A grey, drizzly morning in Thames does little to discourage the men’s cancer support group from meeting at a café on the outskirts of town.
There’s lively banter and much laughter over the coffee cups. Today’s venue is a little bit special; the group usually meets at the Thames Community Centre on the first Thursday of the month.
George Haffenden has been coming to the Thames Men’s Space since it started over a year ago.
When George wanted support on his journey through cancer, his first port of call was the long-running local Thames Community Cancer Support group. The group was welcoming, but with few men in attendance it didn’t feel like the right fit.
“The women next to me were talking about their boobs. I thought, this isn’t for me!”
George was quick to put his hand up when the idea for a separate, smaller group just for men was raised. The group is run by the Cancer Society in partnership with Thames Community Cancer Support.
“It’s been remarkable. It’s more comfortable. Here, we have general conversation, tell jokes and stories – not necessarily about cancer. We just have a good time.
“Everything is positive. Nobody’s complaining about their conditions. They’re all looking on the bright side,” says George.
Fellow group member Colin Molloy agrees. His wife Marilyn makes date scones for the monthly gathering.
“We tell war stories,” says Colin.
“It’s nice to know that I can come out and meet guys that have had cancer, even though it mightn’t be the same. If you want to talk about it, it’s good to be around people that have gone through something similar to what you’ve gone through.”
It’s not all chat though. Special guests are invited to speak to the group each month. Previous guests have come from Sport Waikato and Look Good Feel Better, which delivers classes to help people affected by cancer feel more confident.
In August the group welcomes a speaker from the Coffin Club, a community group that gives guidance to people wanting to build and decorate their own coffins.
The unusual idea came from Graham McCoid — another long-time member of the Thames Men’s Space. He’s already built his. It’s sitting in the dining room until needed.
Penny Parsons, a supportive care nurse at the Cancer Society, attends the monthly meetings.
“When men are impacted by a cancer diagnosis and treatment, their support needs can be very different from those of women,” says Penny.
“The Thames Men’s Space provides a relaxed space where men with cancer can meet, have a coffee and talk about how cancer has affected them.”
Learn more about the Thames Men's Space.