Breast cancer survivor’s grateful son gives back by volunteering at City of Hope Orange County

Breast cancer survivor’s grateful son gives back by volunteering at City of Hope Orange County

Charles Bertocchini was 13 when he helped his mother through her successful treatment for breast cancer at City of Hope. Grateful and wanting to give back, Charles, who is now 17, recently joined City of Hope Orange County’s volunteer program, eager for the opportunity to support patients with cancer.
Charles Bertocchini

In 2019, Allie Bertocchini and her husband sat down with their boys at the family’s Coto de Caza, California, home to tell them about her breast cancer diagnosis. The news was a shock for the kids, especially for Charles, who was the eldest of the three brothers and old enough to understand the potential ramifications.

He was worried and anxious. And layered on top of his mother’s diagnosis were the unique uncertainties teens were facing during the pandemic. But Charles said he knew what to do, which was to step up for his family whenever needed. At times, Charles was the only one available to help with tasks like changing medication drips. They were challenges Charles willingly accepted.

“You have all the stress of school and COVID, but once your mom asks you for help like that, you know nothing else matters,” Charles said. “What else could be more important?”

A few months ago, Charles told his mother that the family’s cancer journey had led to a personal discovery: He wanted to become a doctor, and he also wanted to volunteer at City of Hope Orange County. It would be good to get some medical experience before going to college; and importantly, he felt a special connection there.

“I feel like medicine, especially oncology, has given me and my family so much, and I want to be able to give back to other people,” Charles said.

Allie credits her healing to City of Hope’s renowned cancer expertise and advanced, integrated approach to breast cancer care. The support she received from her City of Hope team, her family and her community meant everything to her.

Make Time for Breast Health, Urges Coto de Caza Mom

This summer, patients visiting City of Hope’s Huntington Beach location have had a chance to see Charles’ welcoming smile in person. Among his duties, he makes sure the infusion areas are cleaned and sanitized, and he helps make sure patients have everything they need.

“When I went in for my first shift, it was easy to see the patients were being really well cared for and supported,” Charles said. “City of Hope is a healing environment, and I’m excited to be part of creating it for our patients.”

Charles also recently completed a two-week medical immersion program at Wake Forest University.

None of this is surprising to people who know him. Last semester, Santa Margarita Catholic High School presented Charles with a Justice Award, an annual recognition of students who give generously of themselves, speak and act truthfully, and promote the well-being of others.

Charles enjoys opportunities to have conversations with patients, and if they ask him about himself, he is willing to share his experience. “I understand what it feels like to feel scared about cancer. But you know, my family and I are proof that with City of Hope, you're not facing cancer alone, and knowing that can make a big difference.”

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Why Choose City of Hope Orange County for Breast Cancer Care?

To make an appointment at any of City of Hope’s Orange County locations, call 888-333-HOPE (4673).