NoShaveNovember: It’s okay for men to ask for help and we should encourage it
Whether you refer to it as #NoShaveNovember or #Movember the important thing to remember all November long goes above the fun or growing facial hair and that's raising funds and awareness while encouraging men to routinely consult a doctor, get screened if something if off and build casual conversations about health and overall well being.
It's an opportunity to break the chains of fear and stigma and open the door to positive energy with a room full of people who are here to be a listening ear and perhaps a helping hand as well.
Dr. Mina Fam, M.D., Medical Director, Urologic Oncology, Jersey Shore University Medical Center & Medical Director, Robotic Surgery, Ocean Medical Center, says that there are three cancers that commonly affect men, bladder, testicular and prostate cancer.
He explains that prostate cancer usually doesn't present symptoms, you receive a diagnoses through two types of screenings.
"One is a digital rectal exam done by your doctor and the other is Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) and with those exams we're able to start the screening process and set patients up for biopsies if it's necessary," Dr. Fam tells Townsquare Media News. "Typically, screening starts after age 50 in most men."
It may surprise you to learn that one of the causes of bladder cancer comes from smoking similar to lung cancer.
"It's important during your annual physicals to get a urinalysis and if there's any bleeding or evidence of small blood cells, you should be evaluated by a urologist," Dr. Fam said. "Bladder cancer is also associated with chemical exposure as well. We do see patients who've been working in factories and exposed to different chemicals that do develop bladder cancer. Family history is also a key component. In terms of prevention...if you do smoke, quit smoking."
Testicular cancer is common in adolescents and men in their 20's and 30's, Dr. Fam explains, and it's something found with a self-examination looking for lumps or bumps or irregularities.
"If there are you should see your doctor and get an ultrasound and tumor markers to evaluate for testicular cancer," Dr. Fam said.
Any of these urologic cancers are very treatable, Dr. Fam explains, in the early stages.
"If you do have blood in your urine, if you do have an elevated PSA, if you do have any lumps or bumps or anything abnormal I would advise people to get checked out early because often times there could be a cure and it's much better than later stages," Dr. Fam said.
An Ocean County man who overcame his battle with cancer is encouraging other men during #noshavenovember to see a doctor and encourages us to build a support system around the men in our lives.
It was ten years ago that David Caldarella found out he had neck and head cancer after noticing some lumps on the side of his neck.
"I was out to dinner with a friend, came home from dinner and had trouble swallowing that night. I thought maybe something was stuck in my throat or I was getting a sore throat. I kept drinking water and nothing really helped. The next day I woke up, went to shave and there was a lump on the side of my neck," Caldarella tells Townsquare Media News.
He tried home remedies to clear up what he thought was a sore throat before heading to his physicians.
"Within a week they did a biopsy on my neck and found out it was squamous cell carcinoma cancer and it was spreading. It had gone from my tonsils down my throat and into my neck," Caldarella said. "I was referred to Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia and within 10-days heard it was Stage-4 head and neck cancer."
For months he battled through the treatments, sickness and the rollercoaster of emotions hoping to one day be cancer free.
"The better part of 2010 was a fight and at one point I started out at 190 pounds and I got down to 125-pounds and I had a feeding tube in my stomach because I couldn't eat or drink through my mouth," Caldarella said. "It was difficult. I remember sleeping on the bathroom floor and my Mom and Dad putting a pillow against the bathtub and a blanket over me because I was constantly getting sick."
He received a lot of support during his fight from family, friends and people in the community which helped him overcome those tough times, eventually becoming cancer free on November 11, 2010.
"I have a tremendous family, friends and a support system that I'm eternally grateful for," Caldarella said. "What I also saw was strangers who didn't know me from Adam but found a way to send me a card or reach out through somebody they know that knew me."
The outpouring of support led to him creating David's Dream and Believe Cancer Foundation in Manahawkin to help individuals and their families across the Shore and State in providing some aid to help them with expenses.
It's all about paying it forward and helping others the way people helped him.
"We set out with a goal of maybe helping one or two families a year and what's transpired over the past ten years is nothing short of exceptional and genuine," Caldarella said. "We've now helped over 1,800 families and counting now and over $1.6-million has been raised for these families so that they get a little bit of help with rent and their mortgage and utilities and medical bills and groceries and gas to get to treatments."
There's been a lot going on this year alone whether it's the pandemic, politics, social justice concerns or something else, all of which could be adding to the stress or anxiety levels of some men.
Dr. Ramon Solhkhah, M.B.A., FHELA, DFAACAP, the Chair of Psychiatry at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune City, explains that the true signs of stress, to take notice of, come out in our daily behavior.
