In 1990, Pat Perrott was confronted by the sudden and unexpected threat of cancer when her eldest son, Matthew Phelan, was diagnosed with lymphoma. However, this parent’s worst nightmare became the seed of an incredible, lifelong crusade for a mother determined to share with others the hope and healing that her family discovered at City of Hope.
It all began when Matthew was diagnosed with a very virulent cancer in the third decade of life. When the news descended, our family was “in a state of exhaustion and under a cloud of despair,” said Pat. “In spite of some wonderful intentions, Matthew’s condition grew worse under the care of local physicians.”
Meeting with City of Hope’s Pablo Parker, M.D., Pat, Matthew and the rest of their family were very apprehensive. They had been told at other facilities that further treatment for Matthew would be to no avail and they feared Dr. Parker would say the same. “Instead, he told us that Matthew would be accepted as a patient at City of Hope and the search for a marrow donor would begin immediately,” said Pat. “He also truthfully prepared us for the battle ahead and told Matt, ‘We will be with you every step of the way.'”
A nationwide search for an acceptable bone marrow donor began and a one-in-a-million match was found. After intense chemotherapy and radiation treatments, the new marrow was fed into Matthew’s veins, with the hope that it would populate his bones and produce cancer-free blood. While Dr. Parker and Matthew’s family waited to see if the bone marrow transfusion would succeed, Matthew, with Dr. Parker’s help, fought back against a torrent of illnesses.
Pat stayed at her son’s side as he fought the battle for his life. Late one night at the transplant unit, she left Matthew’s room to get some rest. But, filled with worry, she could not sleep. Returning to his room, she heard the beautiful sound of a woman’s voice. Seated on the edge of Matthew’s bed was his night nurse, singing to him in the most enchanting voice as she held his hand. Pat’s tension and worry were gone, replaced by a total sense of peace. Pat slipped away unnoticed because “my presence wasn’t needed,” she said. “Matthew was in the care of an angel!” Over time, Matthew began to feel better; the cancer resolved.
Thanks to his care at City of Hope and to the generosity of his bone marrow donor, Matthew lived another 20 years. Pat says, “Neither Matthew nor I ever took a single day for granted and I am thankful for the 20 years of memories we would have never had if it had not been for the compassion and care of the doctors, nurses and entire staff of City of Hope.”
In Matthew’s memory, Pat continue to share her message of hope with other parents who occupy the shoes she once wore. She is as committed to her crusade as the day her son received his diagnosis because she believes the legacy of her son’s life is to help others find the power of hope that helped both of them. She and her husband, Ed, have also left a gift to City of Hope as part of a charitable remainder trust in their estate plan. They want to ensure that their legacy of hope and healing lives on.