A La Cañada Flintridge woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer and had her last round of chemotherapy got a surprise parade as approximately three dozen cars recently drove around her neighborhood to show support.
Lise Geller, 57, said she had no idea anything was in the works as she sat across from her sister, Jeanne Haney, and prepared to enjoy a glass of champagne. Lise’s husband, Carl Geller, said some neighbors had put chairs up in the front yard.
“I went out front and all the neighbors were in their yard and the cars started coming,” Lise said. “I was completely floored. I had absolutely zero idea anything like that would happen. I’m not usually short on words, but it really surprised me more than anything.”
After Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “Safer at Home” order was announced in March, directives were given locally and statewide regarding social distancing to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Friends had signs for Lise during the afternoon parade, Carl said. She was diagnosed with the cancer last October and began treatment in November, he said. She was scheduled for surgery in May and radiation treatments were to begin in June.
“However, to everyone’s surprise, chemotherapy has knocked out her entire tumor,” Carl said.
Her last round of chemotherapy was given earlier this month, he said.
Lise said she found a lump in her breast in August and thought it was a cyst before she was scheduled to have a mammogram. In early October, she went to a doctor who diagnosed it as cancer.
“It’s all treatable,” Lise said. “But there’s five months of chemotherapy. I still have to have surgery and radiation. It’s just a crappy ride.”
As part of the diagnosis, surgery and radiation are required in case there is a possible cell with cancer, she said.
“The fact that the tumor is not visible on an MRI is pretty amazing,” she said. “It made the five months of chemotherapy worthwhile to go through.”
Carl said he sent out a letter to his wife’s friends about the idea for a parade and he didn’t get many responses.
“We had about 30 cars go by with signs and posters,” Carl said. “It was pretty amazing, actually. We got a lot of positive feedback.”
Alex Guerrero is a neighbor of the Gellers and he said his family, which includes his wife Jessica and their boys Russell, Wesley, Rhett and Warren, put a sign for her in their yard.
“We were just really happy to see that she finally finished this phase of chemotherapy,” Guerrero said. “It was fantastic.”
Guerrero said he was surprised to see all of the cars drive on the cul-de-sac on Atlee Drive.
“There were a lot of people that had homemade signs,” Guerrero said. “A lot of people brought flowers. Some of the other neighbors brought music. It was a parade and almost like a block party.”
Guerrero said his family was outside in their driveway, participating with the cars driving by for nearly an hour. He added that the “block party” lasted several hours, with everyone practicing social distancing of 6 feet or so.
Another neighbor, Tonya Mizrahi, said the celebration was what the block needed, with so many neighbors attending a “feel good” event.
“It was amazing to see the line of cars coming down Atlee,” Mizrahi said. “All had posters on them and they would roll the window down and toss her a card and flowers and balloons.”
Lise said there were six other women in a car line who were all breast cancer survivors.
“That was pretty incredible as well,” she said. “I have all the signs, the flowers, balloons and bottles of wine and cards. I have signs all over my living room.”
Lise, a nurse who has been married to her retired husband for 26 years (they have two adult children), said she was impressed with her husband’s efforts.
“The fact that during this time of social distancing that he was able to do this was pretty incredible,” she said. “It’s a pretty cool thing to go through everything I’ve gone through so far and have people acknowledge it and cheer me on.”