The Mrs. Maryland America Pageant is proudly partnered with the Blue Rose Project to help magnify fundraising efforts for the expansion of Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies at Arnold Palmer Medical Center in Orlando, Florida. We are impressed with the work accomplished through the neonatal intensive care units for over 35 years to care for babies, women and children, and to comfort families through difficult health challenges. Utilizing the beautiful Blue Rose song, we are able to reach out to improve the lives of others while creating a ripple effect of charity, compassion, hope and promise.
Exec. Producer, Mrs. Maryland America Pageant
Director, PR & Social Media
Mrs. Maryland America 2014
"I love the Blue Rose Project’s belief that anything is possible. As a wife, mother, sister, daughter and friend, I know that many things in my life have been made possible through the support of women around me. Giving back to the mothers and precious babies with health challenges through the Arnold Palmer Medical Center Foundation is my way of paying that love forward – because I believe, that through love – Anything is Possible."
Mrs. Maryland America 2014 – Zereana Jess-Huff
Zereana -- Mom, Wife, Doctor, CEO, philanthropist, and cancer survivor, talks about the importance of leaning back when the world tells you to lean in. See her story below and also view this link:
The basics. I'm a wife of 13 years, a Mom of 11 years, a healthcare executive with 10 years of leadership experience, and a 15-year advocate for mental health awareness. I've got 3 degrees, multiple licenses, and I'm even published. Add to the list that I'm only 34 years old, and you've met the very definition of an overachiever. In fact, just reading over this paragraph made me feel obnoxious.
Despite all of these accolades the most important number in my life right now is one because I am, and I say this with deep humility and immense gratitude, a first-year cancer survivor.
My slow descent into hell began in January 2012 when I started to experience sharp stomach pains. I went through 3 doctors (a PCP, a GI, and even an OB-GYN) before it was discovered that the three large masses in my stomach were actually Ovarian Cancer. The frustration I feel over wasted time and multiple misdiagnoses cannot be overstated. Ovarian Cancer is an elusive disease that mimics so many other illnesses, and unfortunately not all of our medical personnel are versed in the signs and symptoms. My story is really a cautionary tale for both the medical community and today's thirty-something who believes she is invincible.
Between January and March of 2012 I bounced between providers trying to figure out the source for all of my abdominal pain. Finally, an OB-GYN gave us a diagnosis that seemed to make sense. She identified the masses in my stomach as overgrown cysts and scheduled surgery for a few days later. The night before surgery the phone rang and my OB-GYN said, "I need you to go to triage now. Your counts are extremely elevated and I don't think we are dealing with cysts." Frustrated I point out that she had run the labs 4 days before to which she responded, "We thought there was a lab error because your AFP count was so high that we reran it." When I hung up I looked at my husband in shock and said, "I think I have cancer." He reassured me that I was being silly and that cancer wasn't possible, "Your young, your healthy." Little did we know that we were so wrong.
The next morning my husband and I soldiered on to the hospital in search of an answer. There we met an oncologist named Dr. Kevin Hall who calmly explained that I had one possibly three tumors in my stomach (side note that this is the female version of Lance Armstrong's cancer). He shared that he would have to do emergency surgery and that I would likely have to do chemotherapy depending on whether or not any of the tumors had burst open in my abdominal cavity.
Dr. Hall admitted me late that evening and after a few restless hours of sleep I woke up in a complete panic. If any of you have ever seen the movie 50/50 with Joseph Gordon-Levitt then you'll know what I'm referring to when I say that every cancer patient facing debulking surgery has a fear that they might not wake up. This fear hit me ten-fold while I was being wheeled to the operating room. I remembered looking at my husband as I released my daughter's hand and saying, "Do you have her?" He nodded to me and with a huge lump in my throat I repeated myself firmly and said, "Do you have her? Because I need to know that you have her for the rest of your life and hers." I'll never forget the look on both of their faces as I was wheeled away.
Shortly after the anesthesia was pushed I had about 10 minutes left, and I remember laying there thinking, "Oh God this is it. I'm not going to wake up." It was, to this day, the most POWERFUL 10 minutes of my life and I can promise you that in those final 10 minutes I wasn't thinking about all of my accolades or the next thing on my road to overachievement. Instead I was thinking, "I'm not ready. I don't want it to end. I need more time with her, more time with him, more time to figure out how to be happy." Because the sad truth is that even though I had a life filled with achievement, the one thing I had never achieved was true happiness. I was so busy trying to “lean in”, to get to that next phase, that I’d lost direction of where I was going and who I was.
