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Earth Angel
Advocating for Your Own Health
Taking Care of You
The Superpower of Human Connection


Taking Care of You

The three C’s of fitness for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, especially when caring for others

by Nicole Fevrier Davis

It’s inevitable — when someone or something is demanding our time — college, new baby, new job, caring for parents and kids — we find ourselves with less time to get or stay fit. 

If we could view caring for others as enriching our relationships and strengthening our spirits, attempting a workout would feel less loaded with the expectation of accomplishing a goal and more about how it creates good feelings physically and emotionally as it builds stamina for challenging days. 


I have been a mom for 23 years and a fitness professional for 36. One of the most difficult times in my life was when I had just given birth to my first son. I had serious vertigo that left me feeling depleted and drained every day, but I didn’t allow my delicate state of being to sidetrack my desire to get strong and resolve my inner ear issues. 

I also had to stop viewing the time spent with my newborn as time I was prevented from working out. Of course, we want to lose weight and be more fit, feel strong and have greater endurance. But first, we have to thank ourselves for doing what we feel is right for those we love. Then we can start thinking about when, where and how to carve out time for ourselves. 

It’s important to view physical activity as part of a lifestyle, not necessarily something to attain lofty goals. But if you are at one of those life-changing junctures or if you are sedentary and want to start getting more physically active, follow these three C’s of fitness: 


Making small changes can make an even bigger difference in your ability to sustain a new lifestyle habit. You might not be able to change your baby’s sleep schedule, your kids’ school schedules or the habitual schedule of your aging parents, so focus on things you can change. Think of ways you can motivate yourself, such as playing great music, watching inspirational videos or just getting outside more. Then create small attainable goals that you can realistically commit to.


Consider walking 2,000 steps a day with your parent instead of 10,000 steps — or putting baby on your stomach and doing 15 small crunches to start.

If you find yourself caring for a parent or spouse, you may want to consider how independent they can be and for how long. If you can leave your loved one for an hour, you may want to go for a quick walk, run or bike ride.


I would strongly suggest you set up a support network early on. Have a friend stop by for coffee once a week to be with your loved one, or find a visiting nurse service so you can have a few hours every week to exercise or get a little pampering in.



Nothing happens without consistent effort. That means making appointments with yourself and honoring your process.

The key to building healthy lifestyle habits is being patient with yourself and your loved ones, taking small, gradual steps and giving yourself positive messages and rewards along the way. 

You will feel better and you will have given everyone around you a solid example of living a balanced and healthy lifestyle.


Nicole Fevrier Davis is a mind and body expert who works to blend the two worlds of physical science and spirituality.

Center for Hearing Expert Tips
Overcoming Challenges


The Superpower of Human Connection

Lisa Cook builds bridges to communities based on friendship

Medical research proves that meaningful social connections are as important to our health as exercise and a healthy diet. We are genetically wired to be social.

Still, loneliness has become a household word for many this past year due to pandemic-induced quarantines.

But Lisa Cook is passionately determined to help people forge new friendships, saying, “Loneliness can be a superpower when you leverage it for the good.”

As she hosts events to connect people in meaningful ways, she says, “I cap my events at 6-10 people so folks all get to know each other. At the start, attendees are asked to introduce themselves to the group and share their favorite free-time activities. Folks start chatting away after discovering shared interests and hometowns. It’s a great icebreaker.” 

Cook’s social wellness efforts were sparked in 2010 when she moved from Washington, D.C. to Minnesota.

“As a single person in my early 40s, Minnesota was a tough place to make new friends. People my age already had extensive social networks of family and longstanding friends,” she recalls.

To compound matters, her job in career services for an online university was solitary. She was a one-person department: a virtual career counselor, connecting with students by phone rather than face to face.

Experiencing loneliness at work and living alone through long winters, Cook did a deep dive into loneliness research, looking for ways to overcome it. Loneliness was trending upward nationally, and she was surprised to find that 27% of Americans lived alone.

Lisa Cook at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State P

“All of a sudden, I did not feel so alone in my aloneness. I decided to use my networking skills as a career counselor to start building community and connecting people. When life does not go according to Plan A, you have to devise, Plan B. So, I named my venture, Plan B Connections,” she says.


