November 23, 2016

Author: Nathan Ramsier

Students group (about 20-30)

The average life expectancy for men in the United States is almost five years less than women. Around 15 million American men (6.7% of the population) are diagnosed with depression each year. An astonishing 1 in 2 men will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.

These are just some of the health statistics that the Health and Wellness Programs (HWP) posted on its Facebook page at the beginning of November. To raise awareness of the issues underlying these numbers, HWP peer advocates Jimel Wright, Darren Carrus, and Connor Baer are leading the Movember campaign.

"We acknowledge that a lot of men typically don't discuss their health with one another, and because of that we face higher health risks by simply not knowing," said Wright. "As advocates, we thought it was important to educate our community to ensure that they prioritize their health over their pride."

Movember started in 2003 when a group of friends grew mustaches as conversation pieces and directed the dialogue to men's health. From this the Movember Foundation was born, focusing on three men's health issues: prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health and suicide prevention.

For the second year, HWP is pursuing the Movember objectives at Gallaudet with an array of events. On November 3, 2016, the organization hosted Shave Day to inaugurate a month of no shaving. Close to 30 people participated while others showed up in support. On November 14, a men-to-men health discussion fostered a frank, open conversation among male students. Led by Wright, Baer, and Carrus, dialogue was built on three topics: men's health, relationships, and taboos.

Gallaudet fraternities Alpha Sigma Pi, Delta Sigma Phi, Kappa Gamma, and Kappa Sigma all made financial donations to the campaign. These contributions supplied further resources to HWP including Movember t-shirts and stress balls.

To conclude the Movember campaign, HWP, along with sponsorship by Campus Activities, has invited cancer survivor Tony Remis to share his experience in an event that promises to be both personal and powerful.

"We can talk all day about how we want to have a 'conversation' about men's health or topics that are avoided, but when you actually hear a story about someone's actual experience it allows you to reflect on the decisions you can make to maintain good health," said Wright.

While Remis has always been open about his encounter with testicular cancer, this will mark just the second time he has taken the stage in public. In 2015, Remis shared his story to the Gallaudet community and found a receptive and engaged audience. Given how successful his presentation was last year, Remis is bound to have a full house once again.

Remis, who hails from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, graduated from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) with a business degree; he also earned a degree in elementary education from the State University of New York at Oswego. Remis has taught at both the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (PSD) in Philadelphia and the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (WPSD) in Pittsburgh. Today, Remis is retired and enjoys life at home with his wife of 11 years, their two sons, and a pet lizard.

In 2000, Remis was diagnosed with testicular cancer. The grueling treatment, combined with the emotional toll of an unexpected life change, was overwhelming. Remis soon found himself in a state of depression, believing that his vision for the future was forever shattered.

Yet Remis regained control of his situation through research. He discovered that testicular cancer is common, should never be a source of shame, and does not prevent one from achieving their goals.

"I want people to know that testicular cancer is not the end of the world," said Remis. "Yes, it is cancer which we don't like, but if caught early, life continues just like before diagnosis."

Remis shared this message in his 2015 presentation. Empowering the audience with knowledge, he reviewed the various cancer stages, stressed the importance of early detection, and explained the different treatment options. Literature on self-examination was provided and location of further resources was outlined. Remis supported the provided information with personal testimony and casual delivery.

"I can't emphasis enough on how important it is for men to be aware of testicular cancer," said Remis. "Men can't prevent it, but they can catch it early, be treated, and live a happy life afterward."

Wright expects Remis's presentation will be just as inspiring as last year's.

"This is why we had a series of events to build up to his presentation; not only a good wrap up for Movember but a good push to continue the conversation for the rest of our lives and to change the culture at Gallaudet."

Remis will give his presentation on December 1, 2016, 12:30-1:50 p.m., in the Merrill Learning Center, Room B111.