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Meet Rick and AnCan recently sat down with Rick Davis, prostate cancer advocate and founder of AnCan (Answer Cancer Foundation), to discuss his history with prostate cancer and how it inspired him to establish a new, modern day cancer support group.

Rick’s prostate cancer story

I have a pretty eclectic background. I’m an ex-Brit who came to the US to go to Grad School at the University of Chicago in 1973…and stayed. I’ve been a citizen in the USA for twice the time I was in the UK! I studied finance and economics with four Nobel prize winners, three of whom were my Honors paper committee.

In 1995 I switched to non-profit endeavors ranging from international relief and development to social and now health advocacy. Diagnosed with T3a prostate cancer aged 56, I elected to do IMRT + LDR brachytherapy (seeds) + 28+ months of ADT; I was treated at UCSF and Kaiser. Notwithstanding the customary PSA roller coaster ride, I am now in a durable remission. My diagnosis led me to a weekly UsTOO sponsored support group that before too long I co-moderated. I also served on the local ACS committee and various patient advocacy groups at UCSF.

The beginnings of AnCan

Around 2010, I separated from my local support group. It had long been on my mind that remote virtual support groups could be a real option to serve people who were either physically, geographically or socially disadvantaged. Back in 2010, there were next to none online or anywhere else. I was very active on Inspire’s UsTOO prostate cancer forum, for which I later received national recognition. A phone group called The Reluctant Brotherhood posted from time to time, I joined, and so the virtual prostate groups started. We provided more ‘technical’ rather than emotional support, growing rapidly until we moderated 6 groups a month just for prostate cancer.

At the end of 2016, The Reluctant Brotherhood decided to concentrate on its original purpose – emotional support for men with cancer. My co-founder, Rob Barniskis, who just recently passed away from our disease at just 54, and I decided to create a 501c3 non-profit, Answer Cancer Foundation, later to become AnCan. Its purpose would be to establish peer-led virtual support groups for as many conditions as demanded. We now run 20 groups/month with 10 more in development. And we will start a new group for any condition if a peer comes forward, wants to moderate a group, and can reach their audience.

Answering a need in the community

As a patient, you see many things wrong with the ‘system’. I am always willing to take that system on if I think I can ease the path for the next person coming along…not just for cancer. What kick-started me into the world of advocacy was the lack of support for exercise when a person is diagnosed with cancer — I started the MedaFit program to create clinically based exercise counselors — just like you have registered dietitians in a clinical setting. And I was also very perturbed about the lack of solid support and education from the medical community for men being placed on long term hormone therapy.

I believe we have answered a need – to bring the support group to the patient and caregiver rather than them having to find a physical support group. For prostate cancer, we are UsTOO endorsed and represent their virtual prostate cancer support groups. We were the first and are the most successful organizers of prostate cancer virtual support groups; and for other conditions like brain tumors and male breast cancer, we are the first and only one.

I also feel I have been a significant catalyst in integrating exercise into cancer treatment through my advocacy at UCSF and elsewhere – especially for prostate cancer. Lastly, we now see medical professionals doing a far better job educating men about hormone therapy – although there is still a long way to go. And we now have several publications to recommend that were not around in 2007, including an excellent UCSF Health Matters pamphlet to which I contributed the first draft.

Advice to the newly diagnosed

For 95% of men…RELAX! For most men, a prostate cancer diagnosis is very manageable. It’s that ‘C’ word that scares the living daylights out of you; with prostate cancer, the disease is usually manageable and will not diminish your lifespan. That is not always the case — in my 11 years of prostate cancer advocacy, I have known two or three cases where men I navigated lived 12 months or less, but that is truly rare. The hardest part can be making the initial treatment decision — accept the doctor is unlikely to make it for you. My best advice: join a support group and learn from your peers’ experiences. It will be the most pertinent, useful advice you get.

All of AnCan’s support groups are free, drop-in, and you can join online or by telephone. If you are interested in learning more about AnCan and joining one of their virtual support groups, click here.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.