She developed workshops for unemployed job seekers feeling socially isolated. She launched a Facebook group for neighbors to connect and help each other. They made holiday meals for a homeless teens shelter, planted a tree to honor a neighbor who passed away and helped plant a Friendship Garden next to her home.

To share her story with others experiencing loneliness, she highlighted her efforts in her TEDx talk “Living Alone, Living Connected” (

After 10 Minnesota winters, Cook moved to Naples in 2017.

“Naples is a great place to make new friends, as nearly everyone is a transplant here,” she says. “We all need new friends.” 

Through quarantine, Cook continued to forge virtual connections. She hosts a monthly virtual biography book club on Zoom. She launched “Plan B Connectors Group” on Facebook for folks to share ways to overcome loneliness.

“The key to overcoming loneliness is meaningful connection. Find an enjoyable activity where folks are committed to regular attendance. I met one of my closest friends through an improv class. Same time, same place — that’s how friendships take root,” she says.


Cook recently joined the Naples Walking Club, launched in 1992 (

The club has regular walks four days a week. On her first walk, she witnessed members chatting away like old friends — what she calls the group’s “social glue.”

Cook has new ideas for Plan B Connections.

Eventually, she hopes to shift from her volunteer venture to working full-time to help people forge meaningful social connections throughout all stages of life. She’s also considering returning to school for a master’s in social work.

“Connecting people is my ‘occupassion!’” Cook says, noting that Plan B Connections has been recognized as a Southwest Florida Blue Zones Project for supporting social wellness and healthy aging.

“We all need people to confide in, to have fun with, and to lean on when things happen,” Cook says. “We need to build these tribes at the community level.” 


Lisa Cook has a law degree from Ohio State and a master’s in education from George Mason University. She currently works as the director of student services at a local university, connecting students with employers and promising job opportunities. To learn more, visit

Lisa Cook at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park

Worth Her Salt


Overcoming Challenges


Kathleen van Bergen, CEO & President of Artis—Naples, reflects on the challenges faced in her career, including the positive outcome of Hurricane Irma that helped shape Naples’ cultural experience. A violinist by training, van Bergen shares a phrase from her violin professor that has become a guiding mantra in business and life.


The excerpt is from the NextGen Speaker Series panel discussion, “Leading Ladies: The Business of the Arts.”

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Advocating for Your Own Health

Author survives medical malpractice and lives on to empower others

by Lorena Junco Margain 

In 2008, I left Mexico with my family due to concerns for our safety. I was also pregnant.

Shortly after arriving at our new home in Austin, Texas, I experienced unexplained symptoms of dizziness and lethargy. Doctors told me I was suffering from depression, which made sense since I’d experienced a lot of upheaval.

One after another, the many doctors I consulted told me, “Take a few of these pills and you’ll feel fine.” I took the pills, but I could not shake the feeling that something else altogether was wrong.

My symptoms continued or worsened. I pushed through each day, weighted by fatigue and sadness. My head pounded, and my body ached. Doctors continued to say there was nothing wrong with me.

When I accompanied my sister to an endocrinology appointment following her thyroid cancer surgery, the endocrinologist suggested we check my thyroid, given my sister’s history. This purely coincidental exam revealed that I had a tumor on my adrenal gland. Although not life threatening, the condition was serious and required immediate surgery. I was overjoyed to learn that with a simple surgery, I would regain my strength and energy. 

But that’s not how things worked out. My condition worsened after surgery. Once again, doctors insisted I was depressed. I went for tests and consultations, still doubting my inner voice insisting that depression was not the problem. 

Finally, after reviewing my records at my insistence, the surgeon realized he’d made a grave mistake. He had removed the wrong adrenal gland, leaving me with one cancerous gland that wielded a profound influence on my physical and emotional well-being. I write about this in my memoir, “On the Way to Casa Lotus.”

Within our current medical system and its power dynamics, many people — especially women — don’t speak up about advice or recommendations they intuitively feel are wrong. That was my case. 

