Lions July 2021 Newsletter

How did you feel when you received your diagnosis?
It wasn’t much different 30 years ago than it is for patients now. For me, at 48, I was training to run a marathon, my husband Jim was a successful magazine publisher, we shared the summers on our boat in Long Beach, and I worked at Snow Summit in Big Bear in the winters. We sailed and skied, and enjoyed every moment of our life plan that was unfolding like the dream that it was. And then in an instant our lives came to a halt. After being diagnosed with advanced stage-­four breast cancer followed by a mastectomy, we thought I would have an uneventful recovery and be back to our normal life very shortly. But there was so much more ahead… My oncologist at the time was on the admissions team at City of Hope, and with a big smile happily announced that he had great news, that I was a perfect candidate for a bone marrow transplant at City of Hope and had been accepted into a new program. We’ll never forget our shock, that this was the GOOD news. Truly not in our realm of expectation.
Being diagnosed with cancer was like being on a Ferris wheel. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion, so many ups and downs, so many questions, you never know what the next day will bring. I wasn’t a stranger to cancer. My father passed away from multiple myeloma when I was just 14, and he declined being treated at City of Hope. But that was so long ago, maybe things would be different for me. We just weren’t sure… But we finally decided to go and check it out. It couldn’t hurt to just go and talk with another doctor. We were nervous, afraid, and not very hopeful at all. I was reluctant, and didn’t want to believe I even needed to go to City of Hope. But for some reason, I began feeling I was destined to be a patient. I drew on my faith, and the support and encouragement of devoted family, pastors and friends.
What made you decide to go to City of Hope?
The way I looked at it at the time, I really didn’t know if I had a choice. But when we first drove onto the campus and saw the beautiful grounds and trees and the roses and the fountain, we felt such a feeling of peace and contentment and hope, that maybe this was where we should be. That first impression made all the difference, even before we spoke with anyone in person. Once we decided to go there, then came the decision of whether or not to STAY there. The first person we encountered was Lettie Lerille, a Goodwill Ambassador with a welcoming smile who just happened to be in the right place at the right time when we walked in the clinic door. That chance encounter led to planned meetings, lunches, and a meaningful friendship, and we were very saddened to hear of her passing a few years ago. Also critical in our decision to be treated there was the dedication of Pat Ebbe and Nellie Garcia from CSW. Their calming kindnesses were reassuring, and especially Dr. George Somlo’s superb guidance. His Oncology Team helped us realize our options were very limited and not positive if I declined treatment. Considering my diagnosis and surgery reports, I was only given possibly a year to live, so although daunting, we felt I should take the risk of being treated instead of the risk of not being treated. I decided very early on, that even if I didn’t make it, I wanted City of Hope to use the research they learned from me to help others in the future.
And so it began… my journey of determination, education, and participation. And after months of traditional chemotherapy, countless tests, visits with doctors, nurses, technicians, lab people, office people, schedulers, social workers, x-­rays, scans, surgeries, work-­ups, and everything else Dr. Somlo and my care team needed to do to prepare me, I was admitted for an autologous bone marrow transplant and spent 33 days in the transplant unit. I received nine days of high-­dose chemotherapy, and was in the first group of 30 women selected for this specific protocol. That was followed by numerous recovery drugs and treatments to recharge my immune system. Once the process began, I was determined to do all I could to contribute to the success of this new research treatment. But it wasn’t only for me, or for my husband, or for others I might benefit. I had an instinctive persistence to make it through, for my Mom. It just wouldn’t be fair for her to lose me to cancer too. Her strong faith, touching prayers and daily uplifting blessings gave me the added strength I needed to carry on.
Strict isolation was the rule of the day for the entire time, with only my husband Jim – my faithful follower – allowed to visit me. It was pretty rough, the side effects of all the drugs were painful and debilitating. Among other things, I lost my senses of taste and smell, I couldn’t eat, drink, or even swallow, and many familiar things became oddly different. One day when the nurse came in to swap out my chemo IV bag, we both were amazed that the fitting crumbled in her hand. The personalized cocktail that was saving my life was stronger than either of us realized, but I made it through… Following was daily radiation for six weeks, which ended on Valentine’s Day, also our wedding anniversary. No one was happier and relieved when I finally came home, than my Mom.
