Daphne VanBuren

While Daphne VanBuren, Assistant City Attorney, was in law school she liked to say the only reason she would ever run is if she were being chased. Back then, she was attending law school nights and weekends and working during the day. She was in what she calls survival mode. She wasn’t getting enough sleep, not exercising and eating poorly.

In 2012 at age 34, years after graduating and working as a lawyer in the Attorney General’s Office, Daphne was inspired by a coworker to try running. The first miles were not easy. But a group of coworkers decided to take on the challenge of Grandma’s half marathon and Daphne signed up as well. As she looks back, she recalls how rough she felt after the race. Everything hurt. Over the next couple years, she continued signing up for different races and events to stay motivated.

By 2014, Daphne was ready to take on the challenge of the Twin Cities Marathon. This time she followed a training program and was well prepared to run it. At the end of that race, she felt better than when she had finished the half marathon two years before.

Training for a marathon is not all running; Daphne also realized the importance of eating a healthy diet. The change in her diet evolved over the years. As a result of the physical demands of running and a better diet, Daphne lost several clothing sizes, losing fat and gaining muscle.

While many people would be satisfied with reaching a goal of completing a marathon, Daphne was ready for more. Her first 50K (approximately 31 miles) was the Grand Island Trail Marathon along Lake Superior. She loved the beautiful, serene trail and felt great at the finish line. She plans on another 50K on the Superior Hiking Trail this fall.

Daphne continues training throughout the winter averaging 30 miles a week. When it is really cold, she just dresses for it and is motivated by thinking about running in May when this winter training will all pay off.

Daphne turns 39 this year and feels that she is in the best shape of her life. While there still are the occasional potato chips, etc. she has lost a little more weight, has plenty of energy and sleeps well. It is sometimes hard to leave work at the office at the end of the day and going out for a run provides a good mental break. She believes that running makes her nicer, calmer and a much better office partner.

As long as her body is able, Daphne plans on continuing to run. The physical and emotional rewards she gets out of running are something she can’t quantify. While she understands marathons and 50K races are not goals for a lot of people, getting outside and moving, whether bicycling, walking, running, or something else can benefit anyone. The important step is just to begin.

Sergeant Brian Casey

Sergeant Brian Casey, current Employee Assistance Program Director (EAP) for the Saint Paul Police Department, has had an enduring interest in health and wellbeing, especially behavioral health with its focus on mental health and addiction. He earned a BS in Health Education from the University of Minnesota. After graduation, he spent several years working as a paramedic and EMS educator at Hennepin County Medical Center. In 2006, he left a position training paramedics at Inver Hills Community College to become a Saint Paul Police Officer. In 2012, Brian was promoted to sergeant and in 2014 became the Director of the Police Department’s EAP. “I feel really fortunate to find myself all these years later as a Saint Paul police officer making use of my college degree and all my experience working in public safety.”

In his current role, Brian assures the availability of EAP services to all police department employees and their family members. Services include private coaching, peer support, and therapeutic sessions with contracted licensed mental health professionals. The department actively educates officers in an effort to get ahead of some of the issues that cause mental and emotional distress. Brian provides health education to officers at roll calls, academy classes and in-service training. He believes that a high-functioning EAP is valuable to all employees and their families. Whether or not they find the need to use it, confidence that impactful and trustworthy resources are available brings peace of mind.
Brian knows that in order to be effective he must keep himself healthy, asserting, “I don’t always maintain a healthy balance, but I keep trying.” He watches his diet, eating healthy most of the time. His fitness routine has changed since working as a patrol officer.

At that time, his focus was on strength and endurance. His priorities were to prevent injury, maintain physical confidence, and be prepared to prevail when faced with resistance and aggression. As he has aged and his job changed, he now focuses more on flexibility, mobility, core strength and good sleep hygiene.
For mental and emotional wellness, Brian benefits from feeling well suited for the job, through education, experience and temperament. “Though I have always felt that whatever job I held at the police department was the most important job in the police department, being the EAP Director is some of the most challenging and rewarding work I have ever done. Most inspiring is sharing in how different work groups, especially the patrol officers, are able to find personal meaning and a higher sense of purpose in what they do, while sometimes being exposed to really awful stuff. I could not admire these people more.”

Employees who are not members of the Police Department can receive EAP services through HealthPartners by calling 866-326-7194 or logging on to their website at www.hpeap.com and enter password: saintpaul

Asha Shoffner

Asha Shoffner has worked for the City for two years as the YJ01 Program Manager for Right Track. Right Track serves Saint Paul youth who come from a low income household or have a barrier to employment (such as chemical dependency, limited English proficiency, or a disability) by placing them in jobs or paid internships throughout the City. She manages around 200 youth during the school year; nearly 450 during the summer.