The surgeon’s self-assured manner and paternal air made me want to be a good patient. I felt compelled to please him, to say the right things and be brave, not letting on just how much I was suffering. The surgeon didn’t do anything in particular to make me feel this way. He didn’t have to.

We were both products of a system in which a tall, white, male doctor and a petite woman cross paths in a well-choreographed pattern. The last thing I wanted to do was disrupt things. I wanted things to go smoothly. I wanted to be well taken care of.

Coming to terms with what happened and the permanent consequences I now live with, has led me to several missions. Among them is to empower women everywhere to become advocates for their own health and medical care, including:


Never ignore your gut feelings

Quite often, we have an intuitive sense that something is wrong, but since doctors have science and data and years of knowledge supporting their opinions, it’s easy to ignore gut feelings. But our intuition is smart, sometimes smarter than science. Don’t ever ignore it.

See doctors as equals and speak to them that way

Doctors are often viewed as authority figures and superiors, and patients behave as though that is true.

In reality, doctors are consultants we have hired for their expertise. Ideally, the collaboration between doctors and patients is friendly and mutually respectful. Seeing doctors as equals and communicating that way helps balance the power dynamic.

Be well informed, proactive and straightforward

It’s imperative to question, define and demand the care you need from doctors.

A good patient is one who is well informed, proactive and straightforward in communicating with doctors and expressing their needs and concerns.

Another, more broad-reaching mission I’m on is to promote forgiveness as a force for personal and universal change. Despite the life-altering consequences the surgeon’s error caused, I chose to forgive him. 

Thankfully, I was introduced to Dr. Nancy Perrier, chief of surgical endocrinology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, who brilliantly and successfully performed a partial adrenalectomy to remove only the tumorous section of my remaining adrenal gland.

My health will never be the same, nor will my life. But the healing power of forgiveness and the knowledge that I can advocate for my health and medical care fortify me as I embark on the journey ahead.

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Lorena Junco Margain is an art collector, philanthropist and author of the memoir, “On My Way to Casa Lotus.” She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and three children.


Earth Angel

Breast cancer survivor warns friend to be proactive in screening


Karysia Lee Demarest

Some of us are blessed with angels in our lives to protect us from harm.

This was, and is, the case of Erikka Thalheimer, who, at a lunch meeting in September, took the advice of then breast-cancer survivor, Karysia Lee Demarest, to adhere to her regularly scheduled mammogram, even in the face of COVID-19.


Demarest’s advice likely saved Thalheimer’s life, as you’ll witness in the following letter Thalheimer wrote after Demarest, 52, succumbed to breast cancer in February.


Thalheimer shared with èBella èXtra a letter she wrote to Demarest after her passing, with these urgent words of advice for our readers:

“Breast Cancer Awareness month is every month. Please get screened!”

- - - - - -

My Dear Friend, Karysia:

I wish I could have taken some of your burden. I would have gladly split it in half, so we could both be here together once more. Instead, you took all of the burden, and saved my life by reminding me to get a breast screening back in September of 2020, so I would be safe.

Because of COVID, I was absolutely prepared to skip my 2020 mammogram and make my appointment for March of 2021. You did not let me do that.

At that September lunch table, it was the furthest thing from my mind that I would have breast cancer at that very moment. After all, my mom’s first breast cancer (invasive ductal carcinoma) did not get diagnosed until she was 74, and her second (triple-negative receptor) was when she was 79.

I am only 57, and have had an annual mammogram since I turned 40.

I left our lunch date and decided to make all of the appointments I missed because of COVID. My standard mammogram on 9/14/2020 came back suspicious with calcifications. My 9/18/2020 diagnostic mammogram came back suspicious, as well. My needle biopsy on 9/23/2020 showed that the calcifications were, in fact, sinister. 

Ductal carcinoma in situ was the final diagnosis on September 25, 2020.


During my mom’s breast cancers, I asked for her to be genetically tested. However, her physician stated that it was not necessary. With three generations under my mom, I aggressively pursued the issue. I was successful in getting the genetic testing completed.

