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Wedded Bliss for Grateful Patients at GBMC's Chapel

June 17, 2019
Here's a trivia question for you: Who are GBMC's biggest cheerleaders?

If you didn't answer Joyce and Doug Barnes, keep reading and you might change your mind.

After a health scare for Joyce and a cancer diagnosis for Doug, this dynamic couple, who have been together 18 years, came to realize the most important things in life were each other – the family and the life they were building together. When they decided to finally make it official, GBMC's Chapel seemed like the perfect place.

"Someone from my mom's church – Babcock United Methodist Church – recommended talking to Chaplain (J. Joseph) Hart," Doug said, "and it just so happened we were at an open house at the Dance Center and he was there. I saw his nametag and I said, 'I need to talk to you!' One thing led to another and he was just amazing.

"It's a beautiful room with all the stained glass. We had like 25 people, which filled the room and it made it even more special – my team from the Dance Center came down and that was wonderful."

"There wasn't a dry eye in the house," Joyce added.

"We wrote our own vows, which was scary, but we got through it," Doug said. "It's just another memory we're going to have of GBMC that we're never, ever going to forget."

And there are a lot of memories, especially within the last seven years.

Joyce & Doug Barnes, family
Joyce & Doug Barnes with granddaughter, Skylar, and family at their wedding
In 2012, Joyce had started to pass out unexpectedly. It often happened in the morning, when she was alone in the house. When she finally came to GBMC, Dr. Margaret Brennan worked hard to figure out what was going on. After a couple of days, Joyce was given a pacemaker and newfound peace that she could drive and continue to raise the two grandchildren she and Doug had, at the time, taken under their wing. She credits Dr. Brennan with saving her life.

Six years later, when Doug was given options for where to go to receive radiation treatment for tonsil cancer, Joyce couldn't say enough good things about GBMC.

"It's a good hour drive in," Doug said. "When I was doing my radiation every day, it didn't bother me at all. This was the only place I wanted to be. After having my surgeries here, it just made sense to stay because the communication between departments truly is amazing."

In the food business, working for Sysco at the time, Doug was at a trade show in Dover, Del. when he woke up "deathly ill." The diagnosis of both strep and flu sent him home, and when he saw his primary care doctor, his swollen glands were attributed to the illness. Two weeks later, when the glands were still swollen and seemingly larger, diagnosis and treatment kicked into gear.

"I was diagnosed on the 10th of May," Doug said. "On May 23, I had my first surgery."

The first surgery removed his tonsils and the tissue on the back of his tongue. A month later, a second surgery removed his lymph nodes and the origin of the cancer. Doug is currently in remission and doing follow-up treatments and therapies in the Milton J. Dance Jr. Head & Neck Cancer Center. Even though radiation was rough, he has nothing but positive things to say about the staff.

"They are amazing. Everything they told me, there were no surprises," he said. "They told me exactly what to expect and when it was going to happen, and it did. Same with oncology. I felt very well-prepared for what I faced.

"GBMC, just the quality of care we got and just how thoroughly happy we are with everyone we've come in contact with – Dr. (Ryan) Sobel, Dr. (Matthew) Boyer, Barb (Messing), Kelly, Pat, Adrienne, Jen from Unit 58 – I mean everybody. It's funny because we've been together for 18 years. We've talked about getting married. We live together. We're raising Skylar (Doug's 9-year-old biological granddaughter) together. We've talked about getting married for the longest time and after what we've been through the last couple years, we finally decided, what are we waiting for?"

Joyce and Doug met at a neighborhood bar, playing trivia. Joyce's friend was a former co-worker of Doug's, and the bar was Doug's last stop on his Wednesday rounds working for Sysco. The pair competed against each other and developed a friendship. In between each trivia question, they had questions for each other. When they finally went out several months later, it was as if they had known each other for years.

March 5, 2019 solidified a long-held commitment to each other, and the happy memory at GBMC will last a lifetime. But for Joyce and Doug, however tough, all their memories at GBMC have been ones they look back on positively.

"It's all been good. That's just it," Doug said. "We went through tough times, but I'm walking away from this a much better person, much more optimistic about everything in my life because of the people I've met and what we went through.

"Whenever I come in here, it kind of centers me. It brings me back, it reminds me of what I've come to know is important, the things that really matter. And when I come here, I do get emotional, still. What's out there doesn't matter. What matters is Joyce and Skylar and our health and our happiness, and thanks to GBMC we have that, and we're going to have that for a very long time."
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