Peter Read joined our Waterside Support Centre’s men’s group after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Sceptical at first, he soon realised he’d found a safe space which enabled him to share his thoughts freely with others who understood.

Peter’s story

I come from a family of six and my Mum was the only one who wasn’t diagnosed with cancer. For a while, I thought it had missed me, too, but in 2021 I was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer. I have a big family myself; five children and ten grandchildren and some live abroad. Every year we all meet up at a beach hut and on this particular occasion I had to tell them I’d been diagnosed with cancer. They were great and didn’t treat me any differently, but there were others around me who thought I’d changed, and I grew increasingly frustrated with those who kept telling me how awful it was. I started to feel that I could use some support outside of my circle of friends and family to help me manage my emotions and deal with the side-effects of my treatment.

Cynical at first

I learnt about Wessex Cancer Support’s men’s group but was cynical at first. I’ve been a youth worker and have chaired committees in the past and I know how groups work. I’ve never particularly liked all-men company and thought it would be an immediate barrier. I know a lot of men who feel the same. For some reason, we often feel like we have to be brave and keep a stiff upper lip, and find meeting new people hard.

I soon found the group to be a lifeline.

Helping me to manage my emotions

For starters, the facilitator is great. He keeps things quite low key and manages the process well. I soon found I could ask a lot of practical questions and share things with the group that I couldn’t discuss with others. I think the main thing I’m getting out of it is that it’s helping me to manage my emotions around others who are being negative about my diagnosis and expecting me to hide away indoors. I feel less stressed and anxious. You have to find a way to live with cancer and keep active, otherwise it can define you. Also, everyone’s experiences are different, so the group gives you the opportunity to talk freely about how you’re feeling to the level you want to, and you’re not under any pressure to please everyone else.

Overall, the group has made me less likely to bother my GP for practical and emotional support. I knew I needed something where I could ask questions and be with like-minded people and the group has given me the tools to get on with my life. I was cynical at first and I know how hard it can be. But I’d encourage more men to keep an open mind and at least find out more. It could be your lifeline, too.

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