Nine patients given another chance at life will ride City of Hope’s 2020 Rose Parade® float

December 16, 2019
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Zen Vuong
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One patient was told by a doctor at another institution that he had only six months to live. He came to City of Hope and, three years later, is living his best life with no signs of disease. 
 
DUARTE, Calif. — Nine patients will ride City of Hope’s eponymous float at the 131st Rose Parade® presented by Honda on New Year’s Day. These survivors demonstrate how “The Power of Hope” and leading-edge treatment at a biomedical research institution gave them the gift of time.
 
Some of the patients were told by other medical institutions that they had only months to live. They all share stories of hope and rebirth. Take Stacy Kimmel, who has been diagnosed with breast cancer six times and has beaten it every time. Despite having metastatic breast cancer, the 51-year-old Pasadena, California, resident is unwilling to give up hope that she will survive, thrive and continue making memories with her family and friends.
 
“City of Hope doctors sincerely want to cure cancer and end this horrible disease, not just give someone a Band-Aid,” Kimmel said. “I have seen them working on clinical trials, manufacturing chemical and cellular therapeutics, and inventing drugs that eventually could lead to a cure.”
 
This year will be the 48th time City of Hope, a world-renowned independent research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases, has participated in the Rose Parade. At last year’s parade, City of Hope’s “Harmony of Hope” float won the President Award for “most outstanding use and presentation of flowers.” This year’s luscious and vibrant floral display outperforms all of City of Hope’s previous floats.
 
People say it takes a village, but perhaps it takes a city – City of Hope, a comprehensive cancer center that moves with speed to give people the treatments of tomorrow today. The leading-edge treatments and compassionate care provided by City of Hope give people hope and a future – more time with their loved ones. That’s why Father Time is the focal point of the float. The white doves in flight are a celebration of new beginnings and the freedom that comes with a new start. A DNA strand and butterflies symbolize the scientific discoveries made at City of Hope that have led to the development of breakthrough cancer drugs and synthetic human insulin – innovative treatments that have transformed medical care and saved countless lives.
 
The tree is surrounded by flowers so that patients, physicians, nurses and staff can literally stop and smell the flowers. It is a representation of the Rose Garden and Japanese Garden on the City of Hope main campus, two places where patients and their loved ones can pause, relax and reflect.
 
More information on the patient riders is below:
 
  • Kaysen Camat-Toki, 14, Las Vegas: Kaysen Camat-Toki was 11 years old when he was diagnosed with a rare type of bone cancer, telangiectatic osteosarcoma — probably the hardest osteosarcoma subtype to treat. His parents drove 237 miles to City of Hope so that a specialist could remove his cancer and insert an innovative stainless steel internal prosthesis. City of Hope is the only institution on the West Coast with the expertise and technology capable of uniformly lengthening a growing child’s limb with a specialized magnet. His right femur has been lengthened about a handful of times. This innovative prothesis ensures that Kaysen doesn’t have to go in for regularly scheduled surgeries after the initial operation, thus reducing the risk of infection and negative outcomes. Kaysen, who used to play baseball, is learning to enjoy low-impact sports such as bowling.
 
  • Jeff Carpenter, 59, South Pasadena, California: Jeff Carpenter was 56 years old when he was given a grim diagnosis: lung cancer that had spread to his brain. Carpenter was astonished because he had never smoked a day in his life, but the condition explained his uncharacteristic panic attacks, erratic behavior, blurred vision and bouts of nonsensical speech. In the emergency room, he was told he had three to six months to live. As a man who had devoted 11 years to building his own airplane, Carpenter knows what it means to be resilient and dream big. He came to City of Hope, underwent intricate brain surgery, radiation therapy and leading-edge targeted therapy that eliminated all tumors in his lungs and brain. Now 59 with no evidence of disease, Carpenter and his family are working on turning a 10-year-old dream into reality: They have purchased land overlooking the eastern Sierra mountains and are working on plans to build a cabin there.
 
  • Ivan Garcia-Burgos, 27, Mesa, Arizona (fluent in Spanish): Ivan Garcia-Burgos was 21 years old when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a blood cancer that hinders the body’s ability to fight infection. A donor from Tampa, Florida, was identified, Carlos Vallejo. Garcia-Burgos endured high doses of chemotherapy to prepare his body for a stem cell transplant. He lost 50 pounds over the course of his treatment and said, “There were times that I wanted to call it quits.” But he remembered all he still had to live for and decided to fight. He is now cancer-free and has created a nonprofit called Ivan’s Choice Leukemia Foundation to pay it forward and give families insight so that they’re more emotionally prepared to handle the disease and treatment.
 
