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Illness

Thanks to the efforts of Angela’s House Founder and Executive Director Bob Policastro, the Angel of Hope statue has been in Eisenhower Park since 2008. The Angel of Hope: A Walk to Remember event on May 7 will conclude at the statue. Photo from Angela’s House

By Alex Petroski

The pain of losing a child may never go away, but it can be soothed by the support of others who know what it is like. Parents will have that opportunity on May 7 when the Hauppauge-based nonprofit organization Angela’s House, which was founded in 1992, hosts the first Angel of Hope: A Walk to Remember.

Thanks to the efforts of Angela’s House Founder and Executive Director Bob Policastro, the Angel of Hope statue has been in Eisenhower Park since 2008. The Angel of Hope: A Walk to Remember event on May 7 will conclude at the statue. Photo from Angela’s House
Thanks to the efforts of Angela’s House Founder and Executive Director Bob Policastro, the Angel of Hope statue has been in Eisenhower Park since 2008. The Angel of Hope: A Walk to Remember event on May 7 will conclude at the statue. Photo from Angela’s House

The walk will take place Mother’s Day weekend at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, where the nonprofit’s Angel of Hope statue has stood since 2008 as a comforting symbol to parents who have lost children.

Angela’s House assists families caring for children with special health care needs that are medically fragile, chronically ill or living with a life-threatening illness, according to their website. Founder and Executive Director Bob Policastro said the event would be a nonreligious, yet spiritual gathering.

“I would say different from our support group or even a counselor, the difficulty of those environments [is] you have to be ready and have to talk about your pain and that kind of brings about peace as you talk it through,” Policastro said in a phone interview Friday about the walk and what those interested in attending should expect. “This one I feel has kind of an easier tone to it in the sense that you’re coming to a ceremony and the comfort of seeing others that have also gone through all of this will give people great peace knowing that they’re not alone. They can talk to people if they want to but if they don’t want to that’s fine.”

The purpose of the event is not to raise funds, according to Policastro, though there is a $25 charge per person to participate.

Policastro said the date was a strategic choice by Angela’s House trustees and volunteers.

“Mother’s Day is always one of those potentially difficult times of the year,” he said. “That will be a good way to kind of help try to bring them peace, almost like a support group. To get together and be around others that have also experienced loss, it’s very comforting.”

Policastro and his wife Angie started the foundation after the death of their daughter Angela. The Angel of Hope is a reference to the book “The Christmas Box” by Richard Paul Evans in which a character frequently visits the grave of her daughter, which is marked with an angel statue. Statues like the one in Eisenhower Park popped up across the country after the release of the book in 1993, Policastro said. He was instrumental in bringing the statue to Eisenhower Park.

The walk is less than a mile long and will follow a path around Salisbury Lake in the park, concluding at the statue. The New Apostolic Church and the Willow Interfaith Woman’s Choir will lead those in attendance in a song, and a nondenominational spiritual ceremony will also be held.

Those seeking more information are instructed to visit www.angelashouse.org/angel-of-hope/.

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By Susan Risoli

People coping with illnesses such as osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis — or those who have undergone a mastectomy — may also contend with pain, disability and a swirl of emotions.

hand_health_wThe best treatment plan is a multifaceted approach, said Marco Palmieri, D.O. Palmieri is medical director of the Center for Pain Management at Stony Brook Medicine. “A pretty high percentage” of post-mastectomy patients experience pain, he said. He and his colleagues recommend a well-structured regimen that could include medications, interventional approaches, physical therapy, acupuncture, massage therapy, diet, exercise and, in some cases, treatment by a pain psychologist, Palmieri said.

Interventional approaches may include ablation and nerve blocks. “We block the nerves that supply the area of the chest wall,” Palmieri explained. For postmastectomy patients, he said, pain management specialists would choose neuropathic pain medications first, before turning to opioid drugs, in what Palmieri called “an opioid-sparing strategy.”

A pain psychologist may be called in for postmastectomy patients “who experience mood effects or have trouble coping,” Palmieri said.

Most important is to remember that postmastectomy patients need more than a cookie-cutter pain management plan, Palmieri said. “Not every patient is going to fit into the same treatment paradigm. Some things may be more appropriate for some patients than others.”

An individualized treatment plan can also aid people with rheumatoid arthritis, a disease that is “more of an inflammatory syndrome from other body structures than from a nerve,” Palmieri said. RA treatments at SBU’s Center for Pain Management could include joint injections guided by imaging (x-ray or ultrasound), nerve blocks and ablations, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, “and, sometimes, anti-depressant medications,” he said. Low-impact exercise, acupuncture, physical therapy and speaking with a pain psychologist can also help, he said.

He urges patients with acute or chronic pain from arthritis or mastectomy to understand that “there are options for them. If you come to pain management, it does not mean you’re going to be placed on narcotics.”

For information on the Center for Pain Management, visit www.stonybrookmedicine.edu or call 631-689-8333.

Those who have become all-too-familiar with the effects of osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis, and people who have undergone mastectomy can find relief and renewed health through the regular practice of yoga, said Danielle Goldstein. Yoga helps mastectomy patients “rebuild their upper body strength and work through the scar tissue that forms as a result of the mastectomy,” said Goldstein, owner/director of Mindful Turtle Yoga and Wellness in East Setauket. After a mastectomy, the breath work that is part of doing yoga helps people “worry less, because they’re able to be in the present moment. They develop the ability to not think about the past or the future — even if it’s just for that hour-long yoga practice,” Goldstein said.

 “The practice of yoga is the effort towards steadiness of mind,” she explained. And the physical side of it “will help people feel better, so they can enjoy their life more.” To get started, consult your physician and an experienced yoga instructor who has worked with mastectomy patients, she advised.

Keep moving — that’s Goldstein’s advice for people with osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Yoga will develop strength, she said, “and in combination with diet, the physical practice could help get body fluids moving so they’re not so stuck.” For osteoporosis, yoga postures (asanas) that are weight-bearing — planks, arm balances, bent-knee poses — will maintain bone density, Goldstein pointed out, “and these asanas can be modified for any age level.” Yoga is also great as a combination approach with acupuncture, nutrition, and Western medical treatment, she added.

People being treated or recovering from illnesses can still turn to yoga, Goldstein said. “It is believed that if you can breathe, you can practice yoga,” she said. “Yoga’s for everybody.” She recommended new students get started by calling the studio, speaking to her, and being guided to the best instructor for their needs.

“A yoga practice is sustainable over the course of a lifetime,” Goldstein said. “The practice may change, it may look different, but it’s still there.” And above all, she said, “It should make you joyful and happy.”

Goldstein can be reached at the Mindful Turtle Yoga and Wellness, 631-721-1881.