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By City of Hope
Apr. 26, 2024


Rev. Fr. Michael Pontarelli, OSM, has devoted his life to the care of his parish. But when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, Pontarelli found himself the one in need of care.

e found that care — offered at a level of expertise difficult to find elsewhere — at City of Hope Orange County Lennar Foundation Cancer Center, the most advanced comprehensive cancer center in Orange County.

“I remember a time when cancer was only spoken about in hushed tones,” said Pontarelli. “Times have changed. In prostate cancer and others, there have been many breakthroughs that are making tremendous differences in peoples’ lives, including mine. There is so much reason for hope.”

Pontarelli — “Father Mike” — is the pastor of St. Juliana Parish in Fullerton and a member of the Servite Order. An Orange County native, Pontarelli grew up in Anaheim and graduated from Servite High School. He became a priest at age 27 and began his priestly ministry teaching at Servite. Many of his former students are now his parishioners.

“As a priest trained in cancer ministry, cancer screenings are part of how I take good care of myself now. I am a big advocate of not letting things go until something feels wrong,” said Pontarelli.

One important screening for men to know and consider is prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing, a blood test to look for signs of prostate cancer. At age 67, Pontarelli’s PSA tests came back with concerning numbers, and further testing led to his diagnosis. “I urge all men to speak with their doctor about prostate cancer screening,” Pontarelli said. “Catching my cancer early meant I had a better chance of beating it.”
Pontarelli anxiously searched Orange County for a urologist with specialized expertise in prostate cancer research and treatment. When he arrived at City of Hope Orange County, “My fear evaporated,” Pontarelli said. He met with renowned urologist Jeffrey S. Yoshida, M.D., City of Hope Orange County’s medical director of urologic surgery, who made sure Pontarelli fully understood the diagnosis and the treatment options, including the option Pontarelli decided was right for him — minimally invasive robotic surgery, which Yoshida successfully performed soon after.

Dr. Yoshida is a pioneer in robotic surgery, having performed more than 3,000 surgeries for prostate cancer.  “For many patients, minimally invasive surgery is a common treatment option,” Dr. Yoshida said. “Robotic surgery typically offers patients fewer side effects and faster recovery. City of Hope pioneered these procedures and has performed thousands of robotic surgeries for prostate and other urologic cancers, more than any other hospital in the western United States.”

Pontarelli’s gratitude for his successful surgery and survivorship isn’t limited to Dr. Yoshida and the team of staff, nurses and physicians at City of Hope Orange County. “We Servites in Orange County celebrate the feast day of St. Peregrine at an annual mass in Christ Cathedral,” Pontarelli said. Peregrine is the patron of those with cancer. “It is a time to rejoice in God’s love which conquers all, and to turn towards Him for hope and healing.” Pontarelli will preside over this year’s mass, which will be on May 4.

“I see the difference hope makes in my parishioners and their families when they or a loved one are facing cancer,” Pontarelli said. “I gained hope through putting my trust in God’s hands and in the hands of City of Hope’s cancer-focused experts at the start of my survivorship journey.”

City of Hope Orange County welcomes everyone affected by cancer to attend the St. Peregrine Mass.

•    Saturday, May 4, 2024, 12:30 P.M.
•    Christ Cathedral, 13280 Chapman Avenue, Garden Grove


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