Men Against Breast Cancer: Why We Are Here
My mom, breast cancer survivor Gloria Heyison, and me
The five most horrifying words I have ever heard were, "Your mom has breast cancer." It was March of 1992, and I was 29 years old. The fear and hopelessness I felt were summed up in the overwhelming question: Was Mom going to die?
Throughout her treatment, which included a mastectomy and countless doctor's appointments, Mom's courage kept our family together. Watching her beat breast cancer down inspired me to help women facing cancer and their loved ones navigate through the destructive storm that is breast cancer.
In honor of my mother, Gloria Heyison, I co-founded Men Against Breast Cancer in 1999, the nation's first nonprofit aimed at educating and empowering men to be effective caregivers when breast cancer strikes a female loved one. Today, I am blessed and privileged to do what I do in honor of my mom and not in her memory.
When I accompanied my mom to her frequent treatments and doctor's appointments, I was amazed to find that some women were alone in the waiting room. My parents had taught me that being there, being physically present to support my loved ones, was the norm. In those waiting rooms, half empty in my eyes, was where Men Against Breast Cancer was born.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "Everyone can be great because everyone can serve. It only takes a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love." This thought motivated me during my mom's cancer treatment and in forming Men Against Breast Cancer. When I was organizing last summer's first-ever Men Against Breast Cancer National Male Caregiver's Conference, people told me that we would not be able to do this, that men would not come.
They were wrong. Men came from 21 states and Canada, and we had a waiting list to participate in the conference. The Men Against Breast Cancer National Male Caregiver's Conference focused on teaching men about problem solving in breast cancer crisis situations and building a support network of male breast cancer caregivers, with the overarching goal of improving the quality of survivorship for the breast cancer patients, the women we love.
To that end, we created Partners in Survival, an educational workshop developed in conjunction with physicians, social workers who focus on breast cancer education, and other health care professionals, as well as breast cancer patients and family members. Its objective is to provide breast cancer information and education in a way that is easily applied to real life situations by breast cancer patients and their loved ones.
Short of my marriage, and the birth of my daughter, the Men Against Breast Cancer National Male Caregiver's Conference was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Seeing these men, who came as strangers but left as a band of brothers, has left a permanent mark on my heart and soul.
Our second National Male Caregivers Conference is coming up in late August 2007, from the 24th to the 26th in Baltimore. Online registration is available on the Men Against Breast Cancer home page. Over the next few weeks, in my SharePosts, I will discuss what I have learned over the years as a breast cancer advocate and share inspiring stories about men supporting the women they love through cancer and beyond.
I welcome your questions and comments and hope that you will invite the men in your lives to join the MyBreastCancerNetwork.com community, read my SharePosts and, perhaps, consider attending the conference later this summer.
The most important thing that a man must accept in his breast cancer journey with the woman he loves is that he cannot fix everything, but he must be there to listen, help, encourage and just be there for her-in other words love her even more.