“Dear men, please visit your doctor”

Movember 2017: An open letter to all men to take their health seriously

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As the curtain falls on October and we embark on the penultimate month of the year, the sight of men sporting moustaches will become as common as premature Christmas decorations. The word “Movember” will no doubt be familiar to many of you, as the annual event has grown into a huge fund-raiser since its humble beginning in Australia 13 years ago. The aim is to draw attention to some of the biggest health issues facing men, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health and suicide prevention. While Movember may only occur one month per year, such health issues are perpetual, and measures need to be taken all year round to help tackle them. You men are precious, and your health is important to many people in your life, so I ask for a few minutes of your time to read this letter:

Dear men,

Without wishing to tar you all with the same brush, there is often a negative correlation between the severity of health conditions you have, and the way in which you react to them. A simple case of the sniffles could be mistaken for the Black Death, while more serious illnesses are treated with disdain and indifference. Whatever the reason may be, the simple fact is this: men seek medical assistance less frequently than women do.

In my experience, this is not just true of the stereotypical, chest bumping alpha male – who is loath to display either physical or emotional weaknesses – but of men of varying dispositions. To us women (and, indeed, many other men), this phenomenon is quite baffling. While I understand your reluctance to visit a doctor, doing so at the cost of your health is simply illogical.

For many of you, it seems the idea of being taken care of is horrifying. As though letting a loved one cook your dinner, bring you medicine from the pharmacy, or running a hot bath, is somehow a slight on your pride. The same goes for seeing a doctor. But if that cold is actually the flu, or some other nasty disease has penetrated your defences, I’m afraid it must be done. Such conditions can become life-threatening when left untreated.

I do not enjoy going to the doctor. I doubt many people do. But the reality is not always as bad as the image you might have in your head, especially if you find the right doctor for you. Finding one you are able to build a relationship with, where the reception staff are friendly, and where the magazines are kept up-to-date, can make the whole process a whole lot more stress-free. It’s unlikely you’ll ever look forward to going to the doctor, but it can make it a little less painful.

Of course, you live busy lives. Work, socializing, and countless other obligations are all vying for your time. Visiting the doctor each time you sneeze is simply impractical (and won’t make you popular with the doc). However, if bronchitis has been bothering you for weeks, if your blood pressure is too high, if your head has been aching incessantly, if your breathing is causing you pain, or if you have other symptoms that hint at something serious, the time you’ll lose from ignoring them can vastly outweigh the time it takes to get them treated by a specialist. One question you don’t want to be asking yourself in the future is: “why didn’t I just see a doctor?”

So, with those two excuses dealt with, it’s time to address the elephant in the room: fear. Second only to the “too busy” excuse, a study by Orlando Health found that ‘finding out what is wrong with you’ is a serious reason men visit the doctor less frequently than women. I’m sure you don’t need me to spell this out for you, but it can’t be said enough times: if your condition is serious, it can only be treated once diagnosed! What if that pain you feel while peeing is a sign of prostate cancer? Sure, finding out would be scary, but if you catch it early there’s a far greater chance of curing it. Just get it checked. Please. Believe it or not, lots of people care about you. Partners, spouses, parents, siblings, children, friends – the list goes on and on. Going to the doctor isn’t just for you. It’s for them. For us.

While I’m at it, I have one other favor to ask: take care of yourself. Obviously, this advice isn’t just for men, but with increasing levels of obesity, heart problems, and mental health issues, there’s never a bad time to mention it. Think about what you’re putting into your body. Can you make do without that cigarette, that extra beer, or that kebab? It all adds up, and caring for the little things can make a big difference.

Add some regular exercise into the mix and you’re well on your way to preventing many health issues before they have a chance to get going. Not only is exercise good for your physical health, it does wonders for you mentally. If you really don’t like going to the doctors, living a healthy lifestyle is the smart thing to do.

There you have it, guys. Go and grow your mo, and raise some money in the process. It’s for a great cause. But also take a moment to think about why you’re doing so, and think about the choices you make every day about your health.

Because I, and many other people, want you around for as long as possible.

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