My mom carried the Bard1 gene, a genetic predisposition for breast cancer in both males and females in the lineage. I began my genetic testing through my gynecologist’s office before any doctor suggested it. Fortunately, I did not receive the Bard1 gene from my mom, which means that my two children do not carry it either. My siblings are to get tested, as well.

Next came the MRI, which showed more cancerous calcifications away from the original site. This, coupled with the fact that my mom’s experience (starting with ductal carcinoma in situ that went invasive, led to a lumpectomy and then to a double mastectomy five years later), allowed me to see my future. I decided on a double mastectomy.

You were right there with me, my friend. Calling, texting, making sure I had my warm Snoopy blanket for whatever treatment I would need. My surgery was set for 11/30/2020, and you called that morning, only to find out that the insurance company would no longer cover the facility for my surgery.

I had to start all over again with the planning phase, and it was hard. My new surgery date was set for 12/9/20, and you checked on me many times.

You were my warrior, my angel, my strength, my knowledge, my light and my lifesaver. I know you (and your family) are still all of those to me, but I miss you so much.

You fought with a grace, grit and strength that I did not know I had until you showed me that I had it, too.

After this personal experience, I thought so much about how difficult this process was for me, a strong individual who can put emotion aside and make decisions quickly and concisely.

My lingering question is, “How would a young, newly diagnosed single mother of three with a full-time job and no support system do this without an angel in her life?”

I am so lucky that I have you now as my true angel, and I will carry the torch that you lit for me. I will help those in need  in your name, and I will be your voice when it comes to getting women (and men) to those screenings.

I so wish I could have shared your burden, so we could be sharing more conversation, joy and love over the lunch table.

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Erikka Thalheimer is a near -40-year resident of Naples, with massive pride in her two children and community. From 1986-2017, Erikka was a manager of the family business, Thalheimer Jewelers. In 2002, she was one of seven volunteers who founded the Cancer Alliance of Naples, one of her proudest accomplishments.


Worth Her Salt

Meet Chef Kayla Pfeiffer, chef de cuisine at the new Bar Tulia Mercato

by Lois Sabatino

She looks so young in baggy chef’s pants and an apron that wraps around her twice.

In her mid-20s, Kayla Pfeiffer, chef de cuisine at the newly opened Bar Tulia Mercato, is one tough cookie. She’s an enlightened woman making her mark in a restaurant culture still dominated by men.


For two years, Chef Kayla headed a team of 24 men and one woman in the kitchen of Chef Vincenzo Betulia’s The French Brasserie Rustique on Fifth Avenue South in Naples. 

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Hyde Park, she began her professional career working long hours for two years in the kitchen of famed Chef Andrew Carmellini’s The Dutch in New York City.

“I remember how hard it was those first days at The Dutch, trying to fit in the kitchen with a bunch of men. One burly guy was particularly awful on my first day, growling that this was the first time he had to work with a woman — and he didn’t like it. After seeing how hard I worked and how much help I was to him, he turned into a nice guy and is still my friend.”

Chef Vincenzo Betulia has developed such faith in this young woman that she’s now the executive chef at his new restaurant, Bar Tulia Mercato, which opened at Mercato in Naples in April. 

Though she sometimes worked 17-hour days at The French, she still found time to interview kitchen staffers to develop the culture at Betulia’s new restaurant. 

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“Putting together a team is so important to feeding that special crowd in North Naples,” Chef Kayla says. 


As a 5-year-old raised in a family of restaurateurs, her first cooking experience was standing on a chair, helping her Italian grandmother beat eggs.


But even then, her most important influence was, and still is, her father, who worked in the restaurant business most of his years. He lives in Wyoming now and continues to be supportive through her challenges, like succeeding at the culinary institute, surrounded by male students and instructors.

The only two female instructors there were particularly hard to please.


“They really were strict and toughened me up because they wanted me to make it in this man’s world, I guess,” Chef Kayla says. 


Her father helped her through it, assuring her that she could accomplish anything. She still calls him whenever she needs a pep talk as she navigates a daunting business. 

Earning the respect of men who find it hard to take orders from a woman is one of the biggest challenges.

“That’s the hardest part of heading a successful kitchen team: developing the camaraderie and willingness it takes to make it all happen,” Chef Kayla muses.

