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Manning Up

RobertARobertA Posts: 1,042 ✭✭✭✭✭
edited September 2019 in Living Better With Cancer

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.

Rob x

Comments

  • SunshinedaffSunshinedaff Posts: 1,186 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @RobertA

    Hi Rob,

    This is a brilliant message!

    I also saw Peter's post on the fb page, how great it is he is willing to share how he struggled with things, in order to encourage others to speak up, seek help and not remain silent.

    You are right the stereotypical 'responses' we are conditioned by society to adopt can be so very unhelpful.

    I think when you share your own experiences, it shines a light into the dark places of cancer, hopefully helping others to see a way through.

    Thank you so much for your honesty and openness, I am sure it impacts both men and women.

    It is good to see we are not alone or unique in having these struggles and good to know there is help available.

    Hope you have a good day,

    Chat soon

    Lou xx

  • RobertARobertA Posts: 1,042 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited September 2019

    @Sunshinedaff

    Hi Lou

    Thanks for your kind comments.

    I had been thinking about my own relationship with my father in the 50s and 60s. He was a marine engineer by trade. He was a brilliant Dad and I know he loved me very much as I loved him. For all that, we never hugged each other or showed outward signs of affection and I do not think that was unusual in those days.

    Hopefully, young people today are less inhibited and more open to reaching out when they are ill or depressed.

    It is also good that we have this community platform to express ourselves and support one another.

    Rob xx

  • Dear RobertA,

    Like you I have never had trouble with expressing how I feel, I tell people how I feel, not ordinary people in the streets or else I would probably be locked up or punched by a jealous man, but to people that matter.

    I have seen and done things that others would send the over the edge with PTSD but all the awfulness in my life, the awful things I've seen I just brush off and never bother with them but we are all different.

    However with cancer and feelings I speak out, there is no point hiding from what hurts you or makes you scared and I have to admit having a lovely wife who is not just the love of your life but your best friend that is it for me, we know exactly what the other is thinking and if we need to talk about difficult things we just speak out.

    I had a mate who was in the SAS and was as hard as any man I knew, he would think nothing of ending a terrorists life with a simple trigger pull but talk to him about his child and he would be in bits and when he was dying of cancer he resuded to even talk about it yet at night I heard him cry in pain of his cancer. I spoke to him and the nurses and later that day he was free of his awful pain as he thought morphine was only for gunshot or shell wounds. He died some months later but not in any pain at all.

    Please blokes, speak out, speak loudly about your fears, tell your family how you feel, what worries you, what scares you as people, especially your most lived ones cannot mind read and they just want to help no matter what. Its not being a wuss, a baby or a cry baby to speak of your fears. Please do speak out as it can help everyone near and dear to you cope better. Tell them the truth and don't leave them guessing how you feel or what you want. They love you, that is why they fuss and bother.

    All going through this awful illness, all relatives who are going through it with loved ones, as well all friends who feel for you, I wish you peaceful days and nights with much laughter, brightness and fun in the coming days.


    Regards to all..... with lots of love from a stranger named Moor.

  • RobertARobertA Posts: 1,042 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited October 2019

    @MoorandHill_man

    Hi Moor

    Many thanks for your comments. I like to believe that our willingness to talk to other men about our feelings and experiences encourages them to speak out too. A friend recently admitted that there was blood in his urine and that he was scared and embarrassed about going to the doctor. I told him that being scared was OK, but it is better to know what you are facing than to google your symptoms, imagine the worst scenario and do nothing. As for embarrassment, after all the prodding and poking I’ve had in my nether regions, that is the last thing I worry about.

    Thanks again for your message. I like that you point out that being honest and open about your fears helps your family and friends too. I was actually quite shocked when I realised how much my illness had affected my wife and that I hadn't even noticed. Now I tell her everything and we both benefit from that. Ah well, we never stop learning and I have learned a lot about courage and kindness from the lovely people in this Community.

    Cheers

    Rob

  • RobertARobertA Posts: 1,042 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Sunshinedaff @MoorandHill_man

    On Thursday evening, I watched a programme called 'Staying Alive' about Bill Turner and his battle with advanced and incurable prostate cancer. It was a poignant, courageous and emotional programme in which Mr Turnbull shared his journey through cancer with the viewers. He was even prepared to allow us to see his tears which we all shed from time to time on the cancer journey.

    I think that it was fantastic to see such a highly respected journalist sharing his cancer story and along with Carol Kirkwood who talked about her breast cancer with him, I imagine that his story has inspired others to have routine medical checks on a regular basis.

    Rob

  • ShandsShands Posts: 19 ✭✭

    I think all the above messages are so true.I used to be a nurse and it was so true then that men did not want to show their feelings. They were always ‘fine’ when asked and only occasionally showed how much things were really affecting them. If I had time to talk to them they would gradually open up and you could almost see the weight lifting, though they still didn’t want family or friends to know they were struggling emotionally. It’s so good to see that, gradually, things are changing and forums like this help people speak out. Please, wether male or female, speak out - it’s not a weakness. It’s a strength to admit how we all feel at a very difficult time in our lives. Programmes like ‘Staying Alive’ are hard to watch but so powerful in getting feelings out into the open. Thinking of everyone on this journey whatever stage you are at.

    Sue

  • RobertARobertA Posts: 1,042 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited October 2019

    @Shands @Sunshinedaff

    Hi Sue

    Lovely to hear from you and as you say, it is good to know that things are changing and I agree with you that it is a strength to speak out.

    I am attending a ‘Hope’ course at MacMillan. It consists of six two hour sessions and the first one was last Thursday. There are eight of us on the course and I found it really great to be amongst people who have the same fears and hopes. It helps me to understand that I am not alone or unusual in the way I think. I will write about the experience after the course has ended as I think it would be something a lot of people would benefit from.

    I have read the post which you put on your wall. I remembered that your second chemo is due on Thursday and that your first was very difficult to cope with. Your Mum’s reaction to your wig and that of one of your friends must have been very disappointing. Don’t forget though, that your son and your other friends were complimentary and that everyone looks different when they change their hairstyle. A diagnosis of cancer is really tough and friends and family who have not been there simply don't 'get it' and tend to utter inappropriate, albeit well-meaning, comments. It must be really difficult to cope with your disability and the chemo all at once and please do not apologise for moaning. This community is full of caring people like your self - new friends who don’t mind when you are having a bad day and who celebrate the good ones with you.

    Good luck for Thursday and do let us know you get on.

    Rob x

  • ShandsShands Posts: 19 ✭✭

    Thank you Rob. It certainly does help to be in touch with others who truly understand. The course you are on with Macmillan sounds amazing and I look forward to hearing about it as, like you say, many of us would certainly benefit from it I’m sure.

    Thank you for your reply

    Best wishes

    Sue xx

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