Researchers make molehills out of mountains to show their support and raise money for Movember

The amount of prostate cancer research we’ve been able to fund has increased massively over the last few years, thanks in no small part to support from the Movember Foundation. And we’re not the only ones to appreciate this – the researchers we’ve funded have also been incredibly enthusiastic in showing their support by raising funds for the campaign. Here are some highlights from this Movember.

First up are our very own Research team Mo Bros: Dr Iain Frame (Director of Research), Dr Matthew Hobbs (Deputy Director of Research) and Simon Grieveson (Head of Research Funding). Don’t they look dashing – even if they look a bit like the sort of gang you wouldn’t want to bump into in a dark alley.

The Prostate Cancer UK Research team mo bros: Matthew Hobbs, Iain Frame and Simon Griveson

The Prostate Cancer UK Research team Mo Bros: Matthew Hobbs, Iain Frame and Simon Grieveson

Iain said: “Prostate cancer research has come a long way in the last 10 years, but we’ve still got a long way to go. We need a better way to tell a man’s individual risk of developing prostate cancer. We need a way to tell the difference between aggressive, potentially fatal prostate cancer, and non-aggressive prostate cancer that won’t cause men any problems. And we need better treatments for men with advanced disease. The harsh reality is that we won’t be able to do any of that without more funding for research. So really, the question isn’t: ‘Why am I growing a mo?’ It’s more like: ‘Why wouldn’t I grow one given what can be achieved by doing so?’ Plus, my wife thinks it makes me look even more handsome.”

Meanwhile in Newcastle, Dr Kelly Coffey, one of our first Career Development Fellows, and her lab mates took part in the Newcastle MoRun, where Dr Coffey’s PhD student Mahsa won the ladies’ 5k. As if this wasn’t enough, they also joined in with the larger Northern Institute of Cancer Research (NICR) team in a weekly (and apparently very competitive!) bake sale and their annual Movember quiz night and raffle. The NICR team also celebrated a new arrival this Movember when Dr Anastasia Hepburn gave birth to her second son, James. Never ones to miss an opportunity to involve the whole team in their fundraising (no matter how young), they promptly started a sweepstake to guess baby James’ weight. Overall, this mustachioed team raised a fantastic £750.

Kelly Coffey's team at the mo run

Dr Kelly Coffey’s team at the Newcastle MoRun

Dr Coffey said: “The Newcastle Mo Run was the first run I’ve ever done, and was a huge challenge, but I got there – eventually! And we will all be back next year. Researchers at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research take fundraising activities very seriously. It helps to keep us grounded and to really appreciate how difficult it is to raise money to pay for expensive research endeavours. Considering it took us a month’s worth of activities to raise £750 and my grant for five years was for £688,000 it really makes you appreciate how much time and effort has gone into generating this money. My opinion is that if a charity puts their trust in you, it’s your responsibility to not only ensure that you’re successful, but also to support the charity in return in as many ways as you can.” Well done, and thanks to you all.

In Cardiff, Dr Jason Webber, our newest Career Development Fellow and three year Mo Bro, his mentor Dr Aled Clayton (two year Mo Bro) and his team-mate Dr Joanne Welton (four year Mo Sista) all showed their fuzzy-faced support.

Dr Jason Webber's Cardiff mo team

Dr Jason Webber’s Cardiff mo team

Dr Webber said: “As researchers we are incredibly grateful for the funding that we receive. We are therefore pleased to do what we can to help raise awareness for men’s health and support Movember and Prostate Cancer UK.”

Dr Michael Ladomery at the University of the West of England gave us a stage by stage update on his mo-gress:

Dr Michael Ladomery's Mo-progress

Dr Michael Ladomery’s mo-gress

He said: “I work in prostate cancer research and this sort of initiative is really valuable, so I want to contribute my bit! That’s why I am growing a moustache for the first time in my life. It is unsettling, unhygienic, itchy, and ugly. But all for a good cause!” Dr Ladomery’s experiment with a hairy face earned a very respectable £180 for the campaign. Great work – and thank you!

