and is covered with glandular cells. The exocervix (or ectocervix) is the closest to the vaginal opening and is covered in squamous cells. It takes several years for cervical cancer to develop. (Figure 2) Cotesting can detect early changes in cervical cells or pre cancer cells called dysplasia or cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN). Approximately 80 to 90 percent of cervical cancers are squamous cell cancers and develop in the exocervix (outer cervix). The remaining 10 to 20 percent is adenocarcinoma, which develops from the glands that produce mucus in the endocervix (inner cervix) and has become more common in the past 20 to 30 years. Rely on your provider to provide the best management of abnormal findings.



Unfortunately, precancer cell changes and early cancers do not cause symptoms. For this reason, keeping up with your screenings are important to detect any abnormalities. However, possible symptoms of more advanced disease may include abnormal vaginal bleeding, pain during sex, generalized pelvic pain, urinary pain, frequency, or unusual vaginal discharge with a foul odor. Contact your GYN provider with any unusual symptoms. Examples of abnormal bleeding: • Between your periods • After douching • Post-menopausal bleeding

• After vaginal sex • After a pelvic exam

These symptoms could also be signs of other health problems, not related to cervical cancer. If you experience any of these symptoms, talk to a healthcare provider. Rely on your GYN provider to help you understand how often you need to have screenings. Cervical cancer has declined over the years and can be attributed improvement with cotesting, HPV vaccine and efforts to educate on HPV. Women who have pre-cancer findings on cotesting can prevent further progression to cervical cancer with proper follow up. Please talk to your GYN provider about any unusual symptoms you are having and continue with the recommended cervical cancer screening. SWM Resources: American Cancer Society (ACS) 2019: American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) 2018: National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC) 2019: A Program of the American Sexual Health Association:





January 2020 The Health & Wellness Edition





Photos by Maureen Tricase/Capture Your Moments


January 2020 The Health & Wellness Edition


'I just like to be strong'


heta West still remembers the day a man said to her, “Women don’t dead lift!” She was in her 30s, working out at a gym at the Carrier Corporation, where she was a software programmer. He was telling her that women could never lift hundreds of pounds of loaded barbell from a dead stop on the floor to a fully-erect body position. That didn’t bother Rheta, though. She was going to lift a heavier and heavier barbell off the floor no matter what. Eventually she earned the man’s respect, and he put her in contact with some serious bench lifters who taught her even more. Not only did Rheta get stronger — she got world-class strong. She has since attained nine all-time world records for any female in her weight class. To this day, Rheta still holds two records in the 148 lb. weight class — one for a 675 lb. squat, and one for an “equipped total record of 1,570 lbs.,” where she squatted 665, benched 395, and deadlifted 510. Rheta now owns Blood Iron Barbell, a Syracuse gym for weightlifters and bodybuilders. She calls it an “old school power gym,” where the cement floor and the unmatched equipment tell you appearances don’t matter, but respect and self-esteem do. The “Blood” in the name stands for family, which is how she runs her business. Her logo of interlocking loops is meant to convey the message: “Paths change and cross, but you’re never alone.” Without those values, Rheta knows she and other lifters could not endure the mental and physical rigors of getting stronger. After 13 years of co-owning a Hercules gym in Syracuse, Rheta started Blood Iron Barbell in June 2019. She liked the building on Burnet Avenue as soon as she saw it, although it was unquestionably raw material. After extensive repairs, she moved in with one bench, one bar, and one monolift squat rack, all that remained from her Hercules partnership. Austerity didn’t deter her though. Skilled in website development and social media, she put up her webpage, advertised at competition meets and set up tables at bodybuilding shows. She provides space for 315 Strong, a CNY competition team, and some of her clients followed her from Hercules as well. Six months in, Rheta now has a gym with roomfuls of bars, benches, barbells, competition platforms, power racks and more, with equipment for her non-power lifting members as well. She contracts two personal trainers and a chiropractor on site, and also offers on-line training programs, where people can enter their goals online and get a program tailored to their needs. Though Rheta has trained for world records, she had never trained as a businesswoman. Aside from her experience with the Hercules gym, she was on her own with Blood Iron Barbell. “It doesn’t operate under the same business model as a regular gym,” she said. “Some of it was intuitive.”

