An NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center
By Zen Vuong | December 4, 2019
City of Hope’s eponymous float embodies the 2020 Rose Parade theme, “The Power of Hope.” There can be no hope if there is no future. The leading-edge treatments and compassionate care City of Hope provides give people the gift of time to live their best life.
 
Ten patients will ride on the float. They came to City of Hope to beat the odds and live a long life filled with joyous moments with family and friends.
 
Las Vegas resident Kaysen Camat-Toki was 11 years old when he was diagnosed with a rare type of bone cancer, telangiectatic osteosarcoma — probably the hardest osteosarcoma subtype to treat. His parents drove 237 miles to City of Hope to have Dominic Femino, M.D., chief of the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery at City of Hope, remove his cancer and insert an innovative stainless steel internal prosthesis.
 
City of Hope is the only institution on the West Coast with the expertise and technology capable of uniformly lengthening a growing child’s limb with a specialized magnet, said Kaysen’s pediatric oncologist, Judith Sato, M.D., director of the Musculoskeletal Tumor Program at City of Hope. (Read more about his cancer journey here.)
 
Kaysen, now 14, reflects on his cancer journey as he mentally prepares to start the new year on a rosy note aboard City of Hope’s Rose Parade float.
 
After your diagnosis, what were your main worries and challenges?
 
I felt really scared because I cancer ran in my family. My grandma had just passed away from cancer. My grandpa died of cancer a while ago. Every time I hear the word cancer, I only think about death.
 
When I heard one of my options was to have my leg amputated, I thought about how people would judge me and what I would do after school because I love to play sports. That’s what I used to look forward to the most when I woke up in the morning.
 
Why did you decide to come to City of Hope?
 
Our doctor in Las Vegas recommended a few hospitals, and one of them was City of Hope. My parents picked City of Hope because it was the only one of the three that specializes in treating cancer. Later, they met some people who had gone to City of Hope and said it was a good hospital, so they felt good about their decision.
 
What would you like to share about the specialized treatment you received at City of Hope?
 
City of Hope had this thing called group. Someone would encourage us to leave our rooms so we could do activities and get to know other patients. Participating in group made me feel more normal, like I was not a patient, and helped get my mind off treatment.
 
I think Dr. Sato and Dr. Femino are the best doctors and gave me the care I needed to beat my disease. I like it that I was more than just a patient at City of Hope. The nurses were so comforting. On my birthday, a lot of the nurses on the floor came into my room and sang “Happy Birthday.” They threw a party for me in a back room and gave me presents. The nurses really mean a lot to me. They helped me and made sure my mom was OK. I felt like I had whatever I needed. I love the nurses at City of Hope.
 
You don’t currently have any sign of disease. How has your perspective on life changed?
 
I appreciate life a lot more and don’t take everything for granted. I realized how much my mom loves me and learned to appreciate her more. She was always there for me and even overcame her fear of needles so she could give me shots to get my white blood cell count up. My parents sacrificed a lot.
 
Why would you recommend City of Hope to other people seeking treatment for cancer, diabetes or life-threatening diseases?
 
City of Hope specializes in cancer treatment. We had a good experience there. Dr. Sato gave me and my parents a road map and worked to keep me on track. My care team made me feel special. They didn’t just ask about my sickness. They asked about school, my friends and my new hobbies. They made sure everyone in my family was OK. The nurses really cared and made the difference – made City of Hope feel like home.
 
How did “The Power of Hope,” this year’s Rose Parade theme, help bring you back to health?
 
I’ll be honest. Some days were really hard. Even though there is no trace of disease right now, I can no longer play baseball because I can’t run and strain my right leg. I loved playing baseball. I was kind of depressed for a while. But I had so much support from the people at City of Hope, from the local baseball community and from my classmates. My cancer story went viral and professional baseball players reached out to me. That was kind of cool. Players like Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth and Anthony Rizzo reached out. Anthony Rizzo had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, so he really understood what I was going through. He donated some money for my cancer treatment and made an encouraging poster board for me. I have that in my room.
 
So although bad things happened, there were also good things. Sure, I can’t play baseball anymore, but I can still participate in sports. I’m starting to get into bowling. My parents are in a league and it seems cool. I’m going to join the bowling team at my high school.

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