We didn’t know at the time whether anything had even worked, but year after year it became evident that the treatment protocol had been successful, as that cancer has not returned, and 30 years later I am still here thanks to Dr. Somlo, the treatment, the care, the doctors, the caregivers, the research, and the continual follow-­up at City of Hope.
Obviously deciding to be a patient was the best decision of my life, which is tied with my previous decision to marry Jim… his love and constant caring and encouragement, and undaunting commitment to the entire process, were equally necessary for my recovery. “We’re a team, Punky” became his rallying cry. But also very important was the staff’s attention to Jim’s needs, and how was he doing through all this. Knowing that he was driving a hundred miles every day just to be with me, everyone showed him the same care and dedication that they showed to me. That was vital in my journey during all those months of treatment and recovery. Another helpful experience that aided my recovery was being an employee at City of Hope. A short time post-­transplant, I worked in the Donor Center interviewing potential blood and stem cell donors. It was very therapeutic to talk with and help patients and their families about some of the same things I had just experienced.
Even after all these years, City of Hope has taken exceptional care of me. Thankfully the original cancer hasn’t recurred. There have been other diagnoses, that the research staff aren’t sure are related to delayed cancer after-­effects or not, but regardless, when other diagnoses developed, including thyroid disease, possible diabetes, bone deterioration, various mouth cancers and others, I have always been extremely well cared for. Over the years I have been seen by over 20 doctors, most recently by Dr. Maghami, Dr. Femino, Dr. Chilian and Dr. Salehian and their staffs. They all have dealt with the issues that have arisen, and are always available for follow-­up visits, to make sure anything new doesn’t develop into something worse. When advanced Graves Disease took its toll on my vision, I was referred to the Doheny Eye Institute for more surgeries, and to Loma Linda for extensive radiation to save my sight. And still being a part of ongoing research at City of Hope gives me the opportunity to give back in many ways.
How would you describe City of Hope to others?
Also, a big part of my giving back has to do with the Lions. As a Lion and District 4-­L5 City of Hope Chair for the past 25 years, I have frequently spoken for City of Hope at meetings, seminars and conventions. For me, it is truly a joy to share my story and talk about City of Hope with the Lions and others at the events. I can speak from personal experience as a BMT patient, cancer survivor, and as an ongoing ‘living research’ project, as well as sharing new information with everyone, from research, fundraising goals, improvements and changes during construction. I usually begin my talk with the premise on the Golter Gate, which says more to describe City of Hope than anything else. That always sets the tone for a positive presentation. I can describe to everyone the beautiful grounds, the roses, the sculptures, the Japanese Garden, and the peaceful landscaping, so helpful for patients and their families. We have walked every inch of the campus over all these years, from Jim running interference with my IV pole so long ago to now taking walks in the Rose Garden and actually being able to ‘stop and smell the roses’. We enjoy seeing all the changes and improvements that are always taking place, and are blessed to be able to convey the City of Hope message to Lions and others for so long. Being a Lion has given me the best opportunities to give back to City of Hope for all they have done for me.
How would you describe the Lions Club's relationship with City of Hope?
The Lions and City of Hope have had a long and rewarding relationship for over 60 years. During that time, Lions Clubs and members have donated millions of dollars and countless volunteer hours. City of Hope is highly respected by the Lions, and they have always been extremely generous to City of Hope. Initially, special tiles were made to cover walls at City of Hope in thanks for donations. Some dated back over 50 years. In 1991, a Los Angeles area Lions Club donated the Lions Japanese Garden, which was dedicated the year of my transplant. It is still maintained in the traditional Japanese fashion by many dedicated Lions, and is a serene respite often enjoyed by us, in and out-­patients, their families, and employees and doctors alike.
In 2008 I was fortunate to be a partner in a very special Lions fundraising campaign, championed by Lions Past International President Kay K. Fukushima. The original “Million Dollar Miracle” raised donations from all over the country to remodel the Parson’s Village Family Center. It was completed and dedicated in 2016, complete with the Lions Clubs International name and logo affixed to the building entrance. This was very poignant for me as a patient, to help raise contributions for something that would be so helpful and meaningful to patients and their families. We all felt very honored to be a part of the Million Dollar success when the Lions Family Center at City of Hope was beautifully renovated, dedicated, open to all, and could again be enjoyed at its full capacity.
