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2013-11-05 15:04

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Growing a moustache is a hairy way of raising awareness for men’s health.

If you’re noticing hairy cavemen at the mall and formerly clean-shaven business dudes sporting fur on their upper lips, don’t be alarmed.

It’s just that time of year when men are encouraged to grow moustaches to ‘Change the Face of Men’s Health’. This is Movember’s slogan for raising awareness of prostate and testicular cancer, as well as male mental health.

It’s a cause Mark Pilgrim – ambassador of Movember, media personality, MC, and testicular cancer and heart-attack survivor – and his wife, Nicole, feel strongly about.

‘I discovered an enlarged testicle at the age of 18, which I tried to ignore,’ Mark says.

‘I kept hoping it would just go back to its normal size. I mean, what’s a kid to do when he discovers his testicle is enlarged? Show his mom?’

By the time Mark consulted a doctor, the cancer had reached stage four and had spread – in his case, to his lungs and kidneys. ‘I was told my prognosis was uncertain.’

Mark’s testicle was removed and he started chemotherapy. ‘I had nine months of it,’ he recalls. ‘I was the only young guy in oncology at Joburg Gen. I’d see a doctor at 11am, have chemo at 12 and be vomiting by 4.’

After many months of treatment, when he eventually heard the word he’d been waiting for – remission, Mark followed his career dreams of becoming a DJ with renewed vigour.

When he married his wife, Nicole, in 2007, they faced a challenge most other couples don’t have to deal with at the start of a relationship. ‘I had always wanted kids,’ says Nicole, ‘yet here was a man with one testicle who was telling me the chemo had probably destroyed any viable sperm.’ She says she was willing to take her chances.

After two failed in-vitro treatments and an artificial insemination, Nicole fell pregnant naturally – twice. The Pilgrims are now parents to Tayla-Jean, 3, and Alyssa, 1.

‘It takes just one good swimmer…’ their proud dad says.

‘Movember is a fun way for people to take notice of something serious that affects the men in our life,’ Nicole says. ‘If I had to give advice to any woman, I’d say be strong for him in the event of a bad diagnosis and draw his feelings out. Men aren’t good at talking about their fears.’

Mark with the mo he grew last year.

Mark says cancer has made him appreciate the little things. ‘I’m a very present dad. Every day I look at my two girls knowing there was a real chance they might not have been in my life at all.

‘I’ve been in remission for 25 years, but I still go for a check-up every two years. Men service their cars once a year, so why not check themselves out? In the meantime, cop a feel when you wash yourself. Basically, if you wonder whether it feels bigger, it could be a warning sign.’

Of course, ‘You could get your girlfriend or partner to check for you instead,’ he laughs. ‘It’s more fun that way.’

And yes, Mark is growing a moustache again this year: ‘I don’t get nooky for a month but it’s for a worthy cause.’

The growth of Movember

In 2003, Australians Travis Garone and Luke Slattery (above) talked their mates into growing a mo for fun. They then linked it to raising awareness about men’s health.

They sent around an email titled Are you man enough to be my man? They received a great response, and formalised the concept the next year.

In 2007, the campaign went international. A trial campaign in South Africa in 2009 had 1 200 participants and raised R240 000. Movember SA was launched in 2010 in partnership with CANSA.

In 2012, more than 30 000 South Africans registered and more than R7 million was raised. Over R1,2 billion was raised globally.

Scary facts and figures

• The rate of cancer diagnoses among men is 1 in 6 compared to 1 in 8 for women.

• More than 4 000 cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed annually.

• About 2 500 men will die of the disease each year – that’s one every 4.5 hours.

• On average, nine out of 10 cases of testicular cancers occur in men between 20 and 50.

It’s not too late to join! Register as a Mo Bro or Mo Sista (individual or team) at Movember.com the rulesof growth All Movember men must start with a clean-shaven face.

If you’re a real hair sprouter your moustache will grow in no time – in which case you can cultivate your lip fuzz to fit all manner of styles. Choose from:

The Trucker

Who has one? Rapper Jack Parow and WWE wrestler Hulk Hogan.

Owners are most likely to have... been arrested for disturbing the peace.

Accessorising the mo: Big-ass peaks or bad-boy bandanas.

Advice for mo sistas: Don’t expect Truckers to get in touch with their feelings.

The Rock Star

Who has one? Actor Will Smith and singer John Meyer.

Picture: Fred Prouser/Reuters

Owners are most likely to have ... the gift of the gab and a come-hither look. Accessorising the mo: A constant groupie following and a smartphone full of fans’ numbers.

Advice for mo sistas: Get a tramp stamp and he’s yours – at least for a month.

The Undercover Brother

Who has one? Convicted drug dealer Glenn Agliotti.

Glenn Agliotti. Picture: Herman Verwey/Foto24

Owners are most likely to have ... all the Godfather movies in their DVD collection. Accessorising the mo: Five passports and a striped suit.

Advice for mo sistas: Don’t ask, don’t tell.

The Box Car

Who has one? Actor Tom Selleck.

Tom Selleck

Owners are most likely to have ... a chest freezer for their biltong supply.

Accessorising the mo: A double-cab bakkie.

Advice for mo sistas: Kiss lightly to avoid those lurking leftover crumbs.

The After Eight

Who has one? Actor Terrence Howard.

Terrence Howard

Owners are most likely to have ... a habit of saying, ‘I’m not a hipster’.

Accessorising the mo: A collection of hipster outfits in their wardrobe.

Advice for mo sistas: Don’t mess up his hair. Or call him a hipster.

The Abracadabra

Who had one: Spanish painter Salvador Dali.

Salvador Dali. Picture: AP

Owners are most likely to ... paint a nude, then paint her mother.

Accessorising the mo: An evil glint in the eye.

Advice for mo sistas: If you’re not into open relationships, don’t walk – run.

The Wisp or Pencil

Who has one? Actor Jamie Foxx and muso Jack White.

Jamie Foxx

Owners are most likely to have... a roving eye.

Accessorising the mo: A suit tailored to fit just so.

Advice for mo sistas: Only good as a temporary object for getting over a broken heart.

The Connoisseur or Handlebar

Who has one? Nic Smal, the guy from the band Derick Watts & The Sunday Blues.

Nic Smal

Owners are most likely to have... a bit of a weird side. Accessorising the mo: A riding crop.

Advice for mo sistas: Dress for an alternative evening. You never know what might come up.

The Regent

Who had one? Actor Brad Pitt in the movie Inglourious Basterds. Owners are most likely to have... a real tough-guy image.

Brad Pitt

Accessorising the mo: A well-worn bomber jacket.

Advice for mo sistas: If he plays tyrant, redistribute his wallet contents.

» Get your copy of iMag in City Press on Sundays

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