She’s let her creative side take over, fostering community spirit with t-shirts and hoodies she presses under her own brand, “Jakked Life.” She also sponsors meets, where people from all over the state gather to compete and inspire each other. On Feb. 8, she will host a co-ed team “Strongman” competition, and on March 28, the “Iron Asylum Powerlifting Meet” for invitation-only “big numbers lifters.” Champion lifter that she is, though, Rheta will be the first to say that not everyone has to compete or achieve a record. She trains women and men of all ages with a range of goals. Some women, she says, will tell her, “I don’t want to be bulky, but I want to be strong.” After a consultation with each new member, Rheta will say, “’Show me what you can do.’ Then I take people from where they are and start tweaking depending on what they want to be.” For women in particular, Rheta sometimes has to quell fears about how far they really can take their bodies. “One biggest thing I work on with women is ‘owning up to the weight you’re gonna do’ and having the confidence to do it,” she said. As training kicks in, she notices, “women start feeling more confident about other parts of their lives.” As a world record holder, a business owner, a mother of two and now a grandmother, Rheta knows that transformation firsthand. Growing up in a military family frequently on the move, Rheta had a tough time in high school, admitting she’d gotten into trouble a few times. At a facility for youth offenders northwest of Albany, she started lifting weights to get stronger and defend herself. It started to change her. “I started feeling empowered and liked myself more,” she recalled. She became more accomplished professionally, too, completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from SUNY ITUtica, and working in Carrier’s software department for 13 years. In her early 20s, Rheta pursued powerlifting more seriously to get stronger for the cardio-kick-boxing she was doing at the time. Later she would also devote more time to bodybuilding, which differs from lifting in that it sculpts the body rather than building strength. Those long hours of intense training and coast-to-coast lifting records take heart, sheer heart and will. Yet when asked what motivates her, Rheta says simply, “I just like to be strong. Not the strongest. But as strong as I can be.” Now she has made Blood Iron Barbell the place where others can be that, too. SWM Blood Iron Barbell is located at 900 Burnet Ave., Syracuse, NY. The website is or contact Rheta at 315-440-9627 or





January 2020 The Health & Wellness Edition





What would you miss? By Alyssa Dearborn


f you’re struggling, AnnMarie Otis wants you to think about one existential question: What would the people in your life miss about you? What wouldn’t you get to experience if you weren’t here? In short, what would you miss?“When I think of what I’d miss most,” she said, “it’s not a job or that I’m a mom or that I have a house. It’s none of those things. It’s the fact that I sing really loud in the car and I love doing that. It’s that I make the best Italian cookies that you will ever eat. I love to tell inappropriate jokes. These are the things that make me unique, and those are the things I would miss.” That’s why Otis created “What Would You Miss?,” a suicide prevention campaign that attempts to reframe the thought process for people struggling with mental illness. The effort, which is done in partnership with the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, includes a social media campaign, as well as a podcast and PSAs.

January 2020 The Health & Wellness Edition


of mental health and suicide prevention bring the individual spirit back to the center of the conversation. With a public service announcement and an upcoming podcast, “What Would You Miss? also aims to make the conversation more accessible and open to everyone. “The first person we’re going to have on the talk show podcast is the director of the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention.,” she said. “We want to talk about safe language. We need to change the conversation and the language we’re using in the mental health space because what we’re doing is perpetuating stigma. And we’re doing it in such an extreme way.” Every day, people are misinformed — mainly through entertainment media — about people with mental illnesses and how mental illness effects their own community. These misconceptions, as Otis explained, lead people to view those who struggle with their mental health in a negative light. “Take a look at ‘Law & Order’ and all those shows,” Otis said. “Who is the criminal every time? I’ll tell you who it is. It’s someone with mental illness, someone with schizophrenia, someone who is bipolar, which is completely false. People with a severe mental illness are 10 times more likely to be the victim of a crime, not the one committing the crime. We need to change the language and make the conversation safe. The more we talk the better chance we have of making a real impact.” There are many things that each person can do to make the conversation surrounding mental health safer, but one of the best — and easiest — things we all can do is be there for each other and support those struggling with their mental health. “The first thing I would say is that you’re not a burden. And I would let them know that it’s safe to have a conversation about what going on,” Otis said. “I’d also let them know that they’re not alone. I hate that sentence sometimes because it sounds so trite, but you’re not alone and that’s really important.” Knowing what to say to and do for a loved one who experiencing a difficult time can also be intimidating, but Otis reminds us how important it is to learn how to be there for others. “Don’t be scared of what they’re going to say,” she said. “I think that’s a very important aspect of it. As a mom it’s really hard when your kid says to you, ‘I don’t want to be here anymore.’ Hearing your kid say that is intense. But you need to understand that they are having these emotions, and it’s okay to have these emotions. They are just feelings. Actions are what you really need to worry about. So let them talk to you in a safe way.” For more information, visit or what_would_you_miss/. If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

