Remembering Suzanne: Celebrating the Life of a Cancer Patient

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Topics include: Patient Stories

When a life is cut short, remembering your loved one can be difficult and yet rewarding. Suzanne Hyte was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma at an early age. And although she lived an optimistic, upbeat and healthy life, her parents, Richard and Laraine Hyte, had to say goodbye. In this interview with Andrew Schorr, Richard and Laraine share their love and gratitude for the time they had with Suzanne.

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Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Andrew Schorr:

Hello and welcome to Patient Power.  I'm Andrew Schorr.  Along the way we meet some terrific people with our Patient Power encounters and interviews, and I met a young woman, met her in Las Vegas, Suzanne Hyte, living well after having a lot of treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma.  Well, unfortunately, Suzanne passed away after about 10 years of having—since the diagnosis at age 33, way too young. 

Her parents contacted me recently, and I wanted you to meet them, Laraine and Richard Hyte from Las Vegas are joining us now.  We wanted to remember Suzanne, and we wanted to talk to other families knowing cancer is a journey.  Sometimes it can work out, and you can have a longer life.  Sometimes not.  You never know, but it doesn't mean that you didn't have a good life.  So, Laraine and Richard, thank you so much for joining us. 

Laraine Hyte:

You're welcome. 

Richard Hyte:

Thank you. 

Andrew Schorr:

So, Laraine, tell us a little bit about your daughter, the youngest of seven children—three boys and four girls, did I get it right? Suzanne and what she was like as a person having been diagnosed just as she was starting law school after college, 23 years old with these lumps and a tumor in her chest, being diagnosed with cancer and then keeping on and giving back.  What was she like as a person? 

Laraine Hyte:

She was always a very joyful, optimistic, upbeat girl ever since she was born.  She came to us that way and always just loved life, lived it to the fullest, was very physically active and just a real bright spot in our family.  She was the youngest, as you said, of seven children, and she started law school. And we went to the doctor, because she had had these lumps, and she was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. 

As we left that day on our way to the car, she said, well, mom, I'm just going to get my turn with cancer over with early, because she'd heard the statistics that cancer, you know, can—usually occurred in one in two men and one and three women, at least that's what we'd heard, in their lifetime.  So we knew that cancer was touching our lives, but she was very upbeat about it.  She all the time referred to cancer as just a bump in the road, through her whole treatment.  She just said, oh, it's just a bump in the road. 

Andrew Schorr:

Right.  Chemo didn't work after a while.  Transplant, radiation, and then she went on and finished law school.  I know she graduated from Brigham Young University you told me magna cum laude, and then she did great in law school with some fits and starts because of the cancer, then went on to Teach for America.  So what was she like as a cancer survivor?  Seemed like she really wanted to give a back. 

Richard Hyte:

She did.  She was very, very positive during her treatments, always concerned about others more importantly than herself.  After her cancer I think she always had it in her, but after her cancer especially she really reached out with those people that needed help.  And, of course, she met you and was on some of your programs and helped some people, and there were a lot of people who were helped by that.  So she was very positive that way and I think helped a lot of people, helped lift them during their cancer journey as well. 

Andrew Schorr:

Richard, but it was personal in the family, too.  I know you're dealing with prostate cancer, and so when you were diagnosed here's your youngest of seven children having been through cancer, she started supporting you.  Tell us about that. 

Richard Hyte:

Oh, yeah.  As soon as I was diagnosed, of course, we told the family, and they were—you know, they were dealing with it.  It was a shocked to them too.  But Suzie went out of her way to call me separately one-on-one conversations, asked me how I'm doing, how I'm feeling.  I could ask her questions about the chemo and some of the reactions that I was getting, and she could give me that feedback.  And a lot of times she said, yes, I know, that's how you feel.  Don't worry about it.  This will happen, this won't happen and all of those things, so she was a tremendous help to me giving that support to me—especially when I was going through my chemo. 

Andrew Schorr:

What a bright light.  So here we are, she goes on for 10 years or so dealing with the cancer and then as a cancer survivor and giving back, as we were discussing, and then taking good care of herself, getting a flu shot, seeing her doctor, regular visits.  And then she gets the flu, and it's quite serious.  She goes to the emergency room, she's hospitalized, and we should tell our audience, two-and-a-half days later she was dead of an infection that had gotten in her blood. 

So, Laraine, how do you look at this?  I mean, we want to believe that you can be treated, go through all these very significant cancer treatments that she went through and she's doing well, you have to be angry.  Weren't you angry? 

Laraine Hyte:

Actually, I was not really angry.  I know that's probably a normal reaction to have.  I think I'm still in shock, because it happened so fast.  And she'd been so vigilant about taking care of herself.  She exercised.  Like you said, she went to the doctor regularly.  Never once did she think that cancer was going to be her demise, and it was not directly, because it was the flu and pneumonia that got her.  In fact, when she called me to tell me that she'd been diagnosed with the flu, she said, Well, mom, I have the flu.  So much for the flu shot.  At least it's not cancer.  She never thought that cancer was going to take her life. 

