We’ve recently welcomed a few new support groups to our Tackle sphere. Sutton Coldfield, The Green Prostate Support Group (Bradford) and the Huddersfield Prostate Cancer Support Group, are the latest additions to our fold and we couldn’t be more pleased.
We spoke with Chris, who co-runs the Huddersfield group about his prostate cancer experience, how the group became established and how they are finding things so far. Here’s what he had to say:
Hi Chris, thanks for taking the time to talk to us and sharing yours and the group’s story. So, firstly…
What’s your connection with prostate cancer?
Well – I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in October 2021 and had a prostatectomy in early November. Coincidentally, one of my closest friends was also diagnosed with prostate cancer a month before me, who also went through a prostatectomy. Needless to say, it was very strange but also helpful for both of us to have someone so close experiencing the same issue at practically the same time.
How did the Huddersfield group start?
I felt I was fortunate that I had a considerable level of support following my diagnosis. In addition to the Urology staff at my local hospital, I was able to talk to a Urology consultant (via a friend of my wife), compare research with my (recently-diagnosed) friend and talk to my daughter and her husband – both of whom are nurses. I was also at that time doing some therapeutic work with an excellent local Mental Health charity in Huddersfield called Platform 1 – who offered me support as well.
It struck me that there were probably a considerable number of men diagnosed with prostate cancer who did not have access to the kind of support I had experienced. Clinical advice is available via Urology Nurses or PCUK’s very helpful website, but there were few opportunities to talk about the experience of being diagnosed and the process of making choices about treatment with other men. So I guess that’s what encouraged me to start the Huddersfield support group. I also have experience as a counsellor.
How long have you been running for and what do the group sessions involve?
We began in March 2022, so have only been running for a year. We meet twice a month. At the moment we have 26 members, but we are now regularly getting men signposted to us by our local Urology specialist nurses, who have been very supportive. We also run a Partners’ group as a separate meeting every month.
We have a WhatsApp group which is really important as it allows people to stay connected between meetings, particularly if they need to talk about their treatment or anything else that’s going on for them. Individual members of the group respond with their own experiences and emotional support.
At our meetings, we obviously talk about the serious aspects of being diagnosed with cancer and the emotional impact on individuals and families. But it’s also important to balance it out with the strength that comes from the camaraderie of the group and sometimes having a laugh about it all, as men do! The group has bonded well and it’s good to see the way people pick up on who is most in need of emotional support.
Sometimes it’s just finding out that other people have been through what you are going through. A lot of men come through the door to one of our meetings having experienced ‘the blur’ following their diagnosis. They often talk about everything ‘going over my head’ after they hear the word ‘cancer’. They all say they feel relieved after their first meeting, once the group has helped them unpack all of the information they have been given at the clinic.
Most men aren’t very good at what I like to call ‘todger talk’. Euphemisms abound! It can be a struggle to identify, let alone talk about, your emotions as you explore the effects of treatment and the possible changes to your life. It’s reassuring to know that you may feel different things at different points of the ‘journey’ and everyone’s emotional response is different, but possibly similar to others in the group. I feel this is where support groups truly shine and show their worth, as others’ lived experience goes a long way when trying to support others.
So you seem to have a lot of interest, what’s next for the group?
We’re at a crucial point with the group now. Platform 1 has been a generous host, and we will continue to work in association with them, but with (sadly) increasing numbers we need to move to a larger and more flexible venue. However we are determined not to lose the intimacy of the way we run our meetings – we sit in a circle and everyone is able to have their say – as much or as little as they wish. And as I have already said, the WhatsApp group is vitally important in keeping the group connected.
We have just launched our website and are creating the infrastructure to enable the group to continue to develop, whilst keeping the main focus of the group on information and emotional support. Sarah Gray at Tackle has been really helpful in her advice about which structure we could take going forward to ensure the group is sustainable for years to come.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to those who are living / affected by prostate cancer?
The one piece of advice I’d give to people who are struggling is to talk. You are not alone. Ask your specialist, friends or colleagues if they know of any support groups or anyone who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, because I have no doubt that they will know of someone. You just don’t know where the conversation might lead.
If you’re in the Huddersfield or Halifax area and think that this prostate cancer support group could help you or someone you know, do get in touch. Find their information here.
The group meets every two weeks on the 1st & 3rd Monday of each month in a Meeting Room at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield, HD1 2SP from 6.15-7.45.