In December 2001, four men and an oncology nurse met to discuss forming a men’s caregiver support group. The discussion revolved around men whose loved one had been diagnosed with breast cancer. It was obvious that women had many support resources available to them. But it was equally obvious that men caregivers had nowhere to turn. Anyone, male or female who has been a caregiver can attest that it is physically and emotionally draining. This is one time when a man is providing care, which is totally outside his territory and unfortunately there is no training manual. Each situation is as unique, as is the cancer itself. Some men need to discuss things one-on-one, others prefer anonymity (e-mail or telephone) and a few feel very comfortable discussing thoughts and feelings in a group setting. Sadly, there are some men who do not seek support and try to do it all themselves. This can sometimes take a toll on the relationship.
As men, we all recognized our own insecurities and had to ask ourselves, why would other men seek support? First, we had to answer the question, why did we feel that a men’s caregiver support group was important and how could it help us as well as other men? This was the beginning of Together For Breast Cancer Survival, “A Men’s Caregiver Support Group.” After our analyses, we recognized that there was no support network that could truly relate to our situation. People would say, “I understand what you’re going through,” but if they had never been a caregiver they really don’t understand. Most people don’t know what to say especially to men in this situation. In some situations, men are completely ignored simply because friends and family don’t know how to approach a man or know what to say to him. It is our mission to share what we have learned ourselves, from the group and professionals in the oncology area. Also, to listen to concerns, thoughts and provide support to other men who are caring for their loved one. We provide educational tools that help a man cope and provide our honest feelings on a variety of topics. Basically, our comments allow men to see that they are not alone in this process.
We are a non-profit 501 (c) 3 organization. The Board of Directors is solely voluntary and consists of former male caregivers from various walks of life.
The Board also has a psychologist who specializes in counseling cancer patients and their families.