What keeps her going is the satisfaction she feels at the end of every service. Whether it went very well or had some issues, she loves every minute of it.

After a long day behind the stove, her favorite meal is a pizza with prosciutto, munching on it as she relaxes among the 200 cookbooks she’s already read front to back. 

It can be exhausting work, but as Chef Kayla says, “It still makes you want to come back the next day and do it all over again, doing the best you can for the hardworking people you are working next to, and for the guests being served.”


Lois C. Sabatino is a consultant in public and community relations, special events, fundraising and motivational training. She was the first female executive at United Technologies.

Kayla Pfeiffer, chef de cuisine at Bar Tulia Mercato

Taking Charge of Your Wellness

As a new reality emerges for us all, it’s time to take stock in ourselves

We’re feeling more encouraged these days than we have in 15 months of pandemic shifts that affected our mental, physical, social and spiritual lives. Now’s the time to assess and take charge of our personal wellness.

Here, we feature one woman’s critical health struggle and the lessons she now shares about listening to our bodies and taking the lead when it comes to our wellness.

We present a letter of love and gratitude from one woman who heeded the advice of another — advice that saved her life.

Fitness is top of mind for those who now feel liberated to get up and get active. Learn from a wellness consultant the benefits of “the three C’s of fitness:” Change, Commitment and Consistency.

Our hometown hero, Lisa Cook, advocates for connection and social wellness, particularly now, as we emerge from interpersonal abstinence.

One of the wellness areas we might take for granted is our hearing, but there’s a strong connection between hearing loss and dementia. Timothy J. Roupas, Au.D., of Center for Hearing, explains the link and urges us to listen to our hearing.

Readers will receive insight and inspiration from two dynamic women in our community: Kathleen van Bergen, CEO of Artis—Naples and Chef Kayla Pfeiffer of the newly opened Bar Tulia Mercato.

Acknowledging even the slightest progress toward wellness is key to moving forward. From brain health to better sleep; from setting boundaries to overcoming isolation, the small steps we take empower us to take charge of our overall wellness as we step into the future. 



The Auditory/Neurocognitive Connection

Researchers theorize new link between dementia and hearing loss

by Timothy J. Roupas, Au.D.

As studies continue to support the link between hearing, mental health, cognition and vitality, the importance of audiological professional care becomes even more apparent. 

For the 48 million Americans with hearing loss, communication difficulties aren’t the only thing to worry about. Comorbidities associated with hearing loss include loneliness, depression and an increased risk of falling. Among the conditions linked to hearing impairment, cognitive decline is perhaps the most serious. It’s also one of the most widely researched.

Numerous studies over the years have found an association between hearing loss and dementia. One widely cited study conducted by Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D. and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins University, tracked 639 adults over the course of 12 years and found that mild hearing loss doubled the risk of dementia.

Lin and his team additionally found the worse the hearing loss, the more likely each patient was to experience dementia. Moderate hearing loss increased the risk three times, and severe hearing loss resulted in a dementia risk amplified upwards of five times. 

While the connection is hard to dispute, scientists have only been able to offer theories to explain this. A new study, published in the September 1, 2020 issue of the medical journal “Neuron” may help shed light on the mystery.

Researchers from Newcastle University examined the results of multiple human and animal studies and posit that changes in brain activity associated with hearing loss can produce abnormal proteins that trigger Alzheimer’s disease. The study’s authors hope this information might aid in preventing dementia and cognitive decline for patients with impaired hearing.


Dr. Will Sedley from Newcastle University’s Faculty of Medical Sciences explains, “This memory system engaged in difficult listening is the most common site for the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. We propose that altered activity in the memory system caused by hearing loss and the Alzheimer’s disease process trigger each other.”


Dr. Timothy J. Roupas, AU.D, offers complimentary hearing consultations for new patients to help them better understand their hearing health and needs. Visit for more information.

What You Should Do

1. Always trust your hearing care to an experienced audiologist.


2. Get annual hearing exams to make sure your hearing devices are properly maintained and adjusted for any changes in your hearing.


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