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A MOTHER’S STORY: Finding Help and Understanding

Finest is a 20-year-old college student being treated for a recurrence of Synovial Sarcoma, a soft tissue tumor, that first occurred when he was 15 years old. His mother Melissa was interviewed about how Friends of Karen has helped her, Finest and his 18-year-old brother Malik.

Connections: How has Finest’s treatment changed your daily life?
Melissa: After the first time Finest was treated, he went about his life and went back to high school. Later he graduated and went on to Hunter College in Manhattan to study anthropology and was living a normal life until he had a car accident in April 2023. After the accident he noticed pain in his leg and he was limping. He had an x-ray but that did not show any problem. My mother’s intuition kicked in and I insisted they give him an MRI, which showed a tumor in his knee This time my world came crashing in on me. When he was diagnosed at 15, the doctor told me that if the cancer came back it would need to be treated aggressively. Now he needed chemotherapy, radiation, knee replacement and femur reconstruction.


Connections: How did you find out about Friends of Karen?
During this recurrence, the hospital social worker gave me a list of organizations to call for support. I found out that because Finest is 20 years old he was not in the age range of most organizations that serve kids up to 18 years old or adults 21 years old and over. I was relieved that Friends of Karen would accept someone his age.


Connections: How has Friends of Karen been there for your family? 
Melissa: I am thankful for everything Friends of Karen has done for our family. Without them, I believe I would have gotten into debt and not had some of my basic needs met. It was important that Friends of Karen was by our side because all our family is in Saint Lucia. Friends of Karen sent their social worker Rhonda to visit. She made sure that Friends of Karen helped us with groceries, transportation to treatment, and some of our monthly bills. I did not know Finest could get covered under Medicaid and Rhonda told me about it and helped us through the application process. Friends of Karen gave Finest some gift certificates for games and clothing for him to be comfortable. They even found a volunteer to coach Malik through writing his college essays and applications.


Rhonda has been amazing in getting us whatever help we’ve needed. It’s been heartbreaking for me to see my six-foot tall, healthy son go through surgery and treatment. Rhonda understood I was struggling and arranged for Jane, a Friends of Karen creative arts therapist, to come see us. Jane really listened to what we were going through, and we worked on art projects to help us emotionally. And Rhonda encouraged me to participate in the parents’ virtual support group. It helps me to have hope when I hear other families that are going through this with good outcomes.