Todd Kennedy was diagnosed with cancer the day after Christmas in 2017.
It came as a devastating blow to Kennedy, who was 52 at the time, and considered himself to be in the best shape of his life.
“I was eating right, I was hiking all around the hills in Orange County,” said the Coto de Caza resident. “I wasn’t supposed to get cancer.”
Kennedy was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells that are found in the bone marrow and are an important part of the immune system.
When his chemotherapy and infusion treatments began at the City of Hope in Duarte, he had to drive more than 100 miles each day to get them.
On Monday, Feb. 4, in news that would bring comfort and relief to thousands of patients traveling to Duarte or other distant facilities for cancer treatment, City of Hope announced that it will open its first 12,500-square-foot treatment facility in Orange County.
The facility, to be located at 1601 Avocado Avenue in Newport Beach, will open in late 2019.
Administrators say this is the first spoke of its main health campus planned for the Great Park in Irvine, located on land donated by FivePoint, which is overseeing the development of about 10,000 homes around the Great Park.
City of Hope is expanding into Orange County because of its roughly 3,500 cancer-stricken patients who must drive an average of 88 miles up and down to get to one of their treatment facilities, said Annette Walker, president of City of Hope, Orange County.
“This undertaking is a response to the call of our patients, families and supporters to bring City of Hope’s innovative discoveries and specialized therapies closer to their homes,” she said. “Any time you don’t have to drive 88 miles to get to the hospital, how much better is that?”
The volume of patients from Orange County has been steadily increasing over the years as well, Walker said. The Newport Beach facility will house medical services such as breast and other medical oncology and convenient access to sub-specialists, she said.
City of Hope currently has cancer treatment centers in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The Newport Beach facility will be its first in Orange County.
Walker said that location was chosen because it is easily accessible to patients from north and south Orange County.
Lori McGee, a Huntington Beach resident, drove her husband, Liam, to Duarte when he was being treated for brain cancer. She says having services closer to home will make a big difference for local families.
“To have City of Hope right in our backyard will bring a level of peace for me and many Orange County residents.”
Walker said this is the “first of City of Hope’s many steps to become an essential partner with Orange County.”
City of Hope is designated by the National Cancer Institute as one of 49 comprehensive cancer centers in the country.
Kennedy said the local cancer treatment centers will be a blessing for someone like him who is potentially going to need lifelong treatment since there is currently no cure for multiple myeloma.
But, he says, the immunotherapy treatments, which he now gets monthly, are “making it better.” Each infusion session lasts five to six hours, Kennedy said.
“It’s not just the convenience factor, but I’ll also have more direct access to leading experts,” he said. “I need this because I’m going to be fighting this forever.”
Kennedy said he knows he’s getting the best treatment possible because his doctor is an international leader in the treatment of myeloma.
“She’s doing research and she thinks about it all day, everyday,” he said. “You need that focus, that specialty in the development of your treatment plan.”
Source: Orange County Register