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Movember: ugly fuzz fights cancer

I guess I’ve been spending too much time in dark movie theatres and don’t get out enough because I’d never heard of Movember till this year. Everyone from firemen at Red Deer Emergency Services to the Red Deer College Volleyball Kings are growing moustaches and I’ve run into three people in the City with this scraggly growth of facial hair on their upper lip.

The idea is to find some sponsors, start with a clean upper lip on Nov. 1, see how a month of razor avoidance can give you a new look and raise some research money. Yes, that fuzz is ugly, but not as ugly as the cancer.

There are various claims as to when and where Movember (a combination of moustache and November) started. One of the earliest dates to 1999 when a group of men in Adelaide, Australia started the idea of growing a moustache during November as a way of raising awareness and funds for prostate cancer and men’s health in general. Aussies like to shorten words; therefore ‘mo’ for moustache.

Now there’s a Movember Foundation in many countries, including Canada as the movement expands and includes New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Finland, the Netherlands, Spain, South Africa and other countries. In 2009 the movement raised $47 million around the world, including $7.8 million for Prostate Cancer Canada.

That cancer killed a close friend in Edmonton and my brother suffered from it before a heart attack killed him, so I saw it up close. My brother used to joke how it was a race between the cancer and his bad heart as to how he would finally go and his heart won.

He’d had heart trouble much of his life and spent a lot of time with doctors, in hospital, etc., but foolishly never bothered with check-ups for prostate cancer for too long. By the time they found it, the cancer had spread into his bones. He did chemo and took drugs and all that, but that only slowed it down. Same with the friend in Edmonton: he didn’t know he had it until he went to a chiropractor with a sore back, and an X-ray revealed the cancer in his spine. They both suffered horribly, and I’m talking serious pain here, for a couple of years. Annual checkups for an enlarged prostate (ye olde finger up the bum) might have saved a lot of agony.

Thankfully, most men die of something else before the cancer gets serious, but one in six men are still diagnosed with it and it will kill a lot of us. Almost 25,000 are diagnosed with it every year and it’s the most common form of cancer for men. Every year 4,300 men die of it, and not in a very nice way.

So if you think it’s too unpleasant or too invasive to get your family doctor’s index finger up your bum, think again. It’s nothing compared to the pain and suffering you’ll go through with the cancer that that finger up the bum might save you from.

The PSA blood test for prostate cancer is good too, but apparently isn’t always right. As with most cancers, if you get it early your chances of beating it are much better and you’ve got time to consider alternative treatments.

All this hullabaloo about prostate cancer awareness is worth it. Red Deer’s own Stach Bash 2010 takes place at Sharks’ Garage this Friday at 8 p.m. Support anyone you know who’s doing it if you can’t grow that ugly facial hair yourself. I’ve been wearing a ‘mo’ for years but will be shaving it off next Nov. 1 and starting anew. Check out the Movember Canada web site for more information, pictures of some silly ‘mos’ and some fun videos.

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