January 8, 2015
By: Shanna Fortier | Community Editor
Dr. Karen A. Toppi applied for 501(c)3 status for her foundation in 2012. As a gynecologist, she had a heart to help women with breast and gynecological cancers, so she called the IRS every month for a year to check the status until they told her not to call again. She had all but given up hope. Then, in December 2013, Toppi, 53, was diagnosed with cancer herself. “I know now that I had to do my own walk to do the right thing by this foundation for the community,” Toppi said while sitting in her Palm Coast office. She has been practicing gynecology and minimally invasive surgery in Flagler County since 2004. Through her journey with cancer, Toppi found the importance of quieting her mind and staying positive in order to heal and become whole again. She said maintaining mental, physical and spiritual health is an important aspect of healing that everyone forgets about. “I myself never thought about it until I went through it,” Toppi said.
While going through chemotherapy, Toppi searched for a way to continue the holistic healing practices that were coupled with medical treatment at MD Anderson in Texas. Patty Dodge, reiki master, was someone who helped.
“I was an adjunct to her medical treatment,” Dodge said. “I think I added a nurturing environment and worked to create a balance between her physical side with her mental, emotional, spiritual side.”
While battling her own cancer, Toppi had temporarily set her goal for starting her foundation aside. Then one day, in April, shortly after her father had died, Toppi got the approval letter in the mail. It was stamped the same day of her father’s death.
“It’s just weird how timing works,” she said. “But things happen for a reason.”
The Hope to Help Foundation was officially started in August 2014, two years after Toppi set out to bring her passion to life. The foundation is designed to bring an integrative medicine approach to helping women in Flagler County diagnosed with breast and gynecological cancers. It’s designed to improve and sustain health and wellbeing of cancer patients by providing educational, medical, holistic and mentoring services.
“I believe that our community has a plethora of different, very talented holistic practitioners that can help women and their caregivers through this journey to find inner peace and positive strength and hope,” Toppi said.
Flagler County is one of the top three counties in Florida with the highest rate of breast cancer and advanced stages breast cancer, according to Toppi. Also, outside of cardiovascular disease, cancer is the second leading cause of death in Flagler County.
Hope to Help Foundation aims to educate the community through lectures from medical and holistic practitioners; provide mentor services from cancer survivors; help offset the financial strain of medical services; and offer holistic services such as meditation, yoga, reiki and acupuncture.
“Now, even the medical community is acknowledging that stress creates disease,” Dodge said, “We can prove that the ideal environment for healing is relaxation. The idea is to nurture and get people calm, take people to a new place of hope.”
The goal is to bring a balance from the medical side and the holistic side; for people to have a variety of choice to complement their surgery, chemo and radiation.
“On your darkest days, you have to be able to quiet your mind and find peace about all this,” Toppi said, reflecting on her own journey.
As of late December, Toppi is now cancer free and ready to bring the healing journey of the Hope to Help Foundation to the women of Flagler County. She said that the idea has been embraced and that the support she has received brings tears to her eyes.
“Our community has a wealth of resources, from our oceans to the beaches, to medical and holistic practitioners and even the volunteers, who keep giving,” Toppi said. “That is why I think Flagler County is the perfect place for something like this to be embraced.”