Photo by Tara Polcara

For Otis, the struggle is a very personal one. “I was hospitalized about eight years ago,” she said. “I had amazing friends who were super supportive.” But their words of support did little to convince her that it was all worth it. “They would say, ‘Oh, you’re such a great mom and such a great friend,’ and it’d make me feel worse,” she said. “I just thought, ‘Oh God. I suck.’ If I wanted to kill myself and I’m all these things then I really suck, like there’s something wrong with me.” Instead, Otis started looking at her own life: what would make it worth it? She made a list of everything about herself that the world would lose if she took herself out of it. “My list was very long. And it made me feel like I had worth,” she said. “When you’re depressed like that and you’re having suicidal thoughts, you feel like there’s no hope. And the reason there’s no hope is that you feel worthless. Those silly things that make me uniquely me make me feel worthy. That gave me hope.” After the realization that just a simple question could give people hope and talk about their mental health, she began asking her friends, family, and eventually strangers what they would miss about their own lives. This led to the several collected anecdotes and answers featured across What Would You Miss?’s social media pages. Some stories, as Otis elaborated, became testimony of how her mission had the potential to make a real difference. She pointed to one local mother whose son texted her when he was in crisis at school. “She messaged me and said that her son texted her at school, saying, ‘I need you to pick me up. I was going to kill myself today, but you made me think that I’m not a burden to you. I think I need to go to the hospital again,’” Otis said. “He’s been hospitalized before and has had several attempts. She picked him up from school and she was messaging me from Upstate. “If What Would You Miss? failed today,” she added, “it wouldn’t matter because it saved that child’s life. It has already made a profound impact on people’s lives. I want this to succeed so bad, but if it fails, it wouldn’t matter to me because it saved someone’s life already.” Otis’s unique approach to talking about the delicate subjects


January 2020 The Health & Wellness Edition


Dr Suzanne Shapero, DMD, MBA, PC Family & Cosmetic Dentistry

“Don’t be afraid of the dentist, Dr Shapero is not only a dentist, but a good friend. Thanks to everyone there for making the trip to the dentist a painless and friendly experience.” - - Phillip E., patient



Jussara Potter Photography

ATTENTION EMPLOYEES OF: • Wegmans • Anheuser-Busch • AARP • Erie Insurance • Lockheed Martin Corp. • M&T Bank • NY Power Authority • Clifton Springs • Cavalier Transportation We Accept: Delta Premier, Delta PPO and Cigna 1 Charlotte Street, Baldwinsville (across from the Police Station) In the old Post Office building opposite the Village Hall




