By Trevor Maxwell
I’ve been living with stage IV colon cancer since March of 2018. Before that time, I was cruising along as a husband, father, and independent business owner. I was 41 years old and never imagined cancer would knock on the door.
Then, in what seemed like an instant, I found myself in a new world of scans, surgeries, and chemotherapy. The physical challenges hit me hard. But not nearly as hard as the mental health challenges.
Crippling anxiety and depression sank their teeth into me. I withdrew into my own dark thoughts, distant from my wife and our two young daughters. I spent days weeping, without hope, and without the fighting spirit I felt I was supposed to have. I grappled with deep shame.
At the lowest point, my family did not abandon me. They carried me. I promised them: “No matter if I live one more year or 40 more, I’m going to do everything in my power to regain my mental health, and to live with joy and purpose.”
That process started by admitting I needed help. I found a local support group and a therapist. I also joined communities online and met amazing people who were facing cancer. Those connections have been essential in my emotional recovery. They have also been essential for providing knowledge about my disease and my treatment options.
But I noticed a glaring gender gap along the way. The vast majority of people seeking support are women. It’s largely a mix of women patients and survivors, as well as caregivers trying to find ways to help their husbands, sons, brothers, and fathers.
Where are the men? They don’t need help facing cancer?
Of course they do. They are just too proud, angry, ashamed, or depressed to seek it out. Too many men feel they have to take on every challenge on their own. We are taught to not burden others. The consequences of this are undeniable. When men isolate during cancer, they are at high risk for mental health problems, broken relationships, and poor medical outcomes.
With motivation from my wife, Sarah, I decided to tackle this problem by starting an online community and purpose-driven company called Man Up to Cancer.
Through our podcast, website, and social media, we are changing what it means to “Man Up” in the face of cancer. It’s not just about being tough. It means having the courage to accept help, and knowing we are smarter and stronger as a pack than we are as lone wolves.
We have a private Facebook group called The Howling Place, which is a place for male cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers to unwind, make friends, and share stories.
I know there are thousands of men out there who feel just like I did a few years back. Anxious, depressed, overwhelmed, isolated by cancer. If this describes you, and you’re ready for change, there’s a whole wolfpack waiting for you.
Trevor Maxwell is the founder of Man Up to Cancer, a digital content company and online community that inspires men to connect and avoid isolation during their cancer journeys. Trevor has been living with stage IV colon cancer since March of 2018. He has a background in journalism, communications, and public relations, and he lives in Maine with his wife and two teenage daughters.