my “movember” mustache story

by jani on October 24, 2012

The month of November has so many symbolic meanings. Each Veteran’s Day we celebrate those brave men and women who have fought for our country… we remember to be thankful throughout the month, sometimes adding a daily grateful Facebook post each day of  that month. This usually culminates in the wonderful Thanksgiving feast that we celebrate with our family and loved ones.

For me, when I think of November, I think of Movember – I think of Steve. So before I begin my story, I’m going to ask each person that reads this post to do one very important thing: Women, ask all the young men in your life (ages 16-40) to please check their testicles for anything unusual… a lump, swelling, inflammation, any of which could be symptomatic of cancer! Does saying this make you feel uncomfortable? It shouldn’t be any less uncomfortable than when we ask women to check their breasts for signs of cancer!

Steve and I were married in 1975 in Kailua-Kona’s Mokuaikawa Church on the Big Island of Hawaii. I love this photo of our intimate wedding. My sister is holding her little boy and my mom is holding my eldest son, Chris. Please note Steve’s beautiful red hair – and especially that full red mustache… he was always proud of that “mo”!

Steve was a strong guy, physically fit. He loved to play baseball – was in fact a high school all-star pitcher for California, until he blew his elbow out in his senior year. Sadly, along the way he sustained multiple groin injuries through the course of his amateur playing career – but throughout his life he continued to play every chance he could get. On our domestic front, Steve was a superb salad maker. He made an incredible chef salad!

Jump forward to 1979. My life was great;  I had a darling little family with three boys, and on December 15th of that year, we had a beautiful baby girl. But just five months later we received the news that Steve had testicular cancer – chorio carcinoma. The doctors gave him two months to live, yet Steve fought this horrible disease for two horrific years. My mother often watched our children while he received chemo treatment.  We wanted to keep our lives as normal as possible – we took our kids to Disneyland. Steve had lost all his hair by then, but I found a few pictures from an earlier trip before  he’d gone bald. We still celebrated all our holidays and tried to make memories, tough as it was, because Steve was in and out of the hospital throughout those two years.

Steve slipped gently away from us to his home in heaven on April 1, 1982. It would be several years before we could celebrate April Fool’s Day. In his final hours he was so frail and weak – but he never gave up his fight. He wanted to live for his family. He was only thirty years old. As Steve died quietly in our bed, it was noticeable how much weight and body hair he had lost. But there was one part of his body where he still had hair… his beautiful red mo… he never lost that mustache… even in death.

This is our family just a few weeks after Steve’s passing as we tried to celebrate Easter with his parents. You can pretty much see the anguish on our faces. Our smiles are just not quite there.

So you can see that, for me, Movember and growing mustaches to raise money for men’s health, specifically prostate and testicular cancer awareness,  is so much more than who can grow the greatest mustache (personally I think my third eldest son, Jordan, has the best one!)… it is about how much we educate all the men in our lives and help to stop the spread of this dreadful disease.

Please if you can donate to this great cause – do. If you can’t, educate yourselves to the dangers of this disease. In today’s world, Steve would probably have lived, but the key is early detection. Look for swelling or inflammation, and if there is any doubt, see your doctor. And then join this campaign!

Note: A year after Steve died, I met my wonderful HB, who has been an incredible dad and husband these last almost thirty years. We even added a son and twin daughters to our family. I’m so very in love with HB, but it doesn’t take away the memories of those tragic moments in the lives of my children and me.