(10th October 2016)
Writes Andrew Hahn, Mo Bro since 2009:
It’s late in September 2016, just over a month before my 7th Movember tour. Tomorrow, I’m heading to Cedars Sinai hospital in Los Angeles to be with my brother, as he takes the first step in his cancer fight. He’s having a kidney removed. As I write about this, I’m almost emotionless. It seems like just another surgery.
When I was 16 and only a kid, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. I didn’t realize the severity of her fight, as her pride and independence disguised her battle in parallel to divorce after over 20 years of marriage.
Fresh out of college at the age of 21, my father was diagnosed with cancer. Not the quick-killing cancer. Rather, the slow debilitating cancer, that slowly took his strength, mind, independence, and dignity. My mentor, the man who created my roadmap to happiness, love, and success, became a shadow of his proud, strong, brilliant self.
At 24, he passed on and I was left with only the memory of my father to guide me through adulthood. Although my mother had cancer when I was 16, I had been shielded from her fight. At 24, I was catapulted into being the “man of the family” and placing my family’s needs well in front of my own.
As I watched these battles against cancer, I chose to be there more for others than to address my own feelings and acknowledge my emotions. It was a great coping mechanism to give selflessly rather than acknowledge my feelings and be cared for. Although it worked quite well for a time, it was a short-term solution to a real problem. I’m thrilled that the Movember Foundation has now added men’s mental health to the list of goals they aim to address.
After my father passed, I struggled to find a way to help others avoid the painful journey I’d been through. I found Movember by happenstance. A dude I worked with looked abnormally stupid sporting the upper hair lip one November day, and we had a conversation about Movember. My father wore a moustache every day of my life.
I was suddenly obsessed with talking about testicular and prostate cancer awareness to anyone who would listen.I raised a few grand in my first year. By my third year, I started a campaign at work and raised over $40,000. My six-year total is now well over $100,000!
What began as a selfless act actually has a selfish motive for me. I get back so much more than I give. As the largest men’s health charity in the world, the Movember Foundation’s passion and commitment is real, the impact is recognizable, and the parties are legendary. The entire month of Movember, I meet some amazing people, all connected through their personal struggle and a commitment to help others. It brings out the best version of the person I aspire to be.
I have my bad moments—when the impact of cancer on my small family makes me feel angry, jaded and pessimistic—but my dad instilled a “cup-half-full” mentality in me. I have the perspective to focus on how fortunate I have been to have an amazing family and to be now raising my first toddler with my wife.
As a father, I’m terrified of cancer and of not being here for my son as he grows up. The most logical part of my mind participates in Movember in the hope that there’ll be a cure in place if I get cancer. The illogical part of me hopes that my contributions to Movember will earn me “Good Points” with the cancer roulette wheel. (I did say it was illogical, and I am selfish for thinking it.)
This year, my team is called Block Party for my recently departed friend Domonic Prince. He was a good friend, basketball teammate, colleague, and main Mo Bro who suddenly passed away earlier this year in his early 30s. He leaves behind a wonderful wife and daughter. I’m continuing my circle of fundraising, and hoping to expand participants—his friends, company, and those who want to help carry on his legacy.
Although Domonic stood 6’11” (yes, I pick my friends well and my basketball teammates even better), he was the epitome of the gentle giant. The nicest man you’d ever have the pleasure to meet. Patient, always smiling, and humble beyond logic. This gesture is only a small token of appreciation for the mark he left on me and my fellow Mo Bros.
I hope my story reminds people that they are not alone in their battle with cancer. We are all Mo Bros and together, we will support each other, love one another, and find a cure. Your glass may not always be half full, but I assure you there are better days ahead in your journey.
First published in Movember Australia