After Pat Harmon was diagnosed with brain cancer, he and George Haines created BCMeetUp as a support group for cancer fighters. Pat is 29 and works as a permanent substitute teacher and football coach at Smithtown East High School.
BCMeetUp utilizes social media to offer new connections, and support to those affected by cancer. The group offers members camaraderie without confining attendees to a stodgy hall or impersonal facility. They convene in chill locations that people would patronize anyway, except now they can relax in the company of other people who get it. People who understand what they are fighting.
George discussed the origin of the group, and extends a welcome to cancer fighters, survivors and friends. Rock on, guys.
What is BCMeetUp?
We are not a charity- do not raise money. We are a meet-up group designed to provide social interaction and informal peer-to-peer support for cancer fighters. I do not have cancer, our co-founder Patrick Harmon does. He has brain cancer and has been fighting for 3 years and 5 brain surgeries.
What inspired you to take action and create this group?
Pat came over this summer and told me the bad news that he went to visit the doctor and his tumor had grown back. He needed that 5th surgery. We discussed support groups. I went with him to a support group at a local library and it was good for him, he was happy to be able to connect, but he wanted more. There were only a few people there and it was pretty somber. We asked a few people to go out for a drink at a local bar (even though they can’t drink alcohol during treatment, we still got soda and bar food).
It was a much more relaxed atmosphere and we talked about cancer, treatment, etc. but also the Yankees, our families, our plans, our jobs, just like a normal social situation.
Pat and I decided to try to recreate that environment for people- social events both big and small. The focus is on Brain Cancer, but we invite any cancer fighters and survivors to join us.
What are you hoping to achieve with the group?
We just want people to be able to connect, create friendships, exchange phone numbers, e-mails, whatever. Make it sort of support 2.0. We are hoping to get a few dozen people in the group because it is always hard to get everyone together on the same dates, but we are hoping to have small monthly or bi-monthly meet ups- like brunch, bowling, watching football, going to dinner, movies, etc. Small. We had a big launch party at the Roger Smith on November 7th, but those events will be few and far between. Maybe one bigger one this summer like a BBQ or something
Members can connect, make friends and be with people that they share a common bond with. Our group can be good for support, but also an escape to get away from the pills and bills of the weekly routine.
What’s the most important thing you want someone to know about BCMeetUp?
We want any cancer fighters, (especially brain cancer) to know that we want to hang out with them.
How are you using social media to promote your cause? What has been most effective for you?
I started the @BCMeetUp twitter account to connect with anyone and everyone in the NY area. Everyone knows someone with cancer and if people connect with me and we become friends, maybe we will come to mind when they talk to a friend or family member who is fighting cancer. It is a struggle because our cause is sort of dark and depressing, but my goal is to be myself- 100% authentic George and let people know that when someone with cancer hangs with us, they will be able to laugh, joke and have fun, but also be comfortable and safe and able to open up and cry if they want. We’re fun but we’re sweet too.