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A special supplement to the Herald-Citizen — Sunday, April 20, 2014

2 — HERALD-CITIZEN, Cookeville, Tenn. — — Sunday, April 20, 2014


‘Heroes in Heels’ Breast cancer survivors step out in style By AMY DAVIS HERALD-CITIZEN Staff

COOKEVILLE — It’s a victory like no other — one with the greatest reward. Life. Those who have fought the battle of breast cancer can attest to that, having experienced everything from hair loss to reconstructive surgery — with lots of sickness in between. Yet they survived. And for that reason, some local victors “stepped out in style” during the second Heroes in Heels Pink Ribbon Celebration on April 5 at Poplar Grove Baptist Church. The event, which benefited Putnam County YMCA’s ABC (After Breast Cancer) recovery program, turned out to be a great day, according to coordinator Jenny Thacker. “It was a packed house,” she said. “We use it as a celebration day for these ladies, for their survivorship. We really wanted to pamper them and make them feel special.” That included a grand entrance for the women — all of them decked out with stylish hair-dos, facials, nails and outfits. “We had a celebration walk for them,” Thacker said. “They came in high-fiving each other, and the crowd gave them a big standing ovation.” With help from local businesses, the event also included desserts, coffee, silent and live auctions, door prizes and live harp music. Thacker noted that Heroes in Heels is not only a celebration for survivors, but also for the ABC program. The free 16-week recovery program, which began in 2011, is open to anyone who has ever been diagnosed with breast cancer. “We receive grant money through Susan G. Koman, but it doesn’t pay for

Ty Kernea | Herald-Citizen

Mother and daughter Wanda Remkus and Denise Szmydt receive pink flowers from Drew Thacker, left, and Drake Thacker during the “Heroes in Heels” Pink Ribbon Celebration Day held April 5 at Poplar Grove Baptist Church. The event is a fundraiser for Putnam County YMCA’s ABC (After Breast Cancer) recovery program.

the full program,” she said. “We use Heroes in Heels as a supplement to that.” Through the ABC program, survivors can take advantage of free YMCA membership along with a customized exercise plan with a personal trainer, nutrition counseling with a registered dietician, educational seminars and weekly fellowship with other breast cancer survivors. “These ladies get so connected with each other,” Thacker said. “They know when someone’s missing, what’s going on with her and how her treatments are going. It’s just a sisterhood of ladies.”

It’s a sisterhood Thacker is happy to be a part of as one of the trainers. “I love them dearly, and it blesses my heart to see them gain their strength and energy back and also to have them as new friends and prayer partners,” she said. “We always end every class in prayer; God is huge part of this program.” Thacker noted other benefits of the program. “After all their surgeries and treatments, they have range of motion issues, and chemo treatments can affect their heart and lungs,” she said. “Some of them have cardiovascular problems, so

we work with them to help build that back up.” Strength and nerves are also affected. The program is flexible, and anyone interested can call Thacker at YMCA at 528-1133. “Each lady starts when she’s ready,” she said. “We just start from where they are and progress them forward.” Group classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11:15 a.m. And those involved look forward to seeing new faces. “It’s such a blessing to be around such amazing ladies,” Thacker said. “They mean the world to me.”

HERALD-CITIZEN, Cookeville, Tenn. — — Sunday, April 20, 2014 — 3

WOMAN On the Cover

Balancing hectic career and family By LAURA MILITANA HERALD-CITIZEN Staff

COOKEVILLE — Now in her 14th year of practice, Dr. Paige Gernt has learned how to balance the hectic career of being an OB/GYN, along with the role of a mother and wife. It didn’t come easy, though. “You know that saying ‘It takes a village,’ right? Well, it really does!” she said. She credits the large support system she has — from neighbors, family, friends and most of all, her husband, as they met when she was an intern — for helping her balance the crazy schedule that comes with being an obstetrician. “That’s all he’s known with me — having crazy schedules,” she said. Gernt graduated from residency in 2000, got married in 2003, moved back to Tennessee in 2005 and had a baby in 2007 — at age 38. “At that time, there were three other physicians in the office, and I was the only female,” she said. “They didn’t know what to think when I went on maternity leave.” She refers to them — Dr. Jeff Gleason, Dr. Bert Geer and Dr. Michael Pippin — as her “big brothers.” “We’ve had a lot of changes here, but they’ve been good,” she said. She also notes that the area and her patients are very understanding. “They know I’m a mom and things come up,” she said. “Fortunately, he hasn’t been sick or anything.” She also said living close to the hospital and her office (located near

