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Central Illinois patients share their gratitude

BLOOMINGTON — For some, the Thanksgiving holiday may pass in a mix of frenetic shopping and careful preparation, fried turkey and chatter at the dinner table.

For others, the challenges of the past year may provide new reasons to enjoy quiet moments of gratitude.

These include several patients from medical centers Carle BroMenn and OSF HealthCare St. Joseph, who took time out earlier this month to share their thoughts on the vacation with Pantagraph journalists. Here are their stories.

Nick Bondi from Eureka


Carle BroMenn Maintenance Mechanic Nick Bondi has been diagnosed with melanoma and lung cancer for the past two years. He is now awaiting his final series of scans, which are scheduled for January 2023.


Carle BroMenn’s maintenance mechanic, Nick Bondi, said he has worked with the medical center for about 38 years and recently completed his radiation treatment for lung cancer.

“I’m grateful to still be here,” Bondi said. “I’m grateful for all the treatment I’ve had, all the people who have been through, and most of all, I’m glad to be alive.”

The diagnosis came nearly a year after an earlier diagnosis of melanoma, which eventually pressed into the retina of his right eye and resulted in him having to have his eye removed, Bondi said.

That year, Bondi said, he had the top half of his left lung removed and underwent radiation treatment until May. His next set of scans is scheduled for January.

“My second diagnosis was quite a lengthy process,” Bondi said. “I did 37 radiation sessions at the Cancer Center on Vernon Avenue and the people over there were just so nice and helpful. They even bothered to reschedule appointments for me.”

Nancy Schelfaut from Bloomington


Nancy Schelfaut with her friends Gail Aper, Betty Presley and Ruthles Harshbarger during the Lions Club golf outing May 26, 2016 at the Ironwood Golf Course in Normal.


Nancy Schelfaut said she has aortic stenosis, a condition in which the valve between the lower left ventricle of the heart and the body’s main artery (aorta) is narrowed and doesn’t open fully. This decreases blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body, making breathing and climbing stairs more difficult.

She recently decided to go to St. Joe’s and get Dr. to see Bill Novak at the Cardiovascular Institute.

“He only looks at you when he’s talking to you,” Schelfaut said. “He answers all your questions and always has something to ask. It was just wonderful to be able to reach him whenever we need him.”

She plans to have minimally invasive surgery in January to place a stent in the artery and keep it open to increase blood flow, Schelfaut said.

“I’m so grateful to my friends and my husband (Jerry) who has been very supportive in getting to my appointments,” Schelfaut said. “Despite all the papers, he always sits with me and we go through it together. I need him to be there for me.”

Kelli and Neil Pfoff from Bloomington


Kelli and Neil Pfoff’s twins Owen and Emma who were born at 30 weeks. The children are now 3 years old.


Kelli and Neil Pfoff have been married for almost 14 years and have five children. Twins Owen and Emma joined the family on April 5, 2019 — but not without complications.

“We were really lucky considering how early they were born and how small they were,” Kelli said. “It was just a rollercoaster of emotions that never felt like getting off.”

Kelli said she developed preeclampsia, a high blood pressure condition that can occur during pregnancy, and the twins were born prematurely at 30 weeks.

Owen and Emma spent 40 days in the neonatal intensive care unit at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana before returning home. Because their lungs were not fully developed, they had to return for treatment for other illnesses, such as the flu.

Today those struggles lie behind the family. The twins are both in Pre-K at Corpus Christi Catholic School and are hitting all their developmental milestones. Kelli plans to volunteer at NICU as a “cuddly toy,” someone who holds and accompanies infants from parents who can’t be there, she said.

“We are thankful for our family. We both have our parents, and I have two aunts who are local and retired who would help in a snap,” she said. “It allowed us to focus on those who were sick and I mean there’s no way we could have done it without our family.”


Neil and Kelli Pfoff with their children Owen, Aubrey, Hazel (front), Mady and Emma and their dog chief.


Tasha Schifo, by Mahomet


Tasha Schifo is a breast cancer patient at OSF St. Joseph nearing the end of her radiation treatment.


After moving to Mahomet more than 11 years ago, Tasha Schifo said she was a stay-at-home mom until she started working at Lucky Moon Pies & More and other jobs in the area. Her husband, Jason, served as senior pastor at the Mahomet Evangelical Congregation.

Schifo said she considers herself a healthy person. When she felt a lump in her breast in February, she thought it was most likely nothing. Instead, she received the life-changing diagnosis of breast cancer.

“I thought when I went to the doctor they would tell me it was nothing,” she said, “but when I went to the mammogram they wanted to do a biopsy the next day.”

Schifo said she worked with staff at the OSF Cancer Center in St Joseph and underwent a few chemotherapy sessions before having surgery to remove the tumor.

Now she’s almost done with her radiation. Her final date falls on December 14, just a week and a half before Christmas, Schifo said.

“I’m so thankful that I already had faith, that I had that foundation of prayer and fellowship, which is important because when I’m weak, someone else is strong for me,” Schifo said. “My husband and children were always there and encouraged me from the start.”

Contact Mateusz Janik at (309) 820-3234. Follow Mateusz on Twitter:@mjanik99

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