We don’t want to talk about health. Nor do we want to go to the doctor to get tested. When it comes to health below the waist, if we’re not bragging about it, we’re not talking about it.”
– Rocco Rossi
Men seem to have a problem acknowledging sickness. Countless books and articles have been written on the subject and regardless of opinion, studies indicate a definitive stigma attached to male-related illnesses – especially below the belt. “We don’t want to talk about health. Nor do we want to go to the doctor to get tested. When it comes to health below the waist, if we’re not bragging about it, we’re not talking about it,” says Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of Prostate Cancer Canada (PCC). “When we have aches and pains, we think we’re supposed to man-up and still go to work to take care of the family. However, manning-up is really about taking care of yourself so you can take care of your family,” explains this father and husband.
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Canadian men and statistics don’t lie. While one in eight Canadian men will be diagnosed in their lifetime, this year alone, an estimated 4,100 will succumb to the disease. On the flip side, survival rates have increased over the last twenty years. According to Rossi, this is all thanks to breakthroughs in medical research, nation-wide awareness and early detection initiatives. The former political candidate, successful businessman and philanthropist, who was also at one time the CEO of the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Ontario, aligns himself with organizations that have personal significance, and losing an uncle to the illness makes his commitment to PCC even more bittersweet. “I lost him to prostate cancer, but I also lost him to machismo because he was someone who believed that unless you’re bleeding from the ears, why go see a doctor?” he admits.
Assisting PCC by raising funds, creating awareness and engaging men in conversation is the world-renowned Movember Foundation. Now in its tenth year in Canada, men are sponsored to grow moustaches throughout November and while they are busy comparing and grooming their ‘Mos’, the event encourages openness regarding prostate cancer and other male-related illnesses. Dubbed the hairiest month of the year, Movember follows September’s Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and its array of nationwide fundraisers. The more popular PCC events, some of which are held year-round, include the Wake Up Call Breakfast offering free prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing to men over the age of forty, the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, where men sport cravats and tweed while riding, vintage motorcycles, the Moose & Goose Dinner at Toronto’s Royal York Hotel and the incredibly edgy Pants Off, daring the brave at heart to leave their pants at home for the day. Another is Plaid for Dad enticing the public to wear plaid on the final Friday before Father’s Day.
I lost him to prostate cancer, but I also lost him to machismo because he was someone who believed that unless you’re bleeding from the ears, why go see a doctor?”
– Rocco Rossi
While 80% of PCC proceeds are allocated to research, remaining funds go to sup- port groups, a toll-free number, a one-stop informative website, by-weekly webinars and online seminars,”…because guys, unlike women, look for more anonymous services,” explains Rossi. In an exclusive to fredi, Rossi has announced the inaugural Kiss 2 Cure campaign, with its launch set for January 2016. An exciting collaborative between PCC and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, the online Canadian initiative benefits both causes. “Never in any country in the world have a major men’s cancer charity and a major women’s cancer charity come together for a joint initiative. The two diseases have effectively the same numbers and the age distribution of these two groups is virtually the same but you hear much less about prostate cancer than you do about breast cancer,” states Rossi.
Hoping to hit the pop culture scene and go viral online, Kiss 2 Cure introduces its ‘usie’, a twist on the ‘selfie’. In its simple ingenuity the usie invites couples to come together to Tweet, Facebook and Instagram their favourite kiss as well as submit the image to the Million Kiss Challenge in order to qualify for the Kiss 2 Cure – Kiss of the Day, Month and Year. As the two forces unite, Rossi is confident the campaign will gain momentum and result in Kiss 2 Cure events across Canada. “Those who have been touched by these cancers know they’re not just a man’s disease or a woman’s disease. It’s a couple’s disease and it’s a family’s disease. It just makes sense to do something together,” he says. Perhaps getting a man to visit the doctor really isn’t all that complicated and could be as simple as a gentle kiss and a helping female hand.