A manager for an office, a warrior against disease

INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

Susan Sykes Gildin, 49, of Horsham, an office manager who battled colon cancer for eight years, died March 16 at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

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After cancer was diagnosed in 2001, Susan Sykes Gildin, of Horsham, inspired many with her bravery, her family said.

Mrs. Gildin was one of the patients profiled March 11 in an Inquirer article about the anxiety of living with cancer.

Since her Stage 4 cancer was diagnosed in 2001, she had undergone 19 surgical procedures, chemotherapy treatment every other week for six years, and CAT and PET scans every four to six months.

Mrs. Gildin told reporter Stacey Burling that she could do without hearing the details. "I've had to deal with so much in the last several years," she said, that sparing herself from the specifics was "just a little bit of protection that still keeps me going."

Her enduring graciousness was an inspiration to other patients, said her husband, Brad. Instead of becoming annoyed with hospital workers for their constant poking and prodding, he said, she befriended them.

She made a great effort to select special gifts for her caregivers, said her sister, Randi Sykes. She was always looking for something purple because it was her social worker's favorite color, Sykes said. For her dog-loving anesthesiologist, Mrs. Gildin had the pet's name inscribed on a mat. She gave her surgeon a clock with the inscription, "Thank you for the gift of time."

Mrs. Gildin's nurses and doctors stopped to say hello whenever she was at the hospital, Sykes said, and to snack on the chocolate-covered pretzels she hid under the sheets for them.

She loved to bake and cook. In November, though weak from treatments, she prepared Thanksgiving dinner for more than 30 guests. For desert she made her father's favorite, pecan pie, and baked a chocolate cake to celebrate two of the guests' birthdays.

After everyone sang "Happy Birthday," Mrs. Gildin took the cake back into the kitchen, said one of her 16-year-old twin sons, Michael. He heard a thud when she dropped the cake. Instead of being upset, her son said, she sat on the floor and laughed.

In December, after her sister was hospitalized, Mrs. Gildin insisted that she recuperate at her house. She even helped her sister bathe, Sykes said, but teased her that she had better not fall because Mrs. Gildin wouldn't be able to help her up.

"She fought her illness with such strength and bravery that it often appeared she was perfectly fine," Michael said.

Mrs. Gildin volunteered to raise money for colon cancer research and to increase awareness and education about the disease.

A native of Bridgeton, N.J., she graduated from Bridgeton High School and earned a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania.

She and her husband married in 1987.

From 2003 until last year, Mrs. Gildin was office administrator for Dickler, Braver, Matusow, an accounting firm in Horsham. Previously she was an executive for training and development for 16 years at the Strawbridge's department store in Center City.

She enjoyed traveling with friends and family and entertaining, and she especially loved listening to Michael play classical piano music and watching the 76ers with her other son, David.

In addition to her husband, sons, and sister, Mrs. Gildin is survived by her father, Edgar Sykes, and a brother.

A funeral was held March 18 at Goldsteins' Rosenberg's Raphael-Sacks Memorial Chapel in Southampton. Burial was in Beth Abraham Cemetery, Rosenhayn, N.J.

Memorial donations may be made to the Kimmel Cancer Center for Colon Cancer Research, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, 111 S. 11th St., Philadelphia 19107.


Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.