November. The 11th month. The month of the red poppy. The month approaching the end of the year filled with cheap Halloween candy and too early Christmas songs blasting through the radio. But since 2007, the Canadian November got a whole new hairier meaning.
“Movember.” That’s right. The month of the moustache.
For those who are a little confused, here’s a little background story of why moustaches are sprouting up on faces, real or not.
According to Movember’s official website, it started in Melbourne, Australia, when a group organized an event where 30 men would grow their moustaches in the 30 days of November to raise awareness for men’s health issues, especially prostate cancer and depression. The idea caught on, and soon after, the Movember Foundation charity was born. Their motto is “Changing the face of men’s health” and is seen sprouting on upper lips all across the globe. Guys who grow “Mos” are called “Mo Bros” and the ladies, the supporting players, are “Mo Sistas.” Last year the charity raised over $125.7 million Cdn with the help of over 854,000 Mo Bros and Sistas around the world.
The idea is fun, catchy, and doesn’t require doing any kind of exercise. Money is raised, awareness is increased, and people seem happy during the process. But that’s just it. Like any other awareness month, it ends.
After Movember, it’s December. The month of green, red, gold, presents, decorations, family, stress and vacation preparations. Then after December, it’s January. New year, new resolutions, new goals, new beginnings. Then February, Valentine’s. Then it’s Family Day, Easter, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day, Halloween, until Movember comes again after a year.
For those with healthy bodies, there are too many things to do and too little time as it is to focus on the task at hand. Memories are overwritten as the mind makes space for new experiences, just like how many shave off their moustaches for a fresh new face in time for the New Year.
The awareness of cancer and mental health in general, regardless of the sex, is increased for around two months out of the 12. Cancer does not only last for two months. Depression does not only last for two months. So why are the majority of us only putting effort into funding and finding a cure for something that’s affecting around 31 per cent of the entire world’s population?
Luke Lau has a moustache all year round. But that’s not because of Movember. His wife is a breast cancer survivor and he was also a caregiver to a man suffering from last stage lung cancer who had less than nine months to live. But three years later this stranger had become just like family.
“We decided together that we would fight the cancer with chemo after the doctor said he didn’t have a long time left,” Lau said.”I am a cancer patient spouse, so I know exactly how it feels emotionally and physically for his family. We have had joy and tears in these past years and I am so glad I did this with him.”
When Lau’s wife was diagnosed, the surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy took nine months to complete. Plus blood tests every three weeks before the chemo to ensure she had enough white blood cells. It was only a matter of time for Lau’s care receiver, and that was something he did not have. He passed away last year.
“That is life. I realize life is not a matter of how long you can live; really it’s how you make the best out of it. To him at least he got three years time with his two kids and wife and that is all I can do for him,” Lau said.
We may not all be able to do what Lau does, and we may not be able to fully understand the hardships that cancer patients and their families go through. But we shouldn’t rely on hairy upper lips or pink ribbons to remind us that cancer can affect anyone and anywhere. And here’s to hope that if it strikes, there would be someone like Luke Lau, a real gentleperson, a real Mo Bro, listening, understanding, and fighting by your side for more than a month.