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UC Davis Health System

UC Davis Health System

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center clinic employee surprised with cancer donation

Sherry Siems, left, and Ria De Grassi
Sherry Siems, left, and Ria De Grassi

Posted June 13, 2012

Sherry Siems, the always-cheerful discharge coordinator in the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center's second-floor clinic, was surprised recently with a $5,000 donation to the cancer center from the grateful daughter of a former patient.

 Ria De Grassi, whose mother, Elizabeth de Grassi, died two years ago from lung cancer, appeared at a clinical staff meeting to present her check to someone she said "worked magic in more ways than time allows me to describe."

In a letter to Siems, de Grassi described how Siems not only helped the family juggle their scheduled appointments around a six-hour round-trip from Mendocino County, but always greeted her mother with sincerity and kindness and walked out from behind her desk with a hug when she left the clinic.

"Your send-off was as much a salve to the strain on us — the family caregivers — as it was a gift of compassion to my mother," she wrote. "If my mother were here now, I know that with all her heart she would agree and thank you, one last time, for easing that difficult twilight of her life."

"If my mother were here now, I know that with all her heart she would agree and thank you, one last time, for easing that difficult twilight of her life."
— Ria De Grassi

Tearful, yet elated, Siems, said she was humbled at the gesture, "because it's not just about me. I am team player, and I am happy to accept it as a team member."

After Elizabeth de Grassi died, followed by the death six months later of Ria de Grassi's father, their daughter made a $1,000 gift to lung cancer specialist David Gandara, who took care of her mother, for his research efforts.

"It is for your authenticity — and in recognition of all of your colleagues who embody the same kindness of spirit and dedication to patients and their families -- that I am making an additional gift to the cancer center," Ria de Grassi wrote.

Siems has not yet decided how to use de Grassi's contribution, but is thrilled with the opportunity to advance the cancer center's work.

"I want to do the best for people I know are suffering already," she said. "Anything I can do to make it better — that is my mission."