City of Hope Previews Its First Cancer Center In Orange County

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Main News Photo

Early next week, Orange County cancer patients seeking specialized treatment close to home can walk through the doors at a new facility near Fashion Island and be greeted with an uplifting sign: “Hope Lives Here.”

The “Hope” is both aspiration for patients and their families, and a reference to the first foray into Orange County by Duarte-based City of Hope.

On Tuesday, more than 300 people — including past and current patients, donors and volunteers, as well as local politicians like Newport Beach Mayor Will O’Neill and Rep. Harley Rouda, D-Laguna Beach — turned out for a preview and ribbon-cutting for the 12,500-square-foot facility. The airy, two-story building on Avocado Avenue, across from the city’s bus transit station near Fashion Island, is the first part of a planned $1 billion investment by City of Hope in Orange County.

The centerpiece of that expansion is a City of Hope campus scheduled to open next year, near the Great Park in Irvine.

The Newport Beach site’s opening, slated for Monday, Jan. 27, is the start of a push to make it possible for cancer patients in Orange County to dodge the commute to City of Hope’s campus in Duarte, said Annette Walker, president of City of Hope, Orange County.

Last year, about 3,200 residents from Orange County made the trek to Duarte, some driving up to two hours over several freeways. Because patients can require infusions and other treatments at least once a week, the commute can be draining.

Walker noted that the Avocado Avenue location enjoys “calming ocean views,” unlike the land-locked campus in Duarte. “Thank you, Newport Beach, for that,” she said.

The new research and treatment center features 10 exam rooms and 18 chemotherapy infusion stations with heated chairs that include automated massage treatments, and two beds for use by patients needing longer-term infusions. The center, which can treat 123 patients a day, also has an on-site compounding pharmacy that can create medications customized for individual treatments.

Frank Di Bella, diagnosed at a local hospital with bladder cancer eight years ago and told he had at most four months to live, offered his personal testimony. Di Bella, 74, said he traveled to a cancer center in Texas seeking a better prognosis that didn’t materialize before landing at City of Hope. His physician there, Dr. Sumanta Pal, said he couldn’t cure the cancer but guaranteed four years of life.

Di Bella, who lives about 10 minutes from the Avocado Avenue location, said he underwent a grueling three years of chemotherapy every weekend in Duarte, transporting himself. Now, he visits Dr. Pal every three months for scans.

“It’s still in remission,” said Di Bella.

The CPA also is a major fundraiser for City of Hope. Through his annual “Let’s Be Frank” gala and other efforts, Di Bella has brought in nearly $8 million for City of Hope over the past five years.

On Tuesday, Di Bella sat in the lobby of the Newport Beach center, with Dr. Pal next to him, sharing his cancer journey along with another Orange County patient, Todd Kennedy, 55, of Coto de Caza. Like Di Bella, Kennedy is in remission. He made 67 round trips to Duarte for treatment of multiple myeloma, the second most common blood cancer after leukemia.

“I think it’s going to change the landscape for generations,” Kennedy, a father of two, 18 and 23, said about City of Hope’s new operations in Orange County. “It’s a really big deal.”

While most who attended the ribbon cutting didn’t hear Di Bella and Kennedy talk about their experiences, marathoner Kandace McMenomy of Laguna Beach, told her story to the crowd. McMenomy was 30 in 2011 when she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. She beat that, but then saw cancer invade her entire body five years later.

McMenomy, still in treatment, called herself not just a survivor but a “conqueror” of cancer, drawing a standing ovation.

“All I know is, City of Hope got me to where I am today, standing where I am today.”

The center, in Orange County, she said, “could not happen soon enough.”

Source: Orange County Register


Category: Partner News, Community News, Healthcare