the hospital) helps a lot. “You never know when a woman will go into labor,” she said. “You’ve got to be ready for anything.” And with that in mind, she also is able to identify closely with her patients. “I can be more realistic about the things they talk about and go through,” she said. When she sees that baby, she is flooded with memories of her own childbirth experience. “There are so many things I love about motherhood,” she said. “It’s so much fun to watch my baby grow into a little boy and make his own decisions and form his own opinions. It’s so much fun to be able to interact and play with him, too.” As for being an OB/GYN, there’s a variety of things she enjoys. “I like the office, labor and delivery and surgery,” she said. “Socially, I enjoy going through life events with my patients. I enjoy identifying with them.” But it can have its lows, too. “It can be very hard,” she said. “A lot of times, I sit there with my patient and cry right alongside them.” But, she said, the “good Lord above helps me cope with the stress.” She is the first person in her immediate family to graduate with a medical degree. And it couldn’t have been done without the support of her sister and parents. “In the end, it’s all very rewarding,” she said. “It can be exhausting, but it’s easier when you have help.”

Ty Kernea | Herald-Citizen

As a physician, mother and wife, Dr. Paige Gernt has to work hard to balance her busy career with family life.

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4 —HERALD-CITIZEN, Cookeville, Tenn. — — Sunday, April 20, 2014


Women’s Wednesday: Tips for healthy living By AMY DAVIS HERALD-CITIZEN Staff

COOKEVILLE – It began as a way to reach out to women. And improve their health. “It’s been popular through the years,” Wanda Richardson said of the Women’s Wednesday luncheons she coordinates at Cookeville Regional Medical Center. “It started in the late 1980s, when the Women’s Center opened. We try to present topics specific to women.” Those topics include everything from heart health to overactive bladder, the latter being the case earlier this month with a presentation titled “Gotta Go, Gotta Go Now!” presented by guest speaker Dr. Bert Geer of Cookeville Gynecology, who discussed the latest treatment options available. Until recently, the luncheons have been monthly; now, they’re offered quarterly. Up next is a July 9 session on “Summer Fun… or Not” with Dr. Richard Hall of Highlands Dermatology and Surgical Associates, who’ll be speaking on ways the sun

Amy Davis | Herald-Citizen

Women’s Wednesday coordinator Wanda Richardson talks to women during a recent luncheon at Cookeville Regional Medical Center.

damages skin and what to watch for. Then, on Oct. 8, Dr. Deanna Apple of Mullins Vision Associates will present

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60 and older. “We reach out to all ages,” said Richardson, who is also CRMC’s workplace wellness manager. “It’s more of the aging population that we see, but we try to offer things that benefit everyone.” Presenters may be CRMC physicians and other healthcare providers in the community who have specific topics they’d like to educate women about. “We try to do healthy topics, but we also try to do fun things,” Richardson said. “Around Christmas time, we may do something like decorating for the holidays. We’re reaching out to their emotional health.” The luncheons are held from noon to 1 p.m. in CRMC’s Education Center, room 3. “We provide lunch for a small fee ($6), or they can bring their own,” Richardson said. Walk-ins are welcome, but reservations are preferred and may be made by calling Richardson at 931-783-2743 or emailing “We see a lot of the same women, but new ones too,” she said. “Each topic brings in different people.”