Photos by Maureen Tricase/Capture Your Moments


January 2020 The Health & Wellness Edition


From Shame to Shine By Becca Taurisano


atie Flaherty wants to remove the stigma around women’s sexual health and, through her organization, Shine with Courage, she hopes to do just that. A survivor of trauma in her childhood, Flaherty became passionate about sexual health issues and disorders when she was diagnosed with vaginismus, a condition in which involuntary muscle spasms in the vaginal wall prevent vaginal penetration and make sexual intercourse and routine pelvic exams very painful. Vaginismus is difficult to diagnose and many women are not even aware it is happening. “Women like me compare ourselves to other women,” Flaherty said, “we think we are not normal, we have issues and other women don’t.” It was Flaherty’s husband who first found the term vaginismus by Googling her symptoms and they later found a doctor who could help her. Dr. Peter Pacik in New Hampshire, now retired, specialized in the treatment of vaginismus through a combination of Botox and at-home dilator therapy. Flaherty and her husband traveled to New Hampshire for treatment. The real work, however, began when she returned home and had to continue dilating. Flaherty said the treatment for vaginismus is a lifelong process, not a quick cure. “It can feel like you are the only one on earth with vaginismus,” Flaherty said. She wants women to know that they are not alone and they should not have to suffer in silence. “Society is not sure how to accept this topic [of women’s sexual health],” said Flaherty, “Shame is the biggest factor in my life and a lot of other women’s lives.” Flaherty’s mission is to break the shame associated with women’s sexual health and disorders. Flaherty’s organization, Shine with Courage, founded in March 2019, mirrors an organization called Lady Sparrow started by Elaine Hoffman. Shine with Courage has taken over the programs Lady Sparrow began and the organization seeks to help women suffering from sexual disorders through empowerment, education, connection, and relief through treatment. Flaherty wants all women facing sexual health issues to be able to receive the necessary Botox treatments, physical therapy, and the emotional support they need. Shine with Courage holds a panel discussion called Lady Talk with doctors, massage therapists, physical therapists, chiropractors, and women who have been personally affected by sexual health

disorders. The organization offers mentorship programs pairing mentors with survivors of trauma and sexual health disorders. Often mentees are lacking resources to be treated and have been traumatized, but the mentorship relationship helps build trust and lets survivors know that they are not alone. Another program Shine with Courage offers is the Period PopUp to celebrate young girls moving into puberty and educate them on what to expect during this time in their lives. The point of the event is to take the stigma away from talking about periods and what happens to girls’ bodies during puberty. It has not been an easy road for Flaherty. She and her husband have almost divorced during the 13 years they have been together because of the intimacy issues vaginismus can cause. “Every marriage is different,” Flaherty said, “and when you are dealing with vaginismus, it is 10 times worse with understanding each other and what we need. We have been through a lot.” Flaherty has attempted suicide more than once, but said she now knows Shine with Courage is the reason she is still here. “Every woman is worthy, beautiful and regardless of your flaws, you are perfect. Your imperfections are you. You should accept them and love them for what they are, because that’s you,” she said. “Without my imperfections and without my trauma and tragedy, I would not be the same person. Any woman reading this should know that they are worthy and I’m here for them. There is always an out to trauma. There is always another person like you.” Flaherty began competing in pageants in 2018 and currently holds the title of Mrs. Onondaga County. Her pageant platform focuses on women’s sexual health. Flaherty is competing again in May 2020 and looks forward to sharing her platform with the public again. “If there is anything I have learned about pageants, is it has nothing to do with outside looks or your gown, it has a lot to do with changing you and how you perceive the world,” said Flaherty. Flaherty is looking to grow her organization and welcomes anyone who wishes to partner with her to reach out to Shine with Courage. While women’s health is her priority at the moment, Flaherty would eventually like to help men who have experienced trauma, as well. If you or someone you know suffers from sexual health disorders, please visit or call (315) 944-0308. SWM

Without my imperfections and without my trauma and tragedy, I would not be the same person. Any woman reading this should know that they are worthy and I’m here for them. There is always an out to trauma. There is always another person like you. — Katie Flaherty



Wednesday, Jan. 22

When: 7 to 9:30 p.m. Where: Landmark Theatre, 362 S. Salina St., Syracuse What: Be part of an unforgettable evening filled with cherished music, magical stages, and passionate performances that will leave you breathless. Cost: Free Info: ny-tickets-83101206947?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

When: 8 to 9:30 a.m. Where: The Oncenter, 800 S. State St., Syracuse What: Join hundreds of fellow CenterState CEO members, business leaders and executives for the presentation of the region’s 2020 Economic Forecast. Keynote Speaker: Gary Keith, vice president and chief economist for M&T Bank. Cost: Free Info:

2020 Gracias Christmas Cantata

2020 Economic Forecast Breakfast

Thursday, Jan. 9

Saturday, Jan. 25

When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Where: SUNY-ESF, Gateway Center, Event Room A, 1 Forestry Drive, Syracuse What: Join your colleagues for a day of active learning about active learning and leave with a variety of concrete ways to integrate active learning into your classes. Cost: Free Info: tickets-83678808569?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Where: MOST, 500 S. Franklin St., Syracuse What: The VEX IQ Robotics Challenge uses a robotics kit of the same name that was designed to be simple and easy for students as young as 8 to use. Each year’s team challenge is different and the team must accomplish a task with its robot they built and programmed. The event is open to students in grades four through eight. Cost: Free Info: id=11902

Hardy L. Shirley Mentoring Colloquium

Friday, Jan. 10

How Do Wild Animals Prepare for Winter?

