Confession: It’s been two years since my last “annual” checkup. Last month, I get back on the dutiful path and connect with my primary-care physician. After an office visit, he directs me to LabCorp for the follow-up blood work. Of particular interest: the PSA test, which screens for prostate cancer.
I put that off for another three weeks—but no sense burying the lead or creating false drama: My annual checkup reveals that I don’t have cancer. That’s a tasty plate of comfort food for the long Thanksgiving weekend.
It’s remarkably easy to let these things slide. I’m not afraid of needles. Nor am I sooo busy that I don’t have time to plot a course for entering the healthcare bureaucracy and dealing with that inevitable time drag of navigating the system. (But yes, it can be a major headache is often a mind-numbing, time-consuming venture.)
But let’s back up for a minute. I’m going to be my own ghost of Thanksgivings Past. Let’s look back at why I grow a mustache (“Mo”) every November to help promote men’s health awareness through the Movember Foundation.
At times, it’s been a fun ride—hosting hairy gala parties focused on growing Mo’s; making the national finals in a Ron Burgundy look-alike contest; running charity poker tournaments; being this year’s honorary guest and spokes-Mo for Kimpton Solamar Hotel.
That’s the glam side of the stache.
Movember and Men’s Health
The reality of men’s health is that we die younger than women; one in nine men will develop prostate cancer; testicular cancer is a serious but touchy subject; more men commit suicide than women; and the gender that is able to grow the bushiest upper-lips historically avoids the doctor’s office.
People sometimes ask me why I participate in Movember. That’s a fair but delicate question, because it really means, “Did you, or somebody close, have prostate cancer?”
Honestly, I got involved because 13 years ago I heard about Movember’s migration from Australia to the United States and thought it would be cool and fun to grow a mustache. I organized a group of co-workers and we wound up winning a local team contest for Best Mo’s.
I just stayed involved after that. Along the way I met two new friends who had testicular cancer. Both beat it. I came to know a local radio DJ who is in a protracted battle with prostate cancer. Another Mo Bro lost his father to it last year.
This year, two friends, including the officiant at my wedding, were operated on for prostate cancer. The officiant, Brian Bogle, was brave enough to sit for a Q&A for Junkets & Jaunts about the realities of what happens before, during and after you discover the Prostate Fates have pointed a sticky finger at you.
His story resonates with me.
Blood Test Blues
After putting it off nearly a month, I called LabCorp to schedule that blood-work appointment. You can walk-in—but as with the DMV, an appointment saves time. I entered the crowded LabCorp office on Fourth Avenue in Hillcrest 10 minutes early. Upon check-in, I was told I was in the wrong location. Here we go.
I remain calmer than the receptionist, a blonde woman with glasses and a Russian accent. Am I sure I made an appointment? Am I in the right location? Do I want to walk around and look into her computer screen to see that my name is not in her system?
I give her the confirmation number the automated system had assigned me. She asks again if I want to look at her screen. To placate her, I do. I ask her to find my confirmation number. She replies that her system is simply her system—not connected to anything else. I am welcome to wait.
Outside in a lobby, my phone call to the original automated phone system turns up that I’d been placed at a different LabCorp. Good news: it’s one block away. Better news: There’s only one person ahead of me. In five minutes, I’m peeing in a cup; within 10 minutes I have a needle in my arm and blood vials are filling up.
Good thing blood pressure isn’t one of the tests today.
Staying Healthy for Loved Ones
My primary-care physician’s office calls the very next day. The Universe’s time clock is shifting back in my favor. The call included “good news and slightly less good news.”
My PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) number remains in the “all clear” category. It rose inconsequentially to 1.0 from .9 in 2016. Anything under 4.0 is excellent. When the number jumps significantly and goes above a 4 is when you need to consider your options.
The slightly less good news was my LDL (Low-Density Lipoproteins) result. My “bad cholesterol” number rose to 131—one point into the “borderline high” category. I’m advised to reduce my carb intake and to eat less saturated fats and more fruits and veggies. And to maintain an exercise plan.
The blood test results don’t lie. I scarf down too much pizza and not enough apples. And I’ve let m workout routine slack.
Because I am an honorary guest and spokes-Mo at Kimpton, after receiving my test results I head straight to hotel’s fourth-floor fitness room. A balky knee keeps me from running on the street, but treadmills and ellipticals are low-impact alternatives.
The annual stache is one reminder to keep tabs on your health. It’s working for me. If you need further motivation, look around the Thanksgiving table, or any family gathering, and eyeball the people with whom you want to spend a very long lifetime. J&J
DONATE: If you’d like to contribute to Movember’s men’s health initiatives, please go to my Mo Page: MOBRO.CO/RONDONSD
This is Part 6 of a “Movember at Kimpton” series:
Part 5: Movember at the Halfway Point