I would add taking control. That’s Judy’s philosophy in life. She truly represents how to take a sad situation and turn it into a learning experience; and more so, a living philosophy.
Judy has always enjoyed life; the kind of enjoyment where you are ready to just go and get life going, instead of just watching it pass by. That’s how she and Tony ended up living a two year adventure in New Zealand. She enjoyed skiing, being in the outdoors and traveling. He thought it would be an adventure they both could live.
A Registered Nurse by trade, she lost her first husband Tony to pancreatic cancer. Facing the challenges of raising 4 kids on her own she remembers the day she met her second husband: “With so many things I wanted to do, he just didn’t seem like the right man for me”. What she didn’t know is that he would become an excellent husband and more of a friend than father figure to her adult children. It was a combination of this sixth sense and a very strong gut feeling that she decided to listen and live a life along with Jerry. Sadly, she then lost him to a brain tumor.
Like many of us who suffer a loss, we seek refuge in our job. She recalls going to work and getting through it – sometimes breaking down. But what about after that “9-to-5” part of the day? She certainly did her share of driving home in tears. “I am sure I went through depression, but I just don’t remember at what point I had spun into it”, she mentions. She tried anti-depressants, but had a terrible time dealing with the side effects.
What she does remember is the time she spent being mad and angry, and worse, being bad to herself. Isolation, being alone –and lonely, and avoiding to take healthy steps to work towards healing her sadness was up until then her way of dealing with her loss. It was becoming her way of life.
“The first thought in my mind after my loss was that my kids were NOT going to be my entertainment”, she remembers. If you have met Judy, you know that she is a strong and independent woman. But even the strongest need help. After being told she was sad, mad and plain bad to herself she decided to get help. She was in a Care Givers Conference in Hawaii when she was recommended to visit Dr. Zampitella four years ago, and has been with her ever since.
“For me it was about grieving the intelligent way”, she mentions, and Dr. Zampitella certainly helped. “The guidance on how to deal with my issues, and just having someone to talk to and sort out my feelings has become very important for me. It has allowed me to grow”.
Her kids are grown up and successful. She has grand kids, step grand kids and even a great grandchild with another one on the way! She truly believes in aging with dignity, and it shows. “It’s about showing my kids how to age. You just don’t become old all of a sudden”, she comments. Her actions certainly have delivered the message. Judy is passionate about leading a healthy life style. She found that establishing a routine served as a helpful coping mechanism. When her first husband passed, she took music and dancing to heal; including square dancing and yes, even Lambada!
“The Howell Foundation is a special group of ladies. I truly believe in their work. I remember running across an advertisement for the Health and Happiness Series, and thought I would check it out. I did not hesitate to ask if I could help. I was impressed with their presentation and wanted to be part of this wonderful and inspiring group of women who spend their time promoting women’s health”, she comments. She became a volunteer.
And what a volunteer! Peg Neuhauser, champion and Chair of the Friends Committee in charge of organizing the Health Series Event, comments: “I certainly enjoy working with Judy. She has not missed a single committee meeting since she joined our group. It is quite refreshing to have a volunteer who does so much for our organization and truly believes in promoting women’s health. Reliability should be her middle name! It takes so much stress off my back to know that a volunteer like Judy takes care of many of the logistic efforts for the evening series. I am delighted to have her working with me”.
Her most valuable piece of advice? “Keep on trying. Life is about ups and downs”. And she sure has had her share of both. Determined, you see her strong and living life to its fullest. At 71, she doesn’t look a day older than 60, is an active member of her church, enjoys going to the movies and getting a bite to eat, she loves getting a massage (who doesn’t!), and believes in growing old gracefully.
About the Doris A. Howell Foundation:
The Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research is committed to keeping the women we love healthy, advancing women’s health through research and educating women to be catalysts for improving family health in the community.
The organization does so by funding scholarships to scientists researching issues affecting women’s health; providing a forum for medical experts, scientists, doctors, researchers, and authors to convey the timely information on topics relevant to women’s health and the health. of their families through its Lecture and Evening Series, and by funding research initiatives that will create women’s health awareness and advocacy in the community.
For more information about the Doris A. Howell Foundation, please visit www.howellfoundation.org.