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For a group more than 500 men, camaraderie and support has made the life-altering news of being diagnosed with prostate cancer and its treatment more bearable.
It began as a friendship formed in December 2000 among a small group of men who got to know each other during the time they were being treated for prostate cancer at Loma Linda University Medical Center in southern, CA.
As they gathered every morning at 7 to await their daily proton therapy, the men found they had much to talk about - including the failures of the dot-coms, the plummeting of the stock market, and the controversial outcome of the presidential election. From this common ground, a strong sense of solidarity developed.
As their treatment was coming to an end and they looked forward to returning to their "normal" lives, they sought to find a way to stay in touch, keep each other informed about their healing process, and share information about proton therapy with others who were faced with the difficult decision of how to treat their prostate cancer.
Soon after they passed around a memo exchanging names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses, others found out about the newly formed group and also wanted to join.
Before long, they were 19 members strong and growing, averaging three to five new members a week. Now the group, which calls itself the Brotherhood of the Balloon (a name derived from one common aspect of their treatment prostate cancer treatment) is an aftercare support group with members from 41 states and eight countries. Thirty new members are added each month.
Through the Brotherhood of the Balloon, members offer support to others who have has similar experiences and want to find out more about what to expect from treatment, Loma Linda University Medical Center or prostate cancer in general. "All our members vividly remember the emotional swings we experienced when we were diagnosed with prostate cancer, so we can empathize with men who have received similar news," said Robert Marchini, one of the group's original members. "It's common for members to send questions to the entire membership about a short term side effect they might be experiencing or on a variety of other subjects relating to their treatment. The responses are always numerous, thoughtful and helpful."
They are devote their time to educating the public about proton treatment through presentations to various organizations and civic groups in their communities.
To learn more about proton therapy at Loma Linda, call 1-800-PROTONS (776-8667) or log on to www.llu.edu/proton .
For more information about the Brotherhood of the Balloon, visit www.protonbob.com .
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