Returning the Favor

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Returning the Favor

Lymphoma survivor writes her own story of giving

Six years after Joan Solu completed treatment, some words from her cancer journey have stayed with her.

Confronted with aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma, she’d looked for information on the Internet, and it scared her. In response to her fear, she heard the same phrase from her doctor and her brother.

“They both told me, ‘You have to write your own story,’” she says. “That’s the best advice I’ve ever received.”

She turned to City of Hope’s medical team for help, and her story so far has a happy ending. Gratitude — and the desire to contribute to the healing of others — inspired her and her family to give back in many ways.

Solu came to City of Hope in early 2006 for a stem transplant, drawn by the transplant program’s national reputation and team approach to treatment. In her doctor, Anthony S. Stein, M.D., and his colleagues, she found caring people who also helped lift her spirits.

“If you have people around you who are really positive and happy to see you even when you’re having a sad day, that’s what’s going to get you through. Dr. Stein and the nursing staff were phenomenal,” says Solu, a Morro Bay, Calif., resident who runs a hotel along with her husband, John.

Recovering from her transplant at City of Hope, she was eager to get back to her four sons — ages 3, 6, 9 and 15 at the time. She returned home less than two weeks after her transplant, which doctors describe as a record.

Solu made giving back a priority.

While in treatment, she participated in clinical trials that help improve treatment for future patients. Then, a month after her transplant, her family held a fundraiser, raising almost $2,400 for City of Hope. At City of Hope’s 2012 Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion, Solu presented a $25,000 gift on behalf of her family to support Stein’s research.

“Part of writing your own story,” says Solu, “is deciding how you’re going to give back for the gifts you’ve received.”

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