City of Hope’s expansion to Orange County is personal for this cancer survivor

February 4, 2019 | by City of Hope

Sumanta K. Pal, M.D. and Frank di Bella Sumanta K. Pal, M.D., with Frank DiBella
Bringing City of Hope cancer services closer to Orange County residents is work that is personal to Frank DiBella. The 73-year-old Newport Beach resident and philanthropist is a bladder cancer survivor who found successful treatment at City of Hope after other medical experts offered a dim prognosis of his condition.
 
In August 2014, on his 65th birthday, DiBella was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic bladder cancer. A biopsy showed the cancer had spread to his lungs, ribs and spine, and doctors told him he had two to four months to live.
 
DiBella was then referred to Sumanta K. Pal, M.D., head of the kidney and bladder cancer disease team at City of Hope in Duarte.
 
“Dr. Pal reviewed everything and said to me, ‘I can’t cure you, but I can guarantee I can give you at least four years to live’ — and that was seven years ago,” said DiBella. As soon as he started treating me, I decided I was going to spend the rest of my life raising money for City of Hope to find a cure for cancer.”
 
DiBella has been in remission for three years now, and he’s kept his promise, turning his gratitude into action. As a former certified public accountant for the late comedian and humanitarian Jerry Lewis, DiBella became heavily involved in the Muscular Dystrophy Association decades ago. For more than 20 years, he served as chairman of the annual fundraising gala, raising millions of dollars for the cause. After treatment, DiBella decided to combine his fundraising experience and passion for cancer care to start City of Hope’s annual gala, “Let’s Be Frank About Cancer.” This event has now raised more than $6 million to benefit cancer research, under the direction of Pal.
 
Sadly, DiBella has been on the other side of a cancer diagnosis as well — he lost his wife to cancer in 2014. Today, he is a well-known cancer-care advocate in Orange County and has since referred 48 Stage 4 cancer patients to City of Hope for treatment.
 
“The care I received at City of Hope was exceptional,” said DiBella. “For three years, I went to City of Hope in Duarte every Saturday for six to eight hours of chemotherapy. It was brutal, no doubt about it, but it saved my life, and everyone caring for me understood what I was going through.”
 
Something that stands out to DiBella about his experience at City of Hope is the speed of services and test results.
 
“When anyone gets cancer, it feels like a death sentence. That’s enough of a shock to your system and you’re nervous, but when you go for care at City of Hope, you get your results and answers right away, and that means everything,” he said.
 
“City of Hope got me in right away and took care of me, and either gave me my results right then to tell me I was still in remission, or they’d be on the phone with me as I was driving home,” said DiBella. “As far as I’m concerned, City of Hope is No. 1 and so are their doctors and nurses.”
 
City of Hope will host its fifth annual “Let’s Be Frank About Cancer” gala fundraiser in Orange County on Saturday, March 23, at The Hotel Irvine. For more information or to register, visit CityofHope.org/giving/fundraising-events/lets-be-frank.
 
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