After former Sun Journal business reporter Trevor Maxwell’s cancer diagnosis two years ago, he was initially shocked, and then he got busy, founding the effort Man Up To Cancer.

Trevor Maxwell, stage IV colon cancer survivor and founder of the Man Up to Cancer podcast. Submitted photo

He recently teamed up with Lewiston’s Baxter Brewing Co. on one of its “passion project” beers to raise cancer awareness. A portion of the proceeds of the to-be-released ale will go toward Man Up To Cancer.

Name: Trevor Maxwell

Age: 43

Lives: Cape Elizabeth

How did Man Up To Cancer get its start? I’ve been living with stage IV colon cancer since March of 2018. My diagnosis was a shock, to say the least. Early in my journey, I went through a very dark period with depression and anxiety. I got through that with the love of my family and friends, and by reaching out and accepting help. Man Up to Cancer is about letting men know that it’s not weak to accept help, and that they don’t have to go through cancer alone.

Man Up to Cancer includes a podcast and website designed to encourage men, and the people who love us, to avoid isolation when facing cancer. We also have a private Facebook group for men impacted by cancer, which has about 700 members from around the U.S. and several other countries.

From what you’ve seen, how are men and women’s cancer experiences different? In general, men are more likely to isolate after a cancer diagnosis. I’ve seen this in my own experience as a patient interacting with other patients and advocacy groups. There is also scientific literature that discusses the topic. Women are more likely to reach out to friends, and to access mental health services and other supports. When men isolate, this can cause a lot of problems, including stress on relationships and even poor medical outcomes.

Advice for someone trying to support a friend or spouse fighting cancer? When a friend is diagnosed with cancer, one of the best things you can do is to reassure them that you will be there for them, and that cancer is not going to push you away. You don’t need to try to fix anything. You just need to be there. I was in shock for quite a while after my diagnosis, so I didn’t even really know what I needed. But it always felt good when a friend would text or call to simply check in or tell me they supported me.

Advice for a person going through it? Be kind to yourself! Lower your expectations of yourself and everyone around you, because you’re all going to do the best you can and sometimes that is going to be not so pretty. Stay as active as you can, try to create routines that work for you and accept help. I hate the idea that you need to be positive all the time. That’s not realistic for anyone. Understand that the tougher emotions — fear, sadness, anger, frustration, etc. — are absolutely normal and it’s OK to feel those things from time to time. Try not to push those feelings away or bury them inside. If you find healthy ways to process them, then you will have a much easier time regaining your positivity.

How did the collaboration with Baxter Brewing come about? And was there tasting involved? I’m always looking to connect with others who might be interested in supporting my mission and helping me spread awareness around the problem of men isolating during cancer. I was thinking it would be cool to connect with a Maine brewer, because a lot of guys are into the craft brew scene.

A mutual friend encouraged me to reach out to Jenn Lever, president at Baxter Brewing. We had a Zoom meeting in the spring, and Jenn was incredibly supportive and enthusiastic about collaborating. Even with all the stress on her business with COVID-19, Jenn was persistent with the project. She has been amazing and I’m super lucky to have her support. We will get our first tastes this week!

You’re working with the Dempsey Center, too? Yes, we just launched a new group for men facing any type of cancer. We’re calling it the Man Up to Cancer Roundtable and it is a statewide group. We’re meeting twice a month on Zoom, and we also plan on getting together in person for outings such as dinners, outdoor expeditions, sporting events and other stuff. I’ve been receiving services as a client at the Dempsey Center since early on in my cancer journey, so it’s so rewarding to be able to work with them to help others along the journey. You can find the group at dempseycenter.org.


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