Globally, men die an average of six years before women from largely preventable reasons. Testicular and prostate cancer and suicide are some of the most critical illnesses and issues threatening the lives of men. Each year, 1.4 million men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and each minute, a man dies from suicide.
November, now unofficially known as Movember, is the month that is dedicated to men’s health. The Movember Foundation uses humour and moustaches (yes, moustaches!) to raise awareness and funds for men’s health issues such as prostate cancer and suicide prevention. Men are encouraged to grow a moustache (a ‘mo) to start a conversation that may otherwise be uncomfortable to bring up. Neil is one of the men that has risen to the challenge of growing a ‘mo, starting a conversation and raising awareness. He is a L’Oréal employee and cancer survivor; this is his story.
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Well, I’ll start with work — I work at L’Oréal as a Senior Marketing Manager for Vichy in the USA, and am currently based out of New York. I also love sports! Basically anything Houston related (Astros, Rockets, Texans) or University of Texas Football, I love going to concerts, hanging out with my girlfriend, friends and family, and I’m known to listen to a few podcasts here and there. I’m also known to participate in Movember… every year.
We’re going to jump to Movember in a second, but first, when did you join L’Oréal?
I joined L’Oréal in 2018, and as a male with no experience in beauty, I hadn’t really considered working in the beauty industry and was a little hesitant to join. But after interviewing and learning more about the position and the company as a whole, I realized I would be quite-frankly dumb to pass up the opportunity (spoiler alert: I was right).
Ok, on to Movember! You said you participate every year. Why?
I’ve always looked at donating to charities but I never had quite a tangible connection until I came across Movember. It’s a very simple cause, you just grow a moustache (mine doesn't look very good, unfortunately), but it sparks a conversation. I’ve been growing my ‘moustache’ every November for the past 10 years. Actually, my friends came across the foundation back in 2010, and since then I have been an active supporter.
Can we ask… what is the tangible connection?
Of course! This is what I love about Movember… It encourages men to talk! It all started in September of 2010. I was just beginning the school year at the University of Texas at Austin. A few weeks later, my junior year took a completely different, unexpected and unknown detour… I received a diagnosis of testicular cancer. I quickly had surgery to remove the tumour, but blood tests showed that there was some risk of the cancer returning, this left only one path forward, chemotherapy. While I was fortunate in that I didn’t experience much pain up to that point, those next 3 months of chemotherapy treatment were difficult. There was a ton of nausea, lack of sleep, loss of appetite, and losing of my hair.
With that being said, I’m extremely grateful for the medical advances that have kept me alive to date, but it wasn’t treatment alone that helped me survive. I had a strong network of friends and family members. The second I told my friends about chemotherapy, at least five of them immediately went to the barbershop to get their heads shaved in support of my hair loss. This is when my friends discovered Movember, they all got involved in the cause because of me. It was a simple concept, grow a moustache in the month of November (which just so happened to be my second month of chemo) to spark a conversation and fundraising for Men’s health issues. As a team in that first year, we raised several thousand dollars. I was blown away by the support and was hooked on Movember’s overall mission, and vowed to participate in any way I could in the future.
It’s been 10 years, what does Movember mean to you now?
This November will be my 10th year participating in Movember’s annual moustache growing and awareness driving fundraiser. As you know now, for me it started very personally with testicular cancer. Not only was I raising awareness and funding with Movember, but I also was informing those in my life on the essential need for self-examination to catch it early. It is the most common form of cancer in young men, but thankfully it has a 95% chance of survival. It was around 2014 that I realized there were much bigger issues disproportionately affecting men, most importantly mental health and suicide.
It was shocking to me to find out that 75% of suicides in the United States are men globally and a man dies from suicide every minute. This was really the point that Movember started to take on new meaning in my life. One of Movember’s global initiatives is to reduce the rate of male suicide by 25% by the year 2030. They try to tackle the issue by finding ways to encourage men to speak more openly with friends, colleagues, and family about significant life events and their mental health.
What do you think about the Movember x L’Oréal partnership?
When I found out about the support that L’Oréal provides Movember I was surprised and truly moved, as it is such an important cause to me. It really helped to confirm that I made the right decision in joining the company. After joining the company in 2018, I joined the Men@L’Oréal Think Tank which has included the Movember campaign in their annual initiative. I invite everyone to feel as comfortable as I do in sharing your stories and encouraging the men at L’Oréal and the men in your lives to be proactive with their health. Together, we can change the face of men’s health.
Are you inspired by Neil and his story? Get talking, spread the word, and of course, grow a ‘mo!