Brewskis and bros make for an untraditional environment for a support group, but one organization is hoping to turn it into an effective method to give men with cancer the emotional guidance they may need in their challenging journey.
M Powerment, founded in 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio, is now reaching a national audience with one goal in mind: “Men kicking cancer’s ass.”
“It’s a simple formula,” Dan Dean, founder and 13-year cancer survivor, told CURE in an interview. “You get a bunch of cancer dudes together over beer and then you give them some life-changing tools.”
Dean’s own cancer journey led him to rethinking about how to go about life. Diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 23, he says his battle made him grow up much faster than the average person in their early twenties. What he found through conversations along the way was that men were pushing true feelings aside because they felt conditioned by society to behave a certain way. Research that he conducted on backed his feelings.
“Cancer support organizations were seeing about 25 percent of their attendees being male, but way fewer men than women were taking advantage of support services that were available,” said Dean. “I found that it’s probably a combination of the services that are offered and the tying into something that is not masculine or doesn’t resonate with men – in terms of going to support groups. Men, I think, struggle with vulnerability. So, I needed to find something that really spoke to men.”
Hence the birth of M Powerment. Having kicked off its first workshop September 24-25 in Cleveland, the organization’s next stop is Chicago in November with its eyes set on Los Angeles, Denver and Boston in the spring. Understanding that cancer treatments can put a financial toll on patients and survivors, Dean made sure his organization provides the workshops free of cost.
Over a two-day period, patients and survivors gather together to drink beer and open up with one another to explore whatever it is they need to work on. The workshop consists of four programs that are focused on the idea of narrative medicine.
“Guys are good on the whole in terms of physically recovering, but not so good on the mental, emotional and social adjustment,” Dean said. “So whether it be you now mastering your own narrative about your cancer experience, communicating that narrative to a support person or seeing yourself in the broader context of more like cancer sort of being the climax of your experience and figuring out once you’ve gotten over that – what does that mean going forward?”
Dean explained M Powerment workshops are a safe place and even joked that it has “fight club” rules. Whatever happens there, stays there.
In addition to its workshops, M Powerment’s website offers a variety of resources including the organization’s own list of “little black book” good reads that can be helpful during someone’s cancer journey.
Dean stressed the idea of community and also finding like-minded people who may have gone through the exact same thing.
“I think there’s a norming experience with that – a sense that you’re not going through this all by yourself,” said Dean. “People can feel like they are alone or isolated, but it doesn’t serve your purpose. Men are really good at saying ‘I’m good,’ even when they may be struggling on the inside.”
To sign up for a workshop or find out how you can support M Powerment go to http://www.m-powerment.org/.