KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — According to the National Cancer Institute, men have a one in two chance of being diagnosed with cancer during their lifetimes. For women, the chance is one in three. There is a movement to make sure men are getting the support needed during their battle with the disease.

Michael Holtz is a survivor of colorectal cancer. His battle, like so many others, was tough.

“When you hear those words and you start going through the process of treatment, I found myself helping other people be comfortable with the fact that I’m a cancer patient. And things are hard and there were friends who disappeared from the picture because they couldn’t deal with it, or they didn’t know what to say. Having an organization like Man Up to Cancer which didn’t exist, you know, 12 years ago when I was diagnosed with cancer. Today, you know, shows me that we’ve come a long way in helping people be able to connect and bear the mental load during cancer treatment,” said Holtz.

As a survivor and cancer education advocate, he found an online group that was a gathering place to help men like him deal with the stress of battling the disease. The group pushing a “pack” mentality.

“There’s a Facebook group called The Howling Place. Our logo is the wolf, right, and we’re the wolf pack. So, you know the strength of the wolf is the pack, the strength of the pack is the wolf is kind of the motto,” he said.

The Howling Place gained momentum and eventually became a non-profit called Man Up to Cancer, bringing men across the country from virtual support to having the pack come together for yearly retreats.

“Men want to go it alone and the challenge with that from a mental health perspective is you don’t have anyone to lean on. So Man Up to Cancer provides an opportunity for men to connect,” said Holtz.

The organization currently provides:

  • Peer-to-peer support through our private howling place Facebook group
  • Annual retreat – the Gathering of Wolves
  • Chemo backpack program
  • More than 30 local chapters

Man Up to Cancer is a play on words when it comes to the need for men to get support rather than go the hard journey alone.

“That’s the biggest thing, about 13,000 people a year who are diagnosed with cancer commit suicide. Of that number 83% are men. That to me, that number alone, is alarming and demonstrates that an organization like Man Up to Cancer is necessary and it’s needed,” he said.

Man Up To Cancer also has local chapters. Holtz, who is a national board member of the group, would love for Knoxville to have one. The closest currently is in Nashville.