Asha tries to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. When I called to schedule the interview, she suggested making it a walking interview. She explained her job involves a lot of desk time, so whenever possible she will set up mobile meetings with colleagues.

Asha has been instrumental in getting fellow employees together in being healthy. She has coordinated several ‘Fitbit’ or ‘step’ challenges with co-workers to help build a sense of community and friendly competition. She put together a ‘Build a Salad’ event for the colleagues on her floor as well as for a racial equity change team meeting. As the weather warms, she will be reaching out to co-workers to join her in biking to work. Asha is always looking for colleagues who work out at the YMCA.
While Asha loves the outdoors and being active in nature, she knows that spending time outdoors is not always accessible for everyone. This motivated her to start a grassroots movement called Fiwygin Outdoors (which is pronounced “Fusion Outdoors”).

Fiwygin is an acronym that stands for Fit In Where You Get In, and her role as the founder is to make sure that everyone can “get in.” Fiwygin Outdoors strives to eliminate any barriers that folks have to getting outside by making it fun, accessible, sustainable, and welcoming to all people – with an extra shout out to underrepresented groups (including but not limited to people of color, Indigenous people, LGBTQ people, and people with limited income/resources/experience/mobility). Fiwygin Outdoors operates year round and hosts monthly events like hiking, fishing, canoeing, kite flying and more. Events are free and intentionally designed with non-ableist language and multiple access points, ensuring that all can truly fit in and get in.

To learn more about Fiwygin Outdoors, check out www.facebook.com/groups/fiwyginoutdoors. To join Asha on a bike ride, a visit to the Y, a meander through downtown, or anything else active, feel free to reach out to her! She loves connecting with new people and being active.

Rose Oyamot

Rose Oyamot is a Library Associate in the Youth Services area at the Central Library. She has worked for the City for two years. Some of the things her job includes are presenting story time to children, helping patrons with library requests, and helping to build community outreach.

Seven years ago, Rose was unhappy about her weight. Her wedding was in one year, and she wanted to be in better shape for it. She found the support and motivation she needed by joining Weight Watchers. It changed the way she looked at food and her meals. She added activity as well and lost 30 pounds by her wedding. After the wedding, she kept up the healthy eating and working out. But then – children came along.

Rose did well up until the last trimester of her first pregnancy when she just let it go and put on a lot of weight. After her daughter was born, it was hard for her to transition back to eating healthy. There just didn’t seem to be time to do meal planning, exercising or generally taking care of herself. Last year, her son was born. At that time, Rose knew it was time to add activity to increase her energy and to lose weight so she could fit back into her clothes and feel good about herself.
She couldn’t wait for the Healthy Saint Paul 2017 program to begin. It would help provide the motivation to get her in gear. At biometric screening, her BMI results were a real wake up call for her.

When Rose heard about the Omada program, she knew it was right for her. She wouldn’t have to go anywhere to participate, reporting to a coach provided the accountability she was looking for and there was group support. She began the program just one week ago. She enjoys hearing what she says are “real people challenges and then responses from others in her group as to how they dealt with similar challenges.” It is a very supportive online environment. She has emailed with her coach three times so far and finds it magical that she can step on the scale that Omada provided and her results are automatically fed into her account.

While it has only been one week since she began, she is very enthusiastic. She has been spreading her enthusiasm to co-workers. Some have not been aware of the program and she encourages them to take a look if losing weight and getting healthier is a goal of theirs. Plus, it is free!

Besides being healthier, more physically active and having more energy to enjoy her family, Rose has another goal. She has begun a YouTube channel so looking better on camera is motivating her to lose weight. We wish her luck with her YouTube channel – you can check it out at “Ukulele Storytime.” It has easy video tutorials on how to play the ukulele along with story time songs.

Alex Crist

Alex Crist has worked for the City since 2011, when he started out as a temporary employee. In 2013, he received a full time position as an office assistant in the Sewer Maintenance Division of Public Works.

Before Alex began working with the City, he had been active and had kept his weight below 200 lbs. At some point, things changed though. He said he just got out of the habit of running and eating healthy. His biometric screening in 2015 was a real eye opener for him as he was confronted with his weight having increased to the 268 lb. range. He didn’t feel good about himself; he was unhappy and knew he had to make some changes.

