Her beading class gave patients a way to connect

2012-08-05T00:00:00Z Her beading class gave patients a way to connectJamar Younger Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 05, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Sue Woodall was the type of woman anyone could talk to.

Armed with a wry sense of humor and an empathetic ear, she endeared herself not only to family and friends, but to anyone around who would engage in conversation with her.

"She never met a stranger," said her granddaughter, Jennifer Evans.

When Woodall was diagnosed with a tumor in one of her lungs in 2007, those qualities, along with her love for beading, allowed her to reach out to fellow cancer patients and their families at the University of Arizona Cancer Center, where she became a fixture.

Woodall died Thursday, almost two months after she was diagnosed with a tumor in her other lung. She was 76.

Starting while she was in remission and then later while she fought her own battle with cancer, Woodall taught a beading class each Monday at the cancer center. She decided to do something after noticing the pain, suffering and anxiety of the other patients and their families in treatment and waiting rooms, Evans said.

"She always had been really receptive to how people were feeling," Evans said. "She was open, engaging and empathetic in relating her own experiences."

Woodall started in 2010 by bringing her own beads and materials from her collection, casually inviting anyone who wanted to make something, maybe a bracelet or a key chain. If they didn't know how, she would gladly offer to teach them, Evans said.

The cancer center eventually adopted Woodall's "Beading Corner," giving her the resources to teach the classes each week.

"She was unbelievably generous with her time and spirit," said Lynn Barwick, a clinical social worker who oversees the Supportive Care for Healing classes and therapies at the center.

When Woodall started the classes, she was in remission from the first tumor. She continued the classes even after the diagnosis in her other lung in June and taught her last class about two weeks ago, before she went into the hospital.

In addition, Woodall sold her own beaded necklaces and other creations, and donated all of the money to the cancer center's patient assistance fund, which assists people who need help with bills and other expenses.

"She was a huge influence in this program," Barwick said. "She'll be greatly missed."

Woodall, who was originally from Logansport, Ind., moved to Tucson in the 1960s after living in Miami.

She taught seventh- and eighth-graders in Amphitheater School District before retiring, and was also active in local dog competitions.

Woodall ran her dog through an agility competition in 2007, winning first prize months before her first diagnosis.

But her beading class embodied her approach to relationships, as well as her determination to fight cancer.

"The message of being determined and making it through was reinforced in the bead project. It almost gave physical form to that philosophy and attitude," Evans said.

The family asks that donations in Woodall's memory be made to the cancer center's Patient Assistance Fund, University of Arizona Cancer Center, North Campus, 3838 N. Campbell Ave., Tucson, 85719.

Contact reporter Jamar Younger at jyounger@azstarnet.com or 573-4115.

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