Inspiring Stories: In Rose Parade, couple celebrates love and 2 triumphs

December 8, 2014 | by   

On Jan. 1, 2015, six City of Hope patients who have journeyed through cancer will welcome the new year with their loved ones atop City of Hope’s Tournament of Roses Parade float. The theme of the float is “Made Possible by HOPE.” The theme of the Rose Parade is “Inspiring Stories.”

By Evan Braggs

Evan Bragg and Melina Fregoso were first friends, now soul mates. And they're grateful to City of Hope  for the care that helped them overcome cancer.

Evan Braggs and Melina Fregoso were first friends, now soul mates. And they credit City of Hope for giving them a future beyond cancer. On New Year’s Day, they will ride the City of Hope Rose Parade float together. (Photo Courtesy of Evan Braggs)

City of Hope is a place of just that, “a City of Hope.”

It was June of 2004, when I became a patient at City of Hope. At the age of 19, I was diagnosed with a rare blood disease called aplastic anemia. Not having had as much as a broken bone or a need for any type of surgery, I had to be cursed with a blood disorder, I thought.

What I labeled as a curse turned out to be the most humbling experience and lesson I’ve learned to this day. I was blessed to have the opportunity to meet a City filled with wonderful and extraordinary people who, in some cases, have influenced some of my adulthood decisions.

City of Hope has provided me with not just a second chance at life, but much more than that. After receiving a successful bone marrow transplant in June of 2005 from an unrelated donor, I had a different outlook on life. » Continue Reading

Need gift ideas for kids and teens in the hospital? Try these

December 8, 2014 | by   

The holidays can create an overwhelming urge to give to people in need — especially to sick children and families spending the holidays in a hospital room.

That’s a good thing. Holiday donations of toys and gifts can bolster the spirits, and improve the lives, of people affected by illness, and hospitals nationwide rely on the generosity of the public to help provide holiday cheer.

“Sometimes even the smallest gestures can mean the world to someone going through a difficult time,” said Renee Ortiz, L.C.S.W., a pediatric social worker at City of Hope.

But before scouring the shelves at the local mall, give some thought to what pediatric patients and their families actually want and need. The No. 1 item on children’s and young adults’ wish lists? Gift cards.

“Gift cards allow patients and their families to shop in many ways,” Ortiz said. “They can go to the store and pick out what they need. And for patients who are stuck in the hospital during the holiday season, they can shop online. It allows them to shop and look forward for their items to be delivered to them.”

Other popular gifts include educational toys, arts and craft kits, and movies. Check out the City of Hope website for a full list of gift ideas for kids, teens and young adults.

But one more thing … If you’re finding it hard to resist that adorable stuffed animal, try a little harder. At City of Hope, stuffed animals and plush toys are strongly discouraged. A number of patients suffer from weakened immune systems, and these toys can easily trap dust and other substances that can potentially make the children even sicker.

If you want to make your donation in person, call City of Hope’s Department of Pediatrics at 626-256,4673, ext. 65430.  The team will arrange for a time to meet you and accept the gifts on behalf of City of Hope patients. The deadline for holiday donations is Dec. 19. If you would like to make a monetary donation, please include a note clearly explaining the purpose of the gift, e.g., a donation to the Department of Pediatrics for pediatric patient gifts, activities, etc. 




Inspiring Stories: I faced cancer at 29, breast cancer survivor says

December 7, 2014 | by   

On Jan. 1, 2015, six City of Hope patients who have journeyed through cancer will welcome the new year with their loved ones atop City of Hope’s Tournament of Roses Parade float. The theme of the float is “Made Possible by HOPE.” The theme of the parade is “Inspiring Stories.”

Here, Melina Fregoso shares her story.

Natalia "Melina" Fregoso, breast cancer survivor at City of Hope

Natalia “Melina” Fregoso, pictured at a beauty event for City of Hope patients last March while she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer, will ride atop the 2015 City of Hope Rose Parade float.

By Natalia “Melina” Fregoso

2014 has been a year full of changes in my life. I went from being very healthy to being diagnosed with breast cancer. I went from having long hair to being completely bald. I went from being single to being with the man I have always prayed for. And I left my twenties and turned the big 3-0!

Last December, after a great morning workout, I was taking a shower when I felt a lump on my left breast. I didn’t wait a single minute to go to the doctor. I started 2014 undergoing a mammogram and an ultrasound, and then a biopsy later in the month. On Jan. 23 was when I heard, “You have cancer.”

I was scared, but relaxed. I was 29 years old and I had breast cancer. I went to the car, and I started crying, while praying to God for strength and something positive to come out of this situation. » Continue Reading

Made in City of Hope: Drug stops cancer’s siren call to the immune system

December 5, 2014 | by   

Cancer has a way of “talking” to the immune system and corrupting it to work on its own behalf instead of defending the body. Blocking this communication would allow the immune system to see cancer cells for what they are – something to be fought off – and stop them from growing.

Hua Yu, Ph.D, and her lab team

At City of Hope, Hua Yu and her team developed a drug that will clamp down on STAT3, halting its ability to talk to the immune system.

