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Her hair is growing back. It is one of the first things Elizabeth Sutherlin tells people who ask about her. It’s just one way she relates to guests at IU Health Saxony who have shared her experiences with cancer.
She was on the drive back from Iowa 10 years ago after caring for her ailing mother when Sutherlin had a thought. “If I could be a caregiver for my mom, maybe I’d be a good fit for a hospital.”
Her interests were in customer relations and she landed a job on the front line greeting patients as they arrive at the hospital. “People come in frightened and confused, I just like helping them whether it’s giving them directions or helping to calm their nerves,” said Sutherlin.
The day before Thanksgiving of 2016, Sutherlin learned she had cancer. Under the care of IU Health oncology Drs. Hillary Wu and Jeanne Schilder a treatment plan was started to address Sutherlin’s diagnosis. The Squamous cell carcinomas also known as epidermoid carcinoma started in the lymph nodes of her groin. She was treated with chemotherapy and then surgery.
She was away from her job for seven months during treatment. During that time, her co-workers organized meals and encouraged her to keep up her strength, she said.
“I can’t say enough about my team of caregivers. People were so compassionate and my doctors explained things so I could understand,” said Sutherlin, who is affectionately called “Buff” by friends and co-workers. “This experience has taught me that cancer touches everyone in some way. Everyone has a story to tell and I just want to give them hope that we have the best doctors, this is the best hospital and they will get through it.”
-- By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health. Reach Banes via email at T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.