There are a lot of themes associated with the fight against cancer. Patients and survivors, even care givers, care teams and physicians must endure, persevere, be patient, hopeful and strong. Although, I don’t think many people take time to consider the struggles that come along with a fight against cancer through a social lens. Without a doubt, society has dictated a standard for what is masculine and what is feminine. The side effects of cancer treatments can corrupt the image of manliness which is hopefully short term, but there are some long-term effects that survivors must deal with. Either way, though, allow me to put this bluntly – cancer, in no way shape or form, affects your identity. Regarding men’s health, prostate cancer and testicular cancer treatments can cause erectile dysfunction and lower testosterone levels, which can have effects of their own. Everything society has deemed “manly” can be compromised after treatments, but, in reality, it has no effect on one’s “manliness.” In my opinion, Movember’s challenge of “No-Shave-November” supports cancer survivorship by challenging followers embrace their health, wellness and their own identities.
Over the past month, I have been growing my facial hair in support of Movember. Just to recap, I decided to participate in “No Shave November” to gain a new perspective of the purpose of Movember. In the past, I’ve done it, but I didn’t completely understand why. I think the “why?” should be important to anyone following a movement.
I have been quite retrospective the last few days. Even throughout November, I have taken time to lean back in my chair, fold one leg over the opposite knee, rub the hair on my face and ask, “why mustn’t I shave? “ I’ve participated in several cancer support events like Relay for Life. I’ve ran a 5k, I’ve worn specific colored shirts and participated in a few others, but something stuck out to me; what do they embody that symbolizes cancer support? I get rallying behind a cause. Perhaps a race or relay embodies the strength of the human spirit. But, after thinking, the creators of those events can’t possibly equate the strength to overpower cancer to the strength it takes to run 3 miles, can they? I’ve never asked. Maybe there’s no reason behind it aside from getting people together to support a cause, but you definitely don’t have to run five miles to do that.
Movember, on the other hand, has done something unique.
A cool fact: Movember started out in a bar.
A couple guys met up in a bar in Australia and jokingly conversed about bringing old styles back. Upon later discussion, one of their mothers, who was fundraising for breast cancer at the time, inspired them to grow mustaches. They ran with the idea, pitched it to their friends and everyone who participated chipped in $10. The idea spread and so did their movement.
Another cool fact: Movember supports more than just men’s health.
Originally it started by supporting men’s health. But after researching, they focused to support prostate cancer. After that, they branched out to support testicular cancer, depression and anxiety, and physical health. Too often it’s forgotten that the fight against cancer is not just a physical one. The battle is, I’m sure, traumatic for some, if not most. It can become a mental battle after winning the physical one.
Growing my beard has given me a reminder not to take my health for granted. I mentioned in my original blog that I don’t think I look all that schnazzy with a beard that grows untamed. But Movember challenged me to put those reservations aside for the cause. Movember can and should serve as a healthy reminder to every man, cancer patient/survivor or not, that you are who you are regardless of the battles you’re up against. In fact, the battles you face only add more to your character. An illness does not take away your manliness much less your identity. If you’re at full health, don’t succumb or add to the pressure of whatever “manliness” is. If you’re fighting cancer, you have more strength and courage than ten of me. My beard symbolizes the health of every man who is having it compromised or has had it taken away by cancer. And, because I follow the rules, I put my money where my mouth is and donated $10 to Movember and assigned it towards supporting mental health.
To learn more about Movember or make a donation, go to https://us.movember.com/?home