Monday, December 9, 2013

GFMPH

    Two hours from home aboard a Boeing 767. Mandy is 300 pages into her Nicholas Sparks novel and I just witnessed my team suffer their second loss of the season to the 49ers. We are both excited to be close to home. We miss our kids and our dog but we are also sad that we had to say goodbye to our new friends this morning. It was an amazing week. I now fully understand the true meaning of GFMPH
   Several years ago a group of online friends decided it was time for a gathering. They had known each other for years but had never met. All of them shared a common bond. They were all survivors of prostate cancer whom had met on an online forum. This gathering became known as GFMPH. G.F.M.P.H. Is an acronym. It stands for good for my prostate health.  What started as a gathering of a few has grown each year and this last week Mandy and I attended our first such gathering. Although this one was much different from the others it was still nothing short of life changing. 
    Last Saturday Mandy and I landed in the "Big Easy" to embark on the first ever G.F.M.P.H Caribbean cruise. Aboard the N.C.L. Jewel we shared 7 days and nights of bonding with 13 other Prostate Cancer Survivors and their wives under the warmth of the Caribbean sun. We met Saturday evening on the eve of the cruise for an authentic Cajun meal. It was there that many of us met face to face for the first time. We quickly learned that cancer was not our only commonality. It seemed we all love to laugh as well. We knew that evening that the following week was going to be fun but we had no idea that we would come away from the gathering with 26 new family members. 
    Normally these gatherings take place at a forum members home and tend to be more intimate due to the confinement of being in a single location.  Being on an enormous cruise ship and traveling from port to port spreads things out a little. We were surrounded by a few thousand strangers and spread out over several decks of the ship.  We however had a week and the previous gatherings were only for a weekend.  We made the most of the time spent together.
   I never had a complete understanding of the GFMPH gatherings prior to this week. They always sounded like a lot of fun but life changing? I had my doubts. They always occurred a long ways from the west coast. Going to some guys home that I had never met to hang out with a bunch of people I had never met seemed a little weird. I had met only three of my healingwell.com brothers over the years and although upon meeting them we knew we were friends for life I just couldn't grasp the idea of these gatherings. 
    Last March I had the privilege meeting and sharring a meal with two of my healingwell brothers. Waterguy started talking to me that evening about going on the cruise. I told him we would think about it but it was so close to Christmas and our daughter is in high school so I really couldn't see us going. I was wrong. My buddy would not let it rest. I am thankful for his dogmatic attitude. Two months ago he basically told me " Todd, you and Mandy are going on this cruise"
   I can only say so much about this gathering. What happens at gfmph stays at gfmph. The members elect to remain anonymous. The time we spent together however was worth every dime. It's funny how being around other people facing the same demons as yourself can actually make you feel healthier and stronger in your fight. Mandy and I walked away feeling less alone in our situation. I have known most of these people for the better part of six years. Now I have a face to go along with their names. Instead of a screen name and a post on a forum I know I am talking with my family.
   I encourage the folks from ( healingwell.com prostate cancer) to get involved with gfmph and do your best to try and make it to a gathering. It will feel awkward for about five minutes. After that it will feel like coming home. I encourage those who have not found ( healingwell.com Prostate Cancer Forum) to look it up. You will find truth in the statement "no one fights alone"
   The next gathering is in Florida in March. We will be unable to attend that one as I cannot secure the time away from work. We are already planning September in New York though. I guess once you have been to a GFMPH you just naturally want to go to another. Yes my friends, they are that good. My good friend Raddad loved them. I never met him but wish I had. His enthusiasm and faith were contagious. Jennifer if you read this I can only say thank you. I will be sending many photo's in the future. Your father was a wonderful man. He was the best friend I never met and I miss him. That's all I have to say right now. Don't get me wrong. There is much more to say but I am still digesting in my heart what took place this last week. God Bless..... Todd