Five cancer survivors who have ridden on City of Hope’s Rose Parade float in years past will share what the experience meant to them in a short video that will air Jan. 1 during a two-hour Rose Parade TV entertainment special.
They will be accompanied by Stephen J. Forman, M.D., a City of Hope hematologist-oncologist who has ridden or walked alongside the comprehensive cancer center’s float for five years.
“In previous years when I participated in the Rose Parade, I was always struck by the large numbers of people along every block who recognize us, having themselves been touched by the care and research City of Hope does to help them or someone they know or love,“ said Forman, director of the Hematologic Malignancies Research Institute at City of Hope.
“Many people recognize our float and yell words of encouragement or, in many cases, expressed profound heartfelt expressions of gratitude for City of Hope. Sometimes, without words, you could see the emotion in their faces in a quiet, thoughtful and sometimes tearful way. Our connection to those people has less to do with the gorgeous design of our float’s floral display and more to do with how City of Hope is a special place of care.”
The special will air on ABC, Hallmark Channel, KTLA, NBC and RFD-TV at 8 a.m. PST and on Univision at 7 a.m. PST on Jan. 1, 2021.
City of Hope has participated in the Rose Parade for 48 years. In the TV special, five cancer survivors from its 2019 and 2020 floats will reminisce about what the experience meant to them. Details about their cancer journey are below:
- Donna McNutt, 59, Laguna Beach, California: Donna McNutt was 54 years old when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer that forms in plasma cells of the immune system. An Orange County doctor said McNutt might be able to live five more years. McNutt didn’t believe in expiration dates and came to City of Hope to see a renowned blood cancer specialist. She received a lifesaving stem cell transplant and now has her cancer at bay. McNutt is able to make memories with her husband and three children. “I believe my relationships are the best they’ve ever been because I don’t wait until tomorrow to say something that I need to say today,” she said.
- Caitlin Herron, 16, from Stevenson Ranch, California: The chemotherapy and full-body radiation that then 12-year-old Caitlin Herron underwent to treat a rare form of leukemia potentially stunted her growth, sidetracked her puberty and took away her ability to have children in the future. However, Herron, now 16 and in remission, said she prefers to think about the positive impact the disease has had. “Cancer made me want to do all I can to give back. I really want to be an advocate for anyone going through cancer because it’s a difficult process,” she said. Herron is now a sophomore in high school and hopes to inspire other cancer patients to continue to pursue their dreams despite all the hurdles and battles they may encounter.
- Ivan Garcia-Burgos, 28, Mesa, Arizona: Ivan Garcia-Burgos was 21 years old when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a blood cancer that hinders the body’s ability to fight infection. Garcia-Burgos endured high doses of chemotherapy to prepare his body for a stem cell transplant. He lost 50 pounds over the course of his treatment and said, “There were times that I wanted to call it quits.” But he remembered all he still had to live for and decided to fight. He is now cancer-free and has created a nonprofit called Ivan’s Choice Leukemia Foundation to pay it forward and give families insight so that they’re more emotionally prepared to handle the disease and treatment.
- Jeff Carpenter, 60, South Pasadena, California: Jeff Carpenter was 56 years old when he was given a grim diagnosis: lung cancer that had spread to his brain. He was astonished because he had never smoked a day in his life, but the condition explained his uncharacteristic panic attacks, erratic behavior, blurred vision and bouts of nonsensical speech. In the emergency room, he was told he had three to six months to live. As a man who had devoted 11 years to building his own airplane, Carpenter knows what it means to be resilient and dream big. He came to City of Hope, underwent intricate brain surgery, radiation therapy and leading-edge targeted therapy that eliminated all tumors in his lungs and brain.
- Abraham Laboriel, 73, from Tarzana, California: When Abraham Laboriel was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2016, he swore he wouldn’t let the disease beat him. He chose to be treated at City of Hope because his wife, a pediatrician, told him, “We need to find a doctor who doesn’t find your case ‘interesting.’ City of Hope has performed more than 15,000 bone marrow and stem cell transplants. We’re going there.” During the two-week transplant process, Laboriel and his wife stayed in a bungalow on campus at City of Hope where he could eat home-cooked meals in a private space and play musical instruments with his two sons. Laboriel, originally from Mexico, is recognized by many as “the most widely used session bassist of our time.” He has played on more than 4,000 recordings and soundtracks, including “Coco,” “Jurassic World,” “Frozen,” “The Incredibles” and “Incredibles 2.” He has worked with people such as Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Dolly Parton, Elton John, Ray Charles and Madonna.