From Monmouth Medical Center Nurse to Cancer Survivor to Half-Marathon Runner

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

Just 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, Peggy 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.

Peggy, 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, Peggy's pulmonologist thought it was unlikely that she would ever run a marathon. Rather than view this as an obstacle, Peggy took it in stride and only worked harder.

While fighting her way back to recovery after treatment, it took Peggy nearly one hour to complete two miles on the treadmill. Peggy 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?"

Peggy 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, Peggy 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."

Peggy'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, Peggy selected the word "survivor" for her race bid.
On race day, Peggy'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.

Peggy 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 held April 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 family friendly 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. "

NJ Marathon

Long Branch Half Marathon participant Peggy Laggner, Monmouth Medical Center nurse and cancer survivor, with her daughter Alysha Lopez.

About Monmouth Medical Center
Located in Long Branch, N.J., Monmouth Medical Center, a Barnabas Health facility, along with The Unterberg Children's Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center, is one of New Jersey's largest teaching hospitals and has been an affiliate of Philadelphia's Drexel University College of Medicine for more than 40 years. From its earliest days, Monmouth Medical Center has been a leader in surgical advancement and has introduced many technological firsts to the region, including robotic surgery and other minimally invasive techniques. The hospital is routinely recognized by HealthGrades, the nation's largest premier independent health care quality company, for excellence in both emergency medicine and maternity care. U.S. News & World Reporthas recognized Monmouth as a regional leader in cancer, geriatrics, gynecology, neurology and neurosurgery. For more information on Monmouth Medical Center, visit

About Barnabas Health
Barnabas Health is the largest not-for-profit integrated health care delivery system in New Jersey and one of the largest in the nation, with more than two million patient visits and delivery of more than 17,600 babies annually. The system includes six acute care hospitals, two children's hospitals, a freestanding behavioral health center, ambulatory care centers, geriatric centers, the state's largest behavioral health network, comprehensive home care and hospice programs, pharmacy services, a medical group and three accountable care organizations. As the second-largest private employer in New Jersey, Barnabas Health includes 18,200 employees and 4,600 physicians – or one-fifth of the actively practicing physicians in New Jersey. Barnabas Health is a proud founding partner of the 2014 Special Olympics, which will take place in New Jersey June 14 to 21. For more information, visit