Mark, Sarah and Sallee Huff

How do you thank so many City of Hope doctors who gave my son the DESIRE and TOOLS to fight a life-threatening disease?

My son had hiked Mount Whitney just two months before being diagnosed with a spinal tumor. He was having trouble walking and was very scared when the doctors said his walking would be impaired if the tumor continued to grow on his spinal cord. Before coming to City of Hope, he had surgery to remove the tumor, but it was discovered he had cancer. The tumor was the size of a large fist engulfing the spinal cord and we were told he had Stage 4 follicular lymphoma throughout his entire body. I am a breast cancer survivor and had recently lost my husband, a nonsmoker, to lung cancer. Now … the news that my son also faced this deadly disease. We were devastated.

We spoke to many doctors throughout Southern California and they all had much to say about non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and the various treatments. It was not until my son, Mark, met City of Hope’s Dr. Jeffrey Wong that I knew he would beat this disease. It is not until you step inside the facility in Duarte, California that you begin to understand what the words “comprehensive care” really mean.

It takes more than just good medicine and the latest research to make a great cancer treatment facility. My son had listened to many doctors describe chemo after chemo, but only Dr. Wong truly listened to him tell his story. Dr. Wong saw the fear in my son’s eyes when he described the discovery the doctors had made of the tumor inside his body. He could see Mark was an athlete and the grip this limited mobility had on him mentally. On Mark’s very first appointment at City of Hope, he received his first radiation treatment to shrink the tumor and he was scheduled for physical therapy the next day. I will never forget the look on my son’s face the day he met Dr. Wong. Mark said to him after looking at his watch, “It is after six o’clock and I have been at your facility all day. Are you sure you can fit me in for treatment tonight?” Dr. Wong looked at him and said, “We fight cancer here, Mark. We never give up and we never close.” Mark fought his cancer and is still winning seven years later.

The doctors at City of Hope gave my son the desire and all the tools to win his battle against follicular lymphoma. His team of doctors were there around the clock and informed at all times. If it were not for the many specialists that help fight this difficult battle that oftentimes brings sickness before health, we would not be enjoying the holidays for the seventh year in a row with my son and all our family. A very special thanks to Dr. Anna Kim, a City of Hope pulmonary specialist who helped us through a most difficult battle with pneumonia and who has been our guardian angel while Mark travels the road from City of Hope patient to what we pray will be just a yearly visitor.

Seven years ago, we spent Christmas Day in a City of Hope isolation unit while Mark received treatment for PCP pneumonia. This was our photo.

Seven years later: My son Mark at my granddaughter’s wedding. What a celebration of LIFE!