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Man living with cancer shares symbol to help others in hard times

Posted at 9:54 AM, Nov 05, 2021

GALLATIN, Tenn. — In hard times, we often need a community to try to help us through it.

After receiving difficult news, a man gained a whole new community. People across the country came together for a very unexpected reason – a symbol that’s helping individuals, no matter their story.

When you go into Old Soul Tattoo in Gallatin, Tennessee, you have to find something that speaks to your passion, what you love, how you look at life. What would be the right tattoo for freelance photographer Richard Suter?

“Positivity is greater than negativity, and these three little symbols have meant a lot to me,” said Suter as showed off a tattoo on his wrist that looked like, “+ > –.”

If you catch Suter out and about, he would love nothing more than to tell you about the symbol. He loves a conversation, loves people.

“I always try to be positive with things,” he said. “If I’m keeping lots and lots of good up here, I know my life will follow those steps.”

When Suter came into Old Soul for that tattoo three years ago, he didn’t know just how much meaning it would carry for him one day.

“April 6, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer,” he said. “Blood sugar went through the roof from the treatment. I started hallucinating and I collapsed. I was unconscious. I was in the CCU at the hospital.”

To keep people updated on his progress, Suter’s wife started a page on Facebook called Richard’s Recovery. Right there was the symbol. Suter didn’t know it was the beginning of something.

“Somebody called me and asked me, ‘Would you mind if I got your tattoo?’” Suter remembered. “I said, ‘Absolutely not. That’d be great!’”

It didn’t take long before it got big. All around the community, signs started going up outside of banks reading, “Team Suter.” Suter’s symbol is also seen outside Gallatin’s city hall and chamber of commerce. People all over the country began following Richard’s Recovery, taking that symbol and applying it to their own stories. It was people like Erica Twidle.

“Mid-June, I got a call the company I was working for decided to go a different direction and eliminated my role,” said Twidle. “With two kids and health insurance and a pandemic, the worry just totally flooded. [Suter’s] image kept popping up in my head. It didn’t take away the worry, the sadness I was dealing with, but there’s always a silver lining. There's always some good in what’s going on.”

“Getting to lift people up in things that are normally horrific, it’s been a blessing,” said Suter.

As Suter continues chemo treatments, he said he’s amazed at the unexpected power three little symbols have had.

“I’ve had more good than bad,” he said. “It’s been more happy than sad, more pros than cons over the last six months than I ever had in my life, which is a strong thing to say when you’ve been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. No matter what you’re going through in life, you can get through that. We rise by helping others, and man, have I risen.”