Support group available for husbands
Lisa Jordan is sitting around a large conference table in the board room at MedWest Haywood. She’s there with her husband Ed, friends Bobby and Lisa Harracks, friends Angie and Bruce Ford and Johanna DeWees, RN. They’ve come together to talk about their experiences with a very special support group.
“Everyone knows you have cancer. She’s the one person who remembers you have a life,” Jordan said. She’s talking about DeWees, nurse navigator for the Cancer Program at MedWest Haywood. All of the women are breast cancer survivors. But the support group they are talking about today isn’t for the women — it’s for their husbands. It started in February 2013, shortly after one woman in the group was diagnosed.
“First meeting, none of us wanted to be there,” said Bobby Harracks. “But now, I would help her (Johanna) start a new group if she needed me."
The group of men talk about DeWees as one would talk about a favorite sister. They smile about the experiences they have had in their group sessions. They tease her about her sometimes firm demeanor. Underlying everything though is a profound respect and sense of gratitude for the experiences they’ve had being a part of this group.
“Started out we were terrorized (about) what was going on with our wives. Then it got to a point where we were a bunch of guys, getting away with being guys,” said Ed Jordan. They started sharing stories at the support group meetings and realized they had a lot of shared experiences in terms of what was going on at home.
“He would come home from the group more chipper because he was able to get it off his chest,” said Angie Ford.
Ed Jordan said he learned through the support group that even though he was taking care of her, it was her recovery, her life.
“It’s not what I want her to do, it’s what she wants to do,” he said.
The sessions allowed the men to learn about their wives’ diagnoses and ask questions they might not feel comfortable asking in front of their wives.
“There were things we were seeing that we asked Johanna about. (She gave us) practical things to help our wives,” said Bruce Ford.
“He found out a lot at those meetings,” Angie Ford said.
Ed Jordan said they talked about “everything in the world” once they got comfortable with one another. And that helped the wives cope as well.
“He looked forward to going. And he stopped looking at me as if I was going to break,” said Lisa Jordan of her husband.
“We’re just now discovering how important survivorship is in cancer care,” DeWees said. “One of my main jobs is to help set goals so that patients and families don’t worry about it (recovery) all at the same time.”
As they became comfortable with one another, they started to share more freely. And they started a sort of ‘Vegas-like’ unspoken pact — what was talked about in the meetings stayed in the meetings.
“Those first meetings were very emotional. We said things in those meetings in confidence, we couldn’t say to our wives,” Ed Jordan said.
The women agreed that it was hard to pry information from them after the first few meetings. “I’d ask what did you talk about in your meeting, and he wouldn’t tell me!” said Lisa Jordan with a laugh. The rest of the table laughs and the wives nod in unison. There is a brief silence. Then Ed speaks to Angie.
“Angie, I want you to know that Bruce was worried about you,” Bruce and Angie both smile. Everyone in the room knows what Ed’s talking about — the chickens.
“How can she go out and feed her chickens, with a (low) blood count?” Bruce laments playfully. Angie smiles, everyone in the room chuckles.
This is another gift the support group has given these couples — the opportunity to laugh at stressful and sometimes frightening situations. It’s clear that Angie and Bruce will continue to lovingly disagree with one another about how much work she should do around the house while she is in treatment.
What isn’t in doubt is each man’s love for and devotion to their wives. That is evident in part by the shirt each one is wearing. They are navy blue and written in pink lettering is "Fight Like a Husband. (Her Battle is Mine)." The group had them made to show their support for their wives.
Something else everyone clearly agrees on is the excellent care they received locally. All three women decided to receive their care at MedWest Haywood for many reasons, from being close to home to being treated by people they knew and trusted.
“I chose to come here to have chemo because (my nurse) used to be my neighbor,” said Lisa Harracks. The group talks about how the care they received locally rivals what they could have received elsewhere.
“All the docs we met have done a fine job. I say to my friends I believe we couldn’t have gotten better care (outside Haywood County),” Bruce said. His wife agrees.
“From day one, I got great care,” she said.
When the topic shifted to the Nurse Navigator program, the group agreed that it had been a great benefit to them.
“Nurse Navigators are an extension of a physician,” said DeWees. When you get a diagnosis of Cancer, it takes time to settle in. You are asking yourself, how does it apply to me? That is my job- to help them through the various stages in terms of what do I do next. Navigators can also be helpful for people who feel uncomfortable opening up in a group setting."
Bruce added, “There’s a lot of medical terminology on the internet, which is a terrible place to go. Johanna helped us sort through it all and helped us know where to go for more information.”
“This program (has given me) a new outlook on life,” Angie Ford said.