Dec 13, 2021 8:00 AM


Happy December! It is a month when many celebrate holidays, snow falls in the Mountain West, and friends and family gather in celebration.

Not feeling it? Worried about omicron while we continue to battle the delta variant? Wonder how we can possibly still be in a pandemic? I have to confess that all of this had weighed heavily on my heart and normal sense of optimism. And you definitely need to have optimism when you work in my chosen field. Intellectually, I understood that what I was feeling was normal and shared by many. But add to world events the passing of my dear mother and also the loss of a friend and advocate for Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI), and it became harder to welcome each day.

It’s okay not to be okay.

I have spent my career in the “helping fields”—welfare services, employment services, homelessness, intimate partner violence, disaster response, and in 2022, I begin my 18th year in cancer philanthropy. This chosen path has aligned with my heart and my passions. The path has also been filled with witnessing the very worst and best of human experience. Burnout can be high. What has always been affirming throughout this work is the overall exceptional goodness of people. So when I felt myself struggling, I reached for help with honesty and vulnerability.

Over time, I began to feel better. Each research stride helped. Each conversation with a donor or caregiver helped. Each beam placed in our clinical expansion felt like a literal lifting of spirits. Inch by inch, I returned to myself at my strongest and best.

Last week, I attended the Utah State Legislature’s Executive Appropriations Committee in preparation for the 2022 session. The path was a familiar one. The first time I jockeyed “on the hill,” I was heavily pregnant with my first child. Thirty-one years later, here I am again and still. When I left the meeting, I turned and paused. I was exhilarated to be back advocating for HCI. The sun sank behind the familiar capitol dome. The sky turned a brilliant red, orange, purple, and yellow. The colors were back.

Happy holidays. Happy New Year. And thank you for showing all on this challenging path the best of human experience through your generosity.

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Susan Sheehan
President and COO
Huntsman Cancer Foundation