What started as a celebratory trip abroad in the summer of 2017 ended in a harrowing health scare for Suellen Robinson. It led to an unexpected cancer diagnosis and an extended stay at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC)—including six days in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Now cancer-free for more than five years, Suellen is forever grateful for the lifesaving treatment she received at BIDMC. In recognition of the expertise and compassion of her care team, she and her husband, Wyley, have made a generous five-year commitment to support BIDMC’s state-of-the-art new inpatient building, due to open in March 2023.

A retired math teacher, Suellen will never forget the trip to visit her daughter in Austria, where her symptoms progressively worsened. “While we were traveling in Germany, I started to experience mild discomfort and a swelling sensation in my stomach,” recalls Suellen, a longtime Andover resident. “By the time we got to Austria, I was experiencing shortness of breath and by the end of the trip, I could barely breathe at all.”

A visit with a pulmonologist at a local community hospital upon her return home led to a quick transfer to BIDMC, where she was admitted directly to the ICU. There, Suellen underwent extensive diagnostic testing before it was determined that she had an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and a sizable tumor in her lower abdomen. Chemotherapy was initiated immediately in the ICU and continued in the BIDMC Cancer Center for the next three weeks. “I was very sick by this point and things were deteriorating quickly,” Suellen says. “I couldn’t do anything on my own, but everyone at BIDMC was so attentive to all of my needs.”

Upon being discharged from the hospital, she continued her chemotherapy regimen on an outpatient basis over the next four-month period and took a daily injection of Neupogen, a protein that stimulates the growth of white blood cells and helps fight infections. It was all very stressful and often painful, Suellen recalls, but she couldn’t be happier with the results. “My whole clinical team was fabulous, from the physicians overseeing my case—Drs. Robin Joyce and Jessica Liegel—to the nursing staff, and medical students,” says Suellen. “I am so grateful for their care, and thrilled that more patients will receive BIDMC’s lifesaving care in this phenomenal new building.”

Seven months after completing her chemotherapy, Suellen attended a family wedding in Aruba, and later visited Australia and Tahiti. Ever the world traveler, she has a trip to Panama already scheduled and a long wish list of other destinations awaiting her arrival.

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