Elizabeth Styffe and Susan Shaw at A Walk Among the Stars 2022
Harp to Heart
The profound ripple effect of Elizabeth Styffe’s healing journey
Elizabeth Styffe was driving to the university where she taught nursing when she noticed an unusual movement in one leg. This began the journey to her devasting diagnosis of a grade 4 glioblastoma, a brain tumor with an average prognosis of 15 to 18 months. Elizabeth and her husband, Glenn, turned to the one place they trusted with her life: Providence St. Jude Medical Center’s Crosson Cancer Institute.
Thanks to the expert care received, including an innovative clinical trial offered through the medical center’s rapidly growing research program, a thankful Elizabeth continues to enjoy her family and her life. “Praise God, I’m here to live, laugh and love 30 months later and counting,” she smiles. “I’m grateful for Glenn, the love of my life for 40 years, and our seven children and six grandsons who prayed through every brain radiation appointment and chemotherapy dose.”
Elizabeth has high praise for the Crosson Cancer Institute and her caregivers. “I am thankful for Providence St. Jude and the leading-edge clinical trials. Thank you to Dr. Jose Carrillo, my wonderful neurooncologist, and the nurses who risked their lives during the pandemic to care for us,” she says. “God has used each of you to lengthen my life with joy.
A helping hand
When Elizabeth began her rehabilitation after her cancer treatment in early 2020, she had no idea what a profound affect her healing journey would have on one of her fellow patients. As an avid harpist, Elizabeth’s family brought in her harp to the rehab unit so she could play for others and incorporate it into her therapy.
Susan Shaw was about to graduate from the rehab unit after recovering from a serious fall from a ladder. The staff gathered the patients to toast Susan with a farewell dinner, and Elizabeth was there with her family and her newly delivered harp.
“Elizabeth’s fingers wouldn’t quite work yet, so the staff called on me,” remembers Susan. “Of course, I had no idea how to play.
But they brought it over to me, and I did the strumming … and suddenly I was playing the harp! It came from my heart to her heart, her heart to my heart.” The experience deeply moved Susan. “Everything that means something was in that room that night,” she says. “Friendship, love of family, support and recovery from adversity.”
Elizabeth agrees. “None of us planned for this in our lives, but we found joy. The harp brought joy. It fit perfectly with Providence St. Jude because it is a place of healing and hope, and the music reflected that.”
The two women, who never saw each other again after that night, were unexpectedly reunited through this year’s A Walk Among the Stars Fashion Show & Gala for which Susan served on the planning committee. Elizabeth proudly joined several other survivors as a model for the fundraising event and later graced the audience with a song on her harp.
You can watch Elizabeth’s and Susan’s reunion by visiting stjudememorialfoundation.org/WATSreunion.
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