March 26, 2015 | by Denise Heady
Frank Di Bella, 70, is on a mission: Find a cure for metastatic bladder cancer.
It's just possible he might.
Although Di Bella isn't a world-renowned physician, cancer researcher or scientist, he knows how to make things happen. For more than 20 years, he served as chairman of annual fundraising galas on behalf of muscular dystrophy research, and he's successfully raised more than $10 million toward that cause.
Now his attention is focused on his own disease: metastatic bladder cancer. The certified public accountant recently held a black-tie gala titled "Let’s Be Frank about Cancer" to help raise funds for City of Hope’s bladder cancer research, led by Sumanta Kumar Pal, M.D.
The gala was filled with distinguished leaders, such as Gov. Jerry Brown, and brought in more than $1.6 million for Pal’s research.
But for Di Bella, that’s just the start.
“I’m going to spend the rest of my life raising money to help City of Hope and Dr. Pal,” Di Bella said.
Di Bella’s mission began in 2011 after he was diagnosed with metastatic bladder cancer that had spread to his lungs, ribs and spine. He went to two other institutions and was told by multiple doctors that he had only months to live.
Then he came to City of Hope. Here, he was introduced to Pal, assistant clinical professor in the Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research and co-director of the Kidney Cancer Program.
“I met Dr. Pal, and he assured me that I would live for at least four years,” DiBella recalled. “He said he can’t cure me, but he could keep me alive and, hopefully, during that time, he’d find a cure. If anybody can find a cure, it’ll be Dr. Pal.”
Pal’s research is focused on finding ways to better understand how cancers develop and metastasize, how to better predict cancer recurrence and how to improve treatments with fewer side effects.
Nearly four years have passed since Di Bella’s cancer diagnosis, and he credits Pal and the staff at City of Hope for saving his life. Although he's not cured yet, he is living life to the fullest and has made it his priority to raise meaningful funds to support ongoing research efforts by Pal at City of Hope.
“Dr. Pal gave me hope and told me not to worry. He kept me alive. Now I’m going to spend my time helping him,” Di Bella said.
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