Of course, we never know those things, but she took such good care of herself.  She exercised regularly.  She ate healthfully.  She did everything that she should have done to try to make sure that she stayed in good health.  So I don't know, maybe I'm a little bit strange, but anger was not my—was not the thing.  Maybe that will come, but I'm grateful I didn't feel angry.  I just felt so grateful to have had her be a part of my life. 

Andrew Schorr:

That's what I was going to ask you, Richard.  So none of us know when our end will come, cancer and the complications of treatment, which may have affected her lungs and other areas that maybe debilitated her when she got the flu, let's face that.  Should we just celebrate the life that we have, and even if Suzanne was taken too soon, you as parents can say, well, like Laraine was saying, maybe this is your view, that it was great for a while she was with you.  And it sounds like you learned from her, too. 

Richard Hyte:

Yes.  You know, and it's true.  We like to celebrate her life and not focus on her death.  We're so grateful that she was here as long as she was.  And when we think about it probably the 10 years that we had after her treatments was a blessing that she was able to live that long and make a great impression on so many people for good. 

You know, it's interesting, I've never really been afraid of death, per se.  I had a conversation with her when she was first treated, and I brought up the D word and we had a little discussion.  She wasn't shocked by it.  It was a very mature discussion about the possibility that perhaps this cancer was going to take her life.  And she seemed to be very positive, and she seemed to be, well, if that's my lot in life, then that's going to be what will happen. 

Our religious faith tells us that we live on after this life, and we knew that it was just going to be a change of scenery.  I believed that and she believed that.  And so we know that she lives on, and we're looking forward to the time when we can be with her again.  But one thing that is interesting is that I have never really had a fear of death, but now that she's gone not only do I not have a fear of death, I'm thinking, well, there are some benefits to death.  I know that sounds really funny, but I'll see her again. 

Andrew Schorr:

Hope you will.  I just want to say this, we felt on Patient Power—first of all, we were blessed that your daughter shared some of her experience with us, and our viewers can see those videos on Patient Power and read the transcripts as well and get to know her a little better. But also though since we do a lot of programs with people who are at different stages of cancer and family members we know that this is a possibility, whether it's from the cancer itself or some complication or some infection or illness that intervenes where we just can't fight it off. 

And so I'm really grateful to the two of you for opening up about her.  And I will just tell you we were touched by your daughter's experience with us, and I'm glad you had her so long as you did, and I'm sure all those brothers and sisters and others in your large family really celebrate that too.  I want to thank you.  Is there anything else you wanted to add, Laraine? 

Richard Hyte:

Yeah, I would—go ahead. 

Laraine Hyte:

I would like to just say to Andrew thank you so much for offering her a platform where she could tell her story and share her experience.  It's going to be dear to me for the rest of my life as her mother to be able to watch those interviews.  It just brings her to life, and I see her as that vibrant survivor.  Her mantra was I can do hard things, and she did.  She overcame.  Cancer did not define her, it refined her, and it made her become the best person that she could have become. 

And I know part of it was because of her journey through cancer that she became that wonderful person who was wanting to help people.  That was her—that's what brought her true joy and happiness in life was being a resource to others, and I'm so grateful to you, Andrew, for what you're doing.  And I mean that wholeheartedly and sincerely for what you've done to allow Suzanne and others like her to share their story.  Because her life goes on.  Her story continues, and I just want to say thank you so much for what you've done. 

Andrew Schorr:

Well, I'm really touched.  I want to thank you for giving her to us.  And I think that's what—there she is.  Let's hold that up real high.  There's Suzanne, and I wrote a little blog about Suzanne's smile, and you can see a lovely smile, ladies and gentlemen.  And so we all can even still get to know her now if you look at the videos that live on and celebrate her life.  Richard? 

Richard Hyte:

Let me just make one final comment, maybe for the benefit of those people who might be watching this.  My advice to anyone who has got cancer is don't miss the rest of your life by being so concerned with the negative things that might happen.  Don't miss the rest of your life.  Make it the best, and you'll find it will be a much better experience for you. 

Andrew Schorr:

Amen.  That's what I try to do every day and so many of the people that we meet along the way with Patient Power.  Laraine and Richard Hyte, joining us from Las Vegas and celebrating the life of your daughter.  Thank you so much and again thank you for your very kind comments about me and what we do at Patient Power. 

Laraine Hyte:

Thank you, Andrew. 

Andrew Schorr:

Wow.  I'm Andrew Schorr.  I was going to say, remember, knowledge can be the best medicine of all, but it's also the relationships we have with the people we meet along the way and as Richard just said about the precious moments every day no matter how long we have.  Thank you for joining us.  

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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Page last updated on July 27, 2017