Sorry, this is not going to be my regular prostate cancer educational column, but rather a tribute to the prostate cancer support group leaders in the audience (and elsewhere, of course) at the recent ZERO Supporting the Support Group Leaders training event on August 13 in Chicago. I drove all the way to the event for the night and my first thought was, “why are there so many toll roads in Chicago and will I have enough loose change below my car seat to make it there?” My next thought was how my dog was going to handle my one-day absence from home. It might be RUFF on the little guy. Would he miss me, and would he hold it against the ZERO organization for making me travel away from him for so long? Yet, my dominating thought was what it would be like to give a lecture in person to some of the most dedicated prostate cancer support group leaders in the U.S.? To make a long story short, it was fabulous!
All the speakers at the event were marvelous, simply wonderful and dedicated folks! Yet, what were we going to talk about in my session? Diet? Supplements? Exercise? Other prostate cancer topics? Politics? (no way). Why is it so hard to open those darn clear plastic bags that hold fruits and veggies in the grocery store? Why do some people insist on backing up into a parking space? Well, at the last second, I decided not to give a formal talk, but rather just listen and ramble on about whatever people wanted to discuss. I also showed plenty of pictures of my dog to pander to the audience.
There were so many memories in so little time. For example, the support group leaders from Ohio were very kind and interesting, but I wondered if they were Ohio State fans secretly monitoring my every move. There was the support group leader from New York who wore a Michigan “Go Blue” t-shirt to increase the odds that I would speak to his group one day! He was awesome! The support group leader from Traverse City has run the group there for over 25 years, so I gave her a box of my favorite brand of oatmeal for her dedication, because when you are that reliable for that long it reminds me of oatmeal. There was also a guy from somewhere I do not remember that showed me pictures of his before and after weight loss and exercise routine … incredibly inspiring! He just makes you want to take better care of yourself. And then, of course, there was Terri Likowski who helped to make this incredible event happen, along with other amazing folks at the organization. Terri texted, emailed, and called me on a regular basis just to make sure I, not only showed up, but showed up on time. Me? I am only late to speaking events 91.7% of the time, why even worry?
There were amazing questions about many aspects of prostate cancer and there was also a lot of levity and a whole lot of guffaws. Wait, I thought I was the funny one, but this audience had a few comments and jokes that kept me guffawing throughout the session. Suddenly my one-hour talk turned into 90 minutes, and so it was time to go (aka get kicked off the stage). Now, it is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, so I thought it was time to put aside the advice and pay tribute to all those support group leaders who improve the lives of so many people every day.
After leaving that ZERO event, I was in awe just thinking about the selflessness of these individuals. They just make the planet a far better place. These are some of the most amazing folks you will ever meet in your life. I also thought about how nice it was to be at an in-person event again, even for just for a moment, and how wonderful it was to enjoy a real live (not virtual) hug or conversation. That was a great day! Guffaws and awe! Thank you to all the volunteers in the world of prostate cancer. Thank you for what you do and for just being you!