"I think we all have to make it a conscience choice to say we got to be paying attention to it," Dr. Solkhah tells Townsquare Media News. "The way that a lot of men, because we're not always in touch with our feelings, is that we'll sort of realize that we're being stressed out when our eating habits change, when our sleeping habits change, when we find ourselves maybe being a little bit more angry or short fused."
He explains that these are the warning signs to pay attention to whether it's taking a look at our own lives or someone in our family or a friend takes notice of how we're behaving.
Then it forces us to take a look at the person within.
"If your spouse or significant other or your children or parents are pointing our issues and saying something like 'hey, you seem a little more on edge', I think that during these times (in 2020) we all have the responsibility to look inside and say 'well, maybe their right'," Dr. Solkhah said. "We're all experiencing that stress right now."
Fear is sometimes the culprit behind some or most of what causes us stress and anxiety whether it's about something we know or just simply the unknown.
"Fear is a motivator and when it's used in a healthy way it can be extremely important, maybe it's that fear of being stagnant, fear that we're not being successful, fear that things are not going the way we want, fear that we're not making enough money...all of those things may force us to look at other opportunities and make changes in our life, so that's not a bad thing necessarily," Dr. Solkhah explains. "It's when the fear impacts your ability to do day-to-day activities that I think it's problematic."
Dr. David Leopold, DABFM, DABOIM, Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine and Network Medical Director, says learning to practice things like gratitude, happiness and optimism will help change your outlook.
"I think that when we tell people all you have to do is sit in a corner on a comfortable cushion and breathe is selling it short, it's going to have a positive affect but it's not the totality of what we need, it needs to be comprehensive," Dr. Leopold tells Townsquare Media News. "It's what we eat, it's how we move our bodies, it's how we sleep...you have to be able to utilize a lot of different things in your life to offset stress."
What and how we eat, sleep and move around could be the difference in how we behave on a regular basis.
"Physical activity is extremely important, prioritizing sleep is extremely important and data now shows what we eat affects our level of stress so the more we eat what we call the 'standard American diet' which is a lot of processed foods, foods that are high in sugar or fried foods...that tends to put us in more of a state of stress," Dr. Leopold said. "Diets that center more around a Mediterranean type diet or a more plant based-forward diet has been shown globally to reduce levels of stress."
If you're a guy out there who is struggling even if you make those changes, Dr. Leopold says it's okay to ask for help, you don't have to figure it all out alone.
"It is okay to ask for help, it is okay to not be okay," Dr. Leopold said. "Nobody can do these things on their own. It's important that we acknowledge that we have stress, that we have anxiety or things are putting pressure on us and to seek out other ways of getting help from outside sources."
He adds seeking help from someone outside your family and circle of friends will allow you to feel more comfortable opening up and not be judged.
"I'm a huge advocate for psychological counseling, I think that everybody should have a psychological counselor, We all have things like a personal trainer or we take our car into the mechanic, why not take your mental well being in for a check up, " Dr. Leopold said. "People seek out someone other than their family or friends. Seeking help from a professional has a completely different capacity to help. It's important to have family and friends but our family and friends have a vested interest in keeping us happy. Third party individuals like a psychiatrist or psychologist are objective sources and people can go there and release everything without being judged or having someone say it's going to be okay, some things aren't going to be okay."
There are specific Integrative Health and Medicine services available at Jersey Shore University Medical Center for you if you are a patient receiving care at the hospital, a family member or friend visiting someone in the hospital, or anyone interested in improving the quality of their life.
Services available at the HOPE Tower inside JSUMC include:
- Integrative health and medicine physician (medical director) or nurse practitioner consultation
- Acupuncture sessions
- Reiki sessions
- Integrative nutrition counseling
- Integrative nurse health coach
These services are offered to anyone, whether you're dealing with a severe medical condition, managing chronic illnesses, or want to improve your overall health and wellness.
One of the ways we can help the men in our lives is to simply check-in on them and have a conversation in-person.
"Let them know you're concerned about them and if you're not able to help them reach out to get external help," Dr. Solkhah said. "Talking is better than not talking and for guys it often times is that the face-to-face doesn't work so well."
In those instances, Dr. Solkhah recommends conversations over the phone or have sideways talk where you and a loved one or a friend can just sit down and watch football or play video games where you're not looking at each other but still having a discussion.
We can grow moustaches and beards, some look great some look like it's an effort but it's all in good fun, however, only part of the reason for #NoShaveNovember.
Today presents another opportunity to begin the conversation encouraging men to see their doctors and talk to someone, to relieve the stress that lives within or have someone to share the good times with...not just family and friends but people in the community we have yet to meet.