A breakthrough

Scientists have known for some time that cancer uses a protein called STAT3 to talk to the immune system. At City of Hope, Hua Yu, Ph.D, the Billy and Audrey L. Wilder Professor in Tumor Immunotherapy, and her team sought more than simply an understanding of how the two are able to connect and communicate. They wanted to create a treatment to address it.

Based on what they discovered about how STAT3 works, Yu and her team developed a drug that would clamp down on STAT3, halting its ability to talk to the immune system. Known as CpG-STAT3 siRNA, the drug administers a dual blow: It blocks the growth of cancer cells, even as it sends a message to surrounding immune cells to destroy the tumor. CpG-STAT3 siRNA also appears to enhance the effectiveness of other immunotherapies, such as T cell therapy, by helping prevent cancer from subverting the immune system.

» Continue Reading

Inspiring Stories: Vicky Graham has to remind herself she has lung cancer

December 4, 2014 | by   
Vicky Graham defies the odds most lung cancer patients face and will  ride City of Hope's Rose Parade float to share her inspiring story

Vicky Graham, right, continues to defy the odds of many lung cancer patients and will ride City of Hope’s Rose Parade float with her husband, Michael Graham, and her daughter Amy Boyd, who became her caregiver during treatment. (Photo courtesy of Vicky Graham)

On Jan. 1, 2015, six City of Hope patients who have journeyed through cancer will welcome the new year with their loved ones atop City of Hope’s Tournament of Roses Parade float. The theme of the float is “Made Possible by HOPE.” The theme of the parade is “Inspiring Stories.”

By Vicky Graham

In August of 2007, I began testing for what I thought was just a swollen gland. Little did I know that after several frustrating months, tests and doctors later, that I’d be diagnosed with stage 3b nonsmall cell adenocarcinoma – lung cancer.  But, by the grace of God, my wonderful endocrinologist sent me to City of Hope for an evaluation by Dr. Karen Reckamp, co-director, Lung Cancer and Thoracic Oncology Program. Dr. Reckamp was determined to help me, even though my symptoms didn’t look anything like lung cancer.

I was immediately scheduled for testing at  City of Hope. I lived quite a distance from City of Hope, so all my appointments were stacked into one day when possible. From the moment my husband and I set foot on the campus, we were impressed. Every staff member was polite and helpful, from the receptionists to the doctors. We often laughed to ourselves that we were being treated like we were George and Laura Bush! We never had to anxiously wait weeks for appointments or to get test results. Most times, the doctors themselves called me at home to discuss results and next steps. » Continue Reading

Inspiring Stories: To family of son with leukemia, every day is a gift

December 3, 2014 | by   

On Jan. 1, 2015, six City of Hope patients who have journeyed through cancer will welcome the new year with their loved ones atop City of Hope’s Tournament of Roses Parade float. The theme of the float is “Made Possible by HOPE.” The theme of the parade is “Inspiring Stories.”

The Wolfrank family will ride the float the same way they fought son Gavin’s leukemia together. 

By Diana and Ken Wolfrank

We see every day as a gift. Our family has endured a number of challenges in the past eight years but today … is a good day.

With cancer behind him, Gavin's story has just begun. (Photo courtesy of the Wolfrank family)

With leukemia behind him, Gavin’s story has just begun. (Photo courtesy of the Wolfrank family)

Our son, Gavin, was 7 months old when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). He endured  3 ½ years of various chemotherapy treatments, just to have the disease return. We were told his only chance of survival was a bone marrow transplant. We were lucky to find our donor, Catherine “Cat” Benson, who saved not only our son but our family. She was our only hope. After eight rounds of radiation in four days and a dozen meds, Gavin was ready to receive Cat’s bone marrow.

It’s tough to sit in a room day after day where children are hooked up to IV pumps, enduring so much. Families spend lots of time sharing stories and good luck prayers. Over the years, we’ve known many families who have lost loved ones. We spent 95 days at City of Hope praying that our son would survive and be able to come home and be a happy and “normal” kid. After three trying months, Gavin was able to come home, but not without a long road still ahead of him.

City of Hope is just what the name says it is. It’s a small city full of hope for all patients and families who walk through their doors. The doctors and nurses do so much to make miracles happen. We feel very blessed to have been able to walk out of there with hope in our future.

It has been four years since Gavin’s transplant and, thanks to all the efforts of everyone at City of Hope, our life today is filled with laughter, happiness, determination, appreciation and love.

We are inspired daily as we watch Gavin be a kid and enjoy all the things children should be able to enjoy. We know that City of Hope is working hard to save lives and we are eternally grateful for what they have done for us and continue to do for many others.

The opportunity to ride on the City of Hope float means more to our family than anyone can imagine. We will ride on that float and remember all the ones who lost their battle and show support for all those who continue to fight. Our life truly is made possible by City of Hope and our family will never forget that.

