December 17, 2016 | by Letisia Marquez
“Is my mom going to die?”
That was the question Anne Clark’s 10-year-old son asked Stephen J. Forman, M.D., a City of Hope hematologist, as his mother started treatment for Stage 1 Hodgkin lymphoma at City of Hope in the summer of 2014.
“No, she’s going to be OK,” Forman, the Francis & Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, told her son.
“One of his good friends had lost a parent to cancer several years earlier,” said Clark, 52, reflecting on that moment, her voice quavering. “So he very much knew that was a possible outcome.”
Clark also grappled with feelings of uncertainty and shock that come with a cancer diagnosis.
“The week I was diagnosed, I had done Crossfit and Bikram yoga,” Clark said. “Hodgkin lymphoma is an equal opportunity cancer. It can hit you as a 16-year-old or a 70-year-old. There’s nothing you can do to prevent it in terms of lifestyle or screening.”
As the Los Angeles Police Department’s first female Hispanic commander, Clark takes nothing for granted. She has spent the past 30 years with the law enforcement agency – where she’s worked on a range of assignments, from patrol to vice to internal affairs, and has experienced her share of life-threatening moments over the years.
At the time she was diagnosed with cancer, Clark was captain of LAPD’s gangs and narcotics division. She oversaw 275 employees that worked within the city limits, stretching from San Pedro to the San Fernando Valley.
Since then, she has been promoted to a commander position at LAPD headquarters downtown and works closely with Assistant Police Chief Jorge Villegas on special projects and assignments.
Clark approached her cancer diagnosis with the same sensible and straightforward mentality with which she’s achieved a successful law enforcement career. She shaved her head before she started treatment. Clark often felt fatigued, battled severe headaches and could barely eat during the four months she received chemotherapy. But she never lost sight of what was most important to her.
I need to raise my son,” she recalled telling Forman. “That is my sole priority. Do what you have to do to cure me.”
What also helped her was the support of hundreds of police officers and other LAPD employees who signed up to do whatever they could to help her get through her treatment, which included two weeks of radiation.
Every two weeks, her co-workers volunteered to take her to chemotherapy appointments at City of Hope. Clark fondly recalled the time she told some of her co-workers she was feeling better and would like to have lunch with them. Word spread and when Clark showed up for lunch, 150 of her employees were waiting to dine with her.
“It was a pretty remarkable show of solidarity,” she added.
Those experiences left her appreciating what matters most in life.
“It made me realize that material things are just that materials things,” she added. “What matters are your family and the people that you have relationships with.”
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