During November each year, Movember is responsible for the sprouting of moustaches on thousands of men's faces in the U.S. and around the world. With their "mos," these men raise vital awareness and funds for men's health issues, specifically prostate and testicular cancer initiatives.
I talk about my prostate nearly every day.
Which is kind of funny considering I lost it to cancer a few years ago.
But as a prostate cancer survivor, I often find myself talking to guys who are dealing with this crappy disease. I give moral support, lend an emotional shoulder, and simply become a friend they can turn to during their newly-minted cancer journey. I'm there to share practical, first-hand information based on my experiences. Most importantly, I'm there to offer a much-needed ear.
It's a role I love. And hate.
I love it because I know that I am helping another man in a way no one else can. When we first connect, these guys are always eager to share their story. I know they're thinking it's unique, surreal, and unbelievable. And I think to myself nearly every time, "Wow, I've heard this story before."
There are usually three things most of them talk about:
• "I'm in great shape."
• "I don't have any bad habits."
• "I had no symptoms."
Welcome to early-age prostate cancer, men.
When I was going through my cancer journey, I did it alone. Sure, there were a couple of thoughtful, older guys who were living with prostate cancer who told me that everything would be okay. And while I appreciated their kindness, their journey wasn't quite like the journey I was going through.
Younger guys deal with so many issues that many doctors don't fully explain. Sure, they tell you about the risk of impotence and incontinence. But the specifics and sub-topics under those are broad -- and I've yet to meet a young guy dealing with prostate cancer who doesn't want to hear every single detail based on my own experience.
So it's a gift, of sorts, to be able to talk and help other young guys diagnosed with prostate cancer. That's why I do it.
What I hate is this: Too many younger men don't know the basics of prostate health. They often brush it off as an "old man's disease."
Can we stop thinking of it that way? It's a disease that impacts men. Period.
That's why it's important to show your prostate some love long before you have any problems.
And how, you may ask, do you do that?
Well, the best personal advice I can offer you is to get an annual physical. If you don't have a doctor, ask your friends for a reference. Or call your health insurance provider for a list of doctors. Do it. Even if you feel like you're in awesome shape, there are so many things you need to have checked and get baseline information for in future years.
Specific to your prostate, talk to your doctor about your family history and establish a game plan. You should ask about the benefits of getting a PSA blood test, a simple test that determines the amount of prostate specific antigen in your blood. This is one tool to give your doctor some insight into your prostate's health. And at some point your doctor will start doing a digital rectal exam (yes, part of the classic joke involving a doctor putting on a rubber glove as he or she asks you to bend over). Don't sweat it, okay? It's a valuable way to assess what's going on with your prostate. And it takes less time than blowing your nose does.
So in honor of Movember, show your prostate some love. And go schedule your physical.
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