When I came up with the idea for my first Cancer-related book, Might Make You Smile, it was inspired by people who were close to me initially, people I saw regularly, some even daily.
However, what happened next was I found the circle of connections getting wider and wider the further I reached out, like ripples on a pond (as cliché as that is). The stone of possibility was cast and from that came so many heartwarming, amusing tales from women and their experiences with cancers. It was clear there was so much to be gained from talking, sharing and yes, laughing at the stories I was told.
After Might Make You Smile was launched I already had the new idea for Good For A Grin in my mind, like an itch that needed to be scratched, I couldn’t let it be or rather it couldn’t let me be.
I knew I wanted to write for the male audience and as much as possible in a language that men can relate to.
To do this I had to get talking to men. This in itself had to be approached differently. Men’s interests, support networks and environments are very different to women’s but one thing was apparent very quickly, any possible contributors I spoke to were keen to be involved in spreading the word about their experiences with cancer, all types of cancers, creating conversations, raising awareness and removing taboos.
It was during this research and in the midst of many cancer charity suggestions, that the OddBalls Foundation was suggested.
I was keen to have a purely male cancer charity as a benefactor for part of the proceeds from Good For A Grin. I had made contact with some other, well-known cancer charities but was disheartened by the sometimes, lukewarm response or worse, no response at all. Even when the concept of the book was explained; as an uplifting, amusing and positive collection of stories by men for men.
One of the greatest ways to connect to a particular audience is to find where they are most likely to be a greater concentration of your targeted readers. To be involved with a male charity directly was the perfect platform.
I was left feeling somewhat despondent but decided to contact OddBalls Foundation and was truly delighted by their response.
They already had a strong ethos for raising money, awareness and creating conversations through their selling of wacky, awe inspiring underwear, socks and accessories all in the aid Testicular Cancer. They have strong ties with the Rugby world, some clubs even have their club logo emblazoned on boxers. OddBalls Foundation is a registered charity and was set up in 2016.
Through OddBalls’ 30 days of November event (whereby men were invited to write a small piece on their own journey with Testicular Cancer). These stories were always accompanied by a picture of the contributor sporting his OddBalls underwear, striking ‘a pose’ in various places….all to bring a smile. The humour, openness and the hope from all was that their story could help one other man get themselves checked was paramount.
There was also a shout out through the Helen Rollason Cancer Charity as they had also ran a ‘Men’s Cancer Stories’ feature in their Moment Magazine and this also resulted in contributions. Word of mouth, people talking is possibly one of the greatest sources of contributions. As so many aspects of the stories given included sport, especially Rugby and Football I recognised this as a great aspect to include in the illustrations for the book.
Some of the contributors had written full blogs of their cancer journeys.
They had the same aim in mind; to show that talking about their experiences openly and honestly, covering every aspect, no matter how embarrassing or uncomfortable a situation was, it needed to be brought out in the open. The aim was simple from my point of view as the author of the book and from those contributing ‘It Is Fine To Talk’, men talk too.
A further revelation and amazing organisation was Maggie’s Centres, these are strewn across the country and are a haven of support, guidance and an amazing resource of practical information. They offer a ‘drop in’ counselling service but also there are classes from everything, from dealing with prostrate cancer post surgery, to Tai Chi and Diet and as practical subjects as will writing, claiming benefits and finding extra care in the home. They run programmes that cover all cancers, for both men and women but because of their specific sessions for men it became a great collaboration between myself and Maggie’s (thanks to Lisa Punt and her staff at Maggie’s Cambridge). Them being able to extend an invitation to anyone who might like to contact me with a story but also letting their members know there is to be a book that they may find a useful tool too.
I have been overwhelmed with the response I have received already,… before the book has even been launched and have been lucky enough to share in so many people’s lives.
The hope of each and every one of us, from charity, contributor, collaborator and author is simple; we need to show that it is good to talk, share and connect. Let’s show our sons, brothers, husbands, partners, uncles, grandfathers…..all men that it is ok to talk, in fact it is ESSENTIAL to talk.
What has been proven to me beyond all doubt is that there really is humour, however dark or offbeat to be had in everything…even Cancer. So say all the men I have had the honour and privilege to talk to.
Good For A Grin is available for order at Matthew James Publishing https://www.matthewjamespublishing.com/
Also available on Amazon, Waterstones and Foyles
Brenda had family members and friends affected by cancer in its various forms and had seen the effects it had on all it touched. It was only when a particularly close friend was diagnosed and she accompanied her on some appointments for treatments and check-ups that she became actively involved in the lives of many people with cancer and subsequently wrote Might Make You Smile. She has now authored several books related to Cancer.