Monday, 28 November 2011

Diary of a Mo Bro - Week Three

Three weeks in, me and my facial hair are enjoying a veritable ‘mo-mance’ (I know, I just can’t help myself). From my early days as a nervous Mo virgin, I am now struggling to imagine life without it. This is not only because there is something primeval and manly about reaching trim stage, as we did this week, but the sense of community that goes with it. We were on the road again last week, and what struck me was - from knowing nods with fellow Mo Bros on the tube to the mass celebration of the gala partes - there is a togetherness to this campaign, which is quite unique.

First stop was a day at the races, at Haydock, with the highlight being, of course, the Betfair Hairy Mo Chase. Betfair, one of the committed partners of The Prostate Cancer Charity, had organised a fantastic day, and engaged the whole racing world behind it. I was lucky enough to present the trophies to the winners and judging the best turned out horse - given that I am now an expert on grooming, I felt quite well-placed to do this. Some of the more prominent Channel 4 presenters were proudly showing off a hirsute look to the nation. Racing Post journalist David Ashforth (who is sporting a very fine Mo himself), who has been diagnosed with and treated for prostate cancer, also joined us on the day. David has been instrumental in rallying the racing community behind the cause, writing frequent open and honest pieces about his experiences. Through his tireless efforts, David has helped us to reach thousands of men, who need to know about this disease, through the second biggest spectator sport in the UK. We are really keen to continue to build our profile through this route as we know it is a really effective way of getting information about prostate cancer out to thousands of men who are at risk of this disease across the UK. I am really pleased that David has become one of our Ambassadors and continues to do so much for the cause and the Charity.

Next on the agenda was a quiz, organised by the Charity’s very own ‘Mostesses’. On the face of it (yes, the pun is absolutely intended), Movember is one for the boys. But the event showed me just how effective Mo Sistas can be in raising money and awareness. The quiz - which was so successful we had to turn people away - showed that Movember is all about the girls, and the boys. Since joining the Charity, it is clear to me that prostate cancer is a big issue for women. More than one in four of the calls to our Helpline are from women - and we know they can be a big influence on getting men thinking about and acting on their health concerns. That is why Movember would not work without the support and full participation of the Mo Sistas - not least because they have to put up with us fellas being furry faced for the month.

As well as my bristles ‘mo-ing’ from strength to strength, this year’s campaign is also making ground as the most successful ever. The number of Mo Bros and Sistas out there is well over twice the number who took part last year. In itself, this is a fantastic success because it means more people are thinking about men’s health issues and the increased awareness that it brings will save lives. More people participating also means that more money can be raised to make a significant difference for men and their loved ones through direct investment in prostate cancer research and services. Over the past few weeks I have met loads of Mo Bros and Sistas and there are many reasons why they participate. Some just want to have some fun, some are doing it because prostate cancer has had a direct impact on them or they may be doing it because they recognise that men’s health issues have for too long not been given an adequate profile. Another appeal for some is that they are participating in a global campaign which, despite the different ways that healthcare systems are organised, highlights that men all across the world are facing the same challenges when it comes to their health and that there is a real desire to make life better for them.

As the week drew to a close, I attended my first gala parte in London. There was the same sense of celebration and community, with people coming together. I am getting a little sad about parting company with my Mo, and I am determined to give it a good send off. In the meantime, we will be out there meeting with more Mo Bros and Sistas at gala partes across the UK (more on those next week). As they say ...... there is Mo rest for the wicked!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Diary of a new Mo Bro - Week Two

Two weeks in, and you could say I am actually getting the hang of being a Mo Bro. You could, in fact, call me a ‘Mo Pro’ (sorry, could not resist). It is only facial hair, but embracing it has opened up a whole new world. I was told my new look made me look like a 'poor man's Derren Brown' this week. Words I never expected to hear (especially not from my own mother!).

Last week I took my Mo on the road, for the first time. (Clearly, it would have been difficult to leave it behind). We hit Liverpool, attending the conference of the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI), which brings together the major funders of cancer research in the UK. The Prostate Cancer Charity is the newest - and twenty-second - proud member of the organisation, which supports partner bodies to share learning, develop common plans and avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts. We are breaking ground, by becoming the first men’s health Charity to make it into the NCRI, which aims to make sure that patients get the maximum benefit from cancer research in the UK.

Membership alone signifies that we have become a ‘major funder’ of research in the UK. This is in no small part thanks to the efforts of the Mo Bros and Sistas over the past few years - enabling us to channel vital funds into credible, valuable research. We are committed to working with Movember to continue to significantly increase that investment for the long term. This is why everyone who sports a Mo, or supports the men in their lives, can say they are helping us get closer to improving diagnosis and treatment options for men.

