Andrea K. Walker, The Baltimore Sun
8:47 PM EDT, April 8, 2012
Carolyn Holly Howard, a practitioner of alternative medical techniques, died Tuesday at her Baltimore home after an eight-year battle with ovarian cancer.
The resident of the Woodlands at Coldspring Newtown was 61.
Ms. Howard was born in Dallas, Texas, but moved around a lot as a child because of her father's work running Christian summer camps for a national organization. The family eventually settled in Ridgewood, N.J., where Ms. Howard graduated from high school.
She attended Hope College in Holland, Mich., and Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa., before moving to California in the 1970s. It was there that she began studying meditation, energy therapies and therapeutic body work. She worked with Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein, pioneers in the Human Potential Movement, which promoted a holistic approach to human functioning that included treating the intellectual, physical, creative and spiritual.
"I think she went there to get away from the old life and try something new," her husband, Farlow Blakeslee, said. "She always had a sense of adventure about her."
Ms. Howard eventually left California and moved to Columbia, where her parents had settled. She studied at the University of Maryland and completed her bachelor's degree in 1994 in biofeedback and psychophysiology, an independent study degree she developed combining disciplines from many departments.
She married that same year and in 1995, at age 44, gave birth to son Nicholas Zywan, who is now 16. She and her son's father divorced in 2001.
After graduating, Ms. Howard would continue her alternative medical practice and was continually studying new techniques.
She became an expert in rolfing, a massage-like technique that is said to improve health by bringing the body into proper alignment. Practitioners stretch and open the fascia — fibrous layers of connective tissue that covers muscles and may tighten because of mental and emotional stress.
Ms. Howard was certified by the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration and became an advanced rolfer in 1998. She built a successful rolfing practice at Ruscombe Mansion Health Center in Baltimore and then in her home and an office in Columbia.
In 2004, Ms. Howard was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, a disease that is often fatal because it is usually detected at a late stage. After chemotherapy and a hysterectomy, Ms. Howard's cancer went into remission.
While in remission in 2005, she met her future husband, Mr. Blakeslee, at a fundraiser for a center where they both meditated. They committed to each other shortly after beginning to date and officially married last year.
Ms. Howard's cancer would return and she would live with it for several more years, but family members and friends said she continued to try to live life as if she were healthy.
She was often seen digging in the garden outside of her house and planted trees in her neighborhood as a member of the sustainability committee in Coldspring Newtown. She enjoyed the outdoors and spent weekends in between chemotherapy sessions camping, hiking, biking and kayaking.
"I used to say she was the healthiest sick person I knew," said friend and neighbor Anne McCall. "She ate right and exercised and took care of herself. She believed in those things. ... I think that is what made her life so long."
Ms. Howard planned family trips to Yosemite National Park, The Grand Canyon and other places. Last summer, she took the family tubing in Harper's Ferry, W.Va., where she rode down the river on a black tube despite finishing chemotherapy treatments days earlier.
"We'd always go to some exotic place that Nick and I wouldn't have gone without her dragging us along," her husband said.
Ms. Howard continued her studies even during her illness, becoming one of the first practitioners of Somatic Experiencing, a form of therapy used to treat trauma.
"She had a great sense of humor and was very spiritual in terms of speaking about the big issues of life," Mr. Blakeslee said. "She was big thinker and was always reading and learning."
Ms. Howard is also survived by two stepsons, Coleman Blakeslee of Durango, Colo., and Guy Blakeslee of Los Angeles, Calif.; three siblings, Dr. Wes Howard and his wife, Jackie, of Charlottesville, Va., Dianne Fromm and her husband, Doug, of East Orleans, Mass., and Christi Mayfield and her husband, Carl, of Manitou Springs, Colo.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Friday at the Vollmer Center of the Cylburn Arboretum, 4915 Greenspring Ave.
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