Men give their health a check-up

2018-11-09 19:11
Radio presenter Carl Wastie popped in to show some manly support, and sportingly allowed Movember barber Aidon Amos to spray his signature Mohawk blue. PHOTO: Nicole Mccain

Radio presenter Carl Wastie popped in to show some manly support, and sportingly allowed Movember barber Aidon Amos to spray his signature Mohawk blue. PHOTO: Nicole Mccain (movember)

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Every man is given a challenge that he can overcome.”
For Stuart Calder, his challenge was testicular cancer, which he was diagnosed with and treated for earlier this year.

The former Sevens rugby player and testicular cancer survivor went under the blade at a Movember movement on Thursday. He was joined by about 250 men who sacrificed their facial hair during a Movember Shave Down at the V&A Waterfront.

These men will start November clean shaven, and will grow and groom their moustaches for the month, to create awareness of men’s health, in particular prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention.
Since 2010, over R25m has been raised and funded towards awareness, education, and survivorship and research programmes developed in South Africa through local Movember efforts. All funds raised will go towards research and survivor programmes linked to men’s health.

According to Garron Gsell, chief executive and founder of the Men’s Foundation, men’s health is in crisis, with men dying on average six years younger than women and for reasons that are largely preventable.

“When it comes to their health, men need to have open conversations about their health and take action. If something doesn’t feel right, men need to know it’s okay to reach out for help and get tested,” he says.
Stuart first knew something wasn’t right around Easter, when he started feeling pain and discomfort.

His wife, Jess, urged him to go to the doctor and when he kept putting it off, she gave him an ultimatum – either go to the doctor or stop complaining.

Eventually, the couple had a discussion around what Jess had gone through during fertility treatments ahead of falling pregnant in December. This made Stuart realise that if she had been brave enough for all the injections and treatments, he could be brave enough to go to the doctor.
However, Jess never expected the diagnosis to be cancer.

“It was a complete shock. For someone that’s young and healthy – we lead a very healthy life; we eat well. It was just so unexpected. I thought that he was just going to come back and say it’s nothing.”

Stuart decided to have the tumour removed – an operation with a high success rate – and was in recovery when scans showed a small mass over his kidney. After tracking his tumour markers, doctors realised the cancer had spread. He was diagnosed with stage two testicular cancer and had to undergo three rounds of chemotherapy. Jess was five months pregnant when he started the six-week treatment, and his unborn child proved to be a motivation for Stuart during the treatment.

“It was tough. They say you’re cured of cancer but you survive chemo. It flattens you to zero,” he says. “It’s not a nice experience, but you know it has to be done. It’s the only way.”

A positive attitude also helped him through the bad patches, and he believed all the side effects he experienced were signs that the chemo was working.
His journey to recovery has been very humbling, Stuart adds.
“I had a bit of an ego, as men do, which is why it was so hard for me to go get checked initially. Losing my hair was a very big part of the journey to recovery but a big stab at my ego.

“[The diagnosis was] a time when you check yourself. I used to play professional rugby, I used to play WP Sevens, I used to run in triathlons – all those healthy, active things. I ate right. I’m 28 years old. I thought the last thing that would happen to me is this: be diagnosed with cancer.”

Stuart stresses the importance of early detection and self-checks, hoping to prevent others from going undiagnosed, and is quick to admit he should have listened to his wife.
“There’s such a stigma. Yes, it is embarrassing to go get yourself checked. But you have one body. Your soul is in this one body and you have to preserve this body for as long as you’re on this planet. And the way to do this is to go get yourself checked out.”

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