What Men Against Breast Cancer Want You To Know

Photograph by Angelo Meredino

In 1992, former Baltimore Orioles baseball player Marc Heyison was informed that his mother had breast cancer. At the time, he was 29 years old, but the voice in his head reverted to that of a small child paralyzed by unconscionable news, and fearing the worst..."Mommy is going to die." That defining moment led Marc, his father, brother and their wives to make a conscious decision, that collectively they would band together and ensure she never had to face any component of treatment or rehabilitation, alone. After making a full recovery, Marc was struck by two things...how critical a strong support system was, and how wonderful men could be as caregivers, when given the opportunity.

An oncology study by the Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center, confirms what many cancer survivors already know -- patients with strong support networks are not only more likely to survive, they also experience reduced occurrences of cancer resurgence. Examining a total of 2,230 patients, women with the highest recovery rates and risk reduction were those with supportive partners actively involved in their medical care and recovery, or were beneficiaries of extensive social support from friends and family.

Spurred on by his mother's cancer recovery journey, Marc founded non - profit organization, Men Against Breast Cancer (MABC) and set out to share the importance and prevalence of men as competent caretakers. His book, "It's Not Rocket Science: A Guy's Blueprint to Care Giving, " and nationwide caregiving support group, "Partners In Survival™," offer poignant insights into navigating the treatment and recovery process, using real life examples and candid advice. Workshops are designed to help men grow into the best caregivers they can be, and session strategies are rooted in maintaining thriving relationships during the stress of cancer treatment.

Tips include simple but effective communication tactics, like asking "Am I solving or am I listening?" highlighting the need for men to understand that women battling this disease will vent about their symptoms and the challenges of navigating a life threatening crisis, not necessarily expecting their partner to launch a problem solving mission, but simply seeking affirmation that their partner is by their side. Marc also stresses the importance of male caregivers acknowledging when they need mental or physical reprieve and allocating time for it without guilt, as well as helpful techniques for managing a health team, being effective as a gatekeeper so patient energy can be focused on healing and how to rebuild relationships once the cancer has subsided.

This month in honor of breast cancer awareness, Marc and his family host the 14th Annual Think Pink and Blue Awards Reception and Celebrity Auction, on October 27 at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland. Joined by news anchors from ESPN, FOX, NBC and more, event proceeds will support the meaningful community work and educational programs facilitated by MABC. If you would like to attend or to make a donation, information can found HERE and at www.menagainstbreastcancer.org.