Karen Way: Blessed to have found Beebe programs

The importance of connection and gratitude
July 3, 2019

Karen Way moved to Lewes just over two years ago. She wanted to live closer to family and moved into an apartment that would be her first real home of her own.

Her husband of 34 years had recently passed away. Her parents had passed away earlier, and she found herself on her own for the first time in her life.

“It was a scary time for me. After my husband passed away, I knew I needed to sell our home. I initially moved into a fixer-upper condo not far from our home, but it turned out badly. I had cousins in the Bethany Beach area and have fond memories of time spent with my parents there, so I decided to come to Delaware,” she recalled.

Karen’s daughter lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters. Karen could easily take Amtrak from Delaware to the city to visit.

About a year after Karen’s move to Delaware, her oldest granddaughter became blind at age 3. She was diagnosed with a rare gene mutation that caused sudden blindness. “This change in our beloved child was traumatic for our whole family,” Karen said. “I felt helpless and had overwhelming emotions thinking about my granddaughter’s new normal and what her future would be.”

Karen’s daughter and son-in-law were actively working with resources in their community, but being many miles away left her deeply uneasy. Karen started to fall into a depression. For the first time, her faith was not overcoming her fears. She wasn’t eating well, she wasn’t sleeping well, and she felt more anxious than ever before.

“I was basically a mess. I was gaining weight and that was putting stress on my heart condition. My blood pressure was up and my doctor was concerned,” she said. “I knew I needed to do something.”

Finding the power of connection

Karen was skimming through the local newspaper when she found what she needed. “There was a class about holiday stress, and I thought I would try it out. It was through the library and then it led me to taking more classes at the library,” Karen recalled.

Beebe’s Integrative Health and Population Health teams offer a variety of free classes throughout Sussex County. They offer education and skills training to help empower individuals to take charge of their health – mind and body – in a sustainable way. Population Health care team members also provide free health screenings at community events year-round.

“I first met Beebe Health Coach Rita Williams after the Embodied Mindfulness class. I remember when I saw the description, thinking - wow, this is exactly what I need,” she said. She was amazed by how open and welcoming the class was, whether attendees knew about mindfulness or not. “I thought I would be uncomfortable, but I really wasn’t. It was taught in such an embracing way that I really felt safe and then empowered.”

Karen went on to take other classes such as personalized medicine, Pranayama yogic breathing, cultivating kindness in oneself, practicing meditation, and more. “Once I realized it was a comfortable atmosphere, it opened me up to continuing to try various classes,” Karen said. “Many of them were at the Lewes Public Library, a place I am familiar with. I often take my granddaughters there during summer visits.”

There, she met Children’s Librarian and Program Coordinator Jennifer Noonan. Jen took an interest in Karen and her granddaughter, inviting them to come early to programs so the child could settle in before others arrived. Jen also told Karen about a social worker who might know of programs or resources for blind children.

“When I met Joanne Friend, the social worker, we immediately connected. I shared my concerns and anxiety about my granddaughter, and she was helpful and compassionate. She promised to research resources, and when she got back to her office, there was a flyer on her desk promoting a fair for the visually impaired, which was to be held the following week in Dover. It was clearly meant to be,” Karen said.

Karen attended the fair and learned about programs, resources, and ways that people living with visual impairment can connect with the world around them. “It was so enlightening, and it really helped me find peace and begin to come to terms with my granddaughter’s new life. God’s timing is impeccable,” Karen said. “Between learning about all the available resources and embracing what I learned in the Beebe classes, I could feel myself becoming lighter. Our basic human need for connection brings us together and helps us feel less alone.”

Karen enjoys connecting through Zumba classes, primarily with Kelly Serpico at Coastal Dance Academy in Villages of Five Points. “I absolutely love Zumba. When I am doing the workout, I can feel myself lighting up, and it energizes me,” Karen said. 

With Kelly’s encouragement, Karen completed training to become a certified Zumba instructor. “Zumba is my outlet and my preferred way to exercise,” Karen said. “I try to do it every day. I really encourage others to try different exercise classes to find what they enjoy.”

Gratitude for health coaching

After a Beebe Integrative Health class, Rita Williams told Karen she also works with people one on one. Karen decided to try it out.

“I was nervous about health coaching because I wasn’t sure I could do it or really what to expect; however, Rita puts you at ease. She focuses on your personal goals – not your doctor’s goals, not her goals for you, but your own vision of well-being and priorities,” Karen said. “That makes a huge difference.”

One of Karen’s first goals was to manage her weight and heart condition without needing additional medication. Karen and Rita met regularly; they explored what she was currently doing to support her well-being, where she wanted to make changes and, together, reflected on Karen’s progress. 

“It’s been a privilege to partner with Karen in her journey,” Rita said. “I have seen her shift in so many ways, with increased self-awareness and focus on her own self-care practices. She is exploring what she likes, does not like, and what she needs and wants. I can feel her confidence growing, with new skills and practices, and shifts in her sense of self as she has become empowered in this new chapter of life.” 

Karen made it a priority to reduce the amount of salt and processed foods she was eating, and eat healthier, regular meals. “As a widow and living alone, I was no longer motivated to cook. Working together, Rita encouraged me to try simple, new recipes and start cooking,” Karen said. 

She started going to farmers markets and stores seeking fresh ingredients to try at home. She sought out healthier convenience foods and menu items.

And, she learned a new trick: HALT. HALT reminds her to stop before eating and ask herself: Am I hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired?

“I learned about how my emotional states could trigger a desire to eat even when I wasn’t truly hungry,” Karen said. Karen now practices the 80/20 rule and only eats until she’s 80 percent full.

“I am very grateful to have the opportunity to work with individuals in all different situations, in different phases of life, and throughout the continuum of well-being,” Rita said. “We know that lifestyle choices are integral factors in our well-being, and science is confirming just how significant a role they play in our health. When people are ready to make lifestyle changes, my goal is to support them in making sustainable, positive changes while connecting them to community resources. Ultimately, they are the ones choosing what they do, how and when; as coaches, we guide and partner with them in their journey to live well.”

Karen admits that she is growing as an individual and learning she is stronger than she thought. “Being a widow, loneliness is inevitable, and it can make you sad and anxious. By making healthy changes in my life, being around people, finding that connection, and stating all the reasons I am grateful, I’m becoming more confident and independent. Feeling supported and encouraged on my wellness journey makes life easier,” Karen said. 

She added, “I feel so blessed to have found Beebe’s programs and our amazing community of resources. Rita helped me to realize that there are many people on my team - my doctor, my exercise instructors, my health coach, my family, my friends, and most importantly, me - and having that sense of a team fills a void and helps me realize that I am not alone.”

For information about healthy living programs and services from Beebe Integrative Health and Population Health, contact Rita Williams at or 302-856-9729, Ext. 2936. 

Learn more about Beebe Population Health’s free health screenings:



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