Rose Parade Photo Day with young leukemia survivor Gavin Wolfrank and his family

The Wolfrank family (parents Diana and Ken with kids Gavin and Emma) helped kick off City of Hope’s Rose Parade float entry at the Tournament’s recent photo day. It’s been four years since Gavin battled leukemia and received a lifesaving bone marrow transplant at City of Hope.


Read more about City of Hope’s Rose Parade float.

Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion at City of Hope by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). City of Hope staff will explain what’s required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.

Inspiring Stories: A father’s leukemia through his daughter’s eyes

December 2, 2014 | by   

On Jan. 1, 2015, six City of Hope patients who have journeyed through cancer will welcome the new year with their loved ones atop City of Hope’s Tournament of Roses Parade float. The theme of the float is “Made Possible by HOPE.” The theme of the parade is “Inspiring Stories.”

In 2007, Christina Ge’s father, Jin, faced the fight of his life when his leukemia relapsed. In 2009, she wrote about his journey as only a child of 11 could – filled with the fear she faced and the hope she kept. Now 17, Christina and her sister, Cynthia, will ride the float with their father. They’ll celebrate their story, one that took hold on New Year’s Day after a successful cord blood transplant.

Christina and Cynthia Ge enjoying some play time at City of Hope while their father recovers from a bone marrow transplant. (Courtesy of the Ge family)

While visiting City of Hope in their (slightly) younger days, Christina and Cynthia Ge make time for play while their father recovers from a bone marrow transplant. (Photo courtesy of  the Ge family)

By Christina Ge

Mom and Dad came home one day, frowning as they have never frowned before. My dad slowly entered my room and said quietly, “Christina, I have leukemia again.” I froze, suddenly feeling somber. Then my dad said, “Time for dinner.”

At dinner, we did not talk much, exchanging only one or two words. That night I lay in my bed thinking, “Why does it have to be my dad that has to have leukemia again? Why can’t it be some other person? Some other person – not my dad.” I lay there thinking hard until sleep finally took over. » Continue Reading

Holiday shopping tips: 10 do’s/don’ts for a friend with cancer

December 2, 2014 | by   
friend with cancer, holiday shopping list

When shopping for a friend facing cancer, keep a few things in mind.

You’ve done the easy stuff – braved the toy store and the Black Friday frenzy, stayed up all night trolling deals online, picked up gift cards for your colleagues at work. There’s just one gift left, the one you’ve been putting off and the one that means so much. What do you give your friend who is in the fight of her life – fighting cancer?

By now, she probably has more slippers and fuzzy blankets than she needs. Whether she’s at home or in the hospital, here are some holiday shopping tips to get you started: » Continue Reading

To speed diabetes treatments, City of Hope unveils new diabetes institute

December 1, 2014 | by   

As diabetes experts worldwide know, City of Hope has a longstanding commitment to combating diabetes, a leading national and global health threat. Now that commitment has led to a $60 million investment to expand basic and translational research efforts through the new Diabetes & Metabolism Research Institute at City of Hope.

diabetes institute will further research

The new Diabetes & Metabolism Research Institute at City of Hope will further research into diabetes.

The diabetes institute will expand the existing diabetes program, already credited with important discoveries in the understanding and treatment of diabetes. With an estimated one in three people in the U.S. projected to be diagnosed with diabetes by 2050, the need for diabetes research has never been more crucial.

“Millions of diabetes patients worldwide depend on synthetic insulin, a medical breakthrough with its roots at City of Hope,” said Steven T. Rosen, M.D., Irell & Manella Cancer Center Director’s Distinguished Chair, provost and chief scientific officer. “The institute will accelerate our efforts to discover new treatments and potential cures for this serious health threat. We will push forward in epigenetics, immunology, developmental biology, translational medicine, obesity, nutrition and metabolism – all fields that will be integral in developing cures for diabetes.” » Continue Reading

Type 2 diabetes: 5 easy ways to reduce your risk

November 30, 2014 | by   

Type 2 diabetes is by far the most common form of diabetes, accounting for 90 to 95 percent of the 21 million diagnosed diabetes cases in the U.S. (Another 8.1 million are undiagnosed.) But preventive action can be powerful.

Even modest weight loss - 5 to 10 percent of body weight - can reduce risk for type 2 diabetes.

Even modest weight loss – 5 to 10 percent of body weight – can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Even modest lifestyle changes can greatly decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes, helping ward off a serious health threat. Diabetes not only increases the risk of death, it can lead to a host of complications such as blindness, heart disease and stroke.

Making one or two small changes per week will, over time, add up to a considerably healthier lifestyle. Doing so may also prevent type 2 diabetes.

As Diabetes Awareness Month draws to a close, we offer these tips to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

1. Know your risk. Age is one significant risk factor, with people 45 and older being at greater risk. Weight is also a risk factor. The National Institutes of Health offers an at-risk weight chart to help people determine if they may be at risk. Having family members with diabetes; being African-American, Latino, American Indian, Asian-American or Pacific Islander; having had gestational diabetes; being inactive; and having higher-than-normal glucose levels, high blood pressure or high triglyceride levels are also among the risk factors. » Continue Reading