A life shaped by cancer inspires Massey volunteer to give back
Laurie Crouch says that, for better or worse, her “entire life has been shaped by cancer.” This is the reason she decided to return to VCU Massey Cancer Center to volunteer.
Crouch’s mother, Millie Simpson, developed a brain tumor 10 years before Crouch was a part of the family. Simpson was treated with cobalt radiation, which stopped the growth of her tumor but left her unable to conceive naturally. She and her husband adopted Crouch when she was only an infant and raised her as their own.
Unfortunately, during Crouch’s first semester in college, a second tumor developed in Simpson’s brain. Crouch went home to take care of her mom, who passed away just five months later.
“My mother and father gave me a wonderful life, one that I would not have had if they didn’t adopt me,” says Crouch. “After my mother passed away, I moved to Virginia from New England to make a new start at life.”
Her mom was not the only one in her family to experience cancer. Nearly twenty years ago, Crouch’s mother-in-law, Carolyn Wingate Hyde, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and referred to Massey for a second opinion.
“The feeling was different at Massey. There was hope and optimism and a sense that they were in it together with us,” says Crouch. “From day one, the Palliative Care Unit included the entire family in decisions about her care. We felt at peace with every decision we made. Everyone at Massey became our family.”
Hyde went into remission several times. Thanks to her treatments, she was able to travel, dance at the weddings of all three of her children and be present for the birth of all seven of her granddaughters. She even took time during her remission to volunteer at Massey and became a member of Massey’s Advisory Board, a legacy now carried on by her husband, Olin.
“Massey gave her ten years of quality life that she otherwise wouldn’t have had. Our time there was special, it was actually an incredible experience because our family was in it together,” says Crouch.
An endowed chair was established at Massey in honor of Hyde. Charles Clevenger, M.D., Ph.D., associate director for basic research at Massey, now holds the Carolyn Wingate Hyde Endowed Chair in Cancer Research.
After a career in communications, Crouch became a stay-at-home mom to her five children in 2008. She recently began volunteering at Massey as an “infusion room buddy,” spending time with patients who come alone for treatment. Crouch says her time volunteering is always the best two hours of each week.
“I’ve been privileged to have met so many people who have such incredible stories, they leave me humbled and speechless,” says Crouch.
Crouch says she volunteers to give back to the place that gave so much to her family.
“I want to pay Massey back for the incredible debt I feel our family owes, but whenever I go to give my time I feel guilty because I end up gaining so much more,” she says. “I am continually inspired. Massey is truly a place of hope.”
Written by Savannah Smith, communications intern at VCU Massey Cancer Center