By Rob Ficiur
Half way through this month of November you are starting to see a growing number of men with new mustaches. Even those who don’t (or can’t) grow a mustache throughout the year try again this month. Welcome to Movemeber.
Movember began in 2004 in Australia and New Zealand. The goal was to raise awareness of men’s health issues including prostate cancer and depression. Movember first came to Canada in 2007. Twelve other countries started Movembering that year. By 2011 Canadians were the largest donator to the cause.
The ca.movember.com website states their goal “Men are facing a health crisis that isn’t being talked about. They are dying too young, before their time. We’re taking action and we need your help.” There are three main focusses for Canada’s Movember website: Prostate Cancer, Testicular Cancer and Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.
The National Hockey League Players Association has a big Movember promotion on its website. Hockey players are among the best athletes to wear. Some players grow scraggly playoff beards in the spring. Movember gives all the players a chance to put on a different look.
1. Prostate Cancer
The website says that early detection of prostate cancer has a 98% survival rate (defined as more than five years). Later detection of prostate cancer has only a 26% survival rate. A simple blood test is the first step.
2. Testicular Cancer – This week I was listening to TSN commentator Bob Mackenzie’s post cast. ON the Bobcast he talked about Movemeber and Testicular cancer. One of the listeners last year heard Bob’s cancer check strategies. That listener found he had testicular cancer. Now a year later he has gone through treatment and is cancer free. Most men don’t want to talk about any type of cancer – but keeping quiet is not one of the prevention strategies.
3. Mental Health and Suicide Prevention – Three out of four suicides are by men. As I wrote in the previous paragraph not talking about a topic is not going make it go away. The Movember website is full of podcasts of famous and not so famous men encouraging other men to find someone to share our concerns and frustrations with. There still seems to be a lingering stereotype that men can’t (or should not) talk about the pressures and challenges they face. That is like saying men with diabetes should not take medicine. Or that men with cancer should somehow rely solely on their determination to beat cancer. When society (especially men) see depression as a disease not a choice, hopefully men (and women) will open up and find the help they need.
This week NHL fans saw first hand a cancer prevention success story.
Brian Boyle has played 11 years and NHL 629 regular season and 106 playoff games. On July 1 (free agent frenzy day) the 32 year old Boyle signed a two year $5.5 million contract with New Jersey. As Boyle prepared for a season with a new team, his career took an unexpected turn. During his routine training camp medical, it was discovered that Boyle had chronic myeloid leukemia. Team doctors said that this rare type of leukemia was very treatable. Former NHL player Jason Blake was diagnosed with the same ailment in 2007. Blake’s career was not derailed by the leukemia. The season he was diagnosed with leukemia he played in all 82 games for the Leafs. After his cancer diagnosis he played five seasons and 363 more NHL games.
In the cases of both hockey players the cancer was diagnosed in the early stages. Both of these players were diagnosed as part of their team’s pre-season medicals. We all know that early cancer diagnosis is a big step to beating any cancer.
This week Brian Boyle returned to the NHL. In Thursday’s game against the Oilers Brian Boyle scored 109th NHL goal. This goal was different than all the rest. Brian Boyle cried after scoring the goal to give his New Jersey Devils a 1-0 first period lead. A few minutes later, during the first period intermission, Boyle cried again during a TV interview.
The goal was different because Brian Boyle – now a cancer survivor – sees life differently. He said “Usually I can separate it [life and hockey] but that wasn’t the case. It was a wave of different things. My family, my wife has been through the ringer. She’s had to deal with a lot more than I’d say I have gone through,”
Two months ago Boyle heard the diagnosis that we all dread. Brian Boyle did not do anything special. Boyle’s job required him to get a medical – and the early diagnosis lead to quick treatment.
The older we get the more nervous we might feel about getting a cancer test. The older we get the more people we know who have had long hard fights with cancer. We can be a hero to ourselves and to our families if we get regular checkups and cancer screening.