Christine, lymphoma survivor

“I’m sorry to say this, but the chemo failed. Your cancer is still spreading, and there’s nothing more we can do for you.”

For non-Hodgkin lymphoma patient Christine Pechera, hearing these terrifying words from her doctor were the motivation that set her on the path to City of Hope.

After undergoing chemotherapy, radiation and an autologous stem cell transplant (a procedure using her own stem cells), Christine returned to health – only to eventually relapse.  Which led to a worldwide search for a bone marrow donor and her subsequent bone marrow transplantation – and 144 days confinement to her hospital room because her immune system was so low. But she appreciated where she was.

A lot of other hospitals that I visited before coming here felt very lonely and cold and disconnected. You were just a patient being pushed through their system. But at City of Hope, the people here really care about you. There’s a community and a passion here, and you feel safe. Christine Pechera

Christine understood how unusual and life-enhancing her environment was: “It has a sense not just of compassion, but of humanity. There’s a humanity that exists on this campus that you can’t find in other hospitals. Almost everyone here has been touched by cancer. They get what you’re going through. They’re here to make a difference. “

Throughout the campus she found all kinds of “pockets of joy” that feed the soul while recuperating. From programs in art and music and writing, to the rose garden and the koi pond and the lushness of the physical surroundings, with the stately San Gabriel mountains overlooking all. She even discovered, in a grove of trees, a square of metal chimes set in the ground.

“They look like regular metal tiles, but when you step on them they ding. They made music. It kind of made you feel alive again.”

And Christine made a wish, not knowing if she would even be alive a month from that moment. She made a wish that someday she was going to come back to those chimes “and my hair would’ve grown back, and I would be 100% healthy and cancer-free, and I would dance on the chimes with my true love, the man who accepted me for who I am and what I’ve been through.”

Today, Christine is cancer-free and married to Guinn, whom she has taken to City of Hope and shown the places that brought her solace and made her feel reconnected to life. And she and he have danced on the chimes. Because wishes do come true.