Veronica Tovey, the president and publisher of What’s Up? Media is one of the staunchest, most longstanding supporters of the mission and vision of Wellness House of Annapolis. And she has been from the beginning.
A former board member, Tovey’s relationship with Wellness House started at the organization’s infancy, when Dr. Kelly Sullivan, founder of Wellness House, shared with her the signature story behind the Wellness House: a little boy in an oncology waiting room asking if his mother, diagnosed with breast cancer, was going to die.
“That just broke my heart. I’m a mother, and I’m a grandmother,” Tovey said. “It broke my heart, and I wanted to do what I could to help.”
That touchpoint was the impetus for Wellness House, which serves whole families touched by cancer, not just the patient. Tovey got involved in the program right away, serving on the board and helping drive the conversation locations to find a home for Wellness House to call its own.
What started as a safe place for children to speak and learn about their parents’ diagnoses evolved into a family affair, almost by accident, shortly after Wellness House took up residence in its current location at Mas Que Farm.
At that time, the main program was an opportunity for children to come and ask questions about their parents living with cancer, with an expert helping guide the conversation. Their fathers would come to drop the children off, and many would stay while the children went upstairs. That group of fathers, whose wives were battling cancer, quickly became a support community, demonstrating the need for supporting all people touched by cancer, not just children.
“The first week the fathers just kind of hung around, and they talked a little bit more. And by the third night, they were all talking,” said Tovey, recalling what she observed as she was cleaning up after a group dinner. “It was mind-altering to me. One of the fathers said, ‘You know, I don’t know how to handle this. But I feel gypped. I feel gypped.’ And my ears perked up, wondering how he felt gypped, when it was his wife who had lost both of her breasts. And he said, ‘I don’t know how to handle it. I can’t talk to her about it.” And one of the other men said he’d had the same experience.
“They started talking about real serious kinds of things, just these men dropping off their children upstairs. And it just showed me how horrible this whole situation is. How emotional it is, how there was nobody there to help,” Tovey related.
The openness of struggling with all aspects of a cancer diagnosis was an eye-opener for Tovey, “There’s a much higher percentage of divorce in families with cancer,” she said. “The family is supposed to support the person with the cancer, and nobody pays attention to the family. Nobody pays attention to the children or the spouse, and they need it. They need help.” This spurred the conversation about the way forward for Wellness House. Now, the organization runs a robust operation full of informational, counseling, wellness and “blow off steam” types of programs dedicated to both cancer patients and all of those within their circle.
This is something Tovey has championed for a long time, dating back to that chance observation many years ago. What started as a simple conversation turned into a longstanding commitment to getting the word out through her generous donation of advertising in her award-winning publication. It’s
community partners like Veronica Tovey and What’s Up? Media that help keep Wellness House in our community as the only free resource in Anne Arundel County that provides strength and support to the entire family during the cancer journey.