December 9, 2016 | by Denise Heady
For the 45th year in a row, City of Hope will participate in the Tournament of Roses Parade. This year, seven patients will welcome 2017 atop City of Hope’s Rose Parade float. The float, themed "The Miracle of Science with Soul," adds a deeper dimension to the parade’s theme of “Echoes of Success.”
When Rodrigo Nunez was 18 years old, he thought he was destined to be a field worker. He spent his days picking grapes under the hot, punishing sun until one day he started to feel sick. He was bruising and bleeding and started fainting at work. Soon enough, he was diagnosed with a rare, potentially fatal blood disease called aplastic anemia. His experience with a life-threatening illness, ironically, gave him a clear vision of his future. During treatment at City of Hope, he decided he would go back to school and become a nurse. Weeks after graduating, Rodrigo’s story came full circle when he was hired as a nurse at City of Hope. He cared for one of his first patients — coincidentally, a young man with aplastic anemia — in the same hospital room where he was treated.
“Talk about a dream come true,” says Rodrigo. “I was taking care of patients, working with the same doctors and nurses who saved my life.”
Here, Nunez, now 56 years old and still a City of Hope nurse, shares some of the wisdom he's gained during his treatment journey.
What would you tell other patients who have been recently diagnosed?
I tell my patients that they are in the best place for their treatment and possibly a cure.
What was your most pivotal emotional moment during treatment?
My most pivotal emotional moment during treatment was the day of my bone marrow transplant. The day I received the gift of life.
What is one piece of practical advice you would give patients?
Practical advice I give to patients is to get up and walk around as much as possible. Work with our physical/occupational/recreational therapy teams and listen to uplifting music.
What was your most memorable encounter during treatment?
My most memorable encounter during treatment was when I met Dr. Stephen Forman. He was instrumental not only medically, but also in my personal life. He even found time in his busy schedule to attend my graduation from nursing school.
What family member or loved one did you rely on most – and how did he/she help?
My brother Filiberto, who was also my bone marrow transplant donor. Without him, I would not be here. He saved my life.
Which person at City of Hope had the biggest impact – and how did he/she help?
The bone marrow transplant nurses had the biggest impact on me. They were my inspiration to go on and become a nurse.
Who do you feel you owe the most "thanks" for your successes?
By far most thanks to my success goes to my wife. She was there every day, taking care of me and always believing that I could do anything.
For more information about City of Hope's float, visit the City of Hope Rose Parade site.
Learn more about our unique patient experience. If you have been diagnosed with cancer or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, request an appointment online or contact us at 800-826-HOPE. Please visit Making Your First Appointment for more information.