  • Stacy Kimmel, 51, Pasadena, California: Stacy Kimmel was 38 years old when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. The tumor was 3 millimeters wide, but as a mother of a 3-year-old, Kimmel decided to get aggressive treatment. She underwent a bilateral mastectomy to reduce the risk of recurrence. The estrogen-positive cancer proved stubborn and returned five other times, eventually becoming HER-2 positive, a hard-to-beat cancer mutation that could spread quickly. In total, Kimmel has been diagnosed with breast cancer six times, and she’s beaten it every time. Despite cancer, her singular focus is living a life filled with memorable moments. Kimmel is unwilling to give up hope that she will survive, thrive and continue making memories with family and friends.
 
  • Annie Tighe, 18, Durham, North Carolina: When she was 4 years old and living in Pasadena, California, Annie Tighe was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, an autoimmune disease where the body stops producing enough new blood cells, causing fatigue, a higher risk of infections and uncontrolled bleeding. She received a bone marrow transplant at City of Hope using the umbilical cord blood that her parents had saved and stored. Tighe was free of the disease for 18 months before she relapsed in 2007. That’s when her parents discovered the cause of her illness: A termite pesticide called chlordane that had been banned in 1988 was outgassing from the soil under her house to sicken her. With no more cord blood, her parents tried many different treatments, including two rounds of immunosuppressive therapy. Eventually, when Tighe was 12, she returned to City of Hope for a second bone marrow transplant. This time they used donated stem cells from a young man in Germany. She is now cured (and living in a different house) but estimates that about 15% of her childhood was spent in hospitals and doctor’s offices. She has had over 130 transfusions and over 600 blood draws.
 
  • Cierra Danielle Jackson, 31, North Hollywood, California: Up-and-coming actress and former beauty queen Cierra Danielle Jackson was born with sickle cell disease, a genetic disorder that afflicts some 100,000 Americans, 80% of whom are African American like her. Very few sickle cell patients live past 30, and much of their time is spent coping with one pain emergency after another. By the time Jackson was in high school, she “was always in the hospital.” The condition gave her jaundice. “Kids in school called me the ‘green-eyed gremlin,’” she said. But she waited until she earned a bachelor’s degree before she sought a bone marrow transplant that could “cure” her. She came to City of Hope because it has performed the largest number of transplants for sickle cell patients in the West. A U.K. donor with a 99.9% match was found, and the transplant was performed to great success. Jackson is now considered “cured.”
 
  • Donna McNutt, 58, Laguna Beach, California: 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. McNutt received a lifesaving stem cell transplant and now has her cancer at bay. She fell out of remission in November 2018, but her physician has kept her disease under control. McNutt 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.
 
  • Leif Voeltz, 68, Mount Shasta, California: Leif Voeltz was 63 years old when he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and fell into a coma spurred by sepsis, a life-threatening condition that harms tissues and organs, as well as by a high level of cancer cells. Not too long before this, he had lived an active lifestyle as an avid skier, bicyclist and climber. Voeltz was given a 5% chance of surviving, then a 2% chance of surviving once his liver started to fail. He received antibiotics intravenously for the sepsis and low-dose chemotherapy for the blood cancer. He was in remission for a short period, became a City of Hope patient, was diagnosed with AML again, received more chemotherapy and was in remission for a few months before the disease returned for a second time. His physician said he would need a transplant if he wanted to be “cured.” Voeltz received a successful stem cell transplant from a donor in Germany and has been cancer-free for more than four years.
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About City of Hope
City of Hope is an independent biomedical research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. Founded in 1913, City of Hope is a leader in bone marrow transplantation and immunotherapy such as CAR T cell therapy. City of Hope’s translational research and personalized treatment protocols advance care throughout the world. Human synthetic insulin and numerous breakthrough cancer drugs are based on technology developed at the institution. A National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and a founding member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, City of Hope is the highest ranked cancer hospital in the West, according to U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospitals: Specialty Ranking. Its main campus is located near Los Angeles, with additional locations throughout Southern California. For more information about City of Hope, follow us on FacebookTwitterYouTube or Instagram.