When leukemia struck, the Cloers pulled together to help save their young son.
When 2-year-old John Cloer wouldn't eat any cookies, his parents knew something was wrong.
It was Super Bowl Sunday, a time for the Sierra Madre, Calif., family to get together and have fun. Yet John, normally an outgoing and energetic boy, was quiet and withdrawn. He refused to eat.
The next morning, Bill and Gina Cloer took their young son to the family doctor. By 2:30 that afternoon, the Cloers had brought John to City of Hope for help fighting off acute lymphocytic leukemia.
What began with uneaten snacks became a four-year struggle to return John to health. These were trying times for the Cloers, but they persevered by uniting and placing their trust in City of Hope's pediatrics team.
John's diagnosis in 2004 was difficult for everyone in the family, but especially for his dad, Bill. He lost his mother to breast cancer when he was little, and his father died of esophageal cancer shortly before John got sick.
"That first year was like a movie — really dramatic," Gina said. Chemotherapy robbed John of his energy, appetite and hair. Their other son, Stevie Ray, was only 3 months old when John was diagnosed, so both boys spent much of their early life at the hospital.
But John gradually recovered. Eventually he started kindergarten and picked up sports. When his father signed him up for T-ball, John found his passion.
T-ball eased John's transition to a regular childhood. He became so dedicated to the sport that his coach nominated him to represent California at the annual White House game. John played in the 2008 all-star T-ball game on the south lawn of the White House. He even got his picture taken with baseball great Frank Robinson and President George W. Bush.
The family's experiences encouraged them to give back. Bill speaks to thousands of people each year about coming together as a family to battle cancer. He highlights the value of patient-centered care.
"You can have the best buildings and equipment," he said, "but it means nothing without great people, like the ones at City of Hope."
The Cloers' connection to City of Hope remains strong for another reason. Their eldest child, Heather, became a nurse. She now works in the bone marrow transplant unit at City of Hope Helford Clinical Research Hospital.
John is now 11 years old, and he recently reached an important milestone: five years cancer-free.
"John is a normal 11-year-old kid who drives his parents nuts every day — just like every other 11-year-old," Bill said.
John has moved on from T-ball. He now enjoys baseball, school, swimming — and cookies. Especially cookies.
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