UNIVERSITY PARK — Some call Mindy Lederman a Renaissance woman.
With training and expertise in teaching, painting, sculpture, the culinary arts, psychology and massage therapy, Lederman certainly fits the term.
But perhaps a more accurate description would be “healer.” As a teacher, she shared her love of art with children and adults with disabilities. With her master’s degree from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, she worked as a marriage family and child counselor at The Giarretto Institute in San Jose, Calif.
Most recently, Lederman worked as summer camp director at the Athletic Center at Lakewood Ranch. And as proprietor of TimeOut On-Site Massage in the East County, she used her training from the San Francisco School of Massage relief, peace and tranquility to corporate offices throughout the area.
But now, Lederman, who has spent her entire professional career serving others, needs healing hands of her own.
In June, Lederman was diagnosed with stage three ovarian carcinosarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of ovarian cancer. Following surgery, Lederman now is facing six grueling months of chemotherapy during which she cannot work.
Recently, a group of Lederman’s friends launched a website, www.MuttiArt.com, to showcase her story and artwork and accept donations. On Sept. 19, the Tennis Center at Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club also will host a tennis fundraiser on Lederman’s behalf.
Lederman doesn’t sit comfortably with thought of not working — not healing — during this time of treatment. So much so that when friend Tina Wagner suggested sharing her artwork — pieces Lederman had never revealed publicly — she nodded in approval, knowing now is the right time.
“These pieces stayed in a bicycle box for 16 years,” Lederman says. “I’m not trained. … I call it process-oriented art.
“It’s terrifying,” she says of showing her art. “Art’s not meant to be critiqued. It’s just meant to be experienced. But I felt now was the right time to bring these out of the closet.”
When Lakewood Ranch Plastic Surgery and Skin Care Dr. Joshua Kreithen added the SmoothShapes machine to his practice, he did so to offer patients a new way to treat the appearance of cellulite.
But in Lederman’s case, the technology might have saved her life.
The practice was among TimeOut’s East County venues, and Kreithen had asked Lederman to learn the machine and also train therapists to use it. Lederman volunteered herself as a guinea pig and had the students use the machine on her.
That was when she felt the bump.
“My stomach was swollen — disproportionately so,” Lederman says.
Kreithen and his wife, Dr. Andrea Kreithen, examined the bump and referred Lederman to Rose Radiology on June 11. Three days later, she met gynecological oncologist Dr. Stacey South, who diagnosed ovarian carcinosarcoma.
On June 17 — less than a week after her Rose Radiology appointment — Lederman was on the operating table at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center. After removing the tumor, doctors determined it was cancerous. Lederman nicknamed it “Sam.”
Three days later, she was recovering at her mother’s home with family, friends and partner Robin Rowland all by her side.
‘YOU ARE HEALED’
Lederman is on a plane heading back from Massachusetts. She had traveled there just three weeks ago to speak with oncologists at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. She wanted to see if the medicine there was any better.
She had no idea that the greatest encouragement would come not from the doctors but rather from the woman sitting next to her on the flight.
“She asked me if I had a Bible,” Lederman remembers.
Jewish by family, Lederman did not.
The woman pulls hers out. The margins are filled with notes, the pages worn from years of turning.
“It was clear this was a family Bible,” Lederman says. “There were papers in it — letters to God — and pictures of loved ones. She took those all out and handed it to me.
“I started to say, ‘I can’t,’” she says of the gesture.
But instead, the woman starts to sing “Amazing Grace.” Lederman joins her, and the two trade lyrics back and forth.
“It was a true Hollywood moment,” Lederman says.
Then, the woman tells her: You know, Mindy. You’re healed.
She repeats it two more times.
You’re healed. You’re healed.
“And you know what? I am healed,” Lederman says. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t have cancer and I don’t have to go through this (chemo). My spirit has been healed.”
A few days before her first chemo treatment, Lederman invited a stylist from Cutting Loose Salon to her home. She wanted to take her hair voluntarily before the treatment stole it from her.
And for her first trip to H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Lederman donned a monk’s robe to commemorate the beginning of treatment.
“I was going into chemo monastery,” she says with a grin.
Today, Lederman keeps a binder full of appointment dates, procedures and information. It contains words such as “Taxol,” “Cisplatin,” “ports” and “protocol” — all of which will become part of her regular vocabulary during her six months of chemo.
“The chemo is … opening me up,” she says. “It makes you sick, and you have nausea and fatigue, and there’s nothing to do but sit there with yourself in your condition.
“And you (have to) sit there and accept it,” she says. “You can’t eliminate the fear; you can’t eliminate the illness or the darkness. It’s how you are with it (that matters). I believe 90% of being healthy is in your mind. It’s how you approach it.”
And although she cannot work, through Mutti Art (“mutti” means “Mommy” in German), she is finding ways to continue helping people through her artwork. She will sell frame-able art cards of some of her pieces, and 10% of those proceeds will benefit The Wellness Community of Southwest Florida.
“It’s a horrible thing; nobody wants cancer,” she says. “But now, I intend, God willing, for my work to touch people on an even greater scale.
“People often tell you that a traumatic experience is a doorway,” Lederman says. “I believe I have the ability to step through that doorway and recreate from this trauma something that is beautiful.”
Contact Michael Eng at [email protected].
Mindy Lederman Day of Tennis Fundraiser
WHEN: 11:30 a.m., Sept 19
WHERE: Tennis Center at Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club, 8256 Legacy Blvd.
DETAILS: One-day tennis event; all skill levels welcome. Event will include prizes, a silent auction, complimentary massages and more.
DONATIONS: $30 per person to participate; free to watch
INFORMATION: Lance Martin, 907-2255
To view Mindy Lederman’s artwork or make a donation, visit www.MuttiArt.com.