How a simple trip to the doctors can save our men's life.
One thing I discovered when I moved to Australia was that Aussie men are tough. They are great with their hands and can build you a house, get rid of the spiders and snakes that sneak into it and can even cook a mean steak on the barbie. Sounds familiar?
One thing I'm still trying to understand though is that Aussie blokes are kind of bulletproof - nothing can seem to get to them. Does this scenario resonate?
Aussie Bloke: Ahhh, shit! Cut me finger, reckon I've hit the bone.
Not Aussie Bloke: OH MY GOD! I'll grab the car keys, we're going to the hospital!
Aussie Bloke: Nah, she'll be right. Grab us the duct tape and some tissues, just gotta stop the bleeding. applies tissues and duct tape See, good as new.
Not Aussie Bloke: Speechless...then faints
Bulletproof, right? I've been in awe of this many times over, and many other instances when a quick trip to the doctor was suggested too.
The stats don’t lie. Male patients accounted for 43% of visits to GPs in 2015–16 compared with 57% for women. But then I recently asked myself, 'is that because they are more healthy than women and have better immunity, or simply cause they find a good enough reason to avoid going in the first place?
The thing is, I've been asking questions about Aussie guys for a while now. So much so that I even created a podcast around it ('Asking For A Mate') and the objective behind this is to have conversations that go beyond the small talk. I quickly learned that guys in the land down under are taught to 'not whinge about the small stuff', that 'she'll be right mate', and that a real man 'just gets on with things'.
From the conversations I've had on the podcast, and life in general, an interesting thing I've discovered is that weakness and vulnerability often find their way onto the list of things to avoid - along with that regular trip to the GP for a checkup of course.
So is it possible that going to see a doctor and asking for help is a mindset problem and would be seen as a sign of weakness or even worse, vulnerability?
Yet, there is a way to help shift the behaviours and mindsets of our Aussie fellas, and that is to simply have more guys chatting about their health. Well as it happens, this exactly what Hugo Toovey, my latest guest on the podcast is doing.
Hugo Toovey was a young recruit in the army when he started feeling an unusual pea-sized lump on one of his testicles. Classic millennial, he asked Dr. Google for a prognostic.
Hugo decided that 'she'll be right' and figured that it'll go away on its own.
Unfortunately, this wasn't the case. Fast forward around 8 months down the track and Hugo finally went to the doctor. It was at that moment he discovered he had testicular cancer and it had spread to his abdominal lymph nodes.
Hindsight is 20/20 and Hugo now understands he could have avoided having one of his balls removed, avoided extensive surgery, avoided a full run of chemo and avoided months of recovery. "God knows what could've been avoided had I just gone to the doctor a couple of months before I did."
What happened to Hugo 5 years later actually carries an even stronger message though.
It was only a couple of months after Hugo was given the all-clear from his doctor that he was completely cancer-free and had completed his remission, he felt that something was not right with his bowel. "In my head and my heart something didn't feel right, and I ended up going to the doctor and asking for a colonoscopy."
The results came back and "that's when I got told that I had bowel cancer".
"If I never had testicular cancer and still got bowel cancer down the track, there is no way I would've gone to a doctor and been as proactive with my health. The silver lining is that early detection absolutely saved my life", Hugo Toovey
Bowel cancer is the 2nd most common cause of cancer death in Australia. However, with really early detection, your chances of survival are really high - around 98.6%.
Having to fight two cancers in your twenties is pretty brutal but Hugo's doctors helped him find the silver lining in this terrible story: Hugo's testicular cancer probably saved his life. "If I never had testicular cancer and still got bowel cancer down the track, there is no way I would've gone to a doctor and been as proactive with my health. The silver lining is that early detection absolutely saved my life"
For Men Health's Week (June 14-20), it is important to start having conversations about this and encouraging more guys to book their annual checkups.
"Think of your health like your car - even when it is new, shiny and running fine, it is important to take it in for service to prevent damage down the road." says Jason J. Ventre, author of 'I Think I Need to Talk to a Doctor'.
Hugo's final word on this was pretty clear: "check your nuts to know what normal looks for you, get your phone out and book your next appointment".
Also, share this article with a man (or two). Whether it be your partner, brother, father, husband, son, colleges or friends. There is nothing wrong or less masculine about going to the doctor and getting checked once in a while. If you don't do it for yourself, at least do it for the woman or women in your life that are worried sick about you.
You can listen to Hugo's full story on 'Asking for a mate', the feel-good podcast that asks Aussie guys to go beyond the small talk.
Our mission is to break down stereotypes of masculinity and we've just released a special episode for Men's Health Week.
You can also follow & support Hugo through his project '25 Stay Alive' and his own podcast 'Beyond the uniform'.