Inspiring cancer survivors celebrate their medical successes, future on City of Hope’s Rose Parade float

December 6, 2016

Denise Heady
[email protected]

Medical “miracles” give patients rich, rewarding lives after cancer

DUARTE, Calif. — For the 45th year, City of Hope will be participating in the 128th annual Tournament of Roses Parade celebrating the past, present and future successes of City of Hope’s physicians, researchers, scientists, nurses and survivors.

By fostering collaboration between scientists and physicians, City of Hope is able to speed scientific advances to patients, enabling them to live successful, rewarding lives after cancer. No one knows that better than the seven patients riding atop this year’s float, a group that includes a kidney cancer survivor who has gone on to serve as president of the State Bar of California, another who left the grape fields to become a nurse and a former pediatric patient who is on his way to becoming a pediatric oncologist.

The theme for the 128th annual Rose Parade is "Echoes of Success." City of Hope’s float, themed “The Miracle of Science with Soul,” reflects the comprehensive cancer center’s unique offering, a combination of leading-edge research and lifesaving, patient-centered care. This combination has created countless second chances for patients suffering from cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. Patients credit their medical teams with giving them those second chances and an opportunity to lead rich, selfless lives.

The seven patients riding the float will be celebrating each other’s successes that were made possible through the selfless contributions of others. Riding and walking alongside the float are some of the doctors, nurses and caregivers who played a role in the patients’ healing.

Their stories:

Commander Anne Clark: As the Los Angeles Police Department’s first female Hispanic commander, Anne Clark takes nothing for granted. She has spent the past 30 years with the law enforcement agency and has had her share of life-threatening moments over the years, but none hitting closer to home than her cancer Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis two years ago. Clark resolved to beat the disease with the support of dozens of police officers rallying around her during her fight. Today she is in remission and is thankful to her medical team and fellow officers for helping her through one of the most challenging times of her life. Clark will be riding alongside her hematologist/oncologist, Stephen J. Forman, M.D., the Francis & Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation at City of Hope.

Darrell George: The current city manager for Duarte, Darrell George, cannot recall a time when he was sick. He cannot even remember a time he had a cold. So when he went in for an annual physical he was surprised to learn that he had developed a mass that was diagnosed as non-Hodgkin lymphoma. George immediately traveled to City of Hope and now, nearly two years later, he is in remission. He will also ride with Forman, his hematologist/oncologist.

Dave Pasternak: As a successful Los Angeles attorney, cancer was the last thing Dave Pasternak had on his mind when he began experiencing a lingering case of bronchitis in 2014. That case of bronchitis, however, turned out to be advanced kidney cancer that had already begun to spread to other organs. Given the extent of his cancer, some estimated Pasternak's survival at between six months and a year — maybe even less. That’s when Pasternak came to City of Hope, where he enrolled in a clinical trial to help treat his cancer. Pasternak has been responding well. So well, in fact, that while recovering from treatment, he has successfully gone on to become the 91st president of the State Bar of California. Pasternak will be riding alongside his oncologist, Sumanta K. Pal, M.D., assistant clinical professor in the Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research.

Jackie Garcia: Jackie Garcia was only 10 years old when she had to half her jaw removed due to Ewing’s sarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer that mainly strikes children and adolescents and accounts for about 1 percent of childhood cancers. To avoid facial scars, City of Hope surgeons removed the tumor by making an incision in Garcia’s neck and rebuilt her jaw using a portion of her fibula, along with small blood vessels. The complex surgery was successful and now Garcia, 14, has her sights set on becoming a surgeon herself when she grows up. “I want to be able to share some of the love and comfort that my doctors gave me on so many occasions.” Garcia will be riding alongside her surgeons, Ellie Maghami, M.D., Chief of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery, and Robert Kang, M.D., M.P.H., assistant clinical professor in the Division of Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery.

Rodrigo Nunez: When Rodrigo Nunez was 18 years old, he thought he was destined to be a field worker. He spent his days picking grapes until one day he started to get sick. Soon, he was diagnosed with a rare, potentially fatal blood disease called aplastic anemia. His experience with a life-threatening illness, ironically, gave him the clearest glimpse of his future. During treatment at City of Hope he decided he would go back to school and become a nurse. Weeks after graduating, Nunez’ story came full circle: 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 Nunez, now 56. “I was taking care of patients, working with the same doctors and nurses who saved my life.”

Sebastian Sanchez-Luege: Sebastian Sanchez-Luege was just 6 years old when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a rare condition that accounts for just 2 percent of blood cancers. A year later, just two weeks after he turned 7, Sanchez-Luege underwent a lifesaving stem cell transplant. While the road to recovery wasn’t easy, Sanchez-Luege has “no doubt” that the experience positively impacted his life and the people around him. Now a senior at Stanford University, Sanchez-Luege is preparing to graduate this June. His goal: to attend medical school and become a doctor. “I want to help other patients face their illnesses with hope and empathy, knowing full well what it is like to be a patient.“

Linh Quan: Diagnosed with breast cancer after a routine mammogram at 40 years old, Quan traveled to City of Hope, where she knew from experience that she would be in good hands. After intense rounds of chemotherapy, Quan underwent a double mastectomy and spent another six months undergoing follow-up chemotherapy. Four years later, she is now cancer-free and focused on giving back as a result of the specialized care she received. “I feel very honored, and I hope to do whatever I can to make a difference.” Quan will be riding alongside her oncologist, Christina Yeon, M.D.

For the patient’s full stories and more information about City of Hope’s float, please visit:

About City of Hope
City of Hope is an independent research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. Designated as one of only 47 comprehensive cancer centers, the highest recognition bestowed by the National Cancer Institute, City of Hope is also a founding member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, with research and treatment protocols that advance care throughout the world. City of Hope is located in Duarte, California, just northeast of Los Angeles, with community clinics throughout Southern California. It is ranked as one of "America's Best Hospitals" in cancer by U.S. News & World Report. Founded in 1913, City of Hope is a pioneer in the fields of bone marrow transplantation, diabetes and numerous breakthrough cancer drugs based on technology developed at the institution.

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