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It’s never easy to talk about cancer, and for men, opening up about cancer and the emotional and physical aspects of treatment and recovery can be even more challenging. Having the opportunity to open up about these things, with other men who have had similar experiences, in a safe and supportive space, can really help to navigate the challenges of life after cancer treatment.

Access to male support groups

Male support groups are becoming more common and campaigning around male mental health and wellbeing has never been greater.


However, it can still be difficult for men to make the first step in seeking support, especially after cancer treatment, where there is still an expectation to ‘get back to normal’ and be ‘strong’ for loved ones.

Support Groups for men diagnosed with cancer

Creating a safe space

The Wellbeing Space at The Christie Private Care, part of HCA Healthcare UK, has established a dedicated Moving On Course for men who have come to the end of their cancer treatment. Richard wasn’t sure about joining the course at first, but found that having the opportunity to get together with other men and share their experiences was an integral part of his recovery:

"I was apprehensive and thought I would try the course for one session. It turned out to be the most informative and so far, the most important part of my recuperation. The openness and honesty of the group was amazing considering men do not usually talk to each other about some of the subjects.

There was so much I didn't know, such as phased return to work, free prescriptions, the services available and many other things, but it was the chance to speak about how I felt and the frustrations I have which was the most important. Very few people know or understand any of this.”

 

While everyone’s experience of cancer is different, forming trusted relationships with other men who have had similar experiences creates a safe space to open up about some of the most challenging and personal aspects of cancer treatment. Surinder felt this was one of the most valuable aspects of the course:

"I was able to discuss my radiotherapy related side effects with the group. In fact, the group members developed comradeship. We shared each other’s concerns and anxieties and this helped me to relax and feel validated.

Getting together was reassuring…I looked forward to attending every session and each one gave me a wealth of new knowledge, which despite being a GP I did not know.

Experts share their knowledge

As well as the emotional support, practical guidance on how to manage life after treatment is an integral part of the course. At each session, an expert speaker is invited to share their advice, which helped David feel more positive about regaining his passion for cycling;

I found the exercise session particularly motivating and as a cyclist it gave me lots of encouragement to see the light at the end of the tunnel. He spoke with lots of conviction and positivity that I found helpful.

The session on mindfulness I guess I got the most out of, I have never really engaged in this before. This linked well with the following session with stress and coping strategies…to help patients like myself deal with the anxieties of prognosis and treatments.”

Practical advice on navigating everyday life

For many people, getting to the end of cancer treatment is the focal point. However, once you reach that milestone, adapting to the ‘normality’ of everyday life in absence of hospital appointments, tests and treatment sessions isn’t always as easy as expected, or as simple as it may seem to others. These groups have been established to provide the support, space and safety to explore these thoughts and feelings and give practical advice on navigating everyday life. Martin found this helped him feel less alone:

One of the main things that I felt worked was the way that at each session you were involved and could input to the group your own mental and physical feelings. 

Being part of a group and hearing from other people in similar situations, helped dispel a lot of my insular feelings.

Whether it’s through a support group, one-to-one support from a healthcare professional or talking to your medical team, you are not alone. There’s no right or wrong way to feel after your cancer treatment, it’s just about finding the support that’s right for you.
 
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