Laguna Beach resident Donna McNutt has three sisters.
It was no secret growing up which sister was the only one in charge of her outfits.
“They were all studying and going and becoming pros and I was worried about my shoes,” McNutt said. “It’s always been part of who I am.”
After being diagnosed with stage 4 multiple myeloma cancer in 2015, McNutt said she took it very badly. The simple things have become important.
“The only thing I do every day is get dressed,” McNutt said. “I knew I had to do this to survive.”
Seven years later, McNutt developed a sequel like the cancerous fashionista on Instagram. More importantly, she has been off treatment since last October and in remission.
Another milestone came on Wednesday. McNutt spoke with more than 100 cancer survivors and family members at the opening of the City of Hope Orange County Healing Garden in Irvine.
Those affected by cancer have been invited to plant in the garden adjacent to the $1 billion Lennar Foundation Cancer Center campus, scheduled to open this year. The garden was made possible by a $1 million donation from Lowe’s, and the company’s Red Vest Associate volunteers were on hand to help with the horticulture.
“Seeds of Hope” has new meaning for McNutt, who planted a plant with his hematology/oncology specialist at the City of Hope Newport Beach, Dr. Amrita Krishnan. All plants, shrubs and perennials – yarrow, blue flame, blue grama, lesser cape bulrush, California poppies, showy island snapdragons, common bulrush and sapphire tower – were deliberately chosen, with some selected based on their value medicinal.
McNutt knelt in the dust, an apron over her dress.
“I’ve literally been fighting cancer for seven years, one outfit at a time,” she said. “I want other patients to hold on to something too, that you don’t let cancer get you. Anyway, you have something in your life that you decide, I won’t let go of that.
The Healing Garden is intended to create a calming space for patients and their families during their cancer journey.
Lowe’s executive vice president and chief brand and marketing officer, Marisa Thalberg, said she came up with the idea while having lunch with City of Hope Orange County Chair Annette Walker.
It’s also an issue close to Thalberg’s heart, as she said her mother died in 2013 after battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and uterine cancer. According to City of Hope, one in three Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.
“It’s really special,” Thalberg said. “Planting is so symbolic, this idea of putting something in the ground and letting it bloom again and come back to life.”
Guests at Wednesday’s ceremony also hung tags, containing messages of hope, on a wishing tree in front of the facility.
Costa Mesa resident Diane Miller cried as she described her trip. Miller was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in January 2021. Her daughter, Josie, a women’s water polo player at nearby Concordia University, was unable to come home and help her mother cope. due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Miller was also grateful to be with her “people” on Wednesday.
“The anticipation for this place to open has been so great for people in my position,” Miller said. “To finally be here and see it, see the garden and be with everyone – survivors, doctors? It’s in motion. To say it gives me a sense of hope is an understatement. It makes me feel like my community is here now.
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