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March 2, 2017 By Mirela Kopier

Working With the Imerman Angels

My name is Mirela Stefanescu and I live in Lakeview, and I do PR for Vogelzang Law, an amazing law firm in the city at which I am also the office manager and which specializes in serving victims of Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancer. I also just started volunteering for a wonderful organization called Imerman Angels which is a one-on- one non-profit cancer support community. While I have not been touched physically by cancer, I have been so personally. My mom is a 13-year survivor of 4th stage uterine cancer and the daughter of one of my best friends is currently battling Ewing’s Sarcoma, which is a rare bone cancer.

There are many cancer support groups out there, but what truly spoke to me about Imerman Angels is the one-on- one support community it offers; it is so personal. At Imerman Angels, they pair cancer survivors with current patients, and they pair the caregivers of cancer survivors with the caregivers of current patients. This provides the people who are possibly newly diagnosed and the people who care for them a very individualized resource which allows them to talk to others who know exactly what they are going through.

This is the reason I chose Imerman Angels. My mom did not tell anyone that she was diagnosed with cancer, and she did not tell anyone how severe it truly was, or however it could have been. It was a very internal process for her; my father, my siblings, and I had no idea what she was going through until years later. To this day, she has never really discussed it in great detail with any of us. I don’t know if she would’ve necessarily used a program like Imerman Angels, but if such a program were there, or if she had been approached by a volunteer at the hospital she had gone to who explained what Imerman Angels does, maybe it wouldn’t have been such a lonely process for her.

I had gone through the volunteer training process at Imerman Angels with Megan Alexander, a Cancer Support Specialist. She explained how Imerman Angels was founded and she spoke of the mission that everyone there is so passionate about. I had met with Ben Bornstein, the CEO of Imerman Angels, a few weeks prior, and he had the mirrored the same passion and enthusiasm for the organization. I was ready to receive my first email of volunteer possibilities.

The first social for which I had volunteered was at Stroger Hospital. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have never been a big fan of hospitals — who is? — so I was not surprised when I had to wander around until I was finally able to find the location of the social. I was early. They had scheduled us to be in a small room next to the oncology department. Our captain, Lily, was the next to show up, and we started to set up the bottles of water, brochures, and donated gifts in the room. She went over the protocol on how to explain what Imerman Angels offers and then we waited for our first “guests.”

The nurses went to the waiting room and brought patients in so they could find out more about what Imerman provides while they were waiting for their appointments. We had several people come in, one explained the very reason Imerman is such a blessing. She has two grown children who don’t understand what she is going through. She had breast cancer and she is now in remission. She felt as if she didn’t have anyone to talk to during her treatment and she feels the same now that she is in remission. She had signed up to become a “mentor angel” to be there for someone else who may be going through the same struggle. As I spoke to more and more people, I found that everyone’s journey may be different but one thing remains the same: everyone is looking for a human connection. Cancer is indiscriminate, and we are all part of this society called the human race.

In my opinion, there are many similarities between Imerman Angels and Vogelzang Law. That is what makes me so passionate about my job and my volunteer work. The firm takes a very personalized approach with our clients, as I do with my Public Relations work. The best part of my job is going to union halls and explaining how the head attorney handles each client’s case and how the whole office is hands-on. I am proud to say I work for one of the good guys.