For more information on Mandy Pongs, clink link. The Fundraiser is at the Big League Field of Dreams in Chino Hills at 16333 Fairfield Ranch Road. Big League Dreams will host a home run derby between 6-10 p.m. tonight with the buy-in at $20 and prizes being sponsored by Worth Bats
By Brian Baiotto
Mandy Pongs has earned every accolade thrown her way on the softball field because of her refusal to go down without a fight. The 24-year old former Ayala High and Mt. San Antonio College great, however, is now in the most important fight of her life. While living out her dream and playing professional softball in Italy, Pongs felt ill and was diagnosed four months ago with small cell carcinoma of the cervix. Two weeks later, she was back in California and had her cancer removed in a radical hysterectomy. But SCCC is a very aggressive cancer that Pongs will need to fight with precautionary chemotherapy until November.
Her family will then take her to Mexico for a treatment that will aim to boost her immune system with supplements in a procedure that is estimated to be one-tenth the cost had it been done in the United States.
Four days after her surgery to remove the cancer, she was back in the hospital for nine days with an abscess in her abdomen.
Pongs’s co-pay for procedures are an astounding $2,000 a trip, so her family and friends have organized a fundraiser to help with the mounting costs.
Her treatments in Mexico alone are expected to cost $12,000 a year.
The Big League Field of Dreams in Chino Hills at 16333 Fairfield Ranch Road will host a home run derby between 6-10 p.m. tonight with the buy-in at $20 and prizes being sponsored by Worth Bats.
The derby will donate 50-percent of the proceeds directly to Mandy, but there will also be donation buckets at the site that go entirely to help her fight this long term.
Doctors have told Mandy’s mother, Gina Pongs, 48, that with chemotherapy, Mandy has a 50-50 chance at long-term survival and that just one percent of girls her age get this rare form of cancer.
“They don’t really tell you what you can expect, but to them, long-term survival means five years,” Gina Pongs said. “We’re going to fight this along with her and if someone can beat this, it’s Mandy.”
Mandy is as defiant in this fight as she was on the field.
“I’m scared about the situation I’m in, but no doctor is going to tell me how long I’m going to live,” Mandy Pongs said. “I am going to kick this thing in the butt and give myself a 100-percent chance of beating this. I was devastated, however, when they did the procedure (hysterectomy) to remove the cancer because I’ve always wanted to be a mother.”
Pongs was a four-year letterman and two-time Sierra League MVP at Ayala, and after graduating in 2005, she led Mt. Sac to a state title in 2007 and a second-place finish in 2008.
She was as dominant with her bat as she was in the circle as the Mounties best pitcher and boasted a 24-2 record in 2007.
“Mandy is as complete a player as I’ve had in my 10 years at Mt. SAC,” Mounties four-time state champion coach Kelly Ford said. “She told me what happened and I couldn’t believe what she was telling me. She’s a very special person that I knew I would keep in touch with when her playing days were done and I want her to know I will do anything I can to help her fight this.”
Pongs has joined Ford at Mt. SAC as a walk-on coach to keep her mind busy during this very difficult time.
Gina Pongs recalls getting teary eyed at her daughters first medical appointment.
“Mandy told me to stop crying because it was a sign of weakness and that she needed me to be strong for her, so I do everything I can to keep it together in front of her. Seeing your child sick is the most devastating thing a mom can see. I would change places with her in a heartbeat.”
The rapid change in Mandy’s health and prognosis has hit everyone she loves deeply, especially her father Ed, brothers Cameron and Bryce and her 7-year old sister Tatum.
Cameron plays baseball at San Diego State University and is away from the daily drama, but it’s been toughest on 14-year old Bryce who has a very close relationship with his big sister.
“It’s been a very sad time for Bryce because he has an amazing relationship with his big sister and I don’t know if Tatum really understands this because she’s only seven,” Gina Pongs said. “We’ve had a lot of her friends and former teammates come by and see her, but I know she’d like to see more of them.”
Ford said a lot of ex-Mounties are worried for and want to reach out to Mandy, but are scared because they don’t know anyone else their own age that are facing a life-threatening battle.
“It would mean the world to me for my friends and former teammates to call me and come see me,” Mandy Pongs said. “I’m still the same girl you knew and I need you with me to fight this battle.”
Doctors say a crucial step in fighting this disease is the ability to stay positive, so her family would encourage well-wishers to leave a message of hope on her page by going to www.caringbridge.org/visit/mandypongs. After clicking on the “Guestbook” and entering an email address, anyone can post a message on Mandy’s wall.
“We thank everybody for their prayers and support and can’t tell you how much it has helped sustain us,” Gina Pongs said. “Even if you can’t afford to donate money, we’d love for you to come out Monday and just say hello.”
If anyone would like to donate but can’t attend Monday night, please contact Gina Pongs at firstname.lastname@example.org.