Like many who come to us for help, Jeff Gryde owes his life to clinical research and the generous donors who support it. That’s the reason he has included City of Hope in his estate plan and agreed to be public about his commitment.
Growing up in Southern California, he remembers the fathers of two friends who donated time to City of Hope. “My mom had cancer, and even though she wasn’t treated at City of Hope, I grew up knowing about it,” he says.
His familiarity with City of Hope became personal when he was diagnosed with cancer at age 43. His initial surgery was deemed successful, but that prognosis quickly changed when the cancer recurred within the first year. The oncologist who treated him had worked at City of Hope and referred Jeff there — though, Jeff quickly adds, “I would have asked to be treated there if he hadn’t.”
At City of Hope, he was treated with an autologous stem cell transplant. He then volunteered as one of the first patients to be part of therapy new clinical trial. Unfortunately, nine months later, he experienced another recurrence. “The doctors told me, ‘We’re in trouble; you have only a 20 percent chance of leaving the hospital,’” he recalls.
Hoping to keep Jeff alive long enough to find an unrelated (allogeneic) stem cell donor, they put him on a new drug: Rituxan. The drug worked well. But after nearly four years without finding a suitable donor, his doctors advised Jeff to discontinue the drug. The side effects of long-term use were not well understood, and he ran a risk of developing a resistance.
Nine years later, Jeff is cancer-free. “I believe Rituxan bought me the time for my immune system to reset itself,” he explains.
Jeff is committed to giving back. He has included a bequest to City of Hope in his will and he gives his time. “I speak at City of Hope events and meet many individuals who have donated funds to the kind of research that saved my life,” he explains. “They thank me for putting a face on their giving,” he notes with surprise.
“All the new procedures I’ve benefited from were funded by giving from others,” he says. “I would like to see the assets I’ve built over the years do something of value. I want to pay it forward and that’s what I hope my bequest will do.”