During my first visit to my surgeon at Swedish, I was given a large binder containing all kinds of information as well as spaces to file business cards for my physicians and nurses as well as my lab reports. I like to call it, “my big ol’ book of cancer.” Actually, it is a very thoughtfully assembled resource. Swedish Cancer Institute really kind of blows me away with the attention they pay to every aspect of care. One of the items in my big ol’ book of cancer was a brochure describing a research study called, “Helping Her Heal”. The research group is evaluating a support group for male partners of women such as myself, with recently diagnosed early stage breast cancer.

I gave the brochure to John and he called to get more information. Someone from the study subsequently called me explaining that although the study examines a support group for partners, the cancer patient is the “gate keeper” for study participation and that they wouldn’t proceed without my okay. My first thought was, “Who wouldn’t want their husband/boyfriend to have a chance to be in a support group?” Then taking the perspective of the study organizers I thought, “Yeah, I probably wouldn’t want the data from folks for whom this would be a problem. They would be unlikely to be able to demonstrate any program effects because these would be likely to be couples, who for whatever reason, have such a high amount of stress that a support group just wouldn’t do the job.”

So the study worker continued to describe the research and then a much simpler answer to my question was revealed. The study also needs the patient to participate. “D’oh!” Of course, they are looking for couples to participate, not just partners. But then I thought, “Why didn’t they just advertise the study this way?” Why didn’t they say that they were recruiting couples in the first place? I’m guessing that they decided to target the person who would have the bigger time commitment to avoid a high drop out rate in the study. If they had said that they were looking for couples, perhaps some of the cancer patients may sign their spouse up for something they weren’t sure about and felt kind of arm twisted into doing it.

So, now you have seen the inner workings of my mind as a former researcher. Are you frightened or just kind of bored?