Thanking Hoag for Practical and Life-Affirming Support
Mandi Felsmann thought nothing of the strange bump on the side her leg.
She had been getting it checked it out for three years. Doctors had told her it was a harmless lipoma. But, her OB-GYN felt differently. It was growing.
After a consultation with a surgeon, she was advised to return after the birth of her baby to remove it. When she did, she was diagnosed with Myxoid liposarcoma, a very rare sarcoma.
Suddenly, life for Mandi, her husband, three young children and newborn baby, was turned upside down. "There I was holding my new baby as they told me that most people with this sarcoma have survival rate of five years," she said. "You never think it's going to happen to you and I couldn't understand why or how it happened. We were told it might take up to two months to see a specialist. Dr. Coleman got me an appointment in three days and I was in surgery five days later."
When Mandi began radiation, the confusion and anxiety set in. She didn't know who to turn to for answers. After her second radiation treatment, she walked out of her appointment, and saw Lori Berberet, an oncology nurse navigator. She described this meeting and her treatment schedule as a series of "God sends."
As she shared some of her conflicting emotions, Lori immediately introduced her to Kate with Hoag Counseling. After a few supportive and helpful meetings with Kate, she referred her to Rev. Gerald Arata, lead Chaplain of Hoag's Pastoral Care Department.
Finally, Mandi found a connection to her faith and someone who could empathize and understand her concerns and questions. Rev. Arata taught her how to approach the crippling fear of what might happen to her children, and gave her an outlet to express her conflicted emotions about the unfairness of the cancer entering her life just when she had welcomed a new baby.
"You can go one way or the other when something like this happens to you. You can either reach for faith or completely disregard it," she said. "So many things came up at that point and if Lori and Kate hadn't introduced me to Gerald, and if he wasn't as open and honest, I don't think I could have had strength to move forward with such an optimistic heart."
Instead of focusing on her fear, Rev. Arata helped her pray for strength and confidence. "He gave me the hope and faith that I could continue with a brighter outlook," she said. "Instead of trying to understanding why it happened, I learned to appreciate all of the moments," she said.
Mandi has been cancer free for two years, a positive milestone for sarcoma patients. She gives credit to Rev. Arata and Lori for the joy and appreciation she now feels.
"My heart has changed," she said. "I hope someday I can share what Lori and Gerald taught me.”
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