When: 10 to 10:45 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. to noon Where: Rosamond Gifford Zoo, 1 Conservation Place, Syracuse What: Specially tailored just for little ones, aged 12 months to 3 years. Have you ever wondered where animals go in the winter? Join us while we discover the secret life of animals in the winter! Cost: Members: $8 per child/adult pair; non-members: $10 per child/ adult pair; $5 per additional child in same session Info: Call (315) 435-8511 x8560 or email Friday, Jan. 10, and Saturday, Jan. 11

Edventure Academy: Desert Dwellers

When: 10:30 a.m. to noon Friday and Saturday (ages 3 to 5) and 1:30 to 3 p.m. (ages 6 to 10) Where: Rosamond Gifford Zoo, 1 Conservation Place, Syracuse What: Have you ever wondered how desert dwellers thrive in such a hot and arid environment? Join us at the zoo while we learn all about these scaly creatures and how they make the most out of their desert home. Cost: Members: $18 per child or child/adult pair; non-members: $23 per child or child/adult pair; additional seat (child or adult) $12 Info: Call (315) 435-8511 x8560 or email Tuesday, Jan. 14

OCC Job Fair

When: 1 to 4 p.m. Where: Onondaga Community College, Academic Building #2 - Room P112, 4585 W. Seneca Turnpike, Syracuse What: Information about local, permanent, part time, full time and seasonal jobs, as well as internships. Attend a resume clinic at On Point before the job fair. Cost: Free Info: Contact Katie with questions at (315) 317-3968, or email at Saturday, Jan, 18, and Sunday, Jan. 19

Salt City Winter Antiques Show

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday Where: Americraft Center of Progress Building, 581 State Fair Blvd., Syracuse What: Find more than 275 selected dealers. Cost: Free Info: January 2020 The Health & Wellness Edition

CNY VEX IQ Robotics Challenge

Thursday, Jan. 30

Innovation Village

When: Noon to 1:30 p.m. Where: The Tech Garden, 235 Harrison St., Syracuse What: Don't know where to start with your business idea or startup? Join us for a discussion exploring the resources available to you in CNY. Cost: Free Info: ebdssbdestsearch Thursday, Jan. 30

Business After Hours Presenting Genius NY 2020 Finalists

When: 5 to 7 p.m. Where: Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, 246 W. Willow St., Syracuse What: Meet the five new startups recently selected for GENIUS NY 2020. The technology-based startups from around the world will spend the year in Central New York to grow their companies. Learn more about their exciting new vent Cost: $15 for CenterState CEO members; $25 for non-members Info: Saturday, Feb. 8

Sled for Red

When: 4 to 7 p.m. Where: Four Seasons Ski Center, Route 5, Fayetteville What: Compete in this sledding derby in your own sled made of only cardboard, tape, and paint and help raise money and awareness for a great cause! Hosted by 95X with Wegmans S’More Pit! Enjoy reduced priced snow tubing passes, and watch from the heated tent while sampling food and drinks. Cost: Visit for fundraising information Info:





Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management appoints Meghan Florkowski as director of the WISE Women’s Business Center