Finally, the 42-strong team (yes that’s right, 42) at the Belfast end of the Belfast-Manchester Movember Centre of Excellence have really pushed the boat out with their fundraising efforts this year, raising an awe-inspiring £2,640.

Queen's University Belfast's 42-strong team of Mo Bros and Mo Sistas

Mo Bros and Mo Sistas at Queen’s University Belfast

And they weren’t satisfied with the traditional grow a mo and get sponsored approach (although they did that too). They also held a bake-sale at a local business and convinced their local coffee suppliers (Clements and Starbucks) to wear fake moustaches and collect donations. The Mo Sistas donated money to buy and wear fake mos for ‘Fake Moustache Fridays’, one of the professors held a one-man James Joyce showcase (after all, he was a famous Irish Mo Bro) and as if that wasn’t enough, they climbed Everest twice in one night at an indoor climbing fundraiser!

Dr Sharon Eddie Parkinson, a post-doctoral researcher at the Centre of Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s University Belfast said: “As a Movember Centre of Excellence focused on prostate cancer research, we are all too aware of how prevalent and devastating the disease is. We strive to improve the prognosis for patients by identifying biomarkers for early detection and developing novel personal therapies to better treat the disease once it is diagnosed. However, this work cannot be done without the generous funding from Movember and Prostate Cancer UK, so we are incredibly grateful for all the donations we’ve received.”

And Dr Rich Williams, lecturer in medicinal chemistry added: “The funding provided by Prostate Cancer UK and Movember to our group is allowing us to develop the next generation of anti-prostate cancer therapeutics. In addition, we’re using this funding to further increase our knowledge of how to target the hallmarks of this aggressive disease. As a group we all too aware of the need for Movember to raise funds and put them towards improving the outcome for men suffering from prostate cancer, and are delighted to be able to contribute to the cause.”

It’s still not too late to donate – you can help the CCRCB team crack the £3,000 mark by donating.

Wow. A huge thank you and well done from everyone here for the incredible efforts you’ve all (researchers and readers) put in to making this Movember a big success. Your facial hair makes a difference. It enables us – with continuing support from the Movember Foundation – to fund much needed, life-saving research. So as all the Mo Bros out there thankfully stroke their now fuzz-free faces, we say… roll on next Movember!

A MO-mentous day in Parliament

Westminster MPs who embraced Movember 2014

Jason McCartney MP (second from left) with MPs who embraced Movember 2014

We’ve talked about why it’s important for us to build relationships with politicians before. It’s because we need to highlight at the highest levels the inequalities men with and at risk of prostate cancer face – and the changes that need to be made. This is crucial if we want to achieve our goal of improving care and support for men with prostate cancer. And Movember is a fantastic opportunity to make that happen.

The MPs who take part in Movember not only raise money for the cause, but also act as awareness raising champions in the halls of power and in their constituencies – spreading the important health messages behind the campaign throughout the month.

This year Jason McCartney MP, Mike Penning MP and Jake Berry MP bravely grew moustaches, as did Assembly Member Carl Sargeant in Wales and Liam McArthur MSP in Scotland. We were very pleased that the minister with responsibility for cancer services, Jane Ellison MP, once again supported us by attending our photo-call in Westminster at the end of the month. Mo Sistas Luciana Berger MP, Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP and Fiona Mactaggart MP also joined us on the day, and Jason McCartney, MP for Colne Valley in West Yorkshire, raised a fuzzy-faced question in Prime Minister’s Questions –the half an hour on a Wednesday afternoon when the PM sets aside time to answer questions from MPs.

This year, Jason asked: “Every hour one man dies from prostate cancer in the UK.  Testicular cancer is now the most common cancer in men aged 25 to 49 in the UK and on average 12 men in the UK die from suicide. Will you join me in congratulating all the men who have taken part in the Movember campaign to raise these men’s health issues and will the Government continue to fund them and support these vital men’s health issues?”

