October 29, 2015 | by Valerie Howard
Firefighter Gus Perez was 41 and about to be transferred to the Hazardous Materials Unit in San Pedro, California, when a routine physical proved to be anything but. His blood work showed that he had chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML).
While receiving care at City of Hope, where he responded well to medication, Gus was interested in pursuing a more challenging treatment that could improve his chances of long-term survival: a bone marrow transplant.
But first Gus had to face yet another challenge: No one in his family was a successful match. The search for a bone marrow donor began. The next 12 months were defined by many “peaks and valleys,” recalls Gus, as he learned of potential donors who ultimately proved to not be a match. At last, a donor was located in Wichita, Kansas, and in August 2004, the harvested stem cells were flown to City of Hope and infused into Gus.
Now cancer free, Gus is one of several patients featured in a new campaign highlighting City of Hope’s unique approach to patient care: “The Miracle of Science with Soul.”
Here’s some of the advice Gus has for others coping with cancer, shared previously on Breakthroughs.
Document the information you're about to receive regarding all phases of treatment, including medications, appointments and care providers. “Having someone with you to help absorb everything that's happening and make sense of it all proved to be extremely important. It was nice to be able have a well-organized file on hand when it came to recalling pertinent information when it was needed.”
Consider trying to make time for some kind an exercise routine for yourself, as well as eating well. “I figured the necessary treatment and rehabilitation necessary to survive was going to be one of the toughest challenges both physically, as well as mentally. I figured the better shape I was in going in to the process, the easier it would to endure it, and recover from it.”
Limit the amount of research you do. “It's nice to be informed about what the future will bring, but you get to the point where it can easily become overwhelming. Try to find peace in the fact that your fate is good hands. Choosing City of Hope as a treatment facility made it a lot easier.”
Get back to your normal routine as much as possible, as soon as possible. “Family has always been a big part of my life, as well as my job with the Los Angeles Fire Department and the fact that I am an avid surfer. It took about a year to find a donor so that I could move on to the transplant part of my treatment. Being with family, going to work and back into the water took my mind off of things - made the whole experience easier to manage.”
Make plans for the future. “Nothing like good, old-fashioned positive thinking to get you going in the right direction. As I prepared for transplant, I remember thinking there was little value in thinking my life was over. City of Hope gave me every reason to believe that was not the case, and they were right.”
Learn more about our leukemia treatment and research and our unique patient experience. If you have been diagnosed with leukemia 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.