Michael Greene, Bringing The New ‘Jack-to-Jack’ Program To Life - But Getting So Much More!
Michael Greene was thrown into caregiving for his wife, Sarah, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010. At the time, he had no peers he could relate to; no one he could talk to about what he was going through.
It was 4 years before Jack’s Caregiver Coalition had formed, so he didn’t have the cool events to go to, where he could shoot the shit with guys who were in that cancer-initiated group.
He Was Alone To Care For His Wife
I could have used someone to talk to during my early years as a caregiver. To just share some of the things that I was going through as I cared for my wife.
In 2015, his wife’s cancer came out of remission as metastatic breast cancer, and he attended ‘Conversations with Kelly,’ an event focused on having real, meaningful discussions about pain and loss. It was at this fateful meeting where he met Kim Cesarek, who mentioned Jack’s Caregiver Coalition as a potential outlet for him.
I was so excited when I heard about Jack’s that I drove home and signed up for it right then.
Dustin Cesarek, a Jack’s co-founder, contacted him within a day and served as his Jack-to-Jack coach. In those days, Dustin would call him, and they’d just talk – about what was going on in his life, about his wife’s conditions. Really, about anything Michael wanted to talk about.
I finally met Dustin in-person 3 weeks later, when we were able to make our schedules match. Then I started going to Klatches and getting more involved with Jack’s events. But it all started with the conversations that I had with Dustin.
He finally had that outlet - a peer to share with what he was going through. As an experienced cancer caregiver, Dustin offered Michael the wisdom of ‘having been there, done that before,’ as well as an ear to bend when times got tough.
Paving The Way, Laying The Groundwork For Creating Improved Jack-to-Jack Experiences
Recently I took on a new role with Jack’s as a welcoming committee leader. In this current role I have a list of brand new Jacks ('new recruits' we call them) who I check in with on a weekly basis and catch up with. I connect with them and find out how they’re doing and if there are any things that they want to talk about. I saw this role as a way to pass on what I learned from Dustin.
The Newest Version Of The Jack-to-Jack Program, A Few Things Have Changed, But The Most Important Things Remain The Same
The new Jack-to-Jack Program was launched in August 2019 with the intention of taking what was learned from Michael, what was learned from Dustin, and what was learned from all the other men who’ve participated in the Jack-to-Jack program. Men like co-founder Justin Nicolay who shared in a recent Jack's podcast interview that for him, group conversations weren’t ideal.
In my daily life I like one-on-one or small group communication and that level of intimacy. I don’t like sitting in a big group and talking about intimate things. My coach gave me that chance to talk about all the thoughts that I was having, the good and the bad, and I’d say short of saving my life, those meetings I had with my coach saved by sanity. And that is my life, so……..
Jack's also got terrific guidance and support from the The FireFly Sisterhood. The majority of the language in the new program agreement that all participants sign off on was provided to Jack's by The Firefly Sisterhood leadership team.
Jack's is very optimistic that the result of combining all this learning has created something better, and something that will begin to meet all of the need that’s out there. In the early years with this program Jack's believes they were just barely scratching the surface.
Connecting With A Caregiver Whose Been In Your Shoes
Through the new password protected area of the web site, members can access the “Jacks Only - Twin Cities” website. Members can log in, review a list of registered Jack-to-Jack coaches, and decide for himself which coach is best for him – and, hopefully, one he really ‘clicks with.’ Each coach profile includes details about him like a short description of his caregiving experience, where he resides, whether or not he has kids, and his personal interests and hobbies.
From there, it’s up to the new recruit to reach out to his coach via the preferred contact method, and introduce himself. His coach will follow up within 48 hours so they can both agree on a meeting method and time. Coaches and new members decide where, when, and how to meet.
No agendas are set – just get to know each other. It might be getting together and grabbing a coffee or a beer - just see where the conversation goes with another guy who totally ‘gets it.’
When I needed a Jack-to-Jack coach, someone at Jack’s matched me up with Dustin. And that led to other great Jack’s members reaching out to me personally, taking the time, and mentoring me through what was the most difficult time of my life. Before this new version of the program launched, I was the only one in my role officially reaching out to new caregivers. Now instead of it just being me, we have a database of other coaches like me, coaches that we hope the new recruit caregivers will have the courage to connect with to help them face their challenges.
You might laugh together, cry together, or just grab a coffee or some beers and, well, shoot the shit. Heck, cancer might not even come up!
I’m sure if this new improved version of the program existed back when I used it, I still would have picked Dustin as my Jack-to-Jack coach!
‘Things Could Always Be Worse!’