Cancer Support Groups Give Hope
For prostate cancer patient, support before, during and after treatment was valuable David Braiterman of Concord was diagnosed with prostate cancer in June of 2015. A month later, Dr. Robert Mitchell of Concord Hospital Center for Urologic Care removed David’s prostate gland. Then, David received two months of radiation treatment at Payson Center for Cancer Care. But his care at Concord Hospital Center for Urologic Care’s Prostate and Urologic Cancer Program didn’t end there.
David and his partner, Mary Bergeron, began attending monthly Man 2 Man prostate cancer support group sessions as soon as he was diagnosed. They also attended a cancer support group for couples and David has been helped greatly through physical therapy.
David was frightened and uncertain when he attended his first Man 2 Man meeting. However, he quickly came to value being able to share his experiences — helping others cope with their own uncertainty, and helping himself recognize how far he has progressed.
“There is the listening part of the support group, there is the talking part of the support group and there is the knowledge and the consciousness that ‘Oh my gosh! There are a whole bunch of other people out there who are going through exactly what I am going through. I am not alone,’” David said.
The group includes newly diagnosed patients, those undergoing treatment and some who have had prostate treatment years ago.
“The experienced people give perspective, they give hope, they have ideas about what kinds of questions and issues other patients are going to be facing and they share that insight,” David said. “For newcomers, it’s enormously helpful to have that kind of experience in the room.”
Experienced patients also benefit themselves.
“It continues to be helpful psychologically to see that I was that new patient once upon a time and I have moved ahead from that,” he said. “To realize it was a trauma, it was an ordeal, but I’m doing well now.”
Some of the experiences shared at the sessions are difficult and unpleasant, he said and will be lifelong issues, but being able to share and learn from others is reassuring. Learning from the monthly educational presentations on topics such as nutrition, managing stress, erectile dysfunction, and medication also is valuable.
“Knowledge is power and knowledge is control,” David said. “Understanding what’s going on with your body and what your options are is helpful and gives you some ideas you can work with.”
The Man 2 Man group also is a support group for patients’ partners, who take an active role. All cancers affect those close to the patient, but prostate cancer very much affects a couple’s relationship because sexual function may not be the same after treatment.
In addition, Payson Center for Cancer Care offers “I Got You Babe”, a support group for couples dealing with cancer. David and Mary found it helpful to participate in the four-week session, where they learned about communicating about cancer issues and how to live with the effects of cancer and its treatment.
Dr. Mitchell removed David’s prostate at Concord Hospital with computer-aided laparoscopic surgery. And David’s radiation treatments were at Payson Center, all within a mile or so of David’s home and office.
“We are talking 21st century technology,” he said. “It’s not like we are in the backwoods with someone who’s never done this before. How lucky is that?”
After treatment, the Center for Urologic Care referred David to Concord Hospital Rehabilitation Services for physical therapy, an important component of his recovery.
“Physical therapist Sheryl Cheney taught me to regulate urine without a prostate gland,” he said. “I had to learn to control my lower abdominal muscles to regain control over urinary function. Physical therapy gave me the information and physical skill and exercises to regain my health.”
The expert treatment, compassionate support, and valuable physical therapy all contributed to David’s comprehensive care, something he knew he could expect — especially after a comment at his first Man 2 Man meeting, shortly after being diagnosed. A group member shared that after he was diagnosed, he sought a second opinion at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, a premiere prostate cancer research and treatment center.
As recounted by the patient, when he told the Hopkins doctor he was being treated at Concord Hospital Center for Urologic Care, the doctor said: “So what are you doing here? You are in good hands.”