I have always been an obstinate man, and thought that I knew best. To be fair, I have always listened to what others have had to say, but have generally gone with my own judgement in the end.
When you are a young man, all the testosterone is flowing, and no one is going to tell you what to do. You think you are invincible, and when people talk about looking after your health, and start thinking about pensions and the future, you just laugh! At no stage in my life, have I felt out of step with my peers, as we laugh and joke about our aches and pains, so it seems that we are all similar. “Go to the doctor, you must be joking! It will get better, it always has. I can’t afford to take any time off work. The doctor is always busy, he won’t have an appointment.”
Generally,men have very few close friends, and personally I have found it very difficult to discuss my health issues, particularly, before my diagnosis. My wife recognised that some of my symptoms were serious, but I never even mentioned them to my friends. I just said that I felt tired.
On reflection, I still can’t believe, that I had so many things wrong with me, and I yet didn’t go to the doctor until it was nearly too late. I had night sweats, rashes on my legs, aching joints, a sore throat, and unusual bowel movements. I thought they were all unrelated, but no, how wrong could I be! I was actually covered in tumours, and my Mantle Cell Lymphoma, had reached stage 4!!
My example is probably fairly typical, of a lot of men. That is one of the reasons why cancer survival rates in the UK are poorer than most of Europe. By the time a lot of cancers are diagnosed, they have spread through the body, and are very difficult to treat.Things are slowly improving, and it seems like every time someone famous is affected, we have a temporary purge on that particular disease and symptoms.
A couple of the most common cancers that men suffer from, are testicular, and prostate. In a lot of instances, some of the early symptoms are recognisable, but we still feel loath to go to our GP. There have been a lot of campaigns to help us recognise the symptoms, so things have improved there
This issue with male attitudes to help/support does not stop here. It seems that it also applies to going to the dentist, and any form of emotional support. Men just do not seem to be able to ask for support even if they actually need it! I always remember if I was navigating, and my wife was driving (pre satnav!) even if we were lost, I would even hate asking for directions!
With the amount of information these days, so readily available, you would imagine that it would be the GPs complaining, about the never ending queue of men requesting a check up.But still we have the same issue. Man’s resistance to support. It seems that this attitude is extremely difficult to change. In certain cultures, this problem, becomes worse.
Personally, I have now learned my lesson and can recognise any abnormal symptoms. I work tirelessly raising awareness of all issues around cancer, and have extended my reach by writing this blog. However, when talking to groups, in various different settings, the men are still in the minority.Maybe social media, is a new way of getting men to understand their issues? Certainly there is a lot of work to be done, because I know that even amongst my friends no one really thinks it will happen to them!
Is it fear, machismo, lack of knowledge, pressure at work? Do you find it difficult to ask for help and why?