The main reason for me attending the conference was to chair a session on improving research into 'survivorship'. There are currently some 250,000 men living with the disease in the UK - and this will rise as diagnosis and treatment improves. It is vitally important that high quality, and consistent, services are available for all of these men - wherever they live. This is a disease which can have a huge impact on men's lives - and their loved ones - from depression to a loss of libido to the emotional and pysical changes caused by hormone therapy. All men deserve the best care and support, from the point of diagnosis, all the way through the journey to treatment and beyond. This is where the army of Mo Bros and Sistas comes in again.

The provision of high quality survivorship services is the other priority investment area for the Charity with the money that is raised through Movember. We will be building a programme of new and expanded services to ensure that there are high quality, evidence based services in place to help men live the fullest lives possible with and beyond prostate cancer.

At the session we heard about a new service the Charity is providing to men who are suffering fatigue as a result of their cancer and the associated treatments. It is a common experience that cancer can leave men feeling exhausted and the inability to undertake everyday tasks can extenuate the impact that cancer has on their lives. The new service provides support and coping techniques to minimise the impact of cancer fatigue and, as it is a new service, we are evaluating the results to ensure that it has the right impact.

Following the blog last week, there were a couple of requests for photographic evidence of this Mo of mine, which I have to say has become somewhat technicolour. Every colour - from red to blonde - in fact, apart for the colour of the hair on my head. At least it has attained some depth and is no longer in danger of being seen as a gravy stain. So, my picture went up onto the Charity’s Facebook page and it was great to see that it prompted fellow Mo Bros to do the same. You can see the evidence here. The eagle-eyed will have spotted that I have also changed the banner of this blog to reflect my new look.

I will put up a new picture this week so that you can see how to the Mo is coming along. After all it is really important to keep up the 'Mo-mentum'!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Diary of a New Mo Bro - Week One

I have just completed (survived) my first week as an official ‘Mo Bro’. For those of you who do not have a clue what I am talking about, I will elaborate. I am one of the 200,000 men - and counting - who have pledged to ditch the razor through the month, for global sponsored moustache growing event Movember. This is my first foray into cultivating my facial hair, and in all honesty, I have been a little anxious about the results.

After much deliberation, and some consultation, I opted for the ‘Desperado' look, in a futile attempt to make myself look a little more dangerous. Unfortunately, the resulting, surprisingly strawberry-blonde ‘tache’ means I look more like Clyde the orangutan than Clint Eastwood. However, all vanity aside, embracing the hirsute look is all in the name of a vitally important cause. Movember is nothing short of a phenomenon, and a hugely successful one. Beyond the humour, the campaign is a highly effective way to promote awareness of prostate and testicular cancers. Last year Mo Bros and Sistas raised more than £10 million in the UK alone, to ‘change the face of men’s health’. As the proud UK beneficiary partner of Movember, The Prostate Cancer Charity is channelling these funds into much-needed research and providing enhanced services for the 250,000 men, and their families, currently living with prostate cancer.

I piloted my fledgling Mo at the House of Commons last week, nothing like starting at the top. As well as signing up some MPs to Movember, the visit was a great opportunity to discuss some of the current issues around prostate cancer. In particular, I was updating MPs on the disappointing news that NICE will not be undertaking a quality standards audit for men with prostate cancer until 2013. We know that the experiences of men with prostate cancer are way too varied across all aspects of the prostate cancer journey, from diagnosis all the way to life after treatment. We need quality standards so that men can check they are receiving the best care, and being offered the right choices - wherever they live. I am urging MPs to support us in lobbying NICE to bring this exercise forward, as well as to support the Charity in starting a consultation of its own, which should speed the process.

Next stop for me and my Mo was a visit to the Colchester branch of Keyline Builders Merchants, one of the Charity’s most committed corporate partners. We felt very much at home here, as we were in good company, with hundreds of their staff embracing the month. Meeting with Managing Director Andrew Harrison, who has been a real champion of our partnership, it was great to hear how reciprocal the benefits have been. After voting to keep the partnership, staff have raised thousands of pounds for the Charity. Keyline has also been able to deliver a health awareness message in a male dominated environment to the very people who need to have prostate cancer on their radar. What was really exciting was hearing how the partnership had supported Keyline as a business and place to work, by increasing friendly rivalry and communication between branches when it comes to fundraising for The Prostate Cancer Charity. A highlight of the day for me (and my Mo) was being presented with my very own fluorescent vest promoting the Movember and The Prostate Cancer Charity, which I shall be wearing with pride at any opportunity!

Now that the first week is over, I think we may have made it through the toughest part. My Mo is getting a little stronger every day and the chances of people thinking that I have just forgotten to wash my face are diminishing. I am wearing my Mo with pride and looking forward to our adventures together over the coming weeks. I will keep you posted on our progress and I am already secretly starting to think that it is going to be hard to say goodbye come the end of the month.

It is not too late to join me .