The Martin J. Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University recently announced the appointment of Meghan Florkowski to the position of director of the WISE (Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship) Women’s Business Center, effective Nov. 11. “Meghan brings a positive attitude, strong work ethic, an ability to lead collaboration among diverse stakeholder groups, and outstanding leadership to the position,” said Alex McKelvie, associate dean for undergraduate and master’s education at the Whitman School. “We’re delighted to welcome her to the Whitman family as leader of the WISE WBC.” Among her professional experiences, Florkowski led a portfolio of entrepreneurship training programs at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University that reached over 30,000 military serviceconnected individuals. One notable program in this portfolio (V-WISE) was for women veterans, which Florkowski grew into a nationally-recognized program that reached over 2,000 women veterans across 49 states. In this position, she oversaw a budget of over $5 million, was successful in collaborating with the Small Business Administration, raised significant outside funding, led a team of six people, and created and managed an advisory board. During her time with V-WISE the program was highlighted in over 75 media outlets, including Entrepreneur Magazine, MSNBC, the Washington Post and Military Times. The V-WISE program was recognized in 2015 by Harvard’s Kennedy School as a bright idea.  Florkowski also worked in employer relations at Le Moyne College, as an operations manager for the USO, as a military transition career training leader in Europe, and as a captain in the U.S. Army, among other positions.  She earned a bachelor of science degree in engineering psychology from the United States Military Academy at West Point and a master of science in exercise science and health promotion from California University of Pennsylvania.

Crouse hires new CFO

Kevin Randall has been named Chief Financial Officer for Crouse Health. He has been serving as interim CFO since August 2019. Randall began his career at Crouse in 2013 as a Senior Accountant. After a brief time in Buffalo as Chief Financial Officer for Oishei Children’s Hospital (affiliated with Kaleida Health), he returned to Crouse in 2018 as Director of Finance. In his role as CFO, Randall will continue to provide strategic direction and oversight for all financial aspects of the Crouse Health system, including accounting; cash management; payroll; purchasing and materials management. A graduate of SUNY Oswego, Kevin holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting. January 2020 The Health & Wellness Edition

Crouse Health Neurosciences first to bring Applied Artificial Intelligence to stroke care in Upstate New York As a state and nationally recognized leader in stroke care, Crouse Health has partnered with to bring the first FDAcleared computer-aided triage system to Upstate New York. is an international firm dedicated to using applied artificial intelligence software in healthcare to reduce time to treatment and improve patient outcomes. Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States, as well as a major cause of permanent disability. The key to effective diagnosis and treatment is reducing the length of time between onset of symptoms and medical intervention. “Crouse Neurosciences continues its commitment to bring the latest and most advanced innovations to our region to benefit patients suffering an acute stroke,” said Seth Kronenberg, MD, chief operating officer/chief medical officer. “We are proud to bring transformational technologies, such as, to Central New York.” Crouse is now one of four hundred hospitals using the product nationwide and one of just four in New York State using the sophisticated applied artificial intelligence-based technology to help facilitate early access to the most advanced stroke care. The others using the product in the state are Kaleida Health in Buffalo; Mount Sinai Health System and Montefiore Medical Center, the University Hospital for Albert Einstein College of Medicine, both in New York City; and South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside. Crouse Health recently earned the distinction of being the first hospital in the region to receive dual certification as a Comprehensive Stroke Center, reflecting the highest level of regional expertise for the treatment of serious stroke events. The certifications, from DNV Healthcare and the New York State Department of Health, affirm Crouse’s consistent record of providing rapid, life-saving treatment for the most complex stroke cases. When a patient is transported to the Crouse emergency room with a suspected stroke, CT scans are immediately taken to aid in an accurate diagnosis. The cloud-based software analyzes the images automatically to detect a large vessel occlusion (LVO) stroke and then securely transmits those images to the entire Crouse stroke team in real time. “In most hospitals, the CT scan process typically takes 30 to 60 minutes,” according to Crouse Neuroscience Institute Clinical Director Jameson Crumb, MSBMS, PA-C. “This software cuts that timeframe in half, allowing us to move that patient toward the best individualized treatment plan much quicker and in a more synchronized fashion.” Public health campaigns have been communicating for years that “time is brain.” When a stroke occurs, the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a portion of the brain is blocked. The average patient loses nearly two million brain cells for each minute a stroke is untreated. According to Dr. Padalino, this deterioration is what contributes to disability or death. However, if the stroke is identified early, there are several medical treatments and interventions that are available to help slow down or even halt this process and allow the stressed brain to recover. Better outcomes have been shown to correlate with how quickly these treatments can be initiated, and every minute counts.


Profile for Eagle Newspapers

Syracuse Woman Magazine January 2020  

Health and Wellness Edition

Syracuse Woman Magazine January 2020  

Health and Wellness Edition