By Anya Bochman
One busy event on Sat., Sept. 29 was not dominated by the usual orange and black colors ubiquitous this time of year at large gatherings. Pink was the prevailing motif during this year’s Women’s Wellness Expo, an initiative of Susan G. Komen North Jersey in partnership with the Passaic County Department of Health and Board of Chosen Freeholders.
Taking place in the auditorium of Passaic County Technical Institute in Wayne from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the second Women’s Wellness Expo, the first one was launched last year in Newark, gathered an impressive array of sponsors, companies and medical practitioners ahead of October’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The mission and impetus for the month-long campaign of national breast cancer awareness has been educating women and men about their own health, stressing the importance of knowing family histories, and emphasizing the need for getting screened regularly for breast cancer. Last year, however, the local North Jersey Affiliate of Susan G. Komen decided to put a different spin on October; it set out to push the awareness envelope by launching a new Women’s Wellness Expo that provided access to free health screenings, informative speakers and local resources.
“Our partnership with Komen North Jersey is focused on providing free access to health screenings and encouraging women and their families to embrace a healthy lifestyle,” said Charlene W. Gungil, Passaic County health officer. “We are particularly concerned about an increase in the incidence of breast cancer among younger residents of our county, and we’re working to change that trend. We know that there are many factors that can help lower the risk of breast cancer and other diseases. By partnering with like-minded organizations like Komen, we can provide better access to information and resources that can help detect these diseases early and refer to treatment those who need it. It’s all about saving lives in our communities.”
According to Kathi Edelson Wolder, Public Relations and Marketing director at Susan G. Komen North Jersey and two-time breast cancer survivor, the vendor spaces for the event sold out, with more than 50 companies being represented. The expected turnout was more than 1,000 people and judging by the level of activity in the packed auditorium space, this figure was accurate.
“Our free Women’s Wellness Expo was launched last October because we wanted to take Komen North Jersey’s local work beyond ‘awareness,’ to provide access, and encourage action for those in our communities who are underserved and most at risk,” said Wolder. “This year, however, we have expanded the event, which is essentially a women-focused event offering activities for everyone. This is because we know that a healthy lifestyle for everyone significantly reduces the risk of not only breast cancer, but all cancers and so many other serious illnesses.”
The second Women’s Wellness Expo started at 10 a.m. with a ribbon-cutting ceremony by Christopher Vergano, mayor of Wayne. Author Joan Herrmann emceed the event and served as guest speaker, as presentations followed one another and attendees stopped by to get free health screenings and browse educational literature.
Various types of screenings and tests were a significant aspect of the event. Among other entities, the Passaic County Health Department was present to take blood pressure and blood sugar readings at the Wellness Expo.
“We have two services right now,” said Sandy Cameron, RN, of the Passaic County Health Department.
“One is provided by St. Joseph’s Hospital; let’s say a woman is screened and she doesn’t have health insurance. She will still be taken care of to the very end. Chilton Hospital also has another program like that for women. We are trying to reach any woman, anywhere, insurance or not. That’s the goal today, to get screenings. The health department planned this in collaboration with Susan G. Komen.”
Dr. Michael Magwood of Pure Balance Center in Clifton, one of the sponsors of the Expo, explained his unique specialty that involves chiropractic care for pregnant women, which has been shown to decrease labor time, reduce the need for pain medications and help lower the incidence of post-partum depression in new mothers. His table at the event also included literature that explained the benefits of chiropractic care in helping breech babies and issues such as heartburn, morning sickness, low back pain, sciatica, swollen ankles and feet, headaches and constipation.
Other sponsors of this year’s event included Aetna, Amerigroup, Atlantic Health System/Cancer Care, Maximilian Communications LLC/CYACYL, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, GE Healthcare, Pfizer Oncology, St. Joseph’s Health, St. Mary’s General Hospital and WellCare Health Plans, Celgene, Myriad Genetics and RWJBarnabas Health.
Erin Sheehan of Myriad Genetics spoke about the importance of testing for hereditary cancers, including breast cancer.
“We look at several genes, if you were to have a mutation in one of them, you would have a much higher lifetime risk of breast cancer than other women,” Sheehan said. “[The testing] is meant to help people who have these mutations, to prevent cancer from happening in their family. It really is preventative care, there are steps you can take to prevent it.”
Additional highlights of the 2018 Women’s Wellness Expo included free health screenings and services for clinical breast exams; glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol, BMI, vision, dental, oral and foot screenings; cardiovascular, genetic and HIV testing; and BCAT cognitive screening. Presentations and question and answers sessions by medical professionals included such topics as “Breast Cancer 101: Everything You Need to Know,” “General Breast Health 101,” “A Metastatic Breast Cancer Patient Journey,” “Pfizer’s Story Half Told,” “Understanding Medicare and Medicaid,” “Genetic Testing and High Risk Programs” and “Making Healthy Lifestyle Choices.”
In addition, the Expo featured exercise and fitness advice and demonstrations, nutrition guidance, entertainment and a special kids’ zone.
The official program emcee and special guest speaker of this year’s Women’s Wellness Expo was author Joan Herrmann, a New York radio host, publisher and motivational speaker based in Woodland Park.
Herrmann’s radio show, “Change Your Attitude,” which she created, produced and currently hosts, airs on New York’s WOR 710 AM and streams on iHeartRadio; she also publishes a monthly digital magazine, “24/Seven,” that is distributed to hundreds of thousands readers worldwide. Herrmann has used a period of trauma and personal loss in her life as a catalyst for her work in empowering others. Using a period of self-reflection to understand that people are impacted by all aspects of life, and are not just the mind, body or spirit, but a sum of all three, Herrmann set out to provide information that connects these components. Her goal is to educate, inspire and motivate others while offering hope with messages about the power of positive thoughts and intentions, as well as guiding people through embracing and dealing with change rather than fearing and hiding from it.
As a published author and motivational speaker, Herrmann has been featured in “Forbes,” on the BBC and other print and broadcast media. Her recent speaking engagements include the New Jersey Governor’s Conference for Women, The New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners Keynote and The Power of Positive Medicine with Dr. Bernie Siegel. She was also a voice for the American Lung Association’s Taking a Breath for Women campaign.
“I’m excited to be part of the Susan G. Komen event,” said Herrmann, who lost her sister and father to cancer. “It’s an important opportunity and I’m passionate about wanting to inspire people with what I have learned, and give hope to both caregivers and sufferers.”
In charge of lectures and introductions, Herrmann also kept up the energy of the event, in addition to sharing her thoughts on what is currently impacting women’s health. One of the elements she emphasized was awareness.
“There are many resources available, more than people realize,” Hermann said. “My philosophy is that knowledge is power. Teaching people that they are not victims is invaluable in terms of hope.”
The author also expressed admiration for the work done by Susan G. Komen. The mission of the North Jersey branch of the organization is to save lives by meeting the most critical needs of local communities and investing in breakthrough research to prevent and cure breast cancer. Through the annual Race for the Cure, Pink Tie Party and other events and activities, Susan G. Komen North Jersey raises funds to support local community non-profit organizations that provide screening and diagnostic services, breast health and breast cancer education, treatment support, patient navigation and survivorship programs for underserved women and men in multiple counties.
Since its founding in 1997, Komen North Jersey has awarded more than $19 million in local community grants and has directed more than $7 million to national research programs in pursuit of new breast cancer screening techniques, better and more effective treatment options, and ultimately, the causes and cures to eradicate breast cancer forever.
“Susan G. Komen is all about hope,” Herrmann said. “As long as you’re here for another day, there are resources at your disposal. Through empowerment, you can do more than you realize.”