Local Gay men start prostate cancer support group
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Local Gay men start prostate cancer support group
by Nick Ardizzone - SGN Staff Writer

When Don Miller was diagnosed with prostate cancer in April 2007 at age 52, he didn't know where to turn as a Gay man searching for support.

"The resources out there were rather limited - there's like one book written on prostate cancer for Gay men," Miller laughed. Desiring comfort more than being comfortable, he sought out a traditional prostate cancer support group.

"I went to one meeting," said Miller, "and everybody there was there was at least 10-15 years older than me. I was 52 and the youngest person by far. It was interesting in the sense that most of those people were concerned about living & but I felt like I was more concerned about being alive."

Miller was able to deal with the group's different priorities, but he had difficulty overcoming the discomfort he felt discussing his life while surrounded by straight men.

"Being handed a prostate cancer diagnosis affected my sexuality and everything. Basically, my concern was what this was going to do to my relationship. & Being in a group with basically straight guys, I felt very, very uncomfortable because I knew if I started bringing up issues a Gay person would be concerned about, it would be making the group feel very uncomfortable. I really didn't voice my concerns in that group because I just felt so out-of-place."

"It makes you feel sort of alone," he said.

Miller, through his work as a nurse, had a network of friends whom he used as support. Through them, he was contacted by Jim Fodder, president of the Northwest Bears, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in May 2008 at 48 years old.

"I couldn't find anyone to talk to about it, there were no services or anything to particularly talk about sexuality as well as treatment options and all that," Fotter said. The two men began meeting to talk at Miller's house, and the pair decided to expand and offer support to other Gay men in their situation.

The pair spoke with Gilda's Club's program manager and outreach coordinator, Krista Hartrich, who facilitated the first meeting of the Gay/Bi Men's Prostate Cancer Group. The meeting - the first of its kind in Seattle - drew eight people on short notice.

"We basically wanted to have a group where people could come and talk about issues that are related to us," Fotter said.

"There was an incredible void there, and hopefully we're filling it."

In a support group composed mainly of straight men, Miller and Fotter ran up against the same issues. "You're tempted to self-censor, particularly around issues of Gay sex," said Fotter. "There are differences in terms of intimacy issues, [for instance] gee, is anal sex okay, and what do I do if I can't have an erection, or struggling with incontinence, and not feeling like it's unsafe to talk about those things."

The Gay/Bi Men's Prostate Cancer Group also discusses how to deal with doctors who might not understand or might not even want to talk about the issues which concern Gay men.

Fotter hopes to land a grant to offset administrative costs and bring a facilitator into the group. The group is currently peer-facilitated. He asks that people get the word out and contact Gilda's Club if there's anything they can do to help.

"We're going to make it work," Fotter said. "We think people need it."

The Gay/Bi Men's Prostate Cancer Group meets the third Tuesday of every month at Gilda's Club from 6:30-8 p.m. The next meeting will be February 17. For more information, to donate or attend, call 206-709-1400