In Their Own Words: Christian Hoff
The V Foundation is successful thanks to the contributions of many: donors, corporate partners, our incredible Board and Scientific Advisory Committee and the amazing researchers to whom we award grants. With “In Their Own Words,” we sit down with key members of our team to learn more about their commitment to the V Foundation and their personal desire to put an end to cancer. In this edition, we chat with Tony Award winning actor, singer and musician Christian Hoff, who is a tremendous supporter of the V Foundation.
The V Foundation: Your daughter was diagnosed with leukemia in 2015. Can you walk us through her journey the past two years?
Christian Hoff: Our youngest daughter Ella was three when we were sent to Children’s Hospital by our family doctor. She had a fever for about a week and then started to jaundice. Ella was quickly admitted and we began the introduction to our journey through pediatric cancer. After ruling out all of the other possible conditions, a bone marrow biopsy revealed Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. The words “your child has cancer” are words no parent ever expects to hear. The very next day, our baby started an intense chemotherapy protocol that would last over two years. Ella would undergo multiple surgeries, take numerous medications, feel extreme fatigue, bone and body pain, nausea, headaches, lose her hair, get poked and prodded and spend quite a lot of time at the hospital.
What she endured would push way beyond the comfort level of any adult, and yet, Ella rarely complained.
This process has been an extremely trying season for our family. Scientific research going back many years has set a successful course of action in place. It is because of the funding for cancer research, directly related to the V Foundation’s tireless and passionate work, that our little girl is now in remission.
TVF: What advice would you give to a parent whose child has been diagnosed with cancer?
CH: Allow yourself time to grieve, then get your team in place, and then allow yourself to grieve some more. You will be your child’s advocate. You will be learning a new language as the doctors educate you on the particulars of the disease and protocol, and as you research ways to support your child through this process. Hospitals offer numerous resources, but you often have to ask. This can be physical therapy, nutrition, counseling and integrative medicine. Learn all that you can to best equip you to care and nurture your child as you partner with your care team. Accept and ask for help! So often we want to put up a strong front and bravely continue to do everything. This will lead to major burn out both emotionally and physically. You have to remain a source of strength for your child, but you can’t do this alone. Reach out to family, friends, schools, religious organizations and support groups. The more help you have, the better care taker you will be for your child.
TVF: You are hosting a party to benefit the V Foundation on Tony Night. Tell us a little about it.
CH: Our family has been involved with the V Foundation for several years. Prior to our diagnosis, we were so touched by the compassionate and important work being accomplished by this organization. Our hearts were moved by the selfless service of those on the Board, those conducting valuable research and those who gave so generously to seek and end to this tragic disease of cancer. When Ella was diagnosed with leukemia, and a few months later my wife Melissa with breast cancer, the weight and significance of what the V Foundation aims to do became even more real to us. The following year I was honored to join the V Wine Celebration Board. I was able to have an intimate look at the work being done and it has encourage me greatly. My background is in entertainment and the Broadway stage. In 2006, I received a Tony Award for my role in Jersey Boys. It seemed like the perfect marriage to bring Broadway and cancer research together. We will enjoy a night of celebrating the accomplishments of live theater, while raising funds and supporting a search for the cure.
TVF: Why do you personally believe in the V Foundation’s mission?
CH: The V Foundation is very practical and intentional. All direct donations go to the doctors and scientists doing the work to search for cancer’s cure. Jim Valvano’s example of laughing, crying and thinking each day permeates the very heart of the organization’s mission. The urgency to find a cure is in the spirit of all they hope to accomplish. This is a family of compassion and action, of love and support. I believe they are doing in a very real way that which they have set out to do.
TVF: What does a victory over cancer look like to you?
CH: Ultimately, victory is a cure. Until that day, victory is seeing a diagnosis as an opportunity to assess your priorities. An opportunity to grow through struggles and give and serve others with every day you have been given on this Earth. It’s not our circumstances that define us, it’s how we choose to let them shape us.