Gevora Griggs and Eric Siebeneck began working together at Mayo Clinic's Arizona campus in 2012. She was a cancer research scheduler and he was a clinical cancer research coordinator. Soon "Gigi," as she liked to be called, became data coordinator for the cancer research studies Siebeneck was working on. They became fast friends as they worked in concert. It was important, often demanding work.
Siebeneck says Gigi liked to keep things "lighthearted" and fun when she could. "But at the same time, she had a lot of empathy," he tells us. "No matter what she was trying to get done, she was always doing it for our patients." That selflessness, Siebeneck tells us, also showed when Gigi was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. "She didn't want to make it about her," he says. "She wanted to make it about others by making sure people were going to be OK if she had to take time off."
Because of their close friendship, however, Siebeneck knew Gigi was worried, even though "she didn't show it," he says. "She went through surgery and then chemotherapy, and she always wanted to come back to work after — that was her goal."
It was a goal that initially appeared to be within reach. But the joy of learning she'd beaten her breast cancer would be short-lived. She developed acute myeloid leukemia after her chemotherapy treatment, Siebeneck says. More bad news would follow. Breast cancer returned and spread to her lungs. "Even so, she stayed positive and never let anyone see the inner struggle I knew was going on," Siebeneck says. "She'd talk about it a little, but not much."
There was something Gigi always did seem to want to talk about: the nurses who cared for her at Mayo Clinic. "Her nurses were like family to her," Siebeneck says. "They made her feel comfortable and took such great care of her. She talked fondly of them all the time."
Gigi's colleagues and caregivers rallied around her, not content to confine their care to Gigi's hospital room. Along with Siebeneck and his wife, they routinely went out of their way to make sure Gigi and her daughter were taken care of. They coordinated rides to and from appointments, provided meals for them at home, and perhaps most importantly, offered their ongoing friendship and support.
When it became apparent Gigi's fight against cancer would not be won, her Mayo family came together to give Gigi and her daughter one last meaningful Christmas together. They pooled their resources and gave them a selection of gift cards they could use for clothing, gas and groceries.
It was only natural to want to help someone who meant so much to them and did so much for so many others. "It was always about other people," Siebeneck says. "Gigi would occasionally try to better herself, but it was only so that she could help others more. She didn't deserve any of what happened to her medically, and that's why I think so many people stepped in to help. She's done so much for so many."
After learning of Gigi's passing in February 2018, staff on 7 West at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Arizona created a tribute: a "Celebration Box" filled with items to celebrate when a patient has completed chemotherapy that they named in Gigi's honor. In a tribute to Gigi, Crystal Muir, 7 West team leader, wrote, "We thought this would be a great way to always remember her as we help support and celebrate other cancer patients through their journeys."
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