Donna McNutt Rose Parade | City of Hope

Mom of three given another chance thanks to lifesaving transplant

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.
Laguna Beach, California, resident 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. Her doctor in an Orange County facility said she could buy her five years. McNutt didn’t believe in expiration dates and decided to come to City of Hope because of a renowned blood cancer specialist, Amrita Krishnan, M.D., director of the Judy and Bernard Briskin Center for Multiple Myeloma Research at City of Hope.
McNutt received a lifesaving stem cell transplant and now has her cancer under control. She 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. (Read more about her cancer journey here.)
McNutt, now 58, reflects on her cancer journey as she 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 began my cancer journey by landing in the hospital with a body that was broken and failing me. My main concern was my children. A mother will do anything to protect her children from hurt and pain, and now I worried that I would become their greatest one.
My challenge was to survive, no matter what it took and to show them that I would fight and become a warrior they could be proud of.
Why did you decide to come to City of Hope?
We felt so fortunate to have a leading cancer center only an hour away, though we would have driven more than eight hours to be treated at City of Hope. Based on our research, we knew that City of Hope has a brilliant doctor who specializes in multiple myeloma and a hospital that has an incredible reputation for their stem cell transplants and research.
What would you like to share about the specialized treatment you received at City of Hope?
I could not have asked for a better experience going through my stem cell transplant. From the moment I walked through City of Hope’s doors, I knew I was in the right place. Dr. Krishnan spent over an hour with us explaining multiple myeloma and her plan of attack. She promised me I could fight my cancer count down and receive a stem cell transplant that would put me in remission. I believed her and never looked back.
You fell out of remission in November 2018 but, with Dr. Krishnan’s expertise, your disease is under control. How has your perspective on life changed?
I do not wait until tomorrow for what needs to be said today. I always believed giving was the greatest gift, but cancer has shown me how to receive, and for this I am grateful. I love, forgive, encourage and tell my children how proud I am of them. I have stronger relationships with my husband and children. This is the gift cancer gives us patients, if we choose to recognize it. We are at peace, and I know in my heart this extra time has helped us prepare for what might be.
I want other patients to find that thing that motivates them, that’s personal and not family – something they enjoy and cannot be taken by cancer. For me, I made it my mission to share my journey to help others. I started an Instagram account and use the hashtag #thecancerfashionista, speak on podcasts and speak to media. I tell them that I have fought cancer one outfit at a time. We have to have a little humor when dealing with cancer.
Why would you recommend City of Hope to other people seeking treatment for cancer, diabetes or life-threatening diseases?
I encourage every cancer patient I encounter or who reaches out via Instagram to seek a facility that specializes in their cancer. Anyone who knows me understands what City of Hope means to me and my journey. If it is possible, I tell them to seek treatment at City of Hope. I tell the patients I mentor that they should be confident in their choice of City of Hope.
How did “The Power of Hope,” this year’s Rose Parade theme, help bring you back to health?
I believe everything in my life has led me to today and the mission I have to share my journey. I feel so honored and privileged to be participating in the 2020 City of Hope float and Rose Parade. We all need goals and reasons to keep fighting. This has given me a huge one.