Eyes blurry, I found myself dazed waiting in the Gilda’s Club lobby while my wife was inside taking a Qigong class. My wife had recently been diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. She “beat” cancer six years prior, but it was returning like a two-headed monster. And it was bad.
This time was different. Ugly. Scary. With life or death consequences. As I waited for my wife to finish up her class, the Director at Gilda’s handed me a brochure about Jack’s Caregiver Coalition. I wondered, “Who are these cancer dudes? Is this going to be a waste of time? I don’t do group therapy circles. I don’t have time for silly bullshit right now.” On a whim, I took the risk and emailed Jack’s to get the conversation started. Long story short, here I am two years later, helping to plan events like axe throwing, Extreme Sandbox, Meat: The Workshop, ice carving, indoor skydiving and more. It’s been incredibly rewarding to try to make a difference for “Jacks” like me. So here’s what I’ve learned by creating these events:
#1. Lunch is where the good stuff happens.
When we have an event like axe throwing, guys get to know each other a little while slinging hatchets at a bullseye. It’s fun to be actively doing something alongside each other. (Child psychologists call this “parallel play”.) But afterwards at the restaurant, this is where the real magic happens. You will see men informally gathered around the table sharing their updates, swapping notes, and getting valuable information and insight to aid them on their caregiving journey.
#2. Everyone loves a good story to take to work on Monday.
When people ask “How was your weekend?”, we want Jack’s to give you a killer story to share about a unique event we planned. You deserve to take a time out to refuel. So why not make it epic for those two hours we’re all hanging out?
#3. Fellow caregivers make me feel less like a martian.
Recently, when I’ve talked with my closest friends or family about my wife’s condition, the treatment plan, the seriousness of our situation or my deeper thoughts, I see that it’s still tricky for them to fully understand what we’re going through. I feel like a martian trying to describe an exotic, distant world. But when I meet guys at our events there’s this unspoken understanding. We all get it. We all belong. We live in the same world. Fellow martians unite.
#4. Guys aren’t inherently great planners of their social lives.
Yes, we all may have friendships over the years. But we don’t always activate those friendships. Hopefully Jack’s makes this process more seamless by offering events of all kinds throughout the year. Here’s what a recent event-goer had to say:
Just knowing I have an upcoming event is very exciting for me. The past events are not something I would normally plan for myself. I feel very accepted during and after the events.
#5. Sometimes our events serve as a metaphor for what we’re dealing with.
Skydiving, like caregiving, is about facing your fears, falling without a net and learning how to navigate safely. Nick said it best in his recent blog post that he shared.