Jim Hatcher Carries on Wife’s Legacy

Jim Hatcher made a promise to his wife, Joanie, in the final months of her battle with breast cancer. He pledged to carry on her legacy by helping other breast cancer patients and their families.

“Joanie knew I would need something to focus my energies on to cope with the grief and loss that would consume me for many years,” Mr. Hatcher said. “In the process of helping others, she knew I also would help myself.”

Leaders of Hatcher Trust

Jim Hatcher, who established a charitable trust in his late wife’s honor, works with Trustees (from second left) Karee Sampson, Ann McCurdy, and Kay Porter to organize an annual event for breast cancer survivors.

After losing his wife in 1996, Mr. Hatcher established the Jim and Joanie Hatcher Charitable Trust, which hosts an annual event for breast cancer survivors. He had made a commitment to Joanie that he would provide an ongoing opportunity for survivors to celebrate their lives and share their struggles with others who also had gone through treatment.

Under the committed leadership of Trustees Karee Sampson, Kay Porter, and Ann McCurdy, the event drew as many as 1,500 attendees every year.

“This event has not only allowed Jim to honor his commitment to Joanie, but also has served as an opportunity for so many women to come together every year to build cherished bonds with fellow survivors – to laugh, cry, and just celebrate survivorship,” Ms. Sampson said.

Expanded Support

While Mr. Hatcher remained committed to the survivorship luncheon, he sought to expand his support into other areas. He reflected on his personal experience during Joanie’s many years of treatment and realized that a critical and largely unmet need was caring for the emotional and psychological needs of breast cancer patients and their families.

“It’s hard to see a loved one going through breast cancer,” Mr. Hatcher said. “You don’t know what to do or how to help. I wish more oncologists would be in tune to the fact that you not only must treat the patient, but also the family. It’s key to the patient’s success.”

He found allies in Cyndi Bassel, Vice President for External Relations at UT Southwestern Medical Center, and James Willson, M.D., Director of UT Southwestern’s Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Dr. Willson’s philosophy, which is also reflected in the Simmons Cancer Center’s comprehensive, personalized approach to treatment, is that each patient must be cared for as a whole person, rather than just receiving treatment for the cancer.

“Caring for the emotional well-being of patients and their families is a critical part of the treatment equation,” Dr. Willson said. “Cancer isn’t just a physical disease. It affects every aspect of a patient’s life.”

Helping More Patients and Families 

When Mr. Hatcher realized UT Southwestern oncology support programs risked going underfunded, he quickly made his first gift of $35,000 to the Medical Center in 2011 to finance several initiatives aimed at caring for the emotional, psychological, and cancer-related health needs of patients and families.

His gift helped fund the Lifestyle Intervention Support Program, the Lymphedema Clinic, the Breast Cancer Patient Navigator program, and a support group for the partners of breast cancer patients.

“I would have jumped at the opportunity to be part of a support group if one had been available to me when Joanie was sick,” Mr. Hatcher said. “It is heart-wrenching to see your wife suffering, so it’s important to have an opportunity to talk to others who understand how you feel.”

In 2012 Mr. Hatcher made a second gift of $40,000 to fund an Oncology Music Therapy program at UT Southwestern.

“Thanks to Jim’s generosity, we are in the process of recruiting a music therapist who will focus on helping cancer patients use a different modality of expression to overcome the emotional, social, and relationship issues experienced during cancer,” said Jeff Kendall, Psy.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry who leads the Simmons Cancer Center’s Oncology Supportive Services Program. “Our primary goal is that our patients feel cared for as a whole person rather than simply as a cancer diagnosis.”

Mr. Hatcher and the trustees of the Jim and Joanie Hatcher Charitable Trust made the recent decision to expand their partnership with UT Southwestern and jointly host their annual breast cancer survivorship event for the first time on the medical center’s campus.

The event brings together survivors, researchers, clinicians, and therapists for fellowship, as well as interactive discussions on a host of health and wellness topics that are of vital importance to breast cancer survivors.

“My wife was pretty smart when she asked me to make this promise to her 17 years ago,” Mr. Hatcher said. “She knew it would not only make a difference to so many women like her who suffered from breast cancer, but also would give me a reason to keep going. She gave us all a wonderful gift.”