One Thousand Days Transformed - The Campaign for Cedarville

by Sarah Mummert, Student Public Relations Writer

In the midst of all the pomp and circumstance of Cedarville University’s commencement weekend, a special dream came true for Fernanda (Fernie) Hochstedler, a graduate student who was battling a terminal diagnosis at her home in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Although Hochstedler was unable to travel to campus for her commencement ceremony, her daughter, Naomi Hochstedler, walked across the stage to receive her mother’s academic regalia during the annual hooding ceremony on Friday, May 3, from the Cedarville University School of Nursing program. Sixteen days later, on Sunday, May 19, Hochstedler passed away from an advanced form of breast cancer, and her daughter—with her mother's hood--has a lifelong memory of loving her mom well.

Naomi Hochstedler at MSN hooding for mother FernieWatch Cedarville University's Hooding Ceremony with Naomi Hochstedler being presented with her mother's graduate school hood. In the linked video, Naomi receives her mother's hood from 19:01 to 19:19.

Hochstedler, who earned an undergraduate degree in nursing from Cedarville in 2001, began her nursing career shortly after receiving her bachelor’s degree. She worked full time at The Ohio State University Medical Center until the arrival of her second child, when she decided to stay home and focus on her family. 

Soon after making this decision, Hochstedler and her husband Delton moved from London, Ohio, to her home country of Brazil to work with homeless children in 2008.  

Delton Hochstedler, a social worker, began working with children in vulnerable communities, focusing on the developing foster care system, a growing movement in Brazil. Fernie started using her skills as a nurse to help children with medical needs. 

In the midst of her work, Fernie decided to pursue the MSN degree online through Cedarville’s School of Nursing. Her research was centered on childhood cancer—a decision inspired by the journey of their son, Kaleb, whom they had lost to a rare form of childhood cancer in 2020. Her research focused on conditions for the care of childhood cancer in Brazil. 

Fernie Hochstedler on benchHochstedler was excited to continue her studies while living out the mission instilled during her education at Cedarville of being the hands and feet of Jesus to the vulnerable and weak.  

One year later, Fernie was diagnosed with an easily treatable breast cancer. However, her treatment plan couldn’t slow down or remove the cancer, and her condition worsened as the tumor became resistant to each new form of treatment. 

“I knew that we had to be honest and up front in our new circumstances concerning my illness, just like we were in Kaleb’s journey,” said Fernie one month from her passing. “We never hid anything from the kids. We wanted them to see how even in the dark valley, God will come through and provide in amazing ways. While aware of the seriousness of the situation, we also pointed them to see how the Lord is still good and faithful.” 

In the most tragic of circumstances, the family learned to face hard questions while relying on God. 

During Kaleb’s hospital stays, the Hochstedlers ministered to the healthcare professionals taking care of their son. The doctors had never seen a family walk through end-of-life situations with the grace and peace they saw from this family. 

“Many doctors were bitter toward God due to things they’d seen and experienced, but we have kept in touch with some of them and some are considering God anew,” said Fernie. “In my situation, we are excited to see what God does this time. We’re keeping our ears, eyes and hearts open.” 

Through her journey, Fernie learned the value of gratitude and keeping things joyful. 

“By keeping things lighthearted, I don’t mean I ignore the difficulties,” she said. “It doesn’t happen easily all the time, but I do embrace the challenges, and being able to laugh can make things less intense.” 

But gratitude was truly life-giving for her, including being thankful for the big things, like the people supporting her, and for the little things, like flowers or sunshine. She was also grateful for the opportunity Cedarville afforded her to receive her graduate degree from afar. 

“The nursing professors were super helpful and really bent over backwards for me, especially when I wasn’t doing very well,” said Fernie. “They were really understanding and allowed me to work within my capacity, extending deadlines if needed or offering oral evaluations. I’m so thankful. I couldn’t have achieved this goal without their grace.” 

“Gratitude feels like my window to God,” Fernie shared. “It opens a window in the darkness and keeps you from being engulfed in despair. It makes a true difference in your outlook.” 

In late April, Hochstedler began experiencing liver failure, with her tumor getting out of control once again. A new attempt at traditional chemotherapy proved helpful for a moment, allowing her to balance side effects with time spent among family and friends. 

“Ultimately, the only one who can walk with us in our pain and stand with us in our loneliness is Jesus,” Fernie said with confidence in her faith. 

Fernie lived her life with purpose. In her passing, she leaves a legacy of serving others to those who follow her in the nursing profession. 

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