As I lay there shaking with fear, a warm feeling enveloped me. Modern medicine would say it was probably adrenaline, but I believe it was God coming down to replace my fear with the most beautiful of emotions … gratitude. What I began to feel was a deep and abiding sense of gratitude. I felt so grateful to have had even one minute with my child and equally grateful for 14 years of love with my husband. I felt the love of hundreds of friends, remembered the warmth of my snuggly dog Bentley, and the beauty of my extended multi-cultural family. My heart was full. And what I discovered is that when your heart is filled with gratitude, there really isn't room for anything else.
So after 7 hours of surgery the first of many miracles happened in my life ... I woke up! And life has never been the same. I am now filled with an incredible sense of purpose that has nothing to do with earning another award or knocking down another degree. My sense of purpose now is to celebrate life. To love hard, to live fully, and to never loose my sense of self again. I also feel extremely compelled to speak to as many women as I can about the signs and symptoms of Ovarian Cancer. One of the greatest regrets of my life is having a doctor say that if we had spoken just two months sooner we might not be looking at chemotherapy. My mission in life is to make sure no woman has to hear those words again because she is aware of her health and because she values herself enough to be aware.
I've heard far too many stories during this journey to know that I am not alone in the neglect of my health. I've noticed that as women we often put others before ourselves, so if I can't appeal to a woman's own self worth I will plead on behalf of her family and friends. Ovarian Cancer and other cancers affecting females are not just women's diseases. These illnesses affect EVERYONE in her life, and when you think of the average number of people a woman interacts with on a daily basis its a lot of people!
I will forever be grateful for the title of Mrs. Maryland America because I see it as an amazing vehicle to reaching so many other women. Ironically (especially after winning a pageant) what's most meaningful in my life right now isn't to be viewed as the most beautiful woman in America, for me, its about being seen as a woman who made a difference. I've been given the gift of life so now its about making it count.
In closing, I want to give a shout out to the overachieving women out there who are driven day in and day out to "lean in". To you I want say, "Lean back. Lean back because life is a crazy beautiful thing that will pass you by if you don't slow down enough to experience it. Lean back because you deserve it, because you are good enough, and always will be." God bless.
--Mrs. Maryland America 2014- Zereana Jess-Huff
Heather Ziehl crowned Mrs. Maryland America 2013
- Heather Ziehl
- November 4, 2012
- By: Tamika Hall, examiner.com
Heather Ziehl was crowned Mrs. Maryland America 2013, Saturday, November 3, 2012 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland. Heather competed as Mrs. Northern Chesapeake Maryland America 2012 against four other contestants. The remaining finalists were: First Runner-Up, Alyssa Brooks, and Second Runner-Up, Laurena Bell. In addition to taking home the crown, Heather also won the Fitness competition and Entourage Award.
"I'm honored to be amongst such an amazing group of women; all vying for the opportunity to be a part of the Mrs. Maryland America organization,” said Zihel on her Facebook event page. “Thank you to my family, friends and sponsors for your unwavering support, encouragement and generosity. I'm truly grateful for this opportunity.”
Heather serves as Marketing and Events Coordinator for the Northern Chesapeake Region Chapter (www.arcncr.org) of The Arc, the largest national community-based organization advocating for and serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Arc is dear to Heather and her husband’s heart, as their daughter was born with Down Syndrome. She is excited to take her platform of promoting inclusion for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to the ultimate level of awareness and looks forward to continuing support of all community non-profit organizations and causes especially, The Blue Rose Project.
Heather is also the founder of the award winning organization, True Housewives. True Housewives is a group of dedicated women working together to improve communities and enhance awareness for charitable, non-profit and small business organizations.
As Mrs. Maryland America 2013, Heather will represent the state of Maryland at the Mrs. America pageant next year.
Other awards given during the pageant were: The Miss Congeniality and Promotion awards were won by Laurena Bell. Ashlee Johnston took home the Fashionista Award, and Deborah Flickinger Augustin won the Photogenic Award.
For more information about the Mrs. Maryland Pageant log onto: www.mrsmdamerica.com.
For more information about Heather Ziehl, The Arc NCR, The Blue Rose Project and Heather’s Sponsors log onto:
See Teresa on the front page of the Blue Rose website! Teresa Scanlon's favorite quote is from Ralph Waldo Emerson. "The first wealth is health". In August 2010, Teresa was diagnosed with a life-threatening brain tumor. In a recent interview with FOX 45 she said "I've had two brain surgeries and dealt with numerous health challenges over the past 20 months, but with the strength of my faith in GOD, the expertise and commitment of my incredible surgeon and the enduring support of my family and friends, I am better than ever. Today, at the age of 52, I am proud and humbled to represent Maryland at the Mrs. America pageant."