Before she became director of The Foundation and Volunteer Services at Emory-Adventist Hospital at Smyrna, Sharon Croyle’s early career was in banking, but she always belonged to some organization that was raising money for a good cause. She enjoyed seeing the result making a difference in people’s lives. After going through multiple bank mergers in a very short period of time, she knew she was ready to make a career change. Sharon was serving as chair of The Foundation board when the then-director left the position. When Sharon asked the hospital president if he thought her skills would transfer to fundraising, he offered her the job on the spot, and she hasn’t looked back since. Sharon also beat breast cancer with a triumphant spirit, strong faith and the ability to keep a healthy perspective.
What’s your favorite part of your career?
People make my life rich. Whether it’s working with hospital volunteers, The Foundation trustees, donors or staff, there is so much to learn from and experience with others. I also enjoy the fruit of my labors, such as watching guests enjoy a special event or experiencing the excitement of a department receiving a new piece of equipment or completing a renovation.
What’s the hardest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Not to assume based on one’s personal experience that you know what the person in front of you is thinking or that you know what is best for them.
What has been your greatest achievement?
Merging four generations into one household. We are not the Waltons, but we do love and care about each other. We are a tight—sometimes crazy—team. It works because we want it to work for all of us.
What do you see as the keys to being your “best self”?
My personal relationship with Christ and connecting with Him in prayer is vital to my being. Life is not about me, it’s about having a servant’s heart—meeting each person where he or she needs to be met. An isolated life is no life at all.
What’s your No. 1 health and wellness secret?
Finding the joy in every day I’m given.
What are your keys to staying healthy?
Admittedly, I have a sweet tooth. I get frustrated when I’m a slacker with my exercise. I limit red meats and focus my diet on fresh vegetables, natural nuts and fruit. I vary my exercise with yoga, swimming, walking, gardening and staying active and involved. Working in a hospital, I wash my hands frequently and thoroughly. Sun protection with sunscreen, sunglasses and hats are key.
What one piece of advice would you give someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer?
1) Face it. Have your emotional moment. Deal with it and get on with life. Get all the information you can. Be an involved member of your treatment team. Talk to other survivors—they know firsthand what you can expect.
2) Don’t be afraid to or feel guilty about placing the focus on you. Women in particular are nurturers, tending to put others first. Others’ emotions about what is happening to you belong to them, not you. Your energy needs to be focused on keeping a good attitude and healing.
3) I highly recommend consulting a nutritionist. I firmly believe the advice I received helped me heal quickly. Use visualization techniques. I envisioned “scrubbing bubbles” cleaning away all of my cancer cells. It made uncomfortable treatment more palatable.
What was the most important/life-changing part of your experience with breast cancer?
Surrender. I was not in total control of this situation. By surrendering the worry, fear, anger and whatever other emotion manifested itself, I could focus on what was important at that moment. Since then I have maintained the ability to put negative issues into perspective and identify what is important and shed the drama. While breast cancer was life changing, I did not, could not and would not let it define who I am.
What’s your favorite thing about fall?
The colorful beauty of fall leaves with the sun shining on them and cool, crisp air. It’s my favorite time to walk nature trails.