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Men’s Shed helps cancer patients

Spencer Fowler Steen

A new Men’s Shed in North Melbourne is providing cancer patients, particularly those from country Victoria, with vital social support and handy practical skills working out of a repurposed bike shelter.

Last year, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre struck a deal with accommodation provider Scape, which had no international students to house due to pandemic restrictions.

With the support from Scape, Peter Mac was able to repurpose the bike shed belonging to Scape with a workbench, tools, lights, heaters, couches, and a kitchen.

Men’s Shed project officer John Howarth said beyond teaching and helping members with DIY projects, the initiative was first and foremost about patients being around people who were going through similar circumstances.

“The thing about cancer is you have to bring yourself up the learning curve. You go to your GP, and they say: ‘you’ve got cancer,’” Mr Howarth said.

“Well, what does that mean? What’s that going to mean in terms of treatments and my family, how’s that going to change my life? What’s this funny drug they’re going to give me?”

 

It’s a complete learning curve. Here, you can find someone who’s experienced radiation therapy treatment, somebody who knows where to go, who to contact. That conversation needs to take place, and this is the right place to do it.

 

Peter Wright, a member of the Men’s Shed who is recovering from an operation, said he had been “bored out of his brains” and needed something to do.

“It’s not about the woodwork, it’s about the people coming together,” he said.

“That’s what the Men’s Shed is about. It’s about people who are in the cancer hospital now getting out of the room and meeting people.”

Making various items such as desks, toolboxes, trolleys, and toys are not the only services the Men’s Shed provides.

Project lead Daisy Cramer said 12 patients were being sponsored by the Men’s Shed in partnership with a not-for-profit called Mending Casts to go on a fly-fishing retreat in May.

“They’re essentially a bunch of volunteer fly-fishing enthusiasts wanting to help people dealing with cancer through the therapeutic experience of fishing while standing in running water. Being in nature with a whole bunch of men who’ve been through a similar experience is a unique way to deliver a support group,” she said.

“They hold ‘courageous conversations’ and go round and tell their stories, or not. It’s a nice safe space for men to get together because they don’t usually reach out for this support.”

Every month, the Men’s Shed also has guest speakers who focus on topics around men’s health.

Since opening in December last year, Mr Howarth said anyone was welcome to join the Men’s Shed. Members of the Peter Mac Men’s Shed also automatically become members of the Melbourne Men’s Shed at Federation Square •

For more information:

petermac.org/shed

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