Cancer center will focus on image Patients will get help with emotional aspects of the disease

April 17, 1997|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

Last November, just days after his wife died of breast cancer, Dr. William B. Mayer was asked for permission to use her name for a new cancer center at Howard County General Hospital.

Thinking it would be a cancer treatment center, the obstetrician-gynecologist immediately agreed.

A week later when he learned that the new facility -- now called the Claudia R. Mayer Cancer Resource and Image Center -- would help patients and their families handle the emotional aspects of cancer, he became thoroughly convinced that it should bear his wife's name.

"An image center is so much better," said Mayer, of Columbia's Hickory Ridge village. "That is so Claudia."

This summer, in a small brick house down Cedar Lane from Howard County General, the center will begin offering cancer patients and their families and friends a place to do research and gather information. Patients also will learn how to maintain their physical appearance while undergoing debilitating cancer treatments.

The center is the latest addition to the Howard Health System, a consortium of 14 health clinics and treatment centers -- under the umbrella of Howard County General -- that provide the bulk of health care in the county.

To pay for the center, hospital officials and Claudia Mayer's friends will organize fund-raisers and benefits -- the first of which will take place this weekend, the Kicks Against Breast Cancer Soccer Tournament and Clinics.

In the two-day event at the University of Maryland at College Park, eight women's college soccer teams will compete and there will be soccer clinics run by two members of last year's U.S. Olympic team.

Although official fund raising has not begun, hospital officials and friends of the Mayer family have brought in more than $88,000 from private and corporate donors, said Sharon Akers of the Howard Hospital Foundation.

"It has been remarkable," Akers said.

Before it can open, the center will need at least $60,000 to help renovate the 1,100-square-foot space and fill it with books, magazines, beauty salon equipment and computer equipment, said Beth Plavner of the hospital.

It will be run by one paid employee and a group of volunteers, many of whom likely will be cancer survivors and patients, she said. The library will be free and beauty services will be provided for nominal fees.

"The center is going to be a one-stop shopping place," Plavner said. "We will give patients information about the disease and help them deal with the emotional aspects of cancer. For a lot of people, there's a real difficult transformation that occurs."

For many patients, cancer treatment -- including chemotherapy and radiation therapy -- can have devastating effects. Many struggle with such drastic changes in their appearances as breast removal and hair loss.

The center will help such patients -- especially those in Howard County -- cope with the disease by teaching them to style wigs and turbans and use prosthetics, Plavner said.

It is difficult to gauge how many cancer patients will use the center, but about 450 cancer patients were treated at Howard County General last year, she said.

"When you're in chemotherapy, as it is you're not feeling your best," Plavner said. "This will be one less trip for people who might not want to leave the community to get what they need."

TTC Plans for the center have been in the works for more than a year and Claudia Mayer -- who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1995 -- worked on its concept and intended to be a volunteer, Plavner said.

At the time of her death in November, Claudia Mayer already had begun helping other cancer patients deal with the effects of their treatment, said William Mayer. That was what she was good at, he said: the emotional, nurturing side of life.

"At her funeral, the rabbi asked us about her, and we all said the same thing: She was a mom," William Mayer said. "That was her role. She was a mom not only for her kids, but other people's kids and dogs and everyone. It was a special gift she had."

She was crazy about dogs and once bred huge, lovable Mastiffs and rescued a German Shepard from the dog pound, said William Mayer. She was always upbeat, smiling, her friends said.

"We met on a bowling team, and we were probably the worst team," said Louise Waxler, a friend who is now helping to organize the soccer tournament. "Each week, we would lose four games, and each week she would say, 'This is just a building year. Next year, we'll get there.' "

Claudia Mayer had been deeply involved with events at Howard County General Hospital for years, friends said. She organized dozens of social events and dances and was the main force behind starting Rave Reviews, the consignment shop that helps raise money for the hospital.

William Mayer hopes that, with the money generated through the soccer tournament this weekend and other fund raising, he will be able to set up a foundation that will promote breast cancer awareness nationwide.

"I'm a people person, and Claudia was too," he said. "She would want to help individuals who are facing this struggle."

The tournament and clinics will take place on Ludwig Field at the University of Maryland at College Park from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday. Clinic fees are $20 a person and entrance to tournament games is free.

Pub Date: 4/17/97

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