One man recited a poem for his wife with Stage Four cancer, another haltingly read his story with his remaining cancer-free eye, and a graying gentleman described himself as a youngster only because his cancer diagnosis was made just last year.
While Barbadian men are said to be generally reluctant to discuss problems of ill-health, these men came together last night to do the exact opposite, which is to talk openly about their health challenges.
Members of the group had at least one thing in common – they are all waging a battle of form or the other with cancer, either as a result a medical diagnosis of themselves, or a close relation.
Under the label Conquering Men they came together to promote self-expression on the challenges of ‘journeying’ with this dreaded illness.
One of the coordinators, Antoine Brudda Daddy Williams explained during last night’s event at the Accra Beach Resort that the group was recently formed under the umbrella of the Cancer Support Society, which already has a female cluster known as Victorious Women.
Williams, a popular entertainer, whose recent diagnosis with colon cancer and subsequent surgical procedure were highly publicized, described the launch, at which the men gave testimony to their issues, as “the benchmark and the start for an interesting journey for all.
“This group is not only for men journeying with cancer, but also for those men who are willing to take part and lend their support when needed.”
Williams also explained that the main goal was to have men speak, not only on matters to deal with cancer, but their health in general.
“In all of our lives we have varying cancers, not necessarily health-related, maybe mental, emotional, spiritual. We the Conquering Men want to speak about the other cancers in our lives.
“I don’t only want to talk about colon cancer,” stressed Brudda Daddy, who went on to speak about his own recent diagnosis.
“I am one of those men who became like a little child despite having nuff mouth in public,” he said.
“With this particular illness, or challenge, I have strongly relied on the women in my life
. . . mother, sisters, wife, in-laws. [And] by doing that I find some comfort because they all bring their own strengths . . . and I find that to be comforting,” he added.
Williams’ perspective was consistent with what the Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s Chief Executive Officer Dr Dexter James said happens when men get into their comfort zones.
“A focus group of this kind has a tremendous opportunity for assembling men who have various challenges so that men could sit and discuss men’s business in a forum that is non-threatening,” the hospital CEO said.
“If we were to launch at the hospital today a free PSA [prostate cancer] testing for men it’s likely we wouldn’t get the numbers we see coming to Cancer Support Services facilities,” he said, while emphasizing that men prefer ‘non-threatening’ environments like Conquering Men, where they could speak about common issues affecting them.
James also said he was pleased that the group was not restricted to discussing cancer and related issues, because “there are other issues affecting men that men don’t like to talk about.
“Men don’t like to talk about their own sexuality, impotence, particular addictions that they have, and through this forum you could widen the scope of discussions to include a
number of men’s issues that ordinarily you would find it difficult to talk to our men folk about.”
Henderson Griffith of the Barbados Association of Tampa Bay, a support organization that frequently donates to the QEH and partners with CSS, said “men don’t like to go and get anybody mess with them. They feel as though you are violating their sexuality.
“Men do not like to talk about their own business.”
However, he said: “My experiences have taught me that men need to talk more.
“I’ve lost a number of friends to cancer. It wasn’t that they didn’t know, [but] they were too proud to go and see the doctor.”
He expressed the hope that “this group will be an inspiration to other men to come forward and openly discuss the issue in particular if it relates to cancer or any other type of disease that they need support.
“The difference is life and death. Following the traditional treatment, the opportunity is there to survive.” (GA)