The Moustache: A Fun Approach To A Serious Problem

Sandy Goodman is one of Movember’s top fundraisers. Prostatepedia spoke to him about their annual moustache-growing campaign.

Goodman

What is Movember?

Sandy Goodman: Movember is a fun approach to a serious problem. A bunch of guys sat down over some beers and dreamed up this way to follow the lead of breast cancer awareness advocates, who had been doing such a great job talking to women about early detection. These guys talked about what could be done for men. It’s grown into something much larger. The bottom line: guys don’t talk and men are dying too young (6 years earlier than women, on average).

Men are dying too young, and, for Movember, the simple solution is the moustache. The moustache is just our ribbon—it’s our banner. I don’t grow a moustache normally. Because I do it once a year, everyone asks why I’m growing one. It sparks the conversation.

Movember has been very innovative. They’ve made all the fundraising and gift-giving tools available online to everybody. An incredible amount of partnership and research has been funded through Movember. The back end—what the money is going towards—has real outcomes.

I’m happy to be a part of something that’s fun, and I’m proud to be part of something that’s truly making a difference.

image003Sounds like the annual campaign isn’t just about fundraising, but is also a way to start talking about some of these issues.

Sandy Goodman: Yeah, that’s right. It’s definitely all about sparking conversation. Men are terrible at making doctor appointments. Men are terrible at following up on doctor appointments. Men are terrible about checking themselves and being aware of what’s going on. To the extent that we can just spark conversation is a big impact.

Movember used to say that one moustache reaches an average of 100 people in a month. The number of emails you send out and share, Facebook posts, blog posts, the pictures—the reach is large and it just multiplies.

I’d be surprised to find anyone on the globe now who doesn’t understand what a moustache during the month of November means.

For me, it’s just about being involved with something. We all need to give back. I’m a huge believer in lifting with your pinkies as a group. It’s such a powerful thing when we all just lift together.

How did you get involved with Movember?

Sandy Goodman: I got involved 10 years ago because my father-in-law was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He had been doing all the right things. He went to his doctor for PSA and DRE exams every year. When his doctor saw something he didn’t like, he said, “You have an elevated PSA score and need to come back.”

At the time, he was getting remarried. His brother had had some complications after a prostatectomy, so my father-in-law was afraid to go back. He didn’t go back until a year later when he was doubled over in pain and they said it was too late. He was terminally ill with prostate cancer. It had spread. They gave him three years to live; he made it eight years, but it was not a very good eight years.

Early detection is so important, but beyond early detection is early action. My father-in-law did the right things, but then didn’t follow through… he didn’t take action. It was sad to watch this whole process. It was especially terrible, because it was completely avoidable.

At the time, I knew nothing about my prostate. I didn’t know what it did. I didn’t really know where it was and I never checked it. I was 45 years old. None of my friends knew anything about their prostates, either. We never checked our testicles or any of that stuff.

At the same time, a work friend’s dad had cancer. He was getting involved with Movember. He started a team and I joined him. Movember had only been in the United States for a year at the time.

It was a fun approach to a serious problem, which was right up my alley. I grew a moustache, got hooked, and I’ve been growing for 10 years now. I’ve been talking to everyone I can, all my bros.

Movember has had the viral social media aspect going for it.

Sandy Goodman: Completely. I started a golf tournament for our team 5 years ago. It’s grown. My goal was to bring the Movember message to my local community. I was walking around the South Bay and people would recognize that I had grown a moustache, but I think they saw me as a novelty. I wanted to do more. The golf tournament brings in local businesses. They set up on every other hole, so it’s an interactive experience. It’s a fun day. One of them sponsors the team photos of everyone holding up the tournament banner.

This year, instead of having a professional photographer there to take the picture, we’re asking the players to take the pictures with their own cameras and phones, so they’ll have it immediately. Then they can share and post their photos with hash tags. It’s just another way to keep the message growing virally.

There are new ideas every year.

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What has been your own approach to Movember?

Sandy Goodman: It’s changed over the years. At first, it was about getting people on the team. We’ve had as many as 80 people on a team and we’ve had as few as 20. I haven’t even really started building a team yet for this year. I used to start up on September 15, the day the website goes up, but it was a bit early. I just sent my first email for recruiting.

Originally, we just had a get-together with the guys. Then, we connected with some local bars and existing local events. Now we help promote. Bars and restaurants are happy for us to bring our crew, so we’ve had a lot of success with that. If there’s too much happening on the calendar, though, people can get burnt out, so we take that into consideration.

Movember has made it easier to host an event. Once you’re signed up, you can send invites to your friends or you can post events publicly. It’s fantastic. You could post a keg party if you wanted and ask for donations as admission.

When they were in college, I helped my sons set up their own team, The Buffalo Mo Bros. I encouraged them to use those tools to set up keg parties and things like that. It was super easy. It’s about getting together, having fun, and raising awareness and some money.

How do you motivate people to donate to a cause like this?

Sandy Goodman: In the beginning, I fundraised almost exclusively through email. I would send out about eight emails throughout the campaign. I started with the kickoff, maybe something for Halloween, then Veterans Day, and halfway there’s the golf tournament and then the wrap-up.

I would always attach a personal message. I would cut my group into subgroups, such as work friends or high school friends, and then cater the messages to them. Movember allows you to upload pictures to the site, so I do that, and they can see my progress.

Now, I focus exclusively on the golf tournament, because it’s just a big event. It raises about $50,000. I organize everything.

