Peter Allen bravely posted the following on the Facebook LBWC and I asked him if I could copy it here because it struck such a big chord with me.
“Well its taken me nearly three years to acknowledge how much I need some professional support with my emotional wellbeing.
Diagnosed with incurable prostate cancer very nearly three years ago, I’ve continued generally to put on a very brave face to the World. Kept repeating over and over that I was fine both physically and emotionally. Finally, I decided to seek help and I have found a brilliant and caring psychologist who is very skilfully taking me through Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.
After only two sessions I can feel a huge difference in emotional status, she really is helping to change my thought processes. I suppose what I’m trying to say is never be afraid to ask for help, never please do what I did and see it as a weakness. Best wishes and hugs to everyone xxxxxx“
The post particularly attracted my attention because it was posted by a man who waited three years before asking for help and it mirrored my own condition and experience. I noticed that Peter’s post attracted 110 likes, only six of which were by men, and I was one of those.
Personally, I found that the medical people were great at keeping me alive, but not always so hot at discussing the mental and physical side effects that a cancer diagnosis always brings. I was fortunate because my doctor insisted that I contact MacMillan Cancer Support. I did and they provided me with a counsellor and lots of love and understanding and who over a period of time helped me to completely transform my wellbeing. It is interesting to note that MacMillan say that men are less than half as likely to call their support lines as women. I believe that men are programmed from an early age to be strong, to brush off pain and ignore anything that might suggest vulnerability - Big boys don’t cry etc. I once told an acquaintance of mine, a powerful, tough builder that I was receiving treatment for depression. Suddenly, he opened up and told me how he bottled everything up and used alcohol as a coping mechanism. He was relieved to find a man who understood and didn't tell him to “Man Up” He accepted help and now drinks only modestly and we have become great friends. I do hope that we can change the culture of covering up our fears and anxieties and encourage ourselves, our friends and partners, male and female to express their feelings openly and not wait three years before asking for help. I am very open about my own experience of depression and sometimes it encourages other people to confide with me and talk openly about their own issues.
I believe that a cancer diagnosis is not the same as any other type of illness. It is a life altering event. Your body has been beaten up and changed, you have had surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormone treatments etc. and emotional side effects are inevitable for both men and women. We all need a bit of support from time to time. That is why I love this community. It is full of courageous and caring people, new friends who don't mind when you are having a bad day and who celebrate the good ones with you.