"Men do talk about things if they are given the right environment and St Helena provided that environment"
He had been caring for his mum for ten years having moved to Colchester away from his life in London, and was diagnosed with prostate cancer shortly before she died.
Feeling lost, he mentioned his loneliness to the people, predominately women, on the Macmillan Cancer Care HOPE course he was attending, and one of the participants suggested he could benefit from St Helena’s services, as she had. And from then he found positivity from St Helena's men's group, mindfulness sessions and complementary therapies. This is Colin’s story:
I think women are very good about meeting with each other, but men aren’t usually. Women who have breast cancer, they’re wonderful, they form groups, all sorts of things, but men find it hard to do that stuff and just don’t seem to know how to talk to each other about some things.
I told my GP how I was feeling after St Helena was mentioned at the HOPE course. She was very aware that all my life I’ve suffered from serious depression, really debilitating depression. Soon after I heard from Glen [Rehabilitation Assistant at St Helena]. He phoned me up and told me about the men’s group. I went along and Ioved it. I really loved it. I even got transport to get there, which made such a difference. Lovely volunteer drivers. In the car, the first conversation we had was about cars! And we shook hands, I like that, the shaking of the hands.
So I went along and it was just so nice to be amongst blokes. I love being with women but it was so good to be amongst blokes travelling on a similar journey. The session I loved the most was when we talked about our own story; to hear that perspective and what people had been through. The stories were inspirational and I thought, how do people do it?
I feel St Helena gives you a big hug. It does. For the first time since I was diagnosed and even before that I feel that somebody is listening.
The men’s group was absolutely brilliant and such a welcoming environment. It was like knocking down walls, all the hurdles you have to get through, but slowly, by the end, people were very close. That made such a difference for me, because up until then it had just been me trying to process everything. Being able to talk to other men in a sympathetic, safe environment about how I feel, my view of myself as a man, the effects of the treatment on me.
When I was in my late 40s I started caring for mum for 10 years, and from then until she died, there was a gap. Caring for mum was the best thing I have done in my life but the life I lived in those years was very different from the one I imagined I would live. And then I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. There was this gap and I felt I had become an old man before I was ready for it.
Of course the treatment I had for cancer also had a profound effect on me. But perhaps I can begin to dream again.
The men’s group was brilliant and then later on I joined the mindfulness group and started Reiki with St Helena and my energy levels went up!
My history with depression is life-long. I’ve done lots of things; I’m an artist, I’ve had an amazing life. I think you can find happiness inside through meditation. The cancer focuses my mind - don’t worry about the past and you can’t see the future, but this moment you can decide to have complete control on whether you are happy or not. Meditation is a tool for that. I remember sitting on the bus after I had been diagnosed and thinking well, I’m not dead yet. It’s not going to shape how I think about this moment.
At one point I was having tests to see if the cancer had spread and I remember sitting on a bench one day. It was a beautiful Spring day, the daffodils were just coming out, and time just seemed to stop. I had all this potential worry about the cancer and whether it spread, but time stopped in that moment, and it was wonderful, seemingly miraculous.
In the mindfulness course we were talking about the ‘second arrow’ – you have the arrow of the pain and then you have this emotional hit, a second arrow. It’s finding ways of managing these catastrophic events that happen in life. You live your life as fully as you can even if you are unable to get out. It’s clinging on to a reason to be alive today, even if you are not going to be alive tomorrow.
Being asked to join St Helena’s Service User Group is a way that I might be able to contribute something from what I have learnt from my own experience living with cancer and also what I learned caring for my dear old mum for such a long time.
I feel at home at The Hospice, I feel I’m part of the family.
It’s a big hug, and I’ve missed hugs since mum died. As a single bloke you don’t get many of them. Men struggle I think, pretend nothing is happening. But men do talk about things if they are given the right environment. St Helena provided that environment. Healthy in the heart and mind and belly. St Helena gets it; you just know it just understands it.
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