Longhorns Grow Mustaches for a Cause

As November draws to a close, so does Movember—a men’s health awareness campaign that has peppered the Forty Acres with mustaches.

November is not a month for clean-shaving at The University of Texas, where students have been growing mustaches in the name of men’s health. As part of a worldwide nonprofit campaign entitled Movember, participants hope to raise awareness and funding for issues such as prostate and testicular cancer.

While the mustaches that roam the Forty Acres don’t have quite the distinguished look of a Tom Selleck or Burt Reynolds ’stache, they are drawing attention to an important cause. One in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime, and one in 270 will be diagnosed with testicular cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It’s important for all students to be aware of the health issues advocated on behalf of Movember,” says Wills Brown, student body vice president and a Movember participant. “Luckily, with regular checkups these cancers can be diagnosed at an early stage, and thus managed. But getting the word out that these checkups are imperative is key.”

For the University’s Student Government and Senate of College Councils, Movember was an opportunity to work in conjunction with other student organizations, including the Interfraternity Council, to raise money for a cause that affects many members of the University community.

Michael Morton, president of the Senate of College Councils, says a few of his family members have battled prostate cancer.

“I’ve realized how many people this really affects,” Morton says. “This is something that goes unmentioned to a lot of people, and we hope that by growing our mustaches we can start a conversation that will help.”

Morton adds that Movember supporters—who call themselves Mo’brothers and Mo’sisters—don’t have to sport mustaches to start a dialogue about men’s health.

“Most people know someone, or at least have a friend who knows someone, who has been diagnosed with either testicular or prostate cancer sometime in their life,” Brown says.

For Brown, that person was his Zeta Tau Beta fraternity brother Neil Gustafson.

Gustafson was diagnosed with testicular cancer—the most common cancer found in 15-35 year old males—in 2010 during his junior year at UT. He had never been formally taught how to check for testicular cancer, but when he noticed that his left testicle “felt out of the ordinary,” he sought advice from his father (a doctor) and other medical professionals.

Luckily, Gustafson’s cancer was Stage I and treatable.  “Besides a good story to tell, I do not think that my diagnosis changed the remainder of my time at UT,” he says. “Cancer was something that happened to me, not something that defines me or who I am.”

Gustafson grew his third Movember mustache this month. “I just wish I could grow a thicker one,” he says. “Mine is pretty weak!”

So far, Movember has raised more than $13,000 at UT, according to Morton, and that doesn’t include some cash and check donations that haven’t been deposited yet. According to the Movember Foundation, which was founded in Australia in 2004, last year’s event raised $126.3 million total for men’s health worldwide.

As the end of the month neared, the patchy Movember mustaches have grown thicker and been more carefully groomed. Not everyone, though, agrees with Brown’s mantra that “we all know everyone looks better with a mustache.” Morton and Gustafon say their mustaches will disappear as soon as November ends.

“Once people realize what [my mustache] is for, they are incredibly supportive of it,” Morrton says. “This mustache has started enough conversations to outweigh my dissatisfaction with it.”

Wills Brown, left, and Michael Morton pose in their Movember mustaches. Photo courtesy Michael Morton. 


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