Published on May 22, 2017
The great part about our work at Patient Power is that we touch many, many people affected by cancer, and we meet many along the way. Even as we face potentially life-shortening diagnoses, we share many smiles, hugs and laughs. We have the communal feeling of doing something positive to take back control in the face of fear, darkness and uncertainty.
One smile that several of us on the Patient Power team remember is that of Suzanne Hyte. Suzanne participated in a video roundtable discussion we recorded about six years ago in a home we rented for the day in Las Vegas. It was a discussion about living with Hodgkin lymphoma and how new medicine was giving a new chance at life even for patients who had had poor results from standard therapy. Hodgkin lymphoma is one of those cancers that typically strikes young adults. These young people are often blasted with chemo regimes and if that doesn’t work, a stem cell transplant. Often the disease is cured—but not always. That’s where what was then a new therapy, Adcetris, came in. Using a novel technology, it is able to deliver higher doses of the chemo to cancer cells and have a better chance of killing them.
Suzanne Hyte, diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma at age 23 was one such patient for whom the new medicine made a huge difference. As she explained during our program, it gave her back her young adulthood, allowed her to go on to law school, and gave her a new perspective on life. A few years later, we interviewed Suzanne again. The smile was still there, the gentle manner, the upbeat attitude and interest in helping others.
The other day I received a phone message from Richard and Lorraine Hyte. I called back, fearing what I would hear. A couple of months ago, Suzanne was stricken with the flu. She had been working in the legal department at Ancestry.com and loving life in Provo, Utah. She had a flu shot but still became ill. Finally, she went to the hospital and was admitted. Her lungs had been weakened by chemo years earlier, and the flu shot was not covering the strain of virus that infected her. Even worse, she got a MRSA infection that entered her blood. Her parents explained her body could not fight it off, and she died within two days.
I was so sad for their loss and the loss of that young woman with the smile and willingness to help others. But her parents were thankful—thankful new medicine had extended her life and even thankful to Patient Power for giving her a platform to share her story and also memorializing that smile and that gentle approach to others.
Over the years, we have lost too many wonderful people we have met through Patient Power. They have shared their energy with ours. They’ve “gone public” to make a positive difference. All the while, they have faced the unknown we all face with cancer or any serious illness. Suzanne Hyte was a strong young woman who had been through a lot, even at an early age. College had been disrupted, her career and reams in doubt. But she pushed on alone and also included all of us. We are thankful we got to know her and will miss her. If you can, please watch one of our videos with her and take heart that, whatever the windy road brings any of us, we are not alone and have the ability, as Suzanne did, to touch others in an unforgettable way.
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Wishing you and your family the best of health!
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