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HERALD-CITIZEN, Cookeville, Tenn. — — Sunday, April 20, 2014 — 5


Being a new mommy is tough


arlier this year, my husband and I were blessed with the arrival of a sweet baby girl whom we named Emma. And she has certainly changed our lives — for the better. I knew I was going to come back to work when my maternity leave was up (six weeks was not long enough, but I’d feel guilty taking three months), so I had to look into childcare options. Here in Cookeville, there are only a handful of daycares that take infants. So I got her on the waiting list of two of those centers as early as possible. Fortunately, an opening came up at one of those places and I took it. As expensive as it is, it really is worth it. She’s loved, fed and taken care of, not to mention the learning and socializing skills she gets. But it’s hard dropping her off at daycare Laura in the mornings. I know she’s taken Militana care of, but I feel like I will miss out on her milestones. Being with her the first six weeks of life saw a lot of milestones, but the sweet girl slept a lot then. Nothing could wake her up, no matter how hard we tried. Now that she’s a little older than two months, she’s starting to wake up and develop her senses — and her personality. And boy does she have one. In the beginning, she didn’t know voices or wasn’t able to see faces. (Technically, she wasn’t awake a lot to get to know them.) Now, she knows my voice and face (she smiles in her sleep when she hears me come in and talk to her) and she smiles a lot at her daddy. Considering she’s the first grandchild on both sides of the family, she’s got everyone wrapped around her little fingers. Everyone who sees her says she’s a doll (which I know to be true) and the perfect baby. She slept all night from her first days at home. She rarely cries except when she’s hungry — but she gets mad. Those hunger pains are not to be trifled with! (In fact, when I get her in the nursing position, she smiles and kicks her legs and then goes right to eating.) These days, she still sleeps all night, but

sometimes I have to work her down to get her to sleep. At daycare, she goes down without a problem. Probably because of all the stimulation she gets from the other kids and toys wear her out. She loves going outside. At daycare, the teachers tell me of what they did during the day and sometimes that includes stroller rides outside. They put the jackets on the kids and take them on a ride. (Emma has the smallest jacket. Some newborn clothes still fit her, but she’s growing into the 0-3 months. It’s the diapers we have issues with.) She loves stroller rides anywhere. She loves car rides, but getting her buckled into her carseat can be a challenge at times. With the arrival of Spring flowers and such a little mucous system in the process of maturing, she’s been sneezing and congested quite a bit lately. She’s so congested she snores. The first time this happened, we thought she was getting a cold. We did everything to try to keep it from becoming worse (like the flu or RSV, which fortunately she did not catch, even though a few kids in her class did. I did get the flu vaccine when I was pregnant with her and she is exclusively breast fed, which gives her my antibodies.) We kept her at an incline so she could breathe. We got her a humidifier (which is a necessary item — trust me.) When she gets congested, she gets frustrated and mad, which makes her even more congested. And there’s not much I can do except calm her down (somehow). Now that she’s getting older and more aware of her surroundings, she’s noticing more things. For instance, her “best friends” are her hands. She’ll hold them up in front of her face and twirl them when she’s in the process of going to sleep. When she’s not going to sleep, she’ll chew on them. It’s a comfort measure for babies apparently. She loves music. My husband plays the guitar and sings, and she’ll bounce along to the music, not to mention laughing and smiling the entire time. She responds to anyone and everyone with a smile (unless she’s hungry or tired). If you’re one of the lucky ones, she’ll not See mommy, Page 7

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6 — HERALD-CITIZEN, Cookeville, Tenn. — — Sunday, April 20, 2014


Regretful choice leads woman to hope, healing By AMY DAViS HERALD-CITIZEN Staff

COOKEVILLE — For years, she avoided baby showers. Couldn’t even go through the children’s section at department stores. All because of a choice. A choice involving a little one of her own — a baby she imagined might have worn the tiny clothes or played with the toys she saw. Had he been born. “I believe it was a boy,” said Joyce Heady, who in the mid-1980s opted to terminate her pregnancy, a decision she felt was best at the time. “I was 23 when I made that choice,” she said. “I already had two children and was in a very abusive relationship. I was just so scared. I didn’t feel like there was anybody out there to help me.” She believed a “simple procedure” would take care of the problem. Allow her to move on. “The word ‘baby’ was never mentioned,” she recalled. “It was about tissue — ‘We’ll remove this blob of tissue, and everything will be fine.’”

