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Thankfulness: A Caregiver's Story

When Dale Reed talks about his late partner Betty Ann Fares, you can hear the joy in his voice. Calling her his ‘southern belle,’ Reed tells the story of their relationship that spanned nearly 17 years and centered around compassion and care.

In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing, Fares was diagnosed with lung cancer. It was shortly after the diagnosis, that Reed was introduced to Mary Ann Ganoe, a clinical navigator at Meritus Medical Center’s John R. Marsh Cancer Center.

“Mary Ann was my rock,” Reed said. “Anytime I needed to know something or needed anything at all, Mary Ann would break down the information for me. She was just amazing,” he said.

Clinical navigators, sometimes called patient navigators, make sure that no one walks the journey of a cancer diagnosis alone. They are typically connected with patients and their families right after a diagnosis, and serve as a contact point for questions, concerns, appointments and many other needs.

“When a patient receives a cancer diagnosis, it is often followed by many emotions and questions,” Ganoe said, adding that this also includes family members.

The team of navigators consists of five registered nurses; many with advanced certifications in oncology and general patient navigation.

“Our navigation team also focuses on survivorship by providing community outreach and education screenings in an effort to empower our patients and families,” Ganoe explained.

For seven months, Reed took the best care possible of Fares. While she was feeling up to it, the pair would get their favorite drive-thru meals and sit together in a parking lot to eat in the car.

“It was the safest way we could still have a date,” Reed said, adding that the two would often take a short ride and grab ice cream afterward.

As the months went by, things began to worsen.

“She looked at me one day and said, ‘Baby, I’m done,’” Reed said through tears.

On January 23, 2021, Fares passed away at home.

Through the loss of Fares, Reed said that Ganoe was one of the people that helped him pull through the trials he faced.

“I’m telling you, she was by my side the entire time. There’s nothing I could say or do to explain the impact Mary Ann had, and still has on me,” Reed said.

Fast forward to November 2022. Reed and Ganoe are reunited in front of the John R. Marsh Cancer Center. As first sight they embrace, and Reed goes on to explain again just how much the role Ganoe played in Fares’ cancer journey impacted him.

“There really are good people in this world,” Reed said.

You can read more about cancer care at Meritus Health’s cancer services at MeritusHealth.com/Cancer. 

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