The third annual Manuary campaign kicked off in a classy way