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December 17th, 2015

Singing Songs of Hope for Others Battling Cancer

By In the Loop

Jen Serotta is hoping to use her talents as a singer and songwriter to support other cancer patients.Jen Serotta, a nurse practitioner in the Transplant Department at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus, says her childhood was filled with music. "At times I participated in four vocal groups at a time and remember regularly listening to my mom's 8-track tapes of Barbra Streisand and Dionne Warwick," she writes on her website. "Singing quickly became my passion," she says, and she pursed that passion after college. When her oldest daughter, Katelynn, was born, Jen began to realize she'd need a backup gig. "To make a living, I started a medical transcription service," she says. "I did this for several years, and then my second daughter, Cassie, was born."

Then things got complicated. When Cassie was 13 months old, she suffered a grand mal seizure that landed her in the hospital for a week, Jen writes. "Our world began to turn upside down." After Cassie was diagnosed with "severe developmental delays," Jen began learning everything she could about her condition and medications and treatments to manage her daughter's seizures. "My life was becoming consumed with trips to the neurologist and therapy appointments," she says. "I was all at once feeling I was playing the role of a nurse while I felt the need of a new challenge in my life." That new challenge came when Jen decided to go back to school to become a nurse herself. She received her bachelor's degree in nursing from Jacksonville University in 2002.

Since 2007, Jen has cared for patients at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus. She "unexpectedly" became a patient herself in August 2013, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Immediately after her diagnosis, Jen had her pathology results sent to colleague and friend Sarah McLaughlin, M.D., a breast cancer surgeon at Mayo's Florida campus. The next week she had surgery and learned that even though her cancer had spread "to 11 lymph nodes, putting me at stage 3 invasive cancer," it had not yet spread to other parts of her body. So, Jen says, "I completed chemo and radiation therapy and went back to work wearing a wig."

Through it all, Jen says the care and support she received from her doctors and nursing colleagues at Mayo Clinic is what kept her moving forward. "I received outstanding care and support from a great team of providers and nurses," she says. "And that really was important and vital to my healing and well-being."

Now, Jen's hoping to use her talents as a singer and songwriter to support other cancer patients. This month she's releasing a five-song album called "Songs of Hope." The album is dedicated, in part, to the work being done at Mayo's Breast Cancer Clinics, and Jen is donating 100 percent of the proceeds from the first 1,000 downloads to breast cancer research. "My humble wish is that with these songs, I may encourage others who are going through tough circumstances to look beyond what is known and foster hope in spite of what is not known," she says.

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Tags: Breast Cancer, Dr. Sarah McLaughlin, Patient Stories

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