December 8, 2013 | by City of Hope
For those who have battled cancer, each tomorrow is, in reality, a dream come true. On Jan. 1, former City of Hope patients will see another dream come true: They'll be riding atop City of Hope's float in the 2014 Tournament of Roses Parade.
The theme of this year's float is "Turning Hope and Dreams into Reality"; the theme of the parade is "Dreams Come True." Here is the story of one rider: Stephanie Hosford.
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In the summer of 2007, I was 37 years old, a happily married mother of one, living a relaxed and healthy lifestyle in Southern California. We were in the final months of the waiting period for an international adoption. We were so excited for our little girl’s arrival. I knew things were about to change. I assumed they would only be for the better.
I was wrong.
On September 21, one week after feeling a small lump in my left breast, I was told what no woman wants to hear – “You have breast cancer.”
But that wasn’t all.
A mere three days later, I discovered I was also pregnant. What was I supposed to do? Four cancer specialists from different institutions around Los Angeles strongly advised abortion. And what was to become of the adoption?
I was heartbroken. Cancer was about to take two babies from me – the one growing in my belly, and the one that had been growing in my heart for years. The thought that I would never hold either of them was tearing me apart.
My husband, Grant, found me on our bedroom floor in a depressed, defeated heap. He lifted me up and told me he had made one more appointment for us … at City of Hope.
I didn’t want to go.
I couldn’t stand to hear again that I needed to abort my pregnancy, start chemo immediately, etc.
But we went. Upon driving onto the City of Hope campus, the first thing I noticed was the fountain in front. Its beautiful statue in the middle, of a family holding hands, touched me immediately. Next, I noticed the buildings. They were so much less intimidating than the tall foreboding structures at the other places.
I met with Dr. Benjamin Paz and he told me that I did indeed have breast cancer. But what he said next – the thing that changed my life – was that he and other doctors at City of Hope would treat me for cancer while I was pregnant. They not only could, but they were willing to. Next, I met with Dr. Lucille Leong, who was to become my oncologist. She was confident she could save both my baby and me.
That little spark of hope quickly grew into a vivid dream in which cancer would not be my boss. I drew a picture of my future family – my husband, our son, our daughter from China, another little somebody, and me – all holding hands.
I went through surgery and four rounds of chemotherapy, all while pregnant. It was not easy. (Nor was it attractive, being that I was bald and fat – not a look most women strive for!)
But in March of 2008, my husband went to China to bring Naomi home to us. And on May 18, 2008, my daughter Samantha was born. I might be biased, but both my girls are beautiful and perfect.
City of Hope saved me. They saved my baby. They saved my family portrait.
Six years cancer-free, I am honored to ride on the City of Hope float and represent just one of their many, many success stories. My family really is living proof that “Dreams Come True.”