And David Cameron replied: “I certainly join you in praising all those have taken part in Movember. You are sporting a pretty magnificent specimen. I have to say (Mr Berry) looks like he’s about to star in a Cheech and Chong movie – it’s absolutely remarkable. In terms of my protection team, they have done incredible work and they’re raising a lot of money. I’m only sorry that I can’t seem to be able to join you but the causes are important – particularly these cancers that really need to raise awareness, improve treatments and save lives.”

At our photo-call in Westminster, Prostate Cancer UK volunteer, Nick Harding, caught up with Jason McCartney for a quick chat about why he takes part in Movember.

Jason McCartney MP movember SPW_8337

Jason McCartney MP chatted to Prostate Cancer UK staff and volunteers at Westminster

Jason: “I’ve been involved with Prostate Cancer UK almost since I started here in Parliament. About five years ago, a good friend of mine called Des Latham died from prostate cancer. He inspired me to change direction in my career as a broadcaster with ITV Yorkshire and to run for parliament. Des was ill for about six months before he passed away in his mid-fifties. He should have had many years ahead of him. This is a very personal issue for me, but obviously some of my constituents are affected by prostate cancer too.

“Men are notoriously bad at recognising symptoms of poor health and going to the GP. We can actually save lives by spreading the word about the risk factors for prostate cancer, as well as by campaigning for certain cancer drugs to be licensed and for more research into different types of treatment.

“These days people are hearing about a lot of health issues. I mean, there was World Aids Day recently and there’s a very high profile campaign running in the fight against HIV. And a lot of women’s cancer charities run really, really successful campaigns on the importance of early screening, whether it’s for cervical cancer or breast cancer. As I said, I think men have been historically bad at recognising symptoms, going to see their GP and getting tested. So, just by making people more aware of prostate cancer, and actually realising what a big killer it is, we can fundraise for more research and help people save lives.

“By taking part in Movember, I’ve probably had 50-60 conversations about men’s health issues and prostate cancer that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. It all starts when people ask: ‘Why are you growing a moustache?’. I raise money as well but for me, it really is more about starting conversations, making people more aware of what prostate cancer is and how many men it affects every year.

“This year, I think the best mo in Westminster was Mike Penning’s – Home Office and Justice Minister. I had a meeting with him recently and he had big, hairy chops. He looked like something from the 1800s, and he carried it off really well. It’s great that someone in the Ministerial team has taken part. There’s also my good pal Jake Berry, from Rossendale and Darwen, just over the Pennines from me. As the Prime Minister said in response to my question in PMQs, he looks like a ‘Cheech and Chong’ character. I’ve just looked online and he does – he looks like a bandito!”

Royal Mail and Prostate Cancer UK: a partnership to be proud of

When you received a letter in the post in the last two years, chances are you’ll have seen a simple message in the postmark: Royal Mail is supporting Prostate Cancer UK. That statement of fact, franked onto millions of letters across the UK, still makes me smile two years later.

I remember distinctly the first time I had a letter land on my doormat at home that had this special postmark stamped on the top right corner. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen it of course, but these things always look better in the flesh, and it reinforced how lucky we were to have landed such a huge and influential partner in the Royal Mail.

Dr Fox models the Royal Mail poststamp

Neil Fox models the Royal Mail Prostate Cancer UK postmark

Royal Mail was our first major corporate partner as Prostate Cancer UK, and they helped us launch our new identity. For many people, seeing our logo on their post may have been the first time they had heard of us. Our identity as the largest men’s health charity in the UK has skyrocketed over the last few years (in this year’s Third Sector Charity Brand Index we’re 29 out of 150; in 2011 we weren’t even on the list) and it was Royal Mail who helped light the fuse. That’s some legacy.

