By STAN GOLDBERG
The Frederick News-Post
ADAMSTOWN, Md. (AP) — When Marc Heyison’s mother, Gloria Heyison, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, he, his brother and his father were with her every step of the way as she battled the disease.
They went to all her appointments, to her chemotherapy treatments; everywhere she went, they went.
“That was just the way we were brought up, that was the norm,” said Heyison, who has lived in Adamstown since 2004. “Our mother was there for us, it was time for us to be there for her. We must be there.”
While accompanying her to appointments, he noticed there were other women with breast cancer who were alone. He thought that wasn’t right, that it was important for men to be with the women they love in such a time.
So, in 1999, he founded Men Against Breast Cancer, a nonprofit organization designed to help men support a loved one who has the disease.
“Marc said that some men don’t know how to handle certain situations like breast cancer,” said Gloria Heyison, who is now cancer-free. “There are a lot of things that they need to learn about it. Marc has given a lot of help to a lot of people.”
He became passionate about helping men who have a loved one with cancer because he knows firsthand how devastating it can be, not only to the person with cancer, but their loved ones, too.
“You feel so hopeless, so helpless,” said Heyison, who was 29 years old when his mother was diagnosed. “I felt like a 4-year-old boy. I was thinking, ‘My mommy is going to die and there is nothing I can do about it. I can’t fix it.’ But I can be there. Not being there is not an option.”
He became more serious about starting the organization after talking with a surgeon he knew.
“He called me up and said that a lot of men were asking him how they can support their wives,” Heyison said. “After I hung up, I began the paperwork for Men Against Breast Cancer.”
He met with Matt Loscalzo and Jim Zabora, two recognized experts on how people cope with breast cancer. They were both at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore at the time.
They came up with a blueprint called COPE (Cope, Optimism, Planning and Expert Information) to help men.
Since MABC began, the 49-year-old Heyison has used the blueprint and has talked with more than 1,000 men and has been to 36 states and Canada.
Much of his time is spent at half- to full-day educational workshops called Partners in Survival. He does about 10 to 15 a year.
When he started, five to 10 men would attend each workshop. Now there may be as many as 25. But he has also been known to work with just one man.
“We provide men with a blueprint, tools they need to be caregivers,” said Heyison, who owns Top Notch Inc., which specializes in promotional products and imprinted/embroidered apparel. “They also have the opportunity to share with other men who are going through the same thing.”
The workshops can be held anywhere — at a church, recreation center, a hospital. He held one during boxing matches and another prior to a Charlotte Bobcats basketball game.
He also held four national conferences, three of them at Camden Yards in Baltimore. These conferences lasted one or two days and the men also took in an Orioles game. That’s a natural for Heyison, a former third baseman who was drafted by the Orioles in the ninth round of the 1983 draft and played in their farm system for three years.
He said the conferences are a more intense version of the workshop.
Heyison and Loscalzo have written a book, “For the Women We Love, a Breast Cancer Action Plan and Caregiver’s Guide for Men,” and Heyison has mailed out thousands of educational materials.
He is also always available to talk with anyone who needs his help.
Greg Stansbury, of Owings Mills, is one of the people Heyison has worked with. Stansbury’s wife is a four-year breast cancer survivor.
“We have a fellowship with each other, we help one another,” Stansbury said. “A good word is cope. It’s like we learn how to
cope with the disease.”
Stansbury has started a local group at Mercy Hospital in Baltimore.
“This has just become a real passion for me,” said Heyison. “Breast cancer is a family disease. It devastates the entire family.”
Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, http://www.fredericknewspost.com
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)