So as the last hours of my second Movember draw to a close and I sharpen my Wilkinsword Sword (a British brand of razors for those raised eyebrows in the house) and lather up, it seems an appropriate time to reflect back on some of the poignant lessons that participating in this phenomenon has taught me that I can take away and use to make myself and the society around me better.
1. Fellas: It’s time to start talking about it.
I started this month with a post that mentions a very young Irish man who died of a testicular cancer that might well have gone undiagnosed for far too long. But who can blame him? We live in a society in which we are seeing the great renaissance of the ancient Greek value of stoicism. Don’t ask, don’t tell. Especially if it hurts. Bear up and you’re even more of a man. These are the values that we as males are raised with, especially in North America and Western Europe, as was brought home to me in a conversation with a colleague the other day. Said colleague was talking about how her husband had had a scare some years ago, and how ‘men just don’t talk about it.’ How can we? We’re not supposed to. Women get together and if one or even more than one of them has had breast cancer, they talk about it, they swap stories, they share experiences. But what are we supposed to do, whip it out in conversation at the pub? I meant the conversation topic of men’s health, of symptoms experienced, anxiety keenly felt (what did you think I was talking about?) To do so would be seen as an admission of weakness. Or perhaps of our own mortality and by extension, our humanity and therefore a great act of courage. So, whether it’s your disco stick or your meat cleaver, your lincoln log or your trouser snake, we’ve got to start talking more, being uncomfortable less and forming common bonds of support around the issue of health.
2. On that point, get checked out.
On that point of diagnosis, how tragically awful and wasteful must it be to die not because you have a fatal condition but because you have a condition that, had you had it diagnosed sooner, could have been prevented from becoming fatal? And yet again, colleagues and friends have, because of this issue in the last month, spoken to me about countless cases of men losing one testicle or suffering a much worse fate simply because they didn’t know or didn’t think they needed to get certain irregularities checked out or that those irregularities were worth regular self checking.
I know how nerve-wracking it is. It evokes that great unspoken apprehension that we of the Y Chromosome persuasion all secretly hold: The George Castanza Fear — “What if it moves?” Yes, what happens if my organ, whilst being given the once over by the kindly male doctor, even involuntary… shifts… even in the weakest pulsation of a movement? What could it possibly mean? I admit, it is a legitimate cause for concern that hung like a specter in my head for weeks before the last time I had myself checked out. As it happens, it did not move, but could as easily have done just from the sheer nervousness I felt and the one answer I have come up with for anyone — including myself — that feels the Castanza Fear is an obstacle is that suffering and dying from a preventable and treatable condition is far worse than movement down there under close examination.
3. Men’s health organisations need money
I know it is true that most charities are crying out for donations all the time, but one of the most surprising facts that I found as I was reading up on Movember’s History was that when Movember fundraisers presented the Prostate Cancer Foundation Australia with a cheque for AUD $54,000 in 2004, it was the largest single amount they’d ever received. No big donors. No great benefactors. It took a bunch of Aussies growing facial hair to bring the under-funding of men’s health to the world. And the continuing phenomenon is proof of both changing attitudes to men’s health and the continuing need to talk up and raise funds for these very serious charities and health organizations, who are still desperately in need of cash.
4. Be bold and savvy when fundraising. Save the guilt for when the money’s counted
I raised £208 last year for Movember. I thought If I could do it again this year and raise £300, I’d be doing well, but then the wife said, be bold, why not go for £500? And she was right. It is better to aim for a bold number and miss then aim for a realistically modest number just to be sure and hit the target. At last count my grand total for Movember was £425, which is not too shabby considering it was just about £250 entering the last week of the month. I attribute the success and the slight shortcoming to three things: Pestering, Persisting and making it personal. I put a reminder on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ (just for good measure) nearly every day, and any of you keeping up with my Tache page know that I updated that pretty frequently too. There’s an apprehension with some people who don’t want to feel as though they’re being a nuisance. Again, being a nuisance is a small price to pay for preventing suffering, especially since you’re not out in the street trying to get bank details and email addresses and all you have to do is pass on a link. I also sent text and email reminders that were most effective, both on my personal email and my email at work and thanked my donors in a group email or on as much social media as possible. If a person donates, at the very least they have earned the right to have it acknowledged as publicly as possible. All of this hindsight-acquired vision comes with a caveat though: Facebook was useful, Twitter was not. By a long shot, which is odd because I often find Twitter more fun. I sent direct messages to every company that follows me, but the truth is, no one goes on Twitter to give to charity. It is a format that is uniquely suited to the superficial nature of the internet and in-depth appeals for charity seem to fall dead in the water. Better off next year sending personal emails, perhaps even followed up by phone-calls.
Finally, if you feel so inclined, Movember certainly will not turn your money away just because the month is over, please click on the link and donate to a worthy cause. You will be making a huge difference no matter what your contribution.