When Jan Kerkmeester was diagnosed with bowel cancer, the last thing he wanted was "support".
But the 48-year-old has since reaped the benefits of a men's fitness programme set up in Tauranga 18 months ago. The programme has increased with such popularity that funding for continuous classes has now been approved for this year.
The first six-week pilot programme for the Men's Exercise Group for cancer patients immediately attracted 10 men and a waiting list of eight. The demand was such that a second course was established a few weeks later, which Mr Kerkmeester signed up for.
In April, 2011, Mr Kerkmeester was diagnosed with bowel cancer, which later spread to his liver.
"I was told I had a 10 per cent chance of making five years but I'm grabbing at that 10 per cent and I'm doing really well," he said.
Mr Kerkmeester has now completed his third fitness programme and is looking forward to the next.
The classes involve simple exercises designed to keep men in shape as they fight cancer. But it's more than just a workout, Mr Kerkmeester said.
"It's not just the exercise. It's getting to meet everybody and the social interaction. One of the biggest things is not knowing and when you come here, you can talk to other people.
"I must admit, when they came to me and talked about a men's support group I didn't want to go. It may be a bit 'macho' but I felt I didn't need support, [I said] 'I can do this on my own'. I didn't like the term 'support' ... it's almost as if it's a needy thing."
Mr Kerkmeester said the worst thing about cancer was the uncertainty, but by meeting like-minded men in similar situations, he was able to air any concerns he had with his new-found friends.
The free men's exercise programme was the brainchild of Cancer Society liaison nurse Colleen Kendrick, who investigated the benefits of exercise to people with cancer while studying for her masters degree.
The programme has since gone from strength-to-strength with funding having been approved for continuous classes.
Ms Kendrick found there were "gaps in the market" when comparing support services for men and women with cancer.
Physiotherapist and director of Kaimai Physio Lucy Osborne, who has been involved since the pilot, said cancer treatments often left people fatigued, weak and deconditioned, which was why exercise was so beneficial.
"It can be difficult to know how to start exercising safely again or even just how to feel back to normal," she said.
The programme is available for men of all ages with cancer. Anyone interested can contact the Tauranga Cancer Society office on 14th Ave or email firstname.lastname@example.org.