Skip to Content

Cancer & Caregiving before COPE - Jeff Thompson

Back to Article Listing


GSPP Communications Team

Why I'm There for COPE

Article  •

"Earth shattering." UC Health Vice President of Government & Corporate Relations Jeff Thompson minces no words when he describes the potential COPE, the Center for Oncology Psychology Excellence at the University of Denver, has for changing the lives of cancer patients and their loved ones.

Thompson, a Board of Advisors member at the Graduate School of Professional Psychology (GSPP), discusses how a personal loss led him to become a passionate crusader against cancer, and what impresses him most about the COPE team.

GSPP: Everyone in the COPE world seems to have a special story about how they connected with the program. What is yours?

Jeff Thompson: Diane Simard, COPE's founder, reached out to me to discuss the program and have me a learn a little bit more about it.

Diane certainly knew my history and the reason why it's important to me. It's getting close to 20 years ago, actually. My wife at that time, Diane O'Connor Thompson, passed away of breast cancer. It was a recurrence of her cancer that came back after her original diagnosis in 1993. The recurrence was diagnosed in 1998, and unfortunately it became very aggressive and she passed away on Thanksgiving 1999.

The thing that intrigued me most about the COPE program was that while going through all of that with my wife, I became abundantly aware of the toll that it was taking on both of us.

My wife was struggling with her terminal illness. I was struggling with being her caregiver, as well as trying to understand and come to grips with the inevitable psychological effect that it was having on me. It didn't impact me until much later. At that time, back in the late 90's, we were offered a listing of general psychologists but it was difficult, if not impossible, to find a psychologist who specialized in working with cancer patients and their caregivers.

GSPP: What would your wife have thought of this therapy if it had been available to her when she was battling cancer?

JT: That's a good question. Quite honestly, my wife Diane was very, very strong-willed. She was truly a pillar of strength as she went through her struggle with cancer.

She was beyond amazing actually. But there were times when I could just see – we had a two-year-old son at home – that it was breaking her heart, knowing that she wasn't going to be a part of his life.

Deep down, knowing her, I think she would have reached out if there had been other resources available to her.

GSPP: What has impressed you most about the COPE staff?

JT: Dedication, commitment, and passion.

Just listening to [COPE Director, Dr. Nicole Taylor], I thought, "Oh my gosh!" This is so impressive to me that we've got this level of compassion and dedication and commitment to educate new professionals and to give them every tool possible to enhance their training before they're out on their own.

GSPP: With more support, where do you think COPE can go from here?

JT: I think the "sky's the limit." This is just the very ground-level of what could be potentially earth-shattering if we can get the right resources available.