When the Family Center Project was completed we began another Million Dollar Campaign involving Diabetes Research. I was asked to be a member of a collaborative committee of Lions and City of Hope Legacy and Affinity Group personnel. The group has grown from a small local team with big plans to now include Lions from all over the State of California and others as well. We have been meeting via Zoom and are well on our way to another ‘million’. Lions Clubs International has also been honored with a plaque in the lobby of Helford Hospital, and we will be adding the Lions logo and name to the DEM Clinic Elevator Lobby in the Brawerman Clinic.
As a frequent patient in the DEM Clinic, it will be the culmination of a personal dream, when the Lions name and logo adorn what is currently a blank wall. Every year at Lions Tribute Day, hundreds of Lions come and tour the campus buildings and grounds and view all the Lions namesakes and new additions.
What would you say to someone else who is thinking about making a gift to City of Hope?
Basically… all of the above!!! There is no better place to donate money than City of Hope. They are always highly ranked by national and international watchdogs for honesty and proper use of donated funds. City of Hope guarantees that every dollar donated will be distributed as the donor requests. Everyone can feel confident that every donation will be used properly and for the highest good.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I may never have become a Lion if I hadn’t been a patient at City of Hope. A couple of years after my transplant, a friend and co-­worker invited us to a fundraiser for City of Hope, sponsored by the Big Bear Lions Club and Village Pizza in Big Bear Lake, California. When we walked in and saw all the Lions in their bright gold vests serving pizza, clearing tables, visiting with the guests and talking about City of Hope, it didn’t take much convincing. We wanted to be part of this group who had such a fondness for City of Hope, and we joined the Club a few months later. In 25 years of membership, I held almost every office in the Club, chaired the many City of Hope fundraising events, and cherish the Lion friendships we still have from all those years ago.
An added bonus is coming back each year for the Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion. Adding another year to my badge is always such a joy. Every time we drive in the same driveway with the roses and fountain welcoming us, we still get that same peaceful, hopeful, and contented feeling. Boasting that ‘30’ on my badge next year will truly be a memorable milestone. “The more things change, the more they stay the same…” –Jean-­Baptiste Karr
City of Hope has almost felt like a second home to me. Even though all of the staff who welcomed us 30 years ago have retired, each person I now encounter shows that same caring spirit that is a trademark of City of Hope. It has never felt like ‘just a hospital’ to us. It is truly a unique experience and a journey I am blessed to still be taking. City of Hope didn’t just save my life… they saved my soul.
Jeanne Vaughan
1451 Paradise Island Lane, Banning CA 92220      

City of Hope Club and District Chair Applications Are Open
Are you interested in taking your service to the Lions Clubs and City of Hope partnership even further? Then consider leading your fellow Lions as a City of Hope Club or District Chair! City of Hope Chairs serve a vital role in strengthening the City of Hope and Lions Clubs partnership by recruiting Lions to fundraise, sharing communications from City of Hope with the clubs, meeting the $500 fundraising goal for clubs and so much more. If service that advances City of Hope’s work to end cancer and diabetes interests you, please consider reaching out to Carl Woody ([email protected]) for more information.
Lions Convention Attendees Raise Funds for City of Hope
District Convention attendees of 4-A1 and guests gathered in Tuolumne, CA at the Black Oak Casino and Resort on April 22-25th. Activities held at the RV Park and clubhouse included business sessions, Food Faire/potluck fundraisers, an early morning Strides walk around the fishing pond, costumes, BBQs, RV decoration contests, and live entertainment.
Convention Chair Debbi Hopman is passionate about giving back and arranged the Lions for Diabetes Awareness Strides walk at 7:15 AM on the second day of the convention. Participants trekked around the mountain pond, raising money for Diabetes awareness.  Established in 1984 by Lions Club International to support both local and large-scale efforts leading to the control and treatment of diabetes, the Strides Walk Program was initiated in 2006 and continues to be the focus of fundraisers today.
Additional funds were raised at the Food Faire/Potluck competition as 20 different Lions Clubs baked, grilled, and cooked delicious offerings to the 124 “taste testers”, bringing in over $500.00 for everyone’s efforts. Nothing warms the heart like watching a group of costumed pirates (theme of the convention) enjoy great food, drinks, and fellowship while raising money for the City of Hope Lions Clubs Innovation Fund.

Contact Us

We hope you find this information valuable. If you or someone you know has been making a difference in their community and deserves to be featured in next month’s newsletter, please consider sharing details with Carl Woody ([email protected]).