Cancer is a life-altering experience that impacts careers, relationships and bank accounts, while also giving the diagnosed an unwanted glimpse of their own mortality. Male survivors face a set of unique challenges, among them a clear direction on how to take back the power in their lives.
If cancer survivorship is a journey, Berea resident Dan Dean believes he has the roadmap. Dean, 36, is the founder of M Powerment,
an organization providing resources geared specifically toward men affected by cancer. A series of free workshops, including a two-day event
, Sept. 24 and 25, at Market Garden Brewery
and Nano Brew Cleveland
next month, promise action-oriented, practical skills that allow participants 21 and over to face the disease head-on.
"Men don't have great coping mechanisms to deal with illness," says Dean, a 12-year survivor of stage IV non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. "In layman's terms, guys don't talk about stuff."
M Powerment teaches participants to master their internal narrative and better communicate challenges with a spouse, partner or other support person. Program framework is based on mythologist Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey
, which prompts listeners to "follow their bliss," as well as the tenets of narrative medicine
, an approach that harnesses people's stories to promote healing.
"By doing the work, you'll shift your energy into a more empowered place than you would be if you were victimized by the experience," says Dean, an avid backpacker and hiker. "It's about focusing on things that help you grow."
M Powerment workshops are research-based and use strategies approved by oncology social workers. Dean's road to an "m-powered" existence began upon diagnosis at age 23. Later years found him sharing first-person interviews with cancer survivors via a personal blog. Dean's mother, Caren, died of brain cancer in 2014, giving him further perspective on living a full life five, ten or 20 years after the disease is first discovered.
Dean launched the group in May 2015, upon receiving seed money from the Char and Chuck Fowler Family Foundation
. He hopes to garner additional funding from cancer organizations and for-profit businesses as the enterprise expands. After the Cleveland event, Dean is looking ahead to events in Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver and Boston.
Ultimately, the program founder aims to form a wide-ranging network of cancer warriors. The program also has a sense of humor. Per the website, "This isn’t a trust circle and you aren’t going to hug someone in a sweater vest. You’re going to flex your cancer kicking muscles and come out m-powered men."
"The mission isn't to be in a group circle and talk about what happened, but to give survivors tools to successfully move forward," adds Dean. "It's almost like a 'cancer fraternity,' meaning anyone that comes in with a shared experience is going to bond over the cause."