Finding Gratitude

Cancer survivor finds many ways to express his thanks to Mary Greeley.

By Kayla Hilliar

Larry Northup and Whitney Garwood, radiation oncology supervisor, share a moment on Mary Greeley’s garden patio. After receiving outstanding care during cancer treatment, Larry began volunteering in radiation oncology and provided support for an education fund for department staff.Lying still, while nurses and technicians meticulously adjusted instruments in order to administer radiation treatment, Larry Northup focused on the illuminated panel of blue sky and green trees just above his head.

The ceiling of the radiation oncology treatment room at Mary Greeley offered Larry a calming view as he faced the harsh realities of prostate cancer. Larry’s cancer journey unfolded two years ago, and it ultimately put him on a different sort of journey—a personal journey of gratitude.

Bad News

Larry had gone in for a routine physical when his doctor noticed that his PSA levels were high. A biopsy was ordered and cancer was found. Although receiving a cancer diagnosis brought Larry into a state of uncertainty, he took the news in stride and made treating and surviving cancer just two more items to be checked off his to-do list.

After the initial discovery, Larry’s doctors worked quickly to establish a medical treatment plan. He was to receive treatment at Mary Greeley’s radiation oncology department five days a week for nine weeks. Upon entering the treatment room and lying down on the table for the very first time, Larry noticed the vibrant images of clouds and trees above him—a bright view that allowed his thoughts and whatever concerns he might have to fade away.

Day after day, week after week, Larry returned to Mary Greeley. The staff became his friends. Larry knew these people truly cared about him and were invested in seeing him through to the end of his treatment. On his final day, Larry left Mary Greeley as a patient, only to return soon as a volunteer.

From Patient to Volunteer

Since retiring from 40 years of service as an engineering professor at Iowa State University, Larry has spent a great deal of his time giving back to his community as a volunteer—something that was instilled in him early on growing up on a farm near Audubon, Iowa. He recalls watching his father help neighbors get their crops in or raise a new barn when needed. When he first began searching for volunteer positions, he chose installing Life Lines in people’s homes for Mary Greeley as a way to give back to his community. He stepped away from that responsibility shortly before he was diagnosed with cancer.

After spending all those weeks at Mary Greeley getting radiation treatment, Larry decided it was time to return to work as a volunteer and found an opening at the information desk of Mary Greeley’s north addition, near the radiation oncology department, for Monday afternoons. He welcomed the opportunity to see his “old friends” again.

Larry now fills in as a volunteer in the radiation oncology waiting room as well. He sees patients dealing with the difficult reality of cancer just as he did. He says for those patients he experiences a great deal of empathy and compassion, and he wants to be there to help in whatever way he can. Sometimes that means listening as a patient confides in him, other times it means offering a quiet nod and a pleasant smile, helping a patient check in and directing them to the refreshment station available to all in the waiting room lobby.

Many Gifts

Larry is proud of this refreshment station because he and his wife, Sherry, helped make it possible through funds they donated to the Mary Greeley Foundation. Health, wellness, and hydration are keys to a successful treatment. This refreshment station offers each patient a bump in energy and the opportunity to be hydrated before treatment. However, Larry still wanted to do more.

As Sherry explains, “When you go through something like this, you look at life differently.” She witnessed an increase in her husband’s charitable and volunteer attitude after he was a patient. Larry was so grateful for his experience with the staff during his treatment that he wanted to make another gift that would directly impact them.

After collaborating with the Foundation staff, Larry and Sherry decided to establish an education fund for members of the radiation oncology staff that would allow them to receive special training and education. His gift was generated out of respect and gratitude for the staff. Larry credits them for the success of his treatment and recovery.

“Without them doing what they did, I might not be here,” he said.

Larry returns to Mary Greeley each week as a volunteer and witnesses the impact the staff at Mary Greeley has on their patients. His gift of gratitude is a constant reminder to all the staff that what they do every day truly matters and leaves a lasting impression on the people and communities they serve.

“It means so much that Larry thinks so highly of us that he gives not only his time, but also funding to help improve our patient and staff experience in any way possible,” said Whitney Garwood, MBA, RT, radiation oncology supervisor. “He has a calm demeanor and nurturing ability. He’s just a wonderful presence to have here and has such a positive influence on staff and patients.”

Share Your Story

Larry’s story of becoming a grateful patient is just one of many at Mary Greeley.

“We are impacted every day in some way by people who are grateful for their care, and that gratefulness often results in a charitable gift,” said Melissa McGarry, Mary Greeley Foundation executive director. “We take every step to ensure donors know their gifts are used to fund an area they care most about.”

Thanks to the generosity of donors, the staff members at Mary Greeley are able to continuously provide the quality care with a personal touch that they are known for
to patients each and every day.

For more information on how you can share your story with the Foundation or how you can make a gift, please call 515-239-2147 or visit

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