Moustaches and men’s health take center stage

Cayman’s Mo Bros had reason to celebrate Friday night.

The month-long campaign for Movember, encouraging men to grow out their moustaches to raise cancer awareness, resulted in at least 175 prostate cancer screenings and an estimated $35,000 raised to support the Cayman Islands Cancer Society, according to organizers.

But before crunching the numbers, first came the festivities. Moustachioed men poured into The Lodge bar in The Strand for a night of revelry and one last fundraising push. Those in costume came prepared to parade across the bar and vie for the night’s most coveted title, the Man of Movember – this year claimed by Ayush Mangal.

Movember committee member Dave O’Driscoll – scantily clad as Ben Stiller’s character White Goodman from the movie “DodgeBall” – described the evening as a hilarious and “totally un-PC” way to get men talking about their health.

“It’s all about spreading the word, and we think the best way to do that is with Movember, through fun events throughout the month to get all the guys involved,” he said.

“I just want people to learn that you don’t have to be afraid. You don’t have to be afraid to check yourself and you don’t have to be afraid to second guess your feelings when it comes to mental illness.”

This year’s event came with the dual purpose of raising awareness for common men’s cancers, such as prostate, testicular and colon cancers, and mental health, both topics that men may struggle to discuss.

Cancer survivor and Group Mo costume winner Shane Connolly, dressed as Jesus Christ at the Last Supper, said he would like to see mental illness destigmatized in the way many physical ailments have been.

“Mental awareness, still … no one wants to talk about it,” he said before the closing event.

“You get your mind straightened out, your body is going to follow a lot easier.”

Making discussions about men’s health accessible has long been the goal of Movember, explained founder Tim Rossiter, dressed Friday evening as Satan.

“You have big galas here and you have all of these very high-end events, but there wasn’t anything that allowed everybody to get involved. That was really what Movember was about when it started in Australia, and what we wanted to do here as well,” he said.

The event has grown substantially from its first year, when Mr. Rossiter said a small group raised around $500. This year, the month was punctuated by a series of fundraising events, from touch rugby to golf to yoga. One of the most important evenings of the month allowed men to access free prostate cancer screenings and interact directly with doctors.

More than 200 men turned out for the night, sponsored by the Cayman Islands Cancer Society, the Movember committee and the Lions Club of Grand Cayman.

“The good thing about the screenings we have for PSA [prostate-specific antigen] at the Lions Club is that most of those guys who come for the free screening are not under a doctor’s care. … So turning up for an event like that, they get the education, they get the information, they can ask questions,” said Jennifer Weber, operations manager for the Cancer Society.

“And they also end up deciding who their doctor is going to be.”

She said Afro-Caribbean men in particular should be vigilant about their prostate health.

“Because we know Caribbean men are more likely to develop it earlier, we want to make sure that everyone knows in Cayman that guys should start getting screened from 40,” she said.

“Now Caribbean men tend to not go to the doctor at all until about 50 and by then it might be too late. We want to get guys screened and educated on signs and symptoms … so that we keep as many fathers, brothers, uncles here as healthy [as possible].”

For those who missed the free health checks during Movember, Ms. Weber said it is not too late. The Cancer Society offers free screenings throughout the year.

“The Cancer Society always makes PSA tests available, so any guy who needs one can come in. They fill out a form. They need to be 40. We give them a voucher and they can go get their PSA tests. We will pay for the lab work,” she said.

The Cancer Society also offers financial support for those in treatment. Currently, the society provides financial aid for around 400 cancer patients.

“We can never predict who is going to come to us for help, so we are so fortunate to be able to have the resources we need so we can provide for the community that we love,” she said.