2014-09-01 / Health

Forked River resident inspired by cancer fight, treatment at Monmouth Medical

Long Branch Half Marathon participant Peggy Laggner, Monmouth Medical Center nurse and cancer survivor, is pictured with her daughter Alysha Lopez. Long Branch Half Marathon participant Peggy Laggner, Monmouth Medical Center nurse and cancer survivor, is pictured with her daughter Alysha Lopez. JJust more than one year ago, Peggy Laggner of Forked River participated in her first cancer walk along the Ocean Promenade — in a wheel chair.Today, cancer-free, Laggner participated in the recent 18th Annual Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon and the Long Branch Half Marathon at the same location — but this time, she ran.

Laggner, a Monmouth Medical Center nurse who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2012, received chemotherapy treatment every two weeks for six months at the Leon Hess Cancer Center at Monmouth Medical Center. Unable to undergo radiation treatment due to lung damage from one of the chemotherapy drugs, Laggner’s pulmonologist thought it was unlikely that she would ever run a marathon. Rather than view this as an obstacle, Laggner took it in stride and only worked harder.

While fighting her way back to recovery after treatment, it took Laggner nearly one hour to complete two miles on the treadmill. Laggner started out slowly and when she finally built up to jogging intermittently, she thought about what the doctor had said — and said to herself, “Why not?”

Laggner says cancer was her gift. She volunteered at the water station at the annual event last year, fully intending to come back and run this year.“I changed my life and look at things from a totally different perspective.” In fact, her experience as a patient during her cancer treatment affected her so profoundly that she knew she had to positively integrate her life with cancer patients to help provide hope and inspiration.

“In order to understand what a patient really experiences during cancer treatment, you have to experience it yourself,” she said.Throughout her 30-year tenure with Barnabas Health, Laggner has served in various positions but because of her cancer treatment experience, she left her position as clinical director of five high-volume departments in Surgical Services for a position with Cancer Services as clinical director of Monmouth Medical Center’s Outpatient Infusion Center.“When I speak to patients and try to lighten their burden, I can only hope I provide them with the same level of care and compassion I received here.”

Laggner’s goal of running a half marathon encouraged her to run competitively. She began a 12-week training program and partnered-up with a running buddy.When it came time to register for this year’s Long Branch Half Marathon, she selected the word“survivor” for her race bid.

On race day, Laggner’s family members, including her daughter Alysha — Peggy’s“rock during treatment”— were there to cheer her on and watch her fulfill her goal of completing a half marathon.

Laggner was one of more than 150 Monmouth Medical Center employees who participated in the event. Barnabas Health served as a main sponsor of the three-day celebration of health and wellness heldApril 25-27, which drew 10,500 participants and approximately 20,000 spectators.The weekend also included the New Jersey Health & Fitness Expo, the Shaping NJ 5K, and other familyfriendly events focused on health and wellness.

“This event is a big deal for our hospital and health system and we’re glad to be heavily involved with it,” said Frank J. Vozos, M.D., FACS, president and chief executive officer, Monmouth Medical Center. “ There was so much enthusiasm surrounding this event — it really took a life of its own at the hospital. Many hospital and Barnabas Health personnel served as volunteers and participated in the race — it was great camaraderie. ”

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