top of page

Becoming a Patient Advocate

Updated: Nov 8, 2022

By Rod Ritchie


We all belong to the community for different reasons. Many are variously curious and seek information, some of us are patients and caregivers or friends and relatives, some have lost loved ones to this disease, while others may wish to support a breast cancer charity. We also seek to learn from medical professionals, such as surgeons, oncologists, physicians, and other experts in the field.

Regardless, every so often many of us feel a calling to become patient advocates.

Being a patient advocate is satisfying, and advocating for anybody diagnosed with breast cancer very often means the patient has a partner throughout the stressful diagnosis and initial treatment phases. It can also involve giving practical support, from basics such as household chores and meals,

to assistance when transport to medical events is necessary.

Most importantly, it can mean sitting in on doctor appointments where another pair of ears can be invaluable along with a notepad for all that information. This is information that the patient often just doesn’t either comprehend or even properly ‘hear.’

My Advocacy Story

After diagnosis in 2014, I was a regular poster on, one of the few communities that welcomed men. With a marketing and IT background, I soon worked out that you could reach a lot of people with the right forums. At the start, I was learning from the experiences of others, in later years, after training and learned experiences, I put newly diagnosed men in touch with the support systems developing on the various social media platforms, most of all Twitter and Facebook.

While the traditional print and electronic media are still effective outlets, social media is the perfect platform for international patient advocates to engage with patients and medical professionals. It’s very easy on Twitter to reach out to the clinical and research communities around the world to spread your message. That said, at no time should a patient advocate give medical advice.

In the beginning, I could see that most people just wanted someone to talk to, and that was fine by me. Isolation, lack of knowledge, and just plain embarrassment were what very many men felt. Knowing someone was out there having lived their experiences was often a great comfort. Looking for more opportunities, I underwent training as a telephone counselor for people in various stages of treatment. Often these people lived in remote areas. When an opportunity came up for volunteers at the local hospital infusion room, I jumped at the chance to sit with people at this stressful and vulnerable time. My introduction line was, “I’m just here to support patients. If you like to talk, fine, if not I’ll move on.” This had a 50 percent success rate!

After attending conferences for patient advocates, I was fortunate to land a scholarship to the NBCC Project LEAD course in San Diego in 2018. In 2019, I received a scholarship to attend SABCS19, where I was impressed by the kindness of the many women who are mostly the patient advocates in this field, and who I only knew online.

One thing leads to another. Now I’m writing articles, making videos, giving talks, and editing the stories from men for the Male Breast Cancer Global Alliance. I occupy a niche in breast cancer advocacy, and I’m always amazed at the number of medical professionals following me on Twitter.

What it takes

Patient advocates need to look at and respond constructively to different positions and issues, bounce back from negative or unresponsive patients and, most importantly, be resilient enough to handle the trials and tribulations of our disease along with that of the people they are trying to help.

The best patient advocates:

  • always listen and learn;

  • are open to different ways to share messages;

  • value support from others; and

  • partner with like-minded individuals.

Basically, I believe patient advocates have much to gain psychologically from helping others. In fact, we are healthier and mentally stronger for it. That aside, if we’ve benefited from the help of others, why not pay it forward?

About Rod Ritchie

Rod Ritchie is a Sydney-born writer, internet publisher, and breast cancer patient activist, living with breast and prostate cancers. Currently he’s NED for both. He’s President, Board of Directors, Male Breast Cancer Global Alliance, has a website at and you can follow him on Twitter @malefitness

His articles for Health Union can be found here: Resources & Support:

194 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Meditation Mondays:

Chakra Chanting with Gloria

Mondays at 10:00 a.m. ET 


Thursday Night Thrivers:

All Stages

Thursdays at 7:00 p.m. ET



Thursday Night Thrivers:

Metastatic Breast Cancer

First and third Thursdays

of the month at 7:00 p.m. ET



Thursday Night Thrivers:

Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Second Thursday

of the month at 7:00 p.m. ET


Tuesday Night Thrivers

Después de un Diagnóstico:

Spanish support group

2do y Cuarto Martes de cada mes 

7:00 p.m. ET


Restorative Yoga:

Journey to the Stars

September  25 1:00 p.m. ET


Qi Gong 

September 26, 11:30 a.m. ET


Breast Cancer Book Club

October 1, 11:00 a.m. ET


Art Therapy

October 2 6:00 p.m. ET


Yoga Stretching for DIEP flap

October 3 6:00 p.m. ET


Yoga with

Chair assist 

October 10, 11:30 a.m. ET


Writing Workshop:

Reflect and Recharge

October 16, 6:00 p.m. ET


Más eventos en español


Upcoming Events


Surviving Breast Cancer provides breast cancer support, events, and webinars at no cost to you! Whether you are looking to gain more knowledge on a particular topic or meet up with other breast cancer survivors, we have something for everyone. 


Our standing appointment on Thursdays is for all stages. We also host specific breakout groups once a month for specific stages and subtypes such as Metastatic breast cancer, and Inflammatory Breast Cancer, etc. 


The Book Club meets the first Sunday of every month at 11 am ET. You are welcome to join each month or pick and choose your month based on your availability and the book we are reading. 


Through art, writing, and other creative modalities, we hold the power to manage our stress, make sense of our now, and relax into moments of stillness. 


Free, monthly, online classes in restorative yoga, yoga for breast cancer, and Zumba. 


Después de un Diagnóstico

bottom of page