2016 marks the tenth anniversary of our Maggie’s Centre. To celebrate the landmark, the Fife Free Press, and all our newspapers across the Kingdom are running a series of 10 articles looking at the people at the heart of the centre – and the many different ways it offers support to Fifers living with a cancer diagnosis. You can read them all in the Press and also online at www.fifetoday.co.uk – and through our social media pages.
Put a group of women who are undergoing or have undergone an experience of cancer in a room and pretty soon they will know everything there is to know about each other’s symptoms and feelings.
However when there are men and women in the same position, it can often be a bit more tricky to get them to open up and express themselves freely, or else the women will dominate the conversation.
That’s why our Maggie’s Centre in Kirkcaldy started up its Mens’ Group back in February, a group exclusively for men to meet up with others living with cancer or who have recently undergone treatment for cancer of any type.
And although it is not attracting large numbers, it is proving a great success, and its members say it is really helping them.
“This is the first time that there has been a men’s group in the Fife centre.
‘‘It is something completely new here, and it is going very well,” said Iain Wallace, clinical psychologist at the centre.
“We recognised that traditionally we have seen more women than men at the centre here, and we wanted to think of different ways to encourage those men needing support to come through the door. Having a specific men’s group increases the visibility of it.
“We normally get between four and six men along each time which is fine, because if there were too many people then everyone wouldn’t get a chance to join in, or they may feel intimidated.
‘‘This way it gives our men the chance to get to know the others and maybe open up a bit more as they become more familiar with each other.”
John (not his real name), said: “Some of the guys have said that they might feel more comfortable talking about some of the things affecting them with other men.
“That’s one of the main reasons why this works.
‘‘In a mixed group the women would take it over, and men would tend to sit in the background and say very little.
“In this group everyone has a different diagnosis, is at a different stage ‑ some are still having treatment, some have finished their treatment ‑ it is open to anyone and it is open-ended.
‘‘Men can come along for as long as they need to, whether that’s a few weeks or six months, it’s up to them.
“We want to encourage more men to come along and we are all very welcoming.”
Mike (also not his real name) added: “The numbers have to be flexible. One week you may not feel up to coming, particularly if you are undergoing treatment.
“We just discuss whatever we feel like – whatever is on our minds, how we are feeling; how our week has been; any new symptoms.
‘‘It might not always be about cancer – we discuss the football, what we had for tea last night, anything at all.
“It is great to just come along and know you can do that.
‘‘You can talk or not talk and just listen to others, it’s up to you.”
Joe said: “It took me quite a while to actually come to the centre in the first place. I came in to speak to Iain as I had been diagnosed back in 2009 and I am on an ongoing drug treatment.
“I stopped working last year and I was looking for something to fill the gap, because when I stopped working I lost contact with other people, and became quite withdrawn.
“Iain told me about this group and I thought I would give it a go and it has been great for getting me back into human interaction.
‘‘Initially I came to a mixed group before the men’s group started then when this came along, from a person point of view, I found it was better for me that the mixed group.
“It’s just sometimes some of the things we talk about I find easier in a men only environment.”
Pat added: “Everyone in the room can relate to what you are going through or what you have been through and we now all trust one another, so it’s easier to talk about some things.
“Sometimes you don’t want to burden your family with some problem or another, but you know you can come here and speak to people who really understand you.
“I really look forward to coming here on a Friday morning.
‘‘Every time I come into the centre I go away feeling much better than I did when I came here. It really is quite a unique place.”
Iain added: “As a facilitator I find it great that the men in the group really support each other.
“We had new people coming in who were about to start treatment and those who had been through it were able to offer their advice on the best ways to cope and what they could expect.
‘‘That was very reassuring for them.
“I feel there’s a real camaraderie, sort of like the banter they would get at work, if they have had to stop working.”
The next men’s group meeting will take place tomorrow (Friday) from 10.00 to 11.3o a.m.
Maggie’s Centres has launched a new series of podcasts - and, co-incidentally, the latest is about men and cancer.
It features broadcaster Johnnie Walker, and comedian Omid Djalili talking about the issues men face.
They chat for an hour and touch on a wide range of topics - from, how the illness can impact on work, to finances, relationships and sex.
Djalili, whose in-laws hail from Cupar, also speaks about his own mother’scancer diagnosis.
The whole series of podcasts is free to download - you can make a donation - and itoffers a new insight into the work done by Maggie’s, and the people who use the network of centres across the UK.
>> To listen or download the podcasts, please visit https://www.maggiescentres.org/campaigns/podcast/