Student Life

Movember

Sam Reynolds

Today marks the first day of Movember (the month formerly known as November), a full 30 days dedicated to the grooming and acknowledgment of the moustache—the Mo. This is all done in order to raise money and awareness for men’s health issues, specifically prostate cancer. The rules: each Mo Bro (participant) must begin on Nov. 1 with a clean-shaven face and, for the entire month of Movember, must grow and groom a moustache. There is no joining of the Mo to your sideburns or of the handlebars to your chin (those are considered beards and goatees, and do not qualify as a true Mo). This hairy, sometimes scraggly, upper lip is the ribbon of the cause and what has made the Movember movement so successful in changing the face of men’s health across the world, and especially in Canada.

Adam Garone, a native of Melbourne, Australia and CEO of Movember, was in Montreal on Thursday to help launch this year’s campaign. He came up with the campaign idea nine years ago when he and a few of his mates decided to bring back the ‘70s moustache as a funny fashion statement.

“It had nothing to do with prostate cancer that year,” Garone said.  “But we got so much grief that we had to turn it into a campaign to raise awareness for something, so we could get away with it, and clearly prostate cancer is the number one cancer that affects men.” What started as a lark over beers on a Sunday afternoon quickly turned into a truly grassroots initiative.

“I was at a point in my life where I wanted to do something that would give back to the community,” Garone said. “And I thought that with this idea of growing moustaches that had generated so much conversation, we could add a cause to it so when people asked us about why we were growing moustaches, we could explain that we were doing it for prostate cancer and raise awareness about the cause.”

Much like doing a run or a walk for charity, Garone believed that committing to changing one’s appearance for 30 days was something that could generate contributions. 2004 was Movember’s first year as a fundraiser, with 450 men raising $54,000 for Prostate Cancer Australia—the largest single contribution that the foundation had ever received. “That really confirmed for me that Movember could be an amazing awareness and fundraising organization,” Garone said. Since those early beginnings, Movember has gained momentum not only in Australia, but officially in New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, the US, the UK, and several other European countries, as well as unofficially in places like Russia, Dubai, Hong Kong, and Antarctica, truly becoming a global movement.

Besides raising funds and making the moustache cool again, Movember is more significantly responsible for bringing the previously dreaded and avoided subject of prostate cancer to the forefront of men’s conversations. Garone explained that, although it’s easy to get wrapped up in numbers, it’s these conversations which the campaign gives rise to that are most important in making an impact on the disease. He gave an example of a young man who, after growing possibly the worst moustache in history, was asked about his upper lip at a family dinner, which initiated a first in conversations about prostate cancer between him and his father. As a result of that conversation, he learned that his grandfather had prostate cancer. The young man was then able to tell his father, because of what he had learned through Movember, that he was twice as likely to inherit the disease, which he had not yet been screened for.  “That for me is far more important [than just the numbers] because that’s changing, saving, and influencing lives today,” Garone said.

Rebecca Von Gouetz, spokesperson for Prostate Cancer Canada, likewise described how influential the moustache is in raising awareness of the disease through these kinds of discussions among men. “This is a disease that men don’t typically talk about, and now all of a sudden we’re getting younger men having conversations about prostate cancer which never ever in anyone’s wildest dreams would have happened before,” she said. “Who on earth would talk about prostate cancer in a bar or in the office boardroom? But during this month, that’s what happens.” Von Gouetz concluded that the beauty of the moustache is that once men are comfortable with discussing their health, it is no longer weird to talk about prostate cancer in January or July, moustache or no moustache, which is an essential element to increasing awareness.

MP Justin Trudeau, who was also in Montreal last week for the Canadian launch, accredits the moustache with the important job of making men’s health issues more acceptable to address. “If you think about it, for a guy, prostate cancer is kind of embarrassing. But wearing a moustache these days is kind of embarrassing too,” Trudeau said. “So it’s an outward sign of ‘you know what? I’m confronting it straight on.’ And we’ve made what people would see as sort of wrong or uncool as cool.”

“Last year I went for a musketeer kind of look,” Trudeau said of his Mo. This year, however, he plans on going with a much bigger, stronger moustache. “I’ll be channeling my Tom Selleck.”

Matt Matheson, spokesperson for the Canadian Movember campaign,  explained Movember is not just about men and their moustaches. Women also get involved in the same way that Mo Bros do, by registering as a Mo Sista, and they are an equally crucial part of the campaign. Mo
Sistas raise awareness and start conversations about men’s health, host events, recruit teams to raise funds, and are a vital support system, convincing men to get tested. “They just don’t have to grow a Mo,” Matheson said.

With approximately 250,000 men living with prostate cancer in Canada, this year is Canada’s fifth Movember. Last year, 119,000 Canadians registered as Mo Bros and Mo Sistas, raising $22.3 million for Prostate Cancer Canada. A large number of Canadian Members of Parliament, including Trudeau, grew moustaches in Movember 2010, and this year they plan to go even bigger. “Obviously we had Jack Layton very much on the mind last year,” Trudeau said. “This year it will be even more than that.” Right now Canada is the number one country in the world in terms of funds raised. “I firmly believe that [Canada] will eclipse every other country,” Garone contended at the Montreal launch party. Quebec in particular is embracing the campaign, seeing seven to eight times the number of registrants as the rest of Canada,  especially from the province’s many universities.

“Obviously growing a moustache is pretty awesome, but generally I just really like the campaign,” Max Gregory, executive member of Movember McGill and U3 arts student, said. “I definitely agree with their message of having to increase discussion of men’s health because obviously men hate talking about that kind of stuff, and, being a guy, I know what they mean.”  Gregory encourages everyone to sign up for Movember, either as part of the McGill team or on their own. “A lot of people look to university students as the leaders in the community, and I think this is an important message to have,” he said. Eighty-six per cent of the funds raised by Movember in Canada go to its men’s health partner Prostate Cancer Canada to (a) finance better research for early detection, diagnosis, and treatment options, (b) fund support services including 1-800 numbers to call with questions, and nurse navigators to help diagnosed men through the journey, keep track of appointments, and tell them when they should see a urologist, and (c) run the 72 support groups PCC has across the country where affected men and their families can go to get advice, hear speakers, and find camaraderie.

“And [all this] stems from the moustache to men’s health in general, to getting checked up, and having a doctor,” Trudeau said about the application of funds. “Thinking about men’s health issues is now something that is more acceptable because of Movember.”

As Garone concluded, it is these innovations that in our lifetime—possibly within 10 to 15 years—we can live in a world where no man dies of prostate cancer. “We can,” he said, “because of this campaign, and because of these silly moustaches that we wear on our face, change the world.”

 

On average, 70 Canadian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer every day.

On average, 11 Canadian men will die of prostate cancer every day.

Over 90 per cent of prostate cancer cases are curable if detected and treated in their earliest stages. That means as of age 40 you need to talk to your doctor about PSA testing.

It’s the most common cancer to afflict Canadian men: it’s as prevalent in men as breast cancer is in women.

One in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime; one in three will be diagnosed if there is a family history of the disease.

Prostate cancer develops as a result of dietary, environmental, and hereditary factors.

Men with a family history of prostate cancer and those of African or Caribbean descent are at a greater risk of developing the disease.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Read the latest issue