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Men’s Talk Story about cancer offers information, support

Peter Kafka, with support of Pacific Cancer Foundation and AnCan, offers virtual meetings

Men's Talk Story group on the beach

Twice a month, Peter Kafka settles into a comfy chair, often in his Haiku home, opens his laptop, and strikes up a meaningful conversation with men from all over Maui County. They come from different walks of life, but have one thing in common: All have faced a cancer diagnosis.

Kafka is the moderator of Men’s Talk Story, a peer-to-peer support group for men dealing with any type of cancer at any stage. The free virtual meetings take place in real time via the GoToMeeting platform on the first and third Wednesday of every month.

The Men’s Talk Story conference calls are co-sponsored by the Pacific Cancer Foundation, a Maui-based nonprofit that provides a variety of services to cancer patients and their families, and Answer Cancer Foundation, better known as AnCan, a Minnesota-headquartered nonprofit that offers a variety of virtual support groups to empower people living with serious and chronic conditions.

In addition to the Men’s Talk Story group, Kafka facilitates AnCan’s bimonthly low- and intermediate-grade prostate cancer support group calls for men across the U.S. and as far away as Japan and Australia. He also participates in a weekly high-risk prostate cancer support group call, which is moderated by a fellow AnCan member.

Here’s how it works: At a designated time (determined by time zone), participants join the meeting from their computer, tablet or smartphone. In the hour or so that follows, group members share their experiences with one another and give and receive information, encouragement and support.

Haiku resident Peter Kafka is a prostate cancer advocate and moderator of Men’s Talk Story, a virtual cancer support group that provides peer-to-peer support, navigation and advocacy for men facing any kind of cancer diagnosis. -- CLIA KAFKA photo

A single call can cover a range of topics — everything from treatment modalities to medication-related side effects to managing stress — and the focus is always on the male perspective.

The GoToMeeting platform includes a video conferencing feature, but participants can choose an audio-only option if they wish to remain off-screen or anonymous. Kafka says the goal is to make everyone feel as comfortable as possible and create a space where they can talk openly.

“They can contribute or just listen — whatever level of comfort works for them,” he explained.

For Kafka, it’s more than a volunteer gig. It’s a passion.

Six years ago, he was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer. With little understanding of the disease, he embarked on a quest to find reliable information. Apart from taking a deep dive into research, he began participating in a Mainland-based virtual support group for men, eventually becoming the group’s moderator. When the Answer Cancer Foundation was established in 2016, Kafka joined its board of directors; he has served as the board’s chairman for the past two years.

(Kafka did not offer how he was doing healthwise but did mention recent scans, genetic tests and other treatments.)

By 2019, Kafka had become keenly aware of the scarcity of men-only support groups on Maui. He also knew that in-person meetings could be logistically prohibitive, particularly for residents living in remote areas. That’s when an idea started to take shape: Why not create an AnCan peer-to-peer virtual support group for men in Maui County? He proposed the idea to Pacific Cancer Foundation Executive Director Nancy LaJoy, who wholeheartedly endorsed it. The Men’s Talk Story program made its debut last summer, and it’s been going strong ever since.

The number of participants for the Men’s Talk Story group fluctuates from call to call, but Kafka said it’s usually a “handful.”

Kafka says the takeaway from every call is the same: You are not alone in this journey. There’s something else, too.

“I encourage everyone to be their own advocate: Speak out, ask questions, do research, play your part,” he said. “That’s my passion and my primary goal.”

The Men’s Talk Story conference calls take place on the first and third Wednesday of every month at 5:30 p.m. and are open to men in Maui County and across the state. To join the meeting, call (646) 749-3129, enter code 222-583-973#, and then enter # again.

For more information about the program, contact Kafka at 298-1655 or visit www.pacificcancerfoundation.org/mens-talk-story.

To learn more about the Pacific Cancer Foundation, visit www.pacificcancerfoundation.org. To learn more about the Answer Cancer Foundation, visit www.ancan.org.

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