It’s a storyline that captivated millions of Eastenders fans, as the male character Stuart Highway was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.

But what few will know is that actor Ricky Champ, who plays Stuart, made sure he learned vital knowledge for the role by meeting an online support group co-founded by psychologist DMU Kerry Quincey and Doug Harper, who was diagnosed and treated. for the disease.

The group, called The Men’s VMU – which stands for Virtual Meet-Up – was launched two years ago, in a UK first, in which men could meet once a month via Zoom to discuss their diagnosis breast cancer and its development. affected them and their loved ones.

It was started by Dr Quincey, from DMU’s Institute of Psychological Sciences, and Doug, from London, after taking part in research by Dr Quincey which found that men did not feel offered the same level of support than women when they had breast cancer. treatment

Since then, The Men’s VMU has flourished and, in addition to actor Ricky Champ who has turned to them for advice, cancer charities such as Breast Cancer Now, Macmillan, Walk the Walk and Against Breast Cancer have made it their resource for men with the disease. .

VMU MALE - KERRY QUINCEY

Dr Quincey said: ‘The work with Ricky and the recognition of cancer charities on The Men’s VMU is fantastic and perfectly demonstrates how important it is to help real men, in real situations, to meet and support each other in a community they have created. .

“I attend monthly meetings and Ricky joined us in early 2022 to learn more about male breast cancer to inform his role in Eastenders.

“He was absolutely fantastic. He clung to each member’s words, made sure he understood their stories and was really empathetic. Ricky promised to do his best with whatever storyline he was taking on and realized how much how important it was to inform the public about the disease.

“I’m so proud of the men’s VMU and how these men support each other. They’re like a bunch of buddies who get together in the pub once a month to talk about everyday things and their experiences with breast cancer.

MAN VMU Original Doug-Harper

Doug, a genuine East Ender, husband and father, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. He said: “Men’s VMU has gone further than we thought – and in such a short time. The influence he has now has been incredible.

“You have to remember that it’s all about men with breast cancer first and foremost and giving them the chance to meet and offer each other support, but it’s been successful way beyond that. my wildest dreams.

“When I spoke to Ricky about the breast cancer storyline, he was brilliant. He’s been so supportive of the band, so down to earth and so interested in what we’re doing. He’s carrying the breast cancer flag in men. It became a kind of passion project for him and I don’t think that passion will leave him.

Doug, who admits he gets ‘a bit of a stick’ in the group for being a Leyton Orient supporter, added: ‘When I was first diagnosed I had nowhere to go. My breast care nurse told me there was a meeting group but I would be the only man there.

“The disease in men is rare – I was the first man in the area in three years, I think, to be diagnosed – but the men’s VMU was desperately needed.

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“One of the very few good things to come out of COVID was that everyone learned to use Zoom and that meant we could all connect from anywhere in the country. I don’t know how we would have set up the group otherwise.

“So now we meet and we don’t just talk about cancer. We discuss serious things but we have a lot of jokes and headaches. The most important thing is that we watch each other’s backs.

Doug praised Dr. Quincey and his work in getting men’s VMU off the ground.

“Without her, it just wouldn’t exist,” Doug said. “Having the men’s VMU was something I dreamed of, but Kerry made it a reality. She got the ball rolling and whatever I do around men’s breast cancer, I will always discuss it with Kerry

“She comes to all the meetings and disappears for a while so we can all chat amongst ourselves but she has become an honorary member of The Men’s VMU.

“Everyone in the group respects her enormously and she’s an incredible woman, even though she supports Leicester City!”

Dr. Quincey continues to use The Men’s VMU to inform his research, connecting with cancer charities and experts in the field.

Members of The Men’s VMU have also featured as guests in Dr. Quincey’s lecture on Men’s Health as part of the MSc Health Psychology program.

She said: “Our students relished the opportunity to learn about male breast cancer directly from the perspective of the patient-survivor, and Dave Talbot – the guest speaker – enjoyed sharing his experience and insights. inform more about the realities of men’s lives. diagnosed with breast cancer. »

To learn more about The Men’s VMU, contact [email protected]

You can also follow the band on Twitter @TheMensVMU

Posted on Tuesday, June 14, 2022