We’re talking Mo’vember

I decided this year to participate in Mo’vember, that growing movement that is building awareness around prostate cancer. Symbolically only, though; I haven’t been collecting pledges. Between sports fundraising and school fundraising, my friends and family are a little tapped out. I’m giving them a break on this one.

Not everyone is supportive, though. Some people think it’s another “cause-washing” event, allowing some companies to feel good about raising money for a charity while still selling products that are considered to be at the root of the problem. Other people are concerned that the awareness is creating hyper-sensitive patients who are encourage to get a treatment that may not reduce cancer, or possibly cause more harm. I understand both of these arguments, but I think they’re missing one very important point.

For me, it’s the conversations started. Only a few of my friends are sporting a cool, furry look (or at least working towards one), and there are still plenty of people who are unaware of Mo’vember. I’ve started no less than 9 decent conversations about prostate cancer and the need to get checked. These conversations—conversation with men, women and children— are powerful.

First, we draw attention to prostate cancer. Awareness—especially among grown men—is critical to prevention.

Secondly, these conversations offer a little support and compassion, reducing the stigma or embarrassment that prevents many men from talking with their doctor. No one is alone in this.

Finally, (and this is the kicker) proudly growing facial hair is a male thing. Prostate cancer is also a male thing. Drawing the link is powerfully symbolic, and it’s something that a colourful ribbon or symbolic flower can’t match.

Like most men, I realize that a little creative shaving for 30 days isn’t going to prevent cancer. But if my quirky appearance encourages one guy to go to the doctor —whether he does it on his own or at the urging of his partner or family or friends—and he gets checked out so he can make informed decisions about his health, then this will be worth a million times more than the effort I’m putting in.

You may be the coolest dad in the world, but we need you to be around so you can be the coolest grandfather in the world, too. That’s why I am talking Mo’vember.

Update November 2, 2012: Movember gets its share of criticism. The most recent being from Amberly McAteer in the Globe and Mail. She’s concerned that men are not trying hard enough, or taking our effort seriously. She misses the point completely.

“Call me a fundraising snob, but I train for a handful of races each year for cancer research and victims. While I’m climbing the evil, vicious hill in the last leg of the Harry’s Spring Run Off, which benefits prostate cancer, and want to quit, I think of those close to me who have beaten the disease or are battling it. The hill is absolutely nothing compared to the struggles the men I love are facing.”

Since last year’s event, two people close to me took the time to see a doctor, and have since been diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer. So, sure, the fundraising snobs can tell me over-and-over about their concerns. Get over your righteousness. I have two healthy friends, simply because not shaving reminded them to go get checked.

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