Written by Colleen Farrell Photography by Kristin Anderson
Jake and Betty Belin of Rancho Palos Verdes can easily list three compelling
reasons for their desire to lend financial support tothe construction
of Torrance Memorial’s new Hunt Cancer Center. The first reason
is related to geographic loyalty. Most of their family’s physicians
are and have been historically located in the South Bay. The second is
the desire to give back to the community for a family member’s care.
The Belins were caregivers to Jake’s late mother from 2003 to 2007,
which involved frequent hospital stays.
The third reason involves a more recent two-year tale of survival—one
that includes thousands of miles of driving up and down the 405 freeway.
In January of 2017, Dr. Tim Norcross, DO, Jake’s primary care provider,
noticed something unusual in Jake’s blood labs. A diagnosis confirmed
that Jake, age 68 at the time, had multiple myeloma, a potentially fatal
cancer of the blood plasma cells.
Jake’s treatment journey took him to the UCLA Medical Center, where
he began a year of medication treatment, intensive chemotherapy and an
eventual stem cell transplant. The treatment and side effects, such as
fever and nausea, led him to spend countless hours in the medical center’s
infusion center, where he received antibiotics and other IV medications.
His wife, Betty, was his primary source of transportation as well as emotional support.
“It was really like a year of our lives just disappeared,”
says Betty. Jake continues, “I don’t begrudge going to UCLA.
They offer great doctors, technicians, nurses and world-class treatment,
but the drive was up to an hour and a half, and often times we needed
to be quite close to the hospital.” Jake and Betty actually made
a temporary move at one point so they could be near the hospital during
a more intensive part of the treatment.
Inspiration to Help Others
It was during this time the Belins took note that Torrance Memorial was
about to embark on construction of the new 37,000-square-foot Hunt Cancer
Center. Subsequent to that was the announced affiliation with Cedars-Sinai,
which promised to bring access to new and innovative clinical trials and
a team of subspecialists who treat a broad spectrum of complex cancers.
“It took on a new meaning to us that hadn’t been there six
or eight months before,” Jake says.
Jake and Betty reached out to Torrance Memorial Foundation executive vice
president Laura Schenasi, whom they had known for 15 years, to learn more
about the project and opportunities to support it. The proposed 32-station
infusion center immediately jumped out at them.
“When Betty and I make donations,we don’t give to pie charts.
We like something more specific and to know where the resources are going
and being used,” Jake explains. “We also like to be able to
see the results—to see the smiles on people’s faces [who have
benefited from the donation].”
He continues, “The infusion center is where the rubber hits the road
in your treatment. It’s where you go to get well. It’s also
where you see others suffering the same condition you have. You can compare
notes with fellow patients and support and encourage one another.”
The Hunt Cancer Center is scheduled for completion in late 2019. The Jake
and Betty Belin Infusion Center will be located on the second floor, surrounded
by windows to allow natural light during treatment. Each patient will
have their own generously-sized station, with access to multimedia infotainment
and room for a supportive guest if needed during treatment.
“The Hunt Cancer Center is going to be really nice. And we want to
make it possible for others to not have to make such a long journey,”
Today with treatment completed, Jake, a retired oil executive, is gratefully
in remission from cancer. He and Betty, a former Federal Aviation Administration
employee, are enjoying their free time, with frequent visits with their
son, his wife and four children, who live in Nebraska and according to
the Belins, “have been a tremendous support over the past two years.”
“We have lived here for 35 years. We have lots of friends here and
our son grew up here,” Jake says. “We greatly appreciate this
opportunity to give back to Palos Verdes and the South Bay and to play
a small role to help establish what will be a first-class cancer center.”
Hunt Cancer Center Progress Report
Construction is steadily progressing on the Hunt Cancer Center. Here is
a snapshot of what the new building will offer patients:
- spacious two-story building with subterranean parking
- designated patient drop-off area
- elevator access from the garage
- 27 exam rooms
- 32 infusion bays on the second floor
- Torrance Memorial Cancer Resource Center located on the first floor
- Torrance Memorial Physician Network Cancer Care Medical Group located conveniently on site