For whatever reason, I am fortunate to have some very generous friends. Everyone understood that I was passionate about it and that resonated. I was passionate because of my father-in-law. I was passionate because I have three sons who have a history to be concerned with because they’re two and a half times more likely to get it than I am.

What works for my fundraising is email campaigns and being thoughtful about how I word the emails and who I send them to.

I’ve been doing this for 10 years. I’ve been the top United States fundraiser for the past 8 years. The individual who has raised the MOst MOney is called the MoMo. It’s a title I love. I would love to retain it.

I imagine if you’ve been doing this for eight years, you must have a core group of people who campaign with you every year?

Sandy Goodman: I do, but people come in and out. It’s hard to maintain the passion. There are many charities that compete for our attention and our dollars. People have other things in their lives. Sometimes life throws you a curve ball, and your focus and priorities just change.

For example, one of the guys who has been with me all these years just told me: “My mother-in-law has breast cancer. So I’ve decided to focus on the breast cancer walk this year.” I think that’s great. There’s nothing wrong with that. I miss him, but he’s still doing great things.

For me, it’s just about being involved with something. It’s such a powerful thing when we all lift together. It’s about numbers.

It’s about having a clear message and a clear path for success. You have to make it frictionless for people so that they can just click and be done. If people don’t see a hyperlink and they don’t understand your methods, you’re not going to win. Movember has been fantastic at that. They get that need for ease. That’s why they were trailblazers and why they were able to have such success and to grow so quickly.

They made it frictionless. They made it easy for people to understand the message, to follow somebody who’s passionate and having fun and to see your progress. Pictures and emails are template-driven, so they allow you to spin to your group, update, and customize your message. “Just click here.” It’s that simple.

What are your tips for men who want to start their own group?

Sandy Goodman: Have fun. Be passionate. And do the work. There’s a full spectrum of Mo Bros and Mo Sisters. There are people out there who sign up and they’ve raised zero dollars, but they have fun and they have an excuse to spark conversations. That’s great. They’re doing something and making a difference. If one moustache saves one life, even if you haven’t raised any dollars, that’s fantastic.

On the other end of the spectrum, some people just get really into it. They get passionate, organized, do the hard work, and they raise a lot of money and awareness. It’s a balance between both.

Do you have any advice for patients or their loved ones who want to participate?

Sandy Goodman: I watched my father-in-law suffer. It was a very difficult experience for everybody—obviously for him—but also for all his family members. Once he had prostate cancer, we learned that it was so confusing to find and understand the resources available, the best course of action, or the best treatments.

Movember had resources that were really comforting and helpful and focused on care (LIVESTRONG at the time). Knowing that they’re doing the research and the work is comforting also.

Under “About Us,” they have information on the work that they’re doing. There are over 1,200 projects funded by Movember in all areas of men’s health: prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health and suicide prevention.

They also provide links to other resources. They have hotlines for people to call for more information and support.

Resources for mental health have really grown in prominence at Movember over the past few years, mostly in response to the mental anguish that you go through when faced with any cancer and not knowing who to talk to. When you consider that three out of four suicides are men, it’s a huge issue at all ages.

I never want to get a message from someone saying they’re glad I’m doing this because they’ve just been diagnosed with prostate cancer. That’s terrible. But the fact that they were diagnosed and they’re taking action is fantastic, because they’re reaching out. They’ve seen me, my passion, and they’ve seen my moustache every year.

I always pick up the phone. I try to help however I can. If I can provide a resource through Movember, I always do that, but it’s a tough journey.

Most people with prostate cancer will die of something else.

Sandy Goodman: That’s true. For those who already have prostate cancer, it’s the treatment and it’s the side effects that are difficult.

I have several friends that have gone through complete prostatectomies and several going through active surveillance. It’s not an easy journey, even if it’s super successful. It just takes time.

Do you still feel men don’t want to talk about prostate cancer?

Sandy Goodman: That’s changing a little. I have two good friends who have had prostatectomies and they’ve had some very serious side effects. They are extremely open about wearing diapers and the other issues. That conversation wouldn’t have happened 10 years ago. I would have waived them off like: “I don’t want to hear that.” Now, I’m open to it, everyone around me is open to it, and it’s not taboo anymore. It’s more about being there for them than anything else. The message is being heard.

Do you think that this change is due to efforts like Movember’s annual campaign, or do you think society is evolving?

Sandy Goodman: I think it’s a combination. It’s not one or the other. People are coming of age in a more communicative era. We have Facebook and social media and charities out there are promoting and discussing these issues.

We’re more accustomed to sharing our emotions as a culture?

Sandy Goodman: Yes. We share a lot. We share everything on the worldwide web. There it’s frictionless, and the messages are bouncing around at hyper speed all the time. Sometimes more than you want. But that’s for the best when you’re talking about things that in the past were not discussed and should be.

Depression and suicide?

Sandy Goodman: One hundred percent. People suffer on their own for many reasons, including cancer. That’s the main message of Movember: talk, listen, and be there. I’ve picked up the phone to check on people many times over the last couple years, and we just have a conversation. Other times people have reached out to me when I wasn’t feeling great about things. I would just be honest and say: “I just need to talk to someone right now.”

For me, that support is completely thanks to Movember and their message. I try to practice what they preach, but it’s not always easy. We’re guys. We still grew up being guys. We don’t cry. We say, put a Band-Aid on it, you’ll be fine. But that’s not as powerful as reaching out.

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