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It’s been a bit hairy around BCBSNC this November, and that means one thing: Movember.

Our men are sporting upper lip fuzz in support of Movember, the global men’s health charity that encourages men to grow a mustache for 30 days in November.

Why? Statistics show that, on average, the life expectancy for men is five years fewer than women – currently, 76 compared to 81. But, there is no biological reason for this.

The real purpose of the all the “mustachery” is to raise awareness about issues like prostate and testicular cancer, and mental health challenges for men.

We’d like to share the stories of two brave employees who’ve opened up about their motivation to grow a Mo – that’s short for moustache, which is the preferred spelling in Australia where the Movember movement began.

Matt DiPierro didn’t know too much about testicular cancer – the most common type of cancer in 15 – 35 year-old men – until everything came to a halt when his brother got the surprising, and scary, news.

 

Q: Were there any signs that something was wrong?

A: My brother was trucking through his last semester of college when he noticed one testicle enlarging. It wasn’t painful, so he shrugged it off thinking it would go away. But it didn’t. As it got bigger, other unexplained symptoms arose, like weight loss and fatigue. Though his suspicions were mounting, he put off going to the doctor, fearing a serious diagnosis might set him back from graduating.

MattAndMike

Matt and his brother Mike. Image: Matt DiPierro

 

Q: What made him decide to finally see a doctor?

A: He nailed his dream job after graduation. The kicker (and what may have saved his life) – he had to get a physical before starting work.

 

Q: Everything seemed to happen so fast and all at once. What were the results of his physical that landed him in the OR days later?

A: His doctor ordered an ultrasound the very next morning. Within a few hours, the doctor told my brother that he had a very large 9cm malignant tumor that was testicular cancer – news no one wants to hear. The very next day, surgeons removed the tumor, which is standard treatment for testicular cancer.

 

Q: So, the doctors removed the tumor, and the waiting game began. Did the cancer come back?

A: After they removed the tumor, he started the surveillance period where the doctors actively monitored him to make sure the cancer didn’t spread to other parts of his body. He had regular CT scans and blood tests to screen for tumor markers, or substances found in blood when cancer is present. We thought the worst was over.

About 6 months into the surveillance period, the doctors discovered cancer in his lung. More bad news came at the same time when a scan of his abdomen revealed some enlarged lymph nodes. My brother promptly had the section of his lung removed where the malignant tumors had invaded. Hoping for the best care possible, my family turned to a renowned oncologist, who recommended a Retroperitoneal Lymph Node Dissection (RPLND) to find where the lymph nodes had migrated in his abdomen, and if they were indeed cancerous.

During this very complicated procedure, specially trained surgeons followed a map through his abdomen to remove the affected lymph nodes and sample tissue to check for cancer. Thankfully, the results revealed that the cancer hadn’t spread to his abdomen. And the waiting game (aka the surveillance period) started all over again.

 

Matt's magnificent mustache from last year.

Matt’s magnificent mustache from last year.

Q: Your brother celebrated his fifth “cancer free” anniversary last October. What do you hope people take away from the Movember campaign?

A: Shortly after my brother celebrated this milestone, I signed up to be part of our Movember team at work. I “Mo” to raise awareness of men’s health issues, especially testicular cancer and funding for research to treat this and other diseases affecting men – and, I hope you’ll consider doing the same next year.

 

About Movember

BCBSNC is a proud supporter of Movember. We teamed up with the Carolina Hurricanes again this year to spread the Mo fever further and raise funds to combat men’s health issues. We matched every $1 our team with the Carolina Hurricanes raised, up to $10,000, making the Canes one of the top fundraising teams in the National Hockey League (NHL). All donations support the Movember organization, which funds men’s health programs around the world.

[Top Image: Shutterstock]

Nicole Holmes

About Nicole Holmes

Nicole is a Communications Specialist at BCBSNC. She loves inspiring others through employee stories.