Editor's note: During the month of May, the Tribune Chronicle will look at some of the American Cancer Society programs funded by local Relay For Life efforts.
Prostate cancer may be silent, but the men who have it don't have to be.
Man to Man offers men diagnosed with prostate cancer an opportunity to learn more about the disease and to gain support from others who have been there.
A group meets locally on the first Wednesday of every odd month. It is facilitated by oncology nurse Jack Norton, who works at Trumbull Memorial Hospital in Warren.
"They do most of the talking," Norton said of the men in the group. "I try to answer questions as much as possible."
They may discuss what they didn't understand at a doctor's appointment. They may hear a special presentation from an oncologist or a nutritionist. Or they might just learn from each other.
WHAT: Man to Man
WHO: Men diagnosed with prostate cancer
WHEN: First Wednesday of every odd month
WHERE: Radiaton Oncology Center at Trumbull Memorial Hospital, 1353 E.
Market St., Warren (across from TMH, parking in the rear off Laird Avenue)
MORE INFO: American Cancer Society, 800-227-2345, cancer.org
Upcoming Relay For Life events
Cortland, June 1-2, Lakeview High School
Austintown, June 1-2, Austintown Fitch High School
Lordstown / Newton Falls, June 8-9, Newton Falls School
Norton said attending Man to Man is especially helpful for the newer guys, who are able to see what their options are and make a decision about what treatment is best for them.
Norton, who worked in oncology and urology, used to lead a group that met at Kent State University at Trumbull in Champion. That one disbanded when he was too busy with his young family. About two and a half years ago, the American Cancer Society approached him again.
Since then, he said four or five men have been attending regularly, while five or six come whenever they can.
"I think the guys that have been coming for a while, it's the camaraderie and knowing that you're not alone," he said.
One of those men is Bob, a Trumbull County resident who got involved back in 2005 with a group that met in Canfield and says the new location is more convenient for him.
"It's a very good group. It's a tremendous support group for people like myself for the simple reason my family was not 'a cancer family,'" he said.
What he means is that growing up, he just wasn't exposed to cancer. But then his wife "had every kind of cancer you could think of ." He took her to the Cleveland Clinic every day for nearly a year.
"I was familiar with it, and I thought I knew everything about it," he said. "But when it happened to me, I didn't know anything about it.
"For one thing," he added, "it is you."
Although Bob says he has no effects from the cancer now, aside from getting tired now and then, he said it hit him pretty hard. And the biggest effect was mental.
"I think attitude is the thing," he said.
Norton and group member Bob agree that men are less likely to talk about it.
Breast cancer, said Bob, is something most people are familiar with, so they talk about it constantly. But prostate cancer is different, and so are men and women.
Norton said one in six men will get prostate cancer, and one in 10 of those who do will die from it. In addition to that, it affects mostly the African American community.
And yet there are only a dozen or so men in a two-county area attending this group, and only one of them is black.
"A lot of guys are in denial and don't want to talk about it," he said.
Bob found out about the group because he was willing to talk about it. He was on his way to a class and told the professor he had to stop off at the bathroom first because he had prostate cancer. And the professor said, "So do I."
At this group, it all gets covered.
"We talk about erections, sex, everything. There's nothing left out of the conversation. There's nothing missed," he said. "One of the guys takes Viagra every day."
Norton said the men often talk about trying to recover after surgery - impotence can be an issue - and the treatments they're receiving.
Wives are included.
"When we first started having meetings, we asked if they were all OK with wives being there, because it affects them, too," Norton said.
Bob, who at 74 is still working, traveling and climbing mountains, said he likes to go to the meetings because the process is constantly changing for what is being done to treat prostate cancer, and he learns about it. And there are other reasons.
"Every time you go - it doesn't really affect me personally - but for me to sit there and listen to what happens to other people, I guess it enhances me a little bit," he said. "And I've helped a couple of guys, too."