Alex began by getting back into a regular exercise routine. He started working out at a gym again, jogging and lifting weights. By the end of one year, he was down 30 lbs. He had a goal though of getting back under 200 lbs. With the improvement in his fitness level, he was able to amp up his exercise routine. He increased the distances he would run and purchased a rowing machine and free weights for at home. He focused on portion sizes and eating more fruits and vegetables.

A year later, Alex is now down to 195 lbs. He started taking advantage of his lunch break to get in a quick jaunt around Como Lake and now really looks forward to that time. While he was committed to eating more fruits and vegetables, it was somewhat difficult for him. Working with the health coach last year provided him with the support he needed. It is no longer a struggle for him to include carrots, apples, cauliflower, etc. as part of his daily eating plan. (Alex does admit that sometimes a White Castle sounds good to him. He doesn’t believe in denying himself some simple pleasures but certainly in moderation.) His energy level is way up and he continues to push himself. He now has a goal of running a ½ marathon – and maybe even the Twin Cities Marathon next fall. He feels that now, at age 45, he is in better condition than he was at 17.

Living healthier is a family affair. His wife gets up early most days to get to the gym before work. She is also very conscious of her eating and has been an inspiration for Alex. He feels he and his wife are good role models for their children. Alex also stays busy coaching his 10 year old son’s baseball team.

Alex was successful for a couple of reasons. He began with a reasonable expectation and went about making changes gradually. He had tried dieting before which didn’t work. It was truly the lifestyle changes he made and keeping positive that allowed him to achieve these results.

A Look Back

The start of the New Year is a time when many people reflect back on their lives during the previous year and what they may want to do differently or accomplish this year. It is looked at like a chance for a new beginning. We asked the Healthy Saint Paul Well-being Champions if they were making New Year’s resolutions. Below is what a few of them have planned.

Laura Carroll – PED

In 2017, I want to continue exercising regularly as part of exemplifying an active and healthy lifestyle for my daughter. I’m also always trying to find the elusive work/life balance and am hopeful I’ll at least get closer to finding it this year.

Sara Nurmela – HREEO

My goal for 2017 is to continue to walk (or skate) on my lunch breaks.

Bridget Morales – Finance

For 2017 I plan to get back on my clean eating program. What do I mean by clean eating? Quality protein, healthy fats, and plenty of vegetables while staying away from processed carbohydrates and sugar. To help accomplish this goal I am going to make a grocery list and plan my meals for the week. By planning my meals I will be less likely to cheat because I will be prepared and take the guess work out of cooking.

Jim Hensrud – Police

Finding relaxing or down time is a goal for this busy father of twin 11 month old children. Fishing is just the thing that comes to his mind as one of his favorite ways to relax.

Anca Sima – Public Works

In 2016, the Public Works Department had the highest percentage of eligible employees complete Steps 1 and 2 of the Healthy Saint Paul Well-being Program. My resolution is to work within Public Works to see that 100% of our employees complete the program in 2017. Not only is this a good way to find out how healthy you are or get support in becoming healthier, but by doing this, you are rewarded with a considerable VEBA contribution!

Teri Learmont

Teri Learmont has been a police officer for the City of Saint Paul for almost 24 years. During her career, besides working as a patrol officer, she was assigned to the K9 unit for three years as well as the motorcycle unit. She currently works as a patrol officer on the midnight shift in the Western district. It was during her assignment to the motorcycle unit in 2002 that she suffered severe back trauma which, to this day, causes her to live with chronic pain. The injury occurred while participating in a motorcycle skills training exercise. She was riding through a grassy area and hit a big hole. She bounced off the seat about a foot and then slammed down hard on it. To her credit, she was able to maintain control of the bike and didn’t fall off. At the time, she thought she was okay – but later that day, her back became so painful that she ended up in Urgent Care. What followed was years of therapy in attempts to relieve the pain. She tried physical therapy, water therapy, steroid injections and a variety of rehabilitative programs. These modes provided only temporary relief at best. Her lifestyle changed. She stopped being as active as she had been, afraid of aggravating the pain in her back even more. She began to think she might have to give up the job she still really enjoyed doing along with so many other things she used to do that no longer seemed possible.

After six years of living with chronic pain, however, Teri decided she had had enough. She wanted to keep working. Her back hurt whether she was at work or at was at home. So, giving up her job to sit at home was not the answer. She was tired of sitting on the couch at home feeling sorry for herself. She was determined to have a more active lifestyle and not let the pain get the best of her. It was time to accept that the pain was never going to go away completely.

