Saturday, January 12, 2008

My All-Awesome Bubbie, AKA "The Bread Lady"

I am 100% plagiarizing an article found in the January edition of Healthy Directions magazine. Hope that's not a problem :)


Her name is Ruth Zaikov, but to patients and staff of CentraState Medical Center, she's mostly known as the "Bread Lady." Once a week, for nearly five years, the 82-year-old Manalapan resident has delivered baskets of homemade, still-warm-from-the oven, mini-loaves of challah, a special Jewish bread, to CentraState's Radiation Oncology department for patients and staff of all faiths to share. A former patient and breast-cancer survivor, Ruth calls the challahs "bread of hope" and says they're a way of giving thanks and sharing her fortune with others.

"We love it. The patients and their families love it. It's such a positive sign of support and camaraderie. Some even leave Ruth thank-you notes," says Edward Soffen, MD, chair of Radiation Oncology. "Having cancer is a life change. Even if the doctor says there's an excellent chance of survival, there's always the fear the patient might be among those less fortunate. Receiving this gift from a former patient who is doing well is uplifting and inspiring."


Ruth, a widowed mother of four and grandmother of 11 [I'm #1!!!], was diagnosed with a suspicious lump in her breast about six years ago. She got the news after she accompanied her daughter Rona, a pastry chef [and a damn good one!] and co-owner of Thyme Square restaurant [also a damn good one!] in Red Bank, to a mammography appointment and she decided to have one herself. She underwent a lumpectomy and was referred to CentraState for radiation therapy.

"From day one the people at CentraState have been phenomenal," Ruth says of the Radiation Oncology staff. "They're warm, supportive, and funny. They went out of their way to accommodate me when scheduling appointments."

During her treatment, Ruth befriended another patient who mentioned how her oncologist bought challahs for patients that he called "bread of hope."

"My friend said, 'I need all the hope I can get.' It was such an inspiration. I though, 'I can do that'," recalls Ruth.


She bakes about 45 to 50 plain, poppy-seed, and sesame-seed mini-loaves each week and is nearing the 10,000 mark. Like the storied post office couriers whom "neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night can stay from their appointed rounds," nothing short of serious illness has interfered with Ruth's weekly deliveries. She missed some while recovering from a fractured ankle. "I kept nagging the orthopedist to let me go back," Ruth says. A heart attack in 2006 also waylaid her temporarily. "I was taken to CentraState's Emergency Department and when I was getting the EKG, the technician said, 'You're the Bread Lady'," she recalls with delight.

"I thrive when I'm busy and involved," says Ruth. She's taking art classes at the adult community where she lives, attends lectures at two local synagogues, and loves pursuing the Englishtown auction. During the school year she volunteers in a kindergarten. She also has taken courses at Brookdale Community College. Perhaps a sign in her kitchen sums it up best: "God has a lot planned for me and I'm not near finished'"

For information about Radiation Oncology and other cancer services at CentraState, call 866-CENTRA7 or visit
Ruth Zaikov is greeted by Brian Chon, MD, radiation oncologist, as she delivers her specially baked "Bread of Hope" to patients and staff.

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