Like many who came to us for help, Jeff Gryde gave credit for his many additional years of life to clinical research and the generous donors who support it. That’s the reason he included City of Hope in his estate plan and agreed to share his story.
Growing up in Southern California, he remembered 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 explained.
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 Gryde there — though, Gryde acknowledged, “I would have asked to be treated there if he hadn’t.”
At City of Hope, Gryde was treated with an autologous stem cell transplant. He then volunteered as one of the first patients to be part of a new clinical trial. Unfortunately, nine months later, he experienced another recurrence. The doctors told him, “We’re in trouble; you have only a 20 percent chance of leaving the hospital.”
Hoping to keep Gryde 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 Gryde 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.
The treatment enabled Gryde to enjoy more than a decade cancer-free. Gryde was committed to using that time to give back. He included a bequest to City of Hope in his will and he gave his time. He spoke at City of Hope events and met many individuals who have donated funds to the kind of research that saved his life. He explained that he was surprised when those he met offered thanks for putting a face on their giving.
Gryde understood that the procedures he benefited from were funded by giving from others. He was committed to using the assets he built over the years to also do something of value. He wanted the gift in his will to City of Hope to “pay it forward.”