The Male Cancer Support Center: The First of its Kind
Left to right: Nigel Chalkley, Billy Tiemeier and Jeff Dunning
Photo by Daniel Smyth
Nearly one of every four deaths in the United States can be attributed to cancer. Men, in particular, often experience intense isolation and overwhelming feelings of burden and guilt when someone close to them suffers from cancer. In fact, national statistics show that 60 percent of marriages fail when cancer becomes a reality in relationships.
For men, the burden is unique because society expects them “to tough it out” without support. For Nigel Chalkley, executive director of the Male Cancer Support Center, this expectation is unacceptable. He says, “Men are in need of resources, support, guidance and help. Our culture has discriminated against men when it comes to being able to express feelings and need for support systems. Cancer does not discriminate.” Chalkley felt this burden on too many occasions.
In 2011, Chalkley had lunch with Billy Tiemeier after meeting at a cancer fund raising event. In 2007, Tiemeier’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer just months after the young couple had married. By 2010, her cancer had spread and entered Stage IV; she passed away in 2014. As Chalkley sat with Tiemeier, he learned about the enormous burden Tiemeier experienced while his wife was sick. Tiemeier neglected everything from friends to house projects in order to take care of the crucial tasks directly related to his wife’s sickness. “Things just fell off the list because Vanessa was my main focus,” Tiemeier said. “I felt like I always had to be on.”
Tiemeier shared with Chalkley his frustration that there existed no organization dedicated to the unique needs of men intimately experiencing the reality of cancer. After his meeting he began to research male cancer support around the nation and after realizing this was a major problem he decided to do something about it and start the Male Cancer Support Center.
The mission of the Male Cancer Support Center is to serve as a resource center that provides a safe, comfortable and supportive environment for men living with cancer, whether directly or indirectly, while raising awareness, raising funds and gaining support throughout the community. Chalkley knows how important finding a supportive community for men can be. “Within the Center, throughout our community and online, we will help men connect with others, learn vital information about diagnosis, treatment and find hope through mentoring, counseling and support groups,” he says. “Men will find valuable services and support at the Male Cancer Support Center.
“Men are expected to be strong and provide,” Chalkley continues. “They need help but a lot of time do not know who to ask.
They are expected “to work harder and push through,” says Tiemeier.
Jeff Dunning, a donor and board member of the Male Cancer Support Center who lost his younger brother to cancer, is confident the center will provide the help and support for men living with cancer whether directly or indirectly. “If the Center existed when my brother was alive it would have been a tremendous resource for him,” Dunning says.
The Male Cancer Support Center is the first of its kind. For this reason, Chalkley is enthusiastic to ask for help, saying, “We need the support of our community, individuals, corporations and foundations to get this center up and running so we can begin to implement the many classes and resources it will provide.” It’s difficult not to get drawn in by Chalkley’s passion to help these men. He says, “ There are thousands of men in our community that cannot even get transportation to their treatment. There are thousands of men whose insurance will not cover their medications, who have no idea how to navigate insurance bills and terms, who do not know how to eat healthy to help them stay strong through their ordeal.”
For Chalkley, Tiemeier and Dunning, the Male Cancer Support Center is a giant step toward supporting men when cancer enters their lives. They hope the community-at-large will embrace this need as well and show its support.
The Male Cancer Support Center is located at 3731 Eastern Hills Lane, Cincinnati, OH 45209. You can reach them at 513.328.1901, by email at email@example.com or visit their website at www.malecancersupportcenter.org.