by John Stephens
Usually November marks the entrance of winter and the donning of accessories to hold warmth within your body as the winter slowly creeps in like a militant involved in guerrilla warfare. Thermal gloves, waterproof jackets, and ski hats are all seen as necessities… and now, if you are a man so is a moustache.
The moustache is however not purely for heat-retaining properties or as a fashion accessory, but more a symbol. Gavin Brown MSP for the Lothians was willing to share his experience and thoughts on the Movember campaign, as various MSP’s are campaigning and all pitching in to help spread awareness of men’s health issues.
“I was e-mailed by constituents mid-October asking if I was taking part in the campaign. It was then that I decided to do it as it is undoubtedly a good cause and growing a moustache is definitely worthwhile to help address serious issues such as prostate and testicular cancer.”
Movember began with just 30 friends in Australia in 2003 and has grown globally with official campaigns running this year in the UK, Ireland, USA and Finland amongst others and due to this it is set to be a record breaking total of £25.9 million which was raised in 2009.
Each year the campaign has received slightly more press coverage and Gavin Brown believes that “it feels bigger this year” and that it is “a lot more noticeable” with a wide range of celebrities, regular citizens and of course politicians from all across the political spectrum becoming involved.
For MSP Bruce Crawford Movember is more personal and sombre. He said: “My motivation for participating in Movember was the very recent death of my father from cancer. If something so simple as growing a moustache can help create a greater awareness of cancers then that can only be good.”
And of course for many people raising money during the Movember campaign it is to do with many personal stories of relatives and close friends who have passed away due to the disease.
There have been many different campaigns which have been high profile in highlighting the effects of cancer including the 2007 Fuck Cancer appeal by American rock outfit My Chemical Romance with frontman Gerard Way stating: “1 in 3 people are affected by cancer, be it directly or indirectly”. These campaigns of course only highlight general cancer concerns with both men and women. And rates of diagnosis between men and women are radically different.
“Movember brings about the added benefit of talking about men’s health issues. It is often the case that men are reluctant to go to the doctor regarding their health” states Gavin Brown. And with almost 36,000 men being diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK alone, and an estimated further 250,000 living with prostate cancer it seems imperative that there is a campaign to highlight issues with the cancers that affect men only.
Besides the previously stated facts, there are many more that people should be made aware of. All men have a 1 in 11 chance of getting prostate cancer in the UK, that is the equivalent of at least 42 football players in the Scottish football league system from each teams starting 11. One man dies every hour of prostate cancer in the UK and is the most common form of cancer amongst men. There are of course more facts, all of which are readily available from the Movember Foundation’s website.
“Behind the fun, there is also a serious message … it makes us part of a global fight against the disease, and a drive to ensure that all men avail themselves of the facts, stay aware and empower themselves to take care of their health” says John Neate of the Prostate Cancer Charity. Issues such as men being less inclined to visit the doctors due to a perceived attached stigma has led to the life expectancy for men being less than women.
However personal accounts of men who have fought the disease and the high number of men, including MSPs, in the media who are all growing moustaches have seen the number of men diagnosed with prostate cancer rise by 60 per cent over the past ten years.
Denton Wilson is the over 50’s bodybuilder champion of the UK who had prostate cancer. He admitted that “it took me a long time to admit to my girlfriend what was wrong and it was hard on her because she couldn’t understand why I was being so distant.”
It was only afterwards that Denton realised the pettiness of not being open about the disease and he is now determined to spread the word about prostate cancer to other men.
Whether you are an MSP, a footballer, a rock star or just a regular citizen, cancer can affect you, and that’s the highlight of the campaign, bringing everyone together to fight a deadly disease. And every man involved in the campaign has decided that they are wanting to lead the fight for men’s health.
“I’ll admit, I have no real style for my moustache!” said Gavin Brown. It seems as though the only thing men are still to decide on is the moustache that they wish to grow.