What do I have in common with Ben Stiller, Sam Newman and Wayne Swan? We have all had prostate cancer.
I wonder whether Ben, Sam and Wayne knew about Prostate Cancer Support Groups.
For around ten years, I have been the Convenor for the Bayside-Kingston Prostate Cancer Support Group. So, you could say that I know a little bit about the pros and cons of support groups.
Who attends Support Groups and why do they come along?
In my experience, men come to Prostate Cancer Support Groups (PCSGs) for a variety of reasons – seeking information, support and education about their condition.
Not all men who attend PCSGs have prostate cancer. Blokes come along with prostate-related issues like enlarged prostates, prostatitis, Peyronies disease, etc. Sometimes men come to the group after they’ve had a “re-bore”, or if they are undertaking Active Surveillance. They want to hear how others have dealt with these problems.
Some groups have partners attend, as they are also affected by the diagnosis, and can feel left out of the treatment decision-making process. Partners often find relief in speaking with others as well.
A diagnosis of prostate cancer impacts not just the man with the condition, but his relationships, his emotions, his physical and mental state.
Prostate Cancer Support Groups also invite guest speakers and presenters to attend the meetings. These guest presenters talk about the work they do, or bring the group up-to-date with relevant information about current treatments. This keeps the men in the loop about what is happening in the research world, and how it might impact on some of them who may face a recurrence of their cancer.
At our group, we have had men come along who are on their own or looking after elderly parents, so they don’t have the backup and support they need. The group can provide that emotional support, which is so vital after a prostate cancer diagnosis. Research shows that some men who are on their own can face an increased risk of suicide after diagnosis.
Some men who want to know how a support group functions will ring the local group convenor and talk about their diagnosis. Often, I have found that men want to meet up, face to face, and talk about what’s going on for them. Sometimes these men bring their partner along as well, as both of them have so many concerns and questions to ask.
Most men are fixers, so they attend a group to hear how other men have dealt with their problems. They ask questions, have an opportunity to talk to others and then they move on. For some blokes, groups are not their thing, which is fine.
For other men, a group provides a sense of belonging, reducing their feelings of loneliness and isolation. Within these groups, men receive and give support and encouragement. They also get to hear about tips from others who are facing similar issues.
The following quotes are from some of the men who attend my local PCSG.
The monthly meetings are an opportunity to help others overcome stressful events.
Friendship, support and assistance with navigating the sea of information out there.
A friendly ear in a time of need.
There is a sense of shared experiences and everyone is equal.
To be able to speak freely about your concerns. No matter how you think you’re going, there is always someone who’s doing it tougher – like a member who’s in palliative care and facing the end of his life!
The gallows humour helps lighten things up without taking away from the serious side of meetings. And the meeting brings men together for a common cause.
How can I find a Prostate Cancer Support Group near me?
Men are not always told about support groups, for whatever reason. In my opinion, it is vital that men are informed about PCSGs – it’s then up to them whether or not they want to contact their local group.
For some men who are still working, the fact that many groups meet during the day might be a barrier to attending. Fortunately, there are some groups that do meet in the evening.
The best way to find your nearest Prostate Cancer Support Group is to check the Prostate Cancer Foundation Australia (PCFA) website. You just click on the map of Australia and then on the state you live in. A list of all the PCSGs in that state will show up and you can then locate a group nearby. It’s also helpful to check out the information on the PCFA site about prostate cancer.
Within our group, there are men who have been involved since its creation more than ten years ago. They find the support and friendship is really important to their health and wellbeing. They also feel that they are contributing to the group’s success, which gives them a sense of purpose in their lives, no matter where they are in their cancer journey.
September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month
It’s a great time to spread the word about getting checked. If you know any men who’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer, let them know there are others out there who are also dealing it. Tell them that there’s a support group out there which can help them deal with their diagnosis and treatment process.