By Roberta Binder
What are the options and how do you find them?
One answer is the support group Man to Man located here in Asheville, which is a chapter of a national organization. Contact information is available through the American Cancer Society, but let’s explore firsthand with the local chapter founders how the program functions and serves the community.
Eric: “Man to Man is a misnomer. The foundational idea of the group is to provide an educational resource and support forum. It is run by lay people, not medical professionals, to help those who are involved with prostrate related issues.”
When Eric began his research he couldn’t find a group in Asheville, so he worked with Man to Man in Haywood County. “I found it an extraordinary resource to sit down in a room; my wife was there, we heard similar situations, similar stories and it really helped settle me down, it made me a little more receptive and less panicked.” And most importantly, he learned options.
Along the way, Eric and Kent met each other and felt the time was ripe to begin a chapter in Asheville. Kent at that time was a six year veteran of a prostacotomy, the main type or radical surgery for prostate cancer. Together, they decided to begin a local chapter. That was a year ago, and it is now a growing, thriving community, open to all who have been touched by prostate cancer, including wives, children, or partners. It is through support that understanding comes.
Each person’s experience is different, but within the current membership of 45, there is generally a match for what a newcomer is experiencing.
Kent notes, “We try to match a resource person with each new person. So when somebody comes to the meeting and they are newly diagnosed and thinking about having part-time therapy or radiation therapy, we try to match that individual with someone who has gong through that program themselves, so you build a relationship there.
“Once the person hears the diagnosis, they don’t hear anything else. The doctor has five minutes with you. Then you go out to the lobby and you are in shock. You have had a positive biopsy or high Gleason score and now you have to go home and tell [loved ones] ‘I’ve got cancer.’ It’s a scary thing for any individual. There are thousands of questions that are generated once you get the diagnosis of prostate cancer.
“And then some men, because of where it is, the part of the human anatomy, they don’t want to discuss those things. They are uncomfortable and I respect that. But when you get into discussions about incontinence, lack of erections, it gets to be kind of an eggshell conversation, but I don’t find that in our meetings. People are pretty trusting, people share… when they share it makes all the difference in the world.”
Interviewer: Is the information about Asheville Man to Man available in your doctor’s office?
Eric: “Well, we are trying. To date we have flyers in one urology office in Asheville. We recently made a contact through the Baptist quarterly newsletter and they are planning to include a brief article. We also just made contact with the Veteran’s Administration hospital. American Cancer Society provides a Nurse Navigator in our hospital. They have an excellent booklet: Nutrition, Exercise and Prostate which you don’t usually come in contact with till you are leaving the hospital, but if you call the hospital, you can get one easily from the Navigator. The booklet is also available online through ACS at Cancer.org. Another book, just released, is A World without Cancer by Margaret I. Como, MD.
“We do not give medical advice. There are professionals for that. The only thing that we do is provide partnering with someone who has been through a similar circumstance, and open discussion about what they have been through; and they might be able to offer some ideas that will help you. We also have website suggestions for you to do your own additional research.”
Kent: “Knowing that you are not alone is important. When people come to the meetings, we see the new folks with the expressions on their face, ‘Gee, these folks have gone through what I’m about to go through.’ We are there to do our part in education.
“Our meetings are in two sections. The first half we have a speaker. We have physicians, all kinds of people in alternative medicine and when you have an urologist who says, ‘I’m here, ask any question you want… I have no agenda.’ And you see people’s faces, ‘Oh, gosh, I get to ask these questions that I’ve been wondering about.’ That opportunity is powerful. We have had a radiology oncologist come and do the same thing and one guest was an Oncology Nutritionist, his focus was on cancer and diet. He had some powerful things to say to the group – including that his
whole study area is nutrition in cancer.”
The second half of the meeting is open dialogue: How are you doing? What’s going on in your life? How can we support you in your life? It’s a fun experience and it is totally peer support. The room frequently rings with laughter, and occasionally tears – and it all flows and it is all perfect.
Eric: Having the support of the spouse or family member is important because there is sharing and understanding.
Interviewer: Edrinanna, what brings you to the group?
Edrianna: “When I found out about Man to Man the information said it was open to family members and supporters, so I decided to go check it out… it has been a passion of mine to be an energy healer for men who are dealing with prostate issues—the full scope of issues—because, as Eric said, typically they don’t want to come to reach out to a community of supporters, they want to tackle the issue themselves and fix it—handle it themselves. So it is a complicated issue with everything that has to do with energy. When I went to the group and met Eric and Kent, I found that the environment there is so welcoming and gentle, it’s not what I typically think of as a support group… rather, I thought, this is an amazing resource for men.
“My stepfather has prostate issues that he has been dealing with for a long time. Even though he is not in this town… I go to the meetings to collect information and then call him and share the information. I suggest he attend a meeting in Florida, but he is not open to that.” Edrianna’s hope is that possibly through the amazing women who read this article and share this information with a loved one who is in need men will be more willing to connect with other men. Great Valentine gift!
Prostate cancer is a very complicated medical issue because there are so many ways to interpret things and there are so many options out there—it is almost overwhelming. 25,000 men die each year from prostate cancer. Man to Man is one option to arm individuals with education and support. Pass it on….
Man to Man meetings are held the first Tuesday of every month at 7:00 PM at the American Cancer Society, 120 Executive Park, Asheville, off College and Town Mountain Road. For further information call (828) 254- 6931 or 1-800-227-2345. You can also find a plethora of information at Cancer.org.
Roberta Binder, Facilitating Clarity through Mindful Editing at RobertaEdits.com. She is also a writer and photo-journalist who enjoys all of her writing adventures with WNC Woman – Women Nurturing Change.