By Robin Jovanovich
Soul Ryeders Executive Director Sandy Samberg, second from left, with luncheon co-chairs Wendy Nagle, far left, Kim Veber, and Alison Gibbs
The Power Of Positive Women
At Soul Ryeders’ sold-out spring Life Happens luncheon May 10 at Shenorock Shore Club, 300 guests laughed, learned, and had trouble holding back tears listening to the inspiring stories of four very resilient women about getting through difficult times.
Moderator Annabel Monaghan began on a light note, assuring the crowd that, “Nothing bad ever happens to me! Check out my Instagram account. It’s pure sunshine. But when it comes time to say my evening prayers, I say, ‘It’s enough already!’”
Before introducing panelists Lee Woodruff, Loring Bartlett, Rosa Acocella Ferante, and Marla Milone and asking them to share their journeys, Monaghan got serious: “Life is not a straight walk on an easy path with comfortable shoes.”
Lee Woodruff’s story is well-known through her best-selling books and philanthropic work helping injured military service members. Her husband Bob, then ABC News anchor, suffered a traumatic brain injury from a roadside bomb when he was embedded with American troops in Iraq. During his long recovery, Lee, the mother of four, said she couldn’t have made it through the ordeal without the support of a community like Rye. But she also had her stratagems. “On low days, I’d go outside and focus on something else. To quote Dr. Oliver Sacks, ‘Music and gardens help as much as medication.’” One of the things she had to learn to deal with was middle-of-the-night panic. “Ask yourself, ‘Do I have a roof, enough food, people I love?’ Then roll over. Everything always looks better in the morning.”
Moderator Annabel Monaghan, far left, with panelists Marla Milone, Rosa Acocella Ferante, Loring Bartlett, and Lee Woodruff
Loring Bartlett’s husband Rick needed a lung transplant but didn’t receive one in time, and he died at age 46. A trained psychologist and the mother of three young children, Loring said that to get through grief she’d go out and take a picture of nature and seek meaningful things to focus on. “One of the most important things you can do is surround yourself with positive people.” Loring ended up starting a foundation to help raise money to improve the care of current and future pulmonary patients.
When diagnosed with Hodgkin disease, Marla Milone, who’d only recently graduated from college and was working and living in the city, told herself she was going to make it. She’s been in remission for just under a year. “Having wonderful friends and family helped get me here. The adjustments weren’t easy. I had to move back home and watched all of my friends move on with their lives. But I’ve made every trip, every big occasion,” she said smiling.
When Rosa Acocella Ferante was 16, her mother died of breast cancer. When Rosa was diagnosed with the disease a year ago, she told herself that her story didn’t have to be her mother’s story. “I was so fortunate that my aunts came from Italy to care for me,” said the mother of four. Rosa is a big proponent of “changing the topic” when she finds herself having uncomfortable discussions about her health.
Soul Ryeders’ mission is to make a positive difference when someone is affected by cancer. Everyone lucky enough to get a seat at the Soul Ryeders luncheon left with renewed purpose and hope.
- Robin Jovanovich