We're Mo sistas Male cancer and depression has affected the lives of these four women who proudly support Movember

The institution that is Movember is not just for men - thousands of women now step in to support the charity, raising funds and awareness of a range of men's health issues

26 November 2018 - 09:11

MOVEMBER is no longer just for men. Every year, thousands of women step in to support the charity, raising funds and awareness of a range of men’s health issues, from testicular and prostate cancer, to depression and suicide.

Last year, it’s thought around 25,000 “Mo sistas” took part worldwide.

“Most women have men in their life they care for and we all have a role to play in supporting Movember,” says Anne-Cecile Berthier, of the Movember Foundation.

Here, four Mo sistas tell Lynsey Hope why they are proud to support the men’s charity.

Jules Dorrington

'It’s hard knowing he will never walk daughters down the aisle'

Jules, 56, from Swanage, Dorset, was devastated to lose husband Rick, aged 66, to prostate cancer. He was father to her ­daughters Alice, 29, and Clara, 27.

She says: “Rick had a few symptoms before he was diagnosed but he put it down to ageing. He was getting up in the night a lot to go to the toilet and he couldn’t go on a long journey without having to stop for a pee.

“But then in July 2007, Rick was rushed to Poole Hospital in pain.

“Within a week, after a biopsy and bone scan, he was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. It had spread to his bones and we were told it was terminal. The shock was unbelievable.

“Rick was put on hormone treatment to slow the cancer growth. But over the next seven years, he gradually became more unwell.

“In April 2014 he died in my arms.

“Losing Rick has been horrendous. I have lost my soul mate and our daughters Alice and Clara have lost their father. All their friends are starting to get married and it’s hard for them knowing he will never get the chance to walk them down the aisle or meet his grandchildren.

“Alice has been a long-term Movember supporter and she proved it’s about far more than facial hair. She’s raised over £15,000 for the charity.

“I’ve organised lots of events, quizzes, baking sessions and I’m working on some Movember Christmas jumpers. Clara has also signed up to run the London Marathon.

“It’s not just about raising money. We want to raise awareness of prostate and testicular cancer so other men spot the signs earlier than Rick.

“Symptoms don’t show up in all cases, so men over 50 should talk to their GP about PSA testing (a blood test for prostate-specific antigen).

“Women know if something is wrong and they will push for a man to go to the doctors.

“A lot of men on their own just won’t do it, and that is why “Mo sistas” are more important than ever.”

Rachael Leslie

‘We were shocked how well he masked his depression’

Rachael, 36, a local government worker from Coventry, lost her brother Jordan Bilsland to suicide last year.

She says: “My brother Jordan was only 19 when he died and had just started his second year studying physics at York University.

“He was popular, always going to parties. He played sport and had lots of friends. From the ­outside, you’d think he had everything to live for.

“You imagine someone with a mental health condition to be low all the time, moping around, not leaving the house. But that wasn’t Jordan.

“I was on holiday with my family in September 2017 when it happened. I got a call late at night from my mum.

“It wasn’t clear straight away that he had taken his own life but over the next 24 hours we started to piece together what had happened.

“We later found a diary and it was very clear Jordan had been battling depression for a long time.

“We were all shocked by how well he masked his feelings. I don’t know whether he hoped he would just get better, whether he thought he was beyond help or whether he just didn’t want to ask for help.

“We’ll never know why he did what he did. Women are much better at seeking help. Some men find it difficult.

“The language men use like “manning up” or “get over it” is unhelpful.

“We need to get better at supporting people who have a mental health condition. The stigma around it stops people coming forward.

“Movember is not just about male cancer and moustaches any more. They want people to talk about mental health and ­suicide, and that is why I am keen to support them.

“It’s too late to help Jordan but together we can save other young men feeling like he did.

“Asking a man that you are worried about if he is thinking about suicide isn’t going to make that happen but it might save someone’s life.”

Zan Melleney

'I wore fake moustache for an entire month'

Zan, 33, a mum-of-two from Salisbury, Wilts, lost her dad Peter to prostate cancer in June this year.

She says: “Dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer in spring 2013. Straight away, we were told he was terminal and as a family we were devastated. I was desperate to do some good and I couldn’t help Dad but perhaps I could help someone else.

“In the October that year, I read something about Movember and came up with this daft idea of wearing a fake moustache for the entire month to raise money for charity.

“I got a lot of stares and comments. Some people just ignored it but the ­people that engaged with it were brilliant.

“I raised around £1,400. I didn’t tell Dad at first but when he found out he donated another £100 to top it up to £1,500.

"I did it again in 2016 so in total I’ve raised around £3,000 for the Movember Foundation.

“Dad had always been a healthy and active man before he was diagnosed.

“He’d had no symptoms and it was only when he went to the doctors for a routine check-up that a blood test showed his PSA levels were through the roof. This is an indication of prostate cancer.

"He was given treatment to prolong his life but sadly we lost him in June aged 67.

“I’m very keen to raise awareness so that men are reminded to go for regular PSA tests once they hit 50.”

Fran Parr

‘He seemed empty and looked vacant’

Project manager Fran, 36, lives in Tower Hamlets, East London, with husband Gary, 41, who has had suicidal thoughts.

She says: “I got a message from Gary in November last year saying he was having dark thoughts. He said he was scared and didn’t want to be here any more.

"I knew he’d been depressed but I had no idea he was suicidal.

“He reluctantly told me what he had planned, although I later found out he hadn’t mentioned he’d booked a hotel room and written letters to his family.

“As he was talking he seemed “empty” and had this vacant look on his face. I called his psychiatrist.

"When we met him the next day, he realised quickly that Gary was a risk to himself and could not be left alone.

"It was recommended he be admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

“He was admitted for seven weeks before being discharged to continue his recovery at home.

"Within a few months he was doing well. But in August, he had a relapse. He returned to hospital. Luckily it was a short stay.

“We have both learned depression is not something that just disappears.

“Speaking up can be one of the most difficult things for someone with mental illness. So don’t wait for them to speak. Go with your gut instinct; if you think something is wrong, check in on them.

“They may not be ready to talk about things at the time, they may shut down or go mad at you but they will know you care and are willing to listen and that is powerful for someone in crisis.”

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