By: Shelley Nolden, GRYT Chairwoman

In my opening remarks during my first board meeting as Chairwoman of GRYT Health, I promised that I will always put our community of patients and caregivers first. They come before our clients, our investors, ourselves. A year and a half later, I am proud to say that our entire staff thinks with their hearts. GRYT is a novel kind of tech company — the opposite of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data. We are a digital humanity company, focused on bridging the gap between the healthcare system and the people — mothers, fathers, children, grandparents — who are forced to navigate it when a cancer diagnosis strikes.

As our team has been working tirelessly to build a welcoming, supportive environment, where we provide both information to improve the patient journey and opportunities to be heard by the pharmaceutical industry, we have all come to know the individuals most active within it. We know their diagnoses and their treatment statuses, but also their anxieties and comforts. We have grown attached to these amazing, gritty, unique individuals. Just as the GRYT App members have formed friendships and support networks with each other.

Together, with our community, we have built something truly unique and special, of which I am so very proud.

From the day we first launched the app, I had hoped and dreamed this would happen. What I hadn’t foreseen or prepared myself for was the tsunami of grief that would roll over me the first time we lost a highly involved member of our GRYT community.

Beyond The Typical “Patient Experience”

A week ago, a GRYT colleague informed me that Gina S. had passed away.

Slowly, shock dissolved into sorrow, and I wept. Hiding in my home office on a Saturday morning, I allowed the tears to roll down my cheeks. Gina loved art, eye makeup, Disney World, and her network of friends within the GRYT app. She attended almost all of our AppChats and was always ready to give a little GRYT to those in need of a boost. During the “Pick Our New Logo AppChat”, she loved the bold energy of the image that ultimately became our final choice. (She will forever be a part of the GRYT story.)

I hadn’t seen her death coming, and it knocked me over. As I know it did many others within our community. We are in mourning. We are mourning a dazzling soul who should still be with us. It’s not fair. I’m angry. I’m pissed. (I am crying again right now.) I miss you, Gina. So, so much. I am mad you’re gone. And I am mad that so many people I care about are hurting right now, too.

This heart-wrenching sorrow is the downside to creating a company focused on humanity. Artificial Intelligence and Big Data don’t cry when they lose a person in their data set. By leading the board of this company that values every individual, I am exposing myself to potential recurring heartache. The same can be said for the entire GRYT staff and everyone who joins our community. This same vulnerability is also experienced by those affiliated with cancer non-profits and all the medical professionals who work in oncology. (I will always be in awe of their resilience, selflessness, and fortitude.)

It is hard to care so much, to love. But what is the alternative?

Renewed Focus on Patient Reported Outcomes

The alternative I’m not okay with. We are in this together. Patients, survivors, caregivers, medical teams, and support services. By opening up our hearts, we expose ourselves to loss. And loss will happen again. We mourn and honor Gina. But she wouldn’t want us to close our hearts to prevent future grief. She enriched our lives, and I’m certain we made a difference in hers. As an early member of the GRYT community, Gina was instrumental in shaping it into the welcoming and supportive environment it is today. I hate that we must now use the support system she helped us build to cope with losing her. But I know that’s what she would want us to do.

In memory of Gina, GRYT Health has named a star after her. And, her place in our hearts will never fade. Og Mandino once said, “I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.”

Gina embodied all of the characteristics of our community; those who embody it are here for you. Caring, authentic, full of GRYT, but most importantly, there to welcome others and integrate them, without hesitation. I encourage you to do the same. Jump in, feet first. You’ll find an amazing network comprised of support, a wealth of knowledge, punny jokes, and real, authentic people who have been there and are ready to help. We’re stronger together, and it only takes a glance up at the night sky to remember those who have helped pave the way.

If you learn of someone from our community who has passed away, please take a minute to nominate them for our GRYT Star Program by filling out this form.

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