Men’s Health Week: “Unburdening my feelings was an incredible comfort”

Categories: Care and Featured.

To mark Men’s Health Week, 74-year-old Roy Setchell tells us about the importance of reaching out for help when things are tough, and encouraging other men to do the same.

Roy remembers how as a younger man he was led to believe that getting upset, crying, and talking about feelings wasn’t a macho trait, but more of a feminine one. “I’m of a generation where men kept things close to their chest” he says. “If we had problems, we were told to suck them up and get on with it.”

It was only when Roy reached his sixties that he started to talk about his emotions, thanks to his wife Hilary’s encouragement. “She would say, ‘Open up to me, Roy. Don’t be the male hero.’”

As 2019 was drawing to a close, Hilary became out of breath during a trip to the supermarket. “I thought she just needed a pick-me-up from our GP. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that simple.”

Tests revealed that Hilary, fondly known as ‘Hil’, was living with metastatic colon cancer. From the outset, her prognosis was heartbreakingly bleak: the cancer was terminal and inoperable. As 2019 turned to 2020, Hil told Roy her wishes: no chemotherapy, no radiotherapy, and that she wanted to pass away at Saint Francis Hospice in Essex. Sadly, she never made it there.

Only hours after discussing her last wishes, Hil passed away. The couple were only six weeks short of celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary together. “It all happened so quickly” Roy remembers tearfully. “I loved her so much.”

As Roy entered what he described as a “dark tunnel of desperation,” he received a sympathy card from the hospice. “Then the lockdown hit. It couldn’t have come at a worse time. I was sinking lower and lower and couldn’t stop crying. I felt wracked with guilt.”

Inside the card was a note to let Roy know that the hospice was only a phone call away. Roy resisted the notion that was drilled into him as a younger man and dialled the number. “I desperately needed help and someone to talk to, and that’s what OrangeLine gave me. Unburdening my feelings is an incredible comfort.”

OrangeLine is a confidential helpline for people local to Saint Francis Hospice who are feeling alone, isolated, or in need of a friendly conversation.

Roy is now urging other men to ask for help if they need it. “Don’t do this ‘male’ thing and keep your emotions inside. OrangeLine can help you. And as Hil always used to say: a problem shared is a problem halved.”

For more information visit Saint Francis Hospice

Men’s Health Week runs until Sunday June 21st