Cancer survivor to light UT Health Tyler’s Christmas tree

Local News

TYLER, Texas (KETK) – A cancer survivor and former UT Health Tyler patient will light the hospital’s outdoor Christmas tree next week.

In 2020, Jeff Dickerson faced an acute myeloid leukemia diagnosis and received chemotherapy treatments at UT Health Tyler, each round involving a week-long hospital stay.

Hickerson’s cancer is now in remission and on Nov. 30 he will have the honor of lighting the hospital’s outdoor Christmas tree during a public ceremony.

The event will begin at 5:20 p.m. with Santa arriving with his reindeer on the hospital’s front lawn.

The tree-lighting ceremony will begin at 5:20 p.m. with Hickerson illuminating the tree and carrying on a 33-year tradition of former patients lighting the tree. There will also be refreshments and holiday music performed by Dr. Dan Kyzer an Adjunct Instructor of Guitar at the UT Tyler School of Performing Arts.

Santa will be at the event until 6:30 p.m. Free parking is available in both parking garages and the gates will open at 4:30 p.m.

During his time at the hospital, Hickerson formed relationships with the staff on 6 North, the UT Health Tyler Poindexter Oncology Unit.

“Most of our nurses took care of Mr. Hickerson at one time or another during his multiple treatment stays, and the bond that was made between our staff and Mr. Hickerson followed past his hospitalization,” said Tawana Burgess, RN, OCN, an oncology nurse at UT Health Tyler. “Mr. Hickerson’s dream with donating a bell for our hospital is to be able to share that joyous moment with those who have spent so much time caring for cancer patients and to help instill courage and hope for all who hear it ring.”

According to a press release, he was inspired to donate a ceremonial cancer bell to the unit for patients to ring after their final treatment.

“I wanted to make sure that future patients who get as close to them as I have, or have those same feelings, are able to share that experience with them,” Hickerson said.

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