Us TOO Prostate Cancer Support Group

September 10, 2017


Bob Anthony of Brookville, facilitator of the Us TOO Prostate Cancer Support Group.

According to the Center for Disease Control, prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer affecting men in the United States, with 172,258 diagnoses in 2014 and more than 220,000 diagnoses in 2015.  Given the number of those affected and the many treatment options and related side effects, many patients find themselves in need of support to better understand the disease and to cope with the effects.  

Penn Highlands Healthcare and the Hahne Regional Cancer Center of Penn Highlands DuBois partner with Us TOO International Prostate Cancer Education and Support Network to sponsor the Us TOO support group that meets at 7 p.m. on the first Monday of each month in St. Camillus Hall at Penn Highlands DuBois West, located at 100 Hospital Ave. in DuBois.

Us TOO facilitator, Bob Anthony of Brookville, said he initially joined the support group after being diagnosed himself.  The group was founded by Loren Bishop of DuBois, and after his passing, Anthony felt that he should work to keep the group going due to the number of people he had gotten to know still in need of such support.  Anthony began leading meetings in March 2016, and the group continues to grow with approximately 20 participants.

Each month, Anthony leads group discussion on several topics affecting attendees.  With the help of Us TOO International, he is able to obtain educational materials and topic hot sheets to share.  When needing more individualized information for a rare type of cancer or for a specific treatment or trial, he is also able to contact Us TOO for help in obtaining pertinent information.

“We had a gentleman join our last meeting with a very rare type of prostate cancer called ductal carcinoma,” said Anthony.  “Because it is so rare, there isn’t a lot of literature or information available.  I was able to reach out to Us TOO in order to obtain some helpful information that dealt directly with ductal carcinoma to share with the group, and I believe that helped the group, and that particular gentleman, better understand this type of prostate cancer.”

To help attendees feel comfortable and get to know each other, Anthony gives everyone a name placard at each meeting.  “At this point, most of us already know each other,” he said.  “This is something I started with I first took over, and it has helped people feel at ease.”  

Additionally, Anthony wants those in attendance to engage in the conversations, to share their own experiences and to gain understanding of the disease and materials discussed.  To do this, he calls on individuals to share or check for their understanding.

These conversations often continue outside of the group, as many of the members maintain friendships and keep in touch via phone and email in between the monthly meetings.  This is just another way that the Us TOO support group reminds participants that they are not alone.

Topics vary each month, and there is always an opportunity for attendees to discuss their fears or concerns.  Often times, there is apprehension associated with side effects of treatment or worry that a procedure to remove the cancer may not have successfully removed all of the cancerous cells.  Through sharing personal experiences and information, those individuals are empowered and reminded that they have others around them who have walked a similar path.

This support group is for anyone who wants to learn more about prostate cancer, and Anthony wants everyone to feel welcome.  While prostate cancer targets men, the diagnosis of this disease can have a profound impact on a patient’s spouse, partner and family.  There may be significant changes to a patient’s lifestyle, quality of life or emotional well-being that may be difficult for those who love them to understand.  Family members are always invited to attend the monthly meetings.

While feeling anxious or afraid is a common reaction, Anthony reminds the support group that “knowledge is power, and you can’t deal with this disease until you find out all that you can.” 

“I’m reminded of my time in the Army,” said Anthony.  “In the Army, you get to know your enemy, and that’s exactly what those diagnosed with prostate cancer need to do.  They need to know their enemy – how to defeat it, how to prolong their life and how to maintain their quality of life during the battle.”

In addition to the information Anthony shares during the meetings, he also recommends that attendees read as much as possible.  He suggests visiting your local book store to see what’s available in the prostate cancer section.  Additionally, he is always willing to lend his favorites to group participants.

Anthony urges those diagnosed with prostate cancer to remember that “you can live as well as you want to because you don’t have to let this disease define you.”

“People tell me that I look good or healthy and that they wish they could be in such shape,” said Anthony.  “I think to myself, ‘that’s because you can’t see the cancer.’  They may never know that I have stage IV cancer.  It just goes to show that your attitude can make a big difference.”

Anthony believes that the gentlemen who attend the support group meetings are very similar.  “They don’t look any different from the guys you see walking on the street or working next to you on the job.  You can’t see their cancer…what you can see is their positive attitudes, and they all have it.”

He attributes this positive outlook to being informed and educated about their disease.  “I think it’s because they have all done their homework and learned everything they could about their cancer.  They have taken ownership of it.”

Anthony said that, while no one wants to have prostate cancer, “these guys (in the support group) have decided to make the best of a bad situation and are living a life worth living in spite of having cancer.”

The Us TOO support group is free and open to the public.  There is never a charge for reference materials and refreshments are provided.  The next meeting is Oct. 2.

For more information, call Anthony at 814-715-0544 or visit www.phhealthcare.org/supportgroups.