Teri decided to resume an exercise program. She began with walking. She added some walk/runs and found her back hurt if she ran or didn’t run. So, she continued to increase her running. She felt more like her old self, before the pain. She trained to run a half marathon and completed it. Despite the chronic pain, she now has run several marathons, and entered other competitions like the Tough Mudder, the Rugged Maniac and the Dirty Girl Mud Run. She feels the running has made her not only physically stronger but mentally stronger as well – and happy. Learning to live with chronic pain is a big challenge. The pain is always there but Teri’s determination to not let it get the best of her has given her life back to her. She is going to continue to run and be active for as long as she can.

Teri is not alone living with chronic pain. Chronic pain has emerged as a major health issue in this country, affecting 100 million Americans. While Teri was able to find a way on her own to manage living with it, there are programs that offer tools and skills to change the relationship with the pain and enable people to resume a happier life. Within the HealthPartners network, programs are offered at the Mayo Clinic and Courage Kenny Center.

The Runners of OFS

On Fridays in the Office of Financial Services (OFS), conversations can often be overheard about the upcoming week-end’s plans. While not so unusual within any department, the conversations here are likely to center on the topic of running. In OFS, employees’ running experiences vary from a beginner to a lifelong runner. Their conversations tend not to be about comparing speed and distance, but rather about listening to each other’s goals and then offering support and encouragement. While there are quite a few runners in OFS, the six employees below all happened to participate in races in the same October weekend, totaling 97.82 miles.

Mary Guerra completed the Twin City 10K, the longest distance she has ever run. She has two children under five and had been struggling to lose weight since her pregnancies. Dieting alone wasn’t working so Mary decided to start running a year ago. She built up to running about three miles, two-three times per week and she began losing weight. Within a year, she was down to her pre-pregnancy weight. After a while, Mary felt she was becoming too comfortable in her routine so decided to push herself to run the 10K. Now that she has accomplished that, she is further inspired by coworkers to set a goal of running a half marathon next April. Mary said that working in OFS has encouraged her to expand her running goals.

Catherine Penkert signed up for the Twin City 10 mile run after receiving information about the run and the registration link from another OFS co-worker. Catherine has been a runner off and on for many years. Besides the motivation from her co-workers, she receives additional support from Moms on the Run, a running club she trains with twice weekly.

Bridget Morales ran her first marathon in Chicago that weekend. When Bridget first started running with a friend four years ago, she hated every minute of it. She certainly never thought she would run a marathon. She gradually began to enjoy it though, signing up for 5Ks and a Ragnar (a 200 mile relay race with a team of 12 people). Now, Bridget regularly signs up for races to keep her on a training program. She really enjoyed all of the runner support in OFS this summer, which helped to keep her motivated and inspired.

Cheryl Arcand completed the Loony Challenge. In this race, runners complete a 5k and 10K on Saturday and a 10 miler on Sunday. Cheryl had never been a runner until a few years ago when she began a training program called Couch Potato to 5K. She has been challenging herself since then with setting new goals. Cheryl also enjoys running Ragnars.

Marissa Peterson ran the Twin City 10 mile for her second time. Her first time was two years ago, and she loved it. She says it is a gorgeous run along the river and seeing the capitol as you turn the corner is amazing. All the spectators add to the fun, keeping her motivated. She finds signing up for races a great way to keep motivation.

John McCarthy completed the Twin City Marathon, qualifying for the Boston marathon! Qualifying for the Boston marathon is a big deal; only 12% of marathon runners finish with a qualifying time. John has been running seriously for the last 15 years, but marathon running is in his family. When he was in 8th grade, John remembers watching his dad run the Boston marathon. He is very excited for the chance to run this elite race.

All the runners agreed that while they appreciate the benefit to their physical health, they find the benefit they receive to their mental health equally important. For them, running is a mood booster and a stress reducer. While running may not be for everyone, OFS is a good example of a healthy lifestyle culture that supports and motivates each other in reaching individual goals.

Anca Sima

Anca Sima, Public Works employee, is a breast cancer survivor. Her story is one of the importance of early detection, self-advocacy, and keeping a positive attitude.

