Patient and Survivor Stories


A cancer diagnosis comes as a shock to the patient and their families and caregivers. Everyone is affected as we learn and grow and go through the cancer experience. In our ongoing series of patient profiles, we share in the stories, struggles and triumphs of men and women in various stages of the cancer experience, from diagnosis through treatment and survivorship.

Jim James

Clinical trial gives hope to patient with metastatic melanoma

Jim James underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor and then enrolled in a clinical trial that included PD-1 blockade therapy to treat tumors in his lungs and liver...

Bill Bushnell

Melanoma survivor celebrates two birthdays now

Bill Bushnell now has two birthdays, the day he was born and the day he was reborn. Bushnell never expected to be reborn. Diagnosed in May 2005 with stage IV metastatic melanoma, his prognosis was not good...

Louise Cooper

A breast cancer survivor lives large

Louise Cooper lives large. The 53-year-old cancer survivor has run a 135-mile race through Death Valley in July. As an adventure racer, she has rappelled down steep cliff faces, kayaked through dangerously swift river currents, crossed deserts atop a camel...

Dimitri Dimitri

Beating back esophageal cancer

Not much gets Dimitri Dimitri down. And obstacles? No such thing.Born in Iran, Dimitri came to the United States to study electronics in college, graduating with a degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in1962. Within a week of graduation, he landed a job...

Bob Ferber

Leukemia diagnosis leads to new lease on life

It was a watershed moment for Bob Ferber. It was 2003 and the Calabasas man was halfway to Palm Springs for a family vacation when he realized he’d forgotten something at home. He had neglected to pack the pills he’d taken every day for the previous...

Stephanie Grimes

Standing up to the deadliest type of breast cancer

It was the worst case of breast cancer one veteran UCLA oncologist had ever seen. The aggressive, rapidly-growing cancer engulfed Stephanie Grimes’ left breast and erupted through her skin. What started as a small, mosquito bite-like abrasion within days...

Sarah Hornsey

UCLA alumnus' painful journey didn't stop her from pursuing her dreams

Sarah Hornsey was 19 years of age when the pain began. She didn’t want to worry her family and friends about the spasms she was experiencing in her neck and back, or the night sweats, so she didn’t like to talk about her symptoms...

Carson Lev

Poster boy for early detection of prostate cancer

Although he was often a regular at the annual car show, which raises money for cancer research, Carson Lev avoided the free on-site prostate cancer screening tests offered to men over 40. Although hounded by a friend and the event organizer, he just didn’t...

Dalia Margolis

Cancer doesn't end life's possibilities for sarcoma survivor

In 2005, Dalia Margolis was a senior studying psychology at UCLA. She was 21 and her whole life seemed spread out before her, full of endless possibilities. As she was getting ready to go out with friends on Halloween, she noticed that one of her...

Jennifer Marquez

Surviving one-two punch of thyroid cancer and sarcoma

Jennifer Marquez has survived not one but two bouts with cancer. Her first diagnosis and treatment for thyroid cancer went smoothly enough. It was the second diagnosis with a rare form of sarcoma that presented a life-threatening challenge...

Roberto Martinez

Testicular cancer survivor renews life plans

At 17, Roberto Martinez knew exactly what he wanted—to become a lawyer, earn lots of money and own an expensive home and a luxury car. A great job and an impressive salary would be his ticket to the top, Martinez thought. Then he was diagnosed with...

Carol McSeveney

Beating back late-stage melanoma

Three shots did for Carol McSeveney what six surgeries, 32 doses of radiation and six infusions of interferon could not—beat back the stage IV melanoma that threatened to take her life. Today, after her diagnosis with an aggressive form of melanoma...

Jillian Morris-Jenkins

Childhood neuroblastoma survivor leads full life

Jillian Morris-Jenkins wasn’t old enough to remember when her life was forever changed. At only 2, she was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma, the second most common solid tumor diagnosed in children. The cancer originated in her liver and ate...

Abby Nathanson and Ruby Garland

Fighting cancer one cake at a time

For Abby Nathanson and best friend Ruby Garland, both 17, baking cakes is a bittersweet tribute to Abby’s beloved aunt Jodi Nathanson, who was diagnosed with stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer...

Allie Newman

Teen battles osteosarcoma and seizes bright future

The doctors told Allie Newman that the pain in her right thigh was tendonitis, nothing to worry about. A little physical therapy and she’d be as good as new. Just one month later, in January, the 16-year-old avid skier and soccer player was diagnosed with an...

Joseph Rick

Sarcoma survivor is loving life

The melanoma had spread throughout his body. It was everywhere, and none of the surgeries or chemotherapies or radiation seemed to work. So Joseph Rick planned a trip to Illinois and bought a grave plot next to his father. Once a big guy...

Cindy Robinson and Debi Fournier

Daughter honors mother, friend with gift to the Debi & Gary Fournier Cervical Cancer Research Fund

When Cindy Robinson was just 22 years old, she watched her mother succumb to a 12-year battle with breast cancer. Now, nine years later, she’s watching one of her mom’s best friends Debi Fournier, battle cervical cancer.

Adam Schaffer

Family man triumphs over high-grade bladder cancer

Adam Schaffer is convinced his then six-year-old son, Hayden, saved his life. It was Thanksgiving weekend in 2005 and the Schaffers were visiting his parents near San Diego. The Friday after the feast, Schaffer and Hayden were wrestling around on the couch when...

Grace Suomi

Ewing's sarcoma no match for five-year-old survivor

Grace Suomi was five and had just finished the year at Curtis School in Los Angeles when she started exhibiting strange symptoms. They started with terrible nightmares that caused the child to thrash and scream in her sleep...

Theo Tittle

Coping with the loss of a parent to cancer

Theo Tittle grew up knowing his dad wasn’t like everyone else. It wasn’t just that he was a guy who embraced and loved everyone, but because he had a rare genetic form of kidney cancer called hereditary leiomyomatosis renal cell cancer, or HLRCC.

Mafalda von Alvensleben

Schoolmates unite to fight Ewing's sarcoma

When 15-year-old Mafalda von Alvensleben was diagnosed in August 2014 with Ewing’s Sarcoma, one of the rarest forms of pediatric cancer, she was heartbroken as there is no known family history of the disease. A month later her former schoolmate...

Kevin Williams

Experimental therapy helps win battle for leukemia patient

Kevin Williams thought cancer was something that happened to other people. At 35, he thought he was too young to get cancer. He felt great, was active, and lived a healthy lifestyle. Cancer, he thought, couldn’t happen to him. He was wrong...

Brad Zebrack

Hodgkin's lymphoma diagnosis changes course of teachers' life

The 25-year-old UCLA graduate who wanted to be a middle school teacher returned to school to earn master’s and doctoral degrees and now studies the impact of cancer on families and young adults. Rendered sterile by the harsh chemotherapy...