Growing guys’ health awareness

I remember it all too well. It was March 12, 2007, 9 a.m., in a small examination room at my urologist’s office. My doctor walked in, looked down at his chart, looked up at me, and then said those chilling words I never thought I’d hear: “There is no other way to tell you this. You have prostate cancer.”

It is hard to fully explain just how I felt at that moment, except I know that everything just seemed to stop cold in my world. I was numb and afraid for the future. I felt like my life was over. I remember feeling like I was out on an island all by myself.

How wrong I was.

I had unbelievable family, friend and coworker support and great faith. My wife Sue, as always, was my rock. She was relentless, making sure I got great care and giving me moral support in every way possible.

Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer found in American men, second only to skin cancer. And it is a leading cause of cancer death in men, second only to lung cancer. About one man in seven will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime and one man in 36 will die of this disease. Staggering statistics.

I am cancer-free today because my doctor discovered my cancer early. I take partial credit: I was vigilant about my screenings, getting my PSA checked every year, as well as having examinations. Prostate cancer is a very curable/treatable disease as long as you get screened and examined early and regularly. And, a PSA test is not enough. Physical examinations by your doctor are part of keeping you healthy. It’s all about awareness and education. Knowledge is power.

Guys, we don’t like talking about any type of men’s health issues. We’re not as brave or as communicative as women about health. Quite frankly, most of us are cowards when it comes to our men’s health. Well, now we have a little help in getting the conversation started.

Have you noticed scruffy-looking gentlemen who suddenly started sprouting mustaches in November? It’s all part of Movember, an active support movement that lasts all month and helps focus attention on men’s health.

As you can learn if you visit Movember.com, the Movember Foundation aims to change old ways of thinking by putting a fun twist on a serious issue. Using the moustache as a catalyst, the idea is to give men the opportunity and confidence to learn and talk about their health — and to take action when needed. The hope is that this awareness will encourage conversation and raise funds for prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health problems.

At Cox Enterprises (parent company of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution), we have embraced Movember with a passion. Our Chairman, Jim Kennedy, was diagnosed with prostate cancer this summer. I’m happy to report that Jim is doing well and on the road to recovery. Jim has shown us courage and has been an inspiration to us. And like me during my crisis, Jim has been supported by his doctors, his family, his friends and many other men who have been through this.

Jim is getting another form of support and this one is echoing loudly around the halls of Cox Enterprises. The 50,000 employees at Cox have rallied to support the Movember movement and along with our partners have raised more than $300,000 for Movember – all of which will be matched by the James M. Cox Foundation. We are hoping to up that amount by a lot. And you can help too by going to CoxMovember.com to join a great cause aimed at helping men take better care of themselves.

During this month of Movember, there is a lot of facial hair around Cox (even though it will take me until mid-2016 to grow a noticeable ‘stache!). More importantly, we are all having a lot of discussion about getting health checks, learning to take better care of oneself, and both men and women taking action to get regular physical examinations from their doctors. Knowledge is power. Early detection is key.

So, now’s your chance. Men, make a difference for you. Women, help us do better by urging us to get checked. You can take part in plenty of ways, including education and raising funds. There’s even still time to grow a mustache and the funny thing is, it really works. People notice, they ask questions, and before you know it you’re having a conversation that just might save someone’s life.

I’m one of the lucky ones. My cancer was detected early and treated aggressively. We know that prostate cancer is treatable and curable if detected early. Come on guys, Let’s Movember!

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Sandy Schwartz is president of Cox Automotive.

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