IT started off as a bit of a laugh – two men in a pub, the chat turning a little hairy. Shaking on it, the agreement was made to grow moustaches to boost awareness of men’s health. Something different, something fun.
Little more than a decade later, millions of people across the world would be following in their razor-free footsteps, sporting facial hair throughout the month of November, helping to not only raise the profile of medical conditions such as prostate cancer, but much needed cash for research, too.
Today, the challenge for thousands of Edinburgh men – and women – begins again as the aptly named Movember launches for 2014.
Razors banished for 30 days, they will grow weird and wonderful creations on their faces, likely prompting glances from passers-by and laughs from family and friends.
“I have been clean for 45 years,” smiles David Sinton, a 65-year-old retired chartered accountant from the New Town who is taking part in the fundraiser for the first time. Having never left his facial hair unattended for more than a lazy weekend, he will lock up his razor today for four weeks of moustache creativity.
“My wife – like me – is a little unsure of what it’ll be like,” he says. “But Movember is fantastic; a story about what can be achieved from nothing really. It started off with two men in a pub, and it has grown into a worldwide phenomenon.”
Those two men – Travis Garone and Luke Slattery – in that Australian bar back in 2003, have helped save the lives of many men like David by helping to raise cash for generating awareness and research into health conditions.
It was 15 years ago that David – aged a mere 50 – learned he had prostate cancer after a routine company medical examination alerted doctors that something was wrong. Despite having no tell-tale symptoms – and not being in the typical at-risk age category – he went on to have surgery and later radiotherapy at the Capital’s Western General Hospital.
“People used to say they were sorry to hear I was ill,” says David. “But I wasn’t ‘ill’. It took me a couple of months to get back on my feet admittedly. But for me this has been a huge success story – and I am still free of the cancer to this day.”
Sporting facial hair this month, father-of-one David hopes he will encourage more men to learn about prostate cancer, particularly those who are not keen to talk about the condition, of which 40,000 are diagnosed every year in the UK.
“Men are often reluctant to look after their own health,” says David, who also volunteers with Prostate Cancer UK. “Quite often when we are running information stalls it is women who come forward on behalf of their husbands.
“You can be cured if you catch prostate cancer early. But even if you are late in getting a diagnosis, there is an amazing amount that can be done. There is everything to gain by getting checked.”
More than 9000 people across Edinburgh got involved in Movember last year, with organisers hoping to build on that figure this month. Events being held include the MoRun, in Holyrood Park, on Saturday, November 8; the Movember Ball, at the George Hotel, on Saturday, November 29; a whisky tasting event at the Kilderkin pub, in the Canongate, on Friday, November 7; and a pop-up barber shop at the Innis & Gunn headquarters on Thursday, November 13 in association with Ruffians Barbers, Queensferry Street. There is also an Edinburgh Gala Parté at 99 Hanover Street on Thursday, November 27.
For further information, visit uk.movember.com, prostatecanceruk.org or call 020 7952 2060.