Instead, Heady said she felt anything but relief. “What they don’t tell you is that your problems just begin,” she said. “It goes against God’s blueprint. I mean, we are women – we were made to be nurturers. We were made to have children. And to go against that? It goes so deep.” It would be 13 years before Heady could speak of the abortion that haunted her. “For me, it was this huge void I just couldn’t fill,” she said. “Just this emptiness – this heartache – that I didn’t put a name to until I spoke it.” Which wasn’t an easy thing to do. “There’s so much shame and guilt associated with it that women don’t want to talk about it,” she said. “We’re so afraid of the judgment from people.” Today, however, Heady shares her story freely in hopes of helping others struggling with the same life-altering choice, having gone on to co-facilitate post-abortion classes at the Cookeville Pregnancy Clinic. “It’s something I can talk about now because I have received healing,” she said, noting that she herself benefited from the class before becoming a volunteer around

2001. “I’m not carrying that guilt or shame anymore.” She said the 10-week classes are offered twice a year, typically with small groups of three to four women at a time. “We have a study guide we take the ladies through,” she said. “It is biblical teaching, and they find their healing through the scripture.” Another part of the healing process, Heady said, is for the women to allow themselves to grieve for the baby they never knew. “We actually take them where we can have a memorial service,” she said, referring to the National Memorial for the Unborn in Chattanooga. “When you have made this terrible choice, you may think what right do you have to mourn because you’re the one who did it to yourself. But God tells us he forgives us, so we need to forgive ourselves.” It’s something Heady says has made a difference in her healing process. “I have a child in heaven waiting for me, and that thought is so comforting,” she said. Heady has even shared her story with members of Putnam County Right to Life, whose mission is to educate the community

on pro-life issues. Lois Irby, PCRTL president, said, “We believe in the right to life from conception to natural death. Also, from a biblical standpoint, God tells us to choose life in Deuteronomy 30:19.” Irby, like Heady, believes education is the key in helping women posed with a difficult decision to make. “How blessed we are, especially in this good community, to have people (like Heady) who are willing to speak of a dark time in their life and reach out to others,” she said. “It’s a group effort — not just Right to Life.” As for Heady’s volunteer work at the Cookeville Pregnancy Clinic, she encourages anyone with an unexpected pregnancy or post-abortion need to stop by at 694 S. Willow Ave. for free assistance Monday, Wednesday or Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. or call 526-5525. No appointment is necessary. “They have an awesome team of trained volunteers who are very supportive,” she said, adding that free pregnancy tests,

See ChoiCe, Page 8

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HERALD-CITIZEN, Cookeville, Tenn. — — Sunday, April 20, 2014 — 7


Laura Militana | Herald-Citizen

Emma is excited to be at daycare, as pictured here.

MOMMY: Being a new mommy is tough From Page A5

only smile at you, but laugh as well. She’s also starting to “talk” a lot. (By “talk,” I mean that she’ll make sounds and noises that sound like words. I swear one time she said ‘Hi!’) Sometimes, she’ll “talk” herself to sleep. Her expressions are too funny when you respond to her “conversation,” from the eyebrow raises to her lips curling into the “o” position. I know there are a lot more milestones to come, but she’s only this age once. This child has been photographed so much in her first months and will continue to be.

At the end of the day, it’s more than satisfying to pick her up from daycare and see a big smile on her face as if she’s saying “I know you!” At least she’s not to the dependence stage where she screams at me for leaving her at daycare. I’m not looking forward to that. Or teething. Or growth spurts. But the upside to growth spurts is that it’s a good excuse to go shopping for new clothes! Laura Militana is the business editor for the Herald-Citizen.

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8 — HERALD-CITIZEN, Cookeville, Tenn. — — Sunday, April 20, 2014

WOMAN CHOICE: Counseling helps in healing process From Page A6

counseling, helpful programs and ultrasounds are available. Heady noted that the ultrasound pictures have sometimes helped change women’s minds about terminating their pregnancies. She also pointed out that an encouraging word from a family member or friend could make all the difference — both for women considering abortion and those who’ve had one. “I wish I had never made the choice,” Heady said. “But since I did, I wish I would have gotten the healing much sooner. “All of those emotions are tied into that one thing. It’s like a wound that gets infected Ty Kernea | Herald-Citizen and spreads. It affects who you are as a mother, a wife, a sister… it affects every- Joyce Heady, Cookeville Pregnancy Clinic volunteer, left, and Kelli Raper, CPC part-time staff member, talk about thing.” ways to help women who need healing after having chosen abortion.

2014 04 20 hc woman