It started with being diagnosed with lymphoma in November, 2013. Anca was scheduled to have PET scans every three months to monitor this. She asked her primary physician whether it would also be necessary to have her annual mammogram in lieu of the PET scans. Her physician said a mammogram would still be necessary – and, by the way – she had missed one the previous year. Anca was surprised to hear that as she always made it a point to do this yearly. She was scheduled and the results came back abnormal. A CT and then biopsy of two areas in one breast was performed. The biopsy showed cancer. Her doctor recommended a double mastectomy. Anca was shocked. The cancer was found in only one breast. Her doctor explained though that because of her dense breasts, tumors are harder to detect and a double mastectomy would reduce the risk of missing a tumor in the remaining breast. The surgeon, however, recommended the cancerous breast only be removed. With two conflicting recommendations, it was up to Anca to decide.

To help make an informed decision, she began researching the connection between lymphoma and breast cancer. She found one study from 2008 linking lymphoma not only to breast cancer but also ovarian and thyroid cancer. She brought this information to her hematologist who wasn’t aware of this study. She spoke with another physician who had worked at a cancer center who said she wasn’t surprised to hear this. She recommended that Anca have both breasts and ovaries removed and Anca agreed with this.

There was a problem going forward with surgery though as this study had not been published so was not accepted. It took Anca’s insistence that these procedures be done. She was finally able to convince her doctor that her past history alone with abnormal Pap smears warranted the removal of her ovaries (oophorectomy). The double mastectomy and oophorectomy were scheduled.

The surgery lasted 7.5 hours. In two days, she was discharged from the hospital. Within two weeks, she had returned to work though her recovery time had been expected to be six weeks. She attributed her fast recovery to her fitness – she has been a Yoga instructor for many years. Also, she wanted to feel normal and do normal activities again.

Anca received another blow though when 10 days after surgery, she was told that cancer had been found in the “normal” breast tissue. It was diagnosed as Her 2 positive – a very aggressive cancer cell that can spread to the brain and stomach quickly. Fortunately, it was confined (in situ). The surgeon believed they removed it all. Nevertheless, Anca went to Mayo for a second opinion. They concurred that it had not spread.

It has been three years now since Anca was diagnosed, and she remains cancer-free. She has frequent follow-ups as recommended and will check with her doctors if she feels anything has changed. Anca believes that the early detection of her cancer saved her life. During the last two years as she has recovered, she lost two friends to cancer. They had believed their healthy lifestyles protected them and skipped recommended exams.

Anca took responsibility for her health and acted as her own best advocate. She researched her condition and fought for what she believed was the best course for her. She recommends always getting second opinions. Anca won this battle though she can’t be sure what the future holds. She does not focus on being afraid, however, but instead believes in living her life to the fullest.

Anca’s portrait seen here portrays the victorious spirit, strength and courage she has shown battling this disease. For more information on the Breast Cancer Superhero portrait project, visit: www.superheroportraits.com/breast-cancer-superheroes/

Laura Eckert

In 2016, the Healthy Saint Paul Well-being program initiated some changes. The changes were made to allow employees to take ownership of their health – no more required physical activities or seminars. Instead, this year’s program includes the opportunity for employees to choose a goal that is specific to their needs and receive help in reaching that goal with guidance from a health coach.

We admit that at first the new program was met by some employees with skepticism. Laura Eckert was one of these employees. Laura has been a City employee for 38 years. She works as an Executive Assistant II in PED.

When Laura first read about the health coaching component, her first thought was “Ugh – coaching?” She had been content with participating in the 10,000 steps challenge each year. It was easy since she likes being active anyway. She has been taking advantage of the Yoga classes offered during the lunch hour at City Hall since they began 25 years ago. During the good weather months, she will mix up her Yoga routine by substituting a brisk walk outside. Her eating habits are healthy and biometrics are in a good range. She was at first puzzled as to what health coaching could do for her.

Occasionally, though, Laura suffers from back pain. She decided to talk to a coach about ways to manage this. From the first conversation with her coach, she felt a good rapport. The coach was friendly and helpful. The coach referred her to the website, “Fitness Blender”. There, Laura found exercises to help stretch and strengthen her back. The coach asked her about the shoes she wore and stressed the importance of replacing them – even when they were still looking good on the outside as it is the hidden support on the inside of the shoe that breaks down and can then cause back or leg problems. Laura would check in with the coach each week and report back to her what seemed to help. Other suggestions were made, including a reminder of the importance of good posture in relieving back pain. Laura now finds herself much more aware of how she sits, stands and even sleeps.

Laura found working with the coach to be so beneficial that she continued on beyond the required three sessions. She found the expertise of the coach instrumental in helping her increase her awareness of what can contribute to her back pain and steps she can take to lessen it.

Laura Eckert, left with Sue Wegwerth, Human Resources.