Cathy Zeigler admits she knows a whole lot more about armpits than the average person.

Her research began out of necessity soon after a battle with breast cancer forced her to avoid commercial deodorants that could interfere with the radiation treatments she was receiving. She began by looking for natural deodorants, than making her own, then creating an entire business of all natural and organic products. She’s still having a bit of trouble with her toothpaste recipe, but her deodorant formula — which includes a careful blend of baking soda, coconut oil, cornstarch, beeswax and essential oils — has attracted a loyal customer base. If you’re interested, she can even tell you what she knows about sweat glands and what causes body odor.

The business is growing quickly, but Elegant Elements by Zeigler is just a part-time gig for Cathy.

Her days are spent at VHCC, where she works beside Dr. Beth Page as Office Manager for the Division of Professional & Technical Studies. She joined the College in October, and she’s been impressed by the warm welcome she’s received. She’s still learning the ropes, familiarizing herself with campus policy, and trying to remember the names of everyone she’s met.

“That first day was tough because I met so many people,” she said. “Everyone is so friendly here. I’ve had people go out of their way to introduce themselves, which is really nice. I’m still learning policies and procedures, but everyone has been very helpful.”

Cathy grew up in the region, attended Clinch Valley College, then moved to Maryland for many years. She was working as Administrative Assistant for the Baltimore County Police Department’s Director of Forensic Services when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. She immediately made plans to come back home.

“I always knew that I was going to come back to the area, so this was the right time to make the move,” she said. “It has literally been like starting over. Not too many people get the opportunity to start a new chapter at this stage in their life, so I feel very fortunate.”

She and her husband, Barry, are still transitioning. He has some work-related obligations back in Maryland to complete in the spring, then they plan to build a house in the region and make it their permanent home. They’re also continuing to crank out products for Elegant Elements, often spending evenings bottling body scrubs or experimenting with new organic teas. Eventually, they’d like to build a greenhouse and grow their own herbs, so she was delighted to learn that VHCC has a horticulture program. Though Cathy is currently working toward certification as a family herbalist, a few horticulture classes are definitely on her bucket list.

Looking back, Cathy says her life has taken some unexpected — but very exciting — turns. She has survived cancer, developed a healthier lifestyle, created a successful family business, moved back to her hometown, and started a new job at VHCC.

“In the beginning I had intended to teach history, and was tickled pink to move to the big city of Baltimore,” she said. “I never would have guessed that years later, I’d be thrilled to move back to the country and welcome being knee deep in weeds that I now know can help people!”

 

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