Ten years ago, Steven Mandel was recovering from the worst year of his life. In March 2012, he was nearly killed by a hit-and-run driver while stepping out of a New York City taxi in front of his apartment. He endured multiple surgeries and months of rehab to recover from a broken pelvis and ribs, torn ligaments in both legs, nerve damage partially paralyzing his left foot, knocked out teeth, numerous lacerations, and more. It was a difficult recovery, and the doctors were unsure whether the former athlete would ever walk normally, let alone play sports again.
Then, in July 2012, Steven got hit again — this time by the news that during a follow-up MRI to see how his pelvic fractures were healing, the doctors spotted a chordoma tumor at the base of his spine.
“I knew nothing about chordoma, so I googled it and was devastated. I thought, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ I had come so far in my recovery from this near-fatal car accident, and right when I’m getting back on my feet, this happens.”
Online, Steven found the Chordoma Foundation and connected with people who gave him insight on what to do and not to do and where to find the best doctors for this rare cancer. At Memorial Sloan Kettering, Dr. Patrick Boland, a surgeon who specializes in sacral chordomas, removed his tumor, several vertebrae in his spine, and his tailbone. The surgery was a success, achieving a full resection and negative margin, but Steven still spent about 40 days – including his 25th birthday – in the hospital recovering.
As soon as he got home, Steven set out on an ambitious mission: to get back on his feet and return to his pre-accident/cancer physical condition, and to help the Chordoma Foundation in any way he could. Steve’s two best friends from childhood, Matt Sauerhoff and Jon Denning, are also athletes, and together they decided to run a half-marathon as a fundraising event.
Steve, who had never run a race in his life and was still healing from a year’s worth of trauma and surgeries, began training. In 2014, he and his friends completed his first half-marathon in Miami and raised over $20,000. The next year, they ran in Miami again. This time, Steven shaved 25 minutes off his time and finished in the top 350 out of 13,000 runners (and top 50 in his age group) — and raised another $50,000 for the Chordoma Foundation. In the years since, Steven and his growing team of supporters have run additional races, including the Brooklyn Half Marathon and the Cardiff Half Marathon. The annual event, now known as Team Chordoma, has raised an incredible $400,000 and counting.
Steven has also raised funds for the Foundation outside of the Team Chordoma races, personally contributes to the Foundation on an ongoing basis, and is a member of our Board of Directors.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” Steven said. “I had my tumor removed and I am doing well. I’m in the best shape of my life. But a lot of people dealing with chordoma don’t have a fate like mine, so this event is about trying to make the lives of everyone affected by chordoma better.”