Friday 29 August was the last day of this special partnership, and I would like to thank all 150,000 members of staff at Royal Mail for all they have done for us and for men over the past two years. Royal Mail have put everything into this partnership, and through their endeavours, have raised over £2.3 million with match-funding to fund 34 specialist prostate cancer nurses to provide men with support in communities across the UK. You read that correctly: £2.3 million.

Royal Mail staff take on the gruelling Lands End to John O'Groats for Prostate Cancer UK

Royal Mail staff take on the gruelling Lands End to John O’Groats for Prostate Cancer UK

How did they raise such a colossal amount of money? How didn’t they would be an easier question. I’ve rarely seen such levels of engagement with a workforce this big. From simple ideas like the Give a Quid days, which raised over £70,000, to full on challenges, like the Graduate Challenge programmes, which brought in almost £150,000, the staff of Royal Mail just kept on giving their time, money, and commitment to making a better future for men. The Royal Mail Choir, made famous through the BBC programme, even released a charity single.

Graduates

Royal Mail graduates arrive at the Prostate Cancer UK London office having cycled from Cardiff

It wasn’t just money that was raised through our partnership with Royal Mail, they helped us spread awareness of prostate cancer across the UK (including within their own workforce). Through taking part in our awareness campaigns such as the Sledgehammer Fund and Men United v prostate cancer, and distributing thousands of our Know your prostate guides, they’ve helped us increase the understanding and awareness of this horrible disease.

Royal Mail take a sledgehammer to prostate cancer

Royal Mail take a sledgehammer to prostate cancer

With partnerships as strong as these, now and in the future, I’m confident that we will crack prostate cancer. On behalf of Prostate Cancer UK, thank you to everyone at Royal Mail for all your hard work and support. You have made a real difference to the lives of men with prostate cancer, and there’s no better tribute than that.

How do you take a calculated risk when you don’t know the odds?

Risk’s a funny thing. Something like jumping out of a plane or throwing yourself off a bridge with nothing but a bit of elastic attached to your legs can feel very risky. It’s a gamble – a ‘fingers crossed, close your eyes and pray’ moment.

But a gambler always knows the odds. Nobody would strap on a parachute or tie on a bungee cord and take to the air if they didn’t know the risk they faced was tiny (1 in 101,000 for Skydiving, 1 in 500,000 for bungee jumping, in case you were wondering).

But men with prostate cancer don’t have this luxury. Continue reading

Enthusiastic, committed, talented, and giving. Who am I talking about?

Thankyou_collage

It could only be our amazing volunteers. When I joined the charity nearly three and a half years ago, I remember my first week pretty vividly. I’m sure I wasn’t the first or last person to feel nervous to impress, to fit in, to feel like you’re doing a good job. But then I was lucky enough to hear one of our volunteer speakers, Ross, tell his story.

Not only was he a  warm and passionate speaker, but he even managed to add humour to a tough story about his feelings when diagnosed and telling his kids ‘daddy’s got cancer’. It made a lasting impression on me and put my small worries about starting a new job into perspective. It also really helped me understand why we do what we do. Continue reading

Going the distance

Definitely not a runaway groom. Brad Mclaren with his fiancée Jolene

Definitely not a runaway groom. Brad Mclaren with his fiancée Jolene

Blood, sweat, tears, celebrities and even a surprise proposal may sound like a description for the latest summer blockbuster but I’m talking about this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon, a day which, for even the toughest, inspires a whole range of emotions, worthy of any big screen.

Continue reading

Body wax or bucket shake?

Football_league_collections

2014 has started with a bang for us in the fundraising team. With Men United v Prostate Cancer launching in January we’ve had a wave of new fundraisers wanting to get involved. From bake sales to all over body-waxing, our new supporters are thinking up lots of creative ways to support the cause.

However, as well as these great ideas, one thing we really need to do at the moment is recruit volunteers to join our pitchside army and help collect at the 72 football league grounds across the country in March. So sign up for a match now! Continue reading