Sep 17, 2021 9:00 AM

Read time: 4 minutes

Author: Ashlee Harrison


Ashlee Harrison
Ashlee Harrison

As an employee at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) for 14 years, I think about cancer every day. I always ask my communications and public affairs team at HCI, what is the best way to prioritize our cancer research, clinical care, and community outreach?

Some days, my thoughts are more personal. Several years ago, my family came to grips with a shocking diagnosis of colon cancer in my dad. It was almost unbearable to try and separate my work at HCI with the anguish I was experiencing.

My personal and professional experience has shown me that when cancer strikes, HCI is here. From innovative cancer research and accessible services, to an understanding community that helps patients and their families during their most difficult times.

Frequently, I hear from people facing a cancer diagnosis that something changes when they walk through the doors of HCI. An experience that feels hopeless and lonely, transforms as they become part of a community, dedicated to relieving their suffering.

It isn’t just patients who tell me about the different feeling at HCI. I have heard it from people during job interviews, hospital tours, meetings—you name it! I can tell you it is real, an intentional part of our culture that traces to our founder Jon M. Huntsman, Sr., and his family. They set out to transform the landscape for cancer research and care.

Ashlee Harrison and her son volunteer for a Huntsman Cancer Institute employee service project on July 17, 2021.
Ashlee Harrison and her son volunteer for a Huntsman Cancer Institute employee service project on July 17, 2021.

As I was walking through the halls at HCI, I saw a poster encouraging employees to participate in giving. The advertisement encouraged people to think of it as donating an hour of their paycheck each month. When I thought of it that way, and how my parents had always taught me to volunteer my time, I was ‘in’. I was proud to give an hour of my time, in the form of a monthly paycheck donation, to Huntsman Cancer Foundation.

My father was a healthy guy who always got recommended checkups and screenings, including regular colonoscopies. But he was diagnosed with a late-stage colon cancer that ultimately took his life. Despite my loss, two things have given me solace. First, I spent two-and-a-half beautiful, meaningful, happy years with my dad before he passed away. I got the chance to spend time with him and say things I always wanted to say. I credit each of those meaningful moments to the incredible advances made by cancer research.

The second thing that gives me incredible hope, is how HCI remains on the cutting edge. Researchers were able to answer questions about colon cancer I never knew I needed. I hear about amazing progress made at the top cancer centers every day, and I know what questions I had when my dad was diagnosed. How does colon cancer arise between colonoscopies? What does it mean for my risk now that I know my father, and his father, both died of colon cancer? It is amazing to play a role at an institution answering such critical questions.

I am lucky to work at HCI and hear stories of hope every day. During my dad’s cancer journey, I gained an optimistic way of thinking that I keep with me every time a friend, family member, or colleague encounters this awful disease.

I can tell you from experience, our care teams answer every call with an extraordinary level of compassion and care. Researchers and students are here every hour of the day working to move research forward. My colleagues dedicate themselves to solving challenges, while maintaining a reverence for what is at stake, the best interest of their patients.

I began donating to HCI over a decade ago by giving back a small part of my monthly paycheck. It is something I proudly continue to do. I also participate in fundraising events and make gifts in memory of those who faced cancer. It is a small way I can give back to an institution that has given me, my family, and my community so much.

Join this community of HCI employees who give back by signing up for a payroll deduction. Contact Huntsman Cancer Foundation to learn more.

giving colon cancer hci proud

Cancer touches all of us.

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