Kim Warink, 21 years old, studies medicine and describes herself as a typical student who enjoys spending time with friends and attending parties. This year she decided to help us out as MoSista Marketing for the Movember Run. In this interview she candidly explains why she wants to be actively involved in Movember.
Kim has not participated in Movember before herself, but her stepbrothers in Portugal did for some time and that’s how she knew about Movember already. When her father was diagnosed with prostate cancer a year ago, she wanted to learn more about Movember and quickly discovered the Movember Run.
What does Movember mean to you? "To me, Movember is the foundation ’fighting men’s diseases. These ailments don’t only affect men, but also the lives of their loved ones, including women. I think all charities are important, but Movember touches me personally and that is why I want to commit my time to it."
I do notice however that Movember is not that popular in the Netherlands yet. There’s a lot of attention for breast cancer (and rightly so), but I actually don’t see much about Movember. That gives me the impression that men are much less concerned with their health than women, or at least, are not able to openly speak about it. In order to achieve similar levels of awareness, we’ll need to promote Movember a lot more. So I think that organising a Movember Run really helps”.
Prostate cancer in the family
A year ago her father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. “He had blood in his underwear, twice, so his mother advised him to see a doctor quickly. It seemed a simple procedure at first, but the PSA values remained high even after a second measurement. The value should have been zero after the operation. They took a scan, followed by irradiation, but soon it was clear that it would not be curable. My father is sick, but you don’t notice it, because he doesn’t look sick and doesn’t really feel sick. But it’s like a ticking time bomb; you don’t know what the upcoming tests will show.”
How did you experience this yourself? How did you deal with this horrible news? “It hit me hard, because we received the news on my mother’s birthday. Also, I was studying prostate cancer at the time, so I really got to know the topic well. It was incredibly difficult to see my father so sad; you feel miserable and powerless. I have achieved high marks on my coursework on prostate cancer, because I obviously wanted to know everything about it."
"I notice that people who ’haven’t experienced a serious illness in their family find it hard to talk to me. But I get a lot of support from people who know what it’s like. I really don’t expect people to ask me about my dad all the time; sometimes it’s fine to ask how he’s doing, and then to talk about something else. You notice that people are concerned about you and that’s enough.”
Background in medicine
Do you think your background in medicine has an advantage? Does it provide a better understanding of the situation? "It is very annoying. I already knew things before my father knew them, because I knew the symptoms. For example, I wondered why the diagnostics were done in a certain way and not in a way that seemed more in line with what I studied. I wanted to join him in the hospital, because I had so many questions. Then I searched for everything I could find about the topic."
"The advantage, of course, is that I can explain things to him, or that I can encourage him to draw attention to certain things. In addition, my brother was afraid that he could get it, because of a possible heredity. I was able to explain that this doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll get it, because there are so many other factors involved."
What can men do to self-check? "You often don’t notice anything at all and that’s why it’s important to have yourself checked when you have any doubts. My father is only 54 years old and therefore relatively young. The only thing I can say about it, is that you need to put your shame aside. Of course it’s annoying to go to the doctor and ask for a check-up, but a GP is trained and won’t judge you. You’re the only one who feels the shame, and although the shame is annoying, it’s of course a lot more annoying when you have to endure a series of radiation or chemotherapy. It’s far better to put the shame aside and get some certainty."
"When I discovered that Movember is also committed to reducing the number of suicides among men, the foundation became even more relevant to me. My grandfather committed suicide and to this day we still don’t know why. We never noticed anything! People say that you’re not allowed to judge suicide, but the survivors are left with the suffering. Is that fair? Is it fair that you have to find a dead family member, and remain behind with so many open questions? I think it’s important that you can talk about it openly and honestly. Only then can you learn to deal with the loss."
This year you’re the social media manager for the Movember Run. What are your plans? "I want to promote the event as much as possible through social media channels, and be very active on Facebook and Instagram, so the event continues to appear on as many people’s timelines as possible. I think this is important because I feel that the Movember Run is still underexposed. It should be able to attract a broad audience because of the dressing up element that’s part of the run."
Do you want to say something to the people who still have doubts about participating in the Movember Run? "Even if you’re not a runner, you can still join in! As far as I know, the Movember Run is mainly a fun run. I always skip the treadmill at the gym and I always hated running during gym classes, but I'm going to do it. Five kilometers is doable and especially if it’s for charity! Can’t run the fastest time? Then just run for fun."
"And if you can’t participate due to other circumstances, you can always contribute by encouraging your friends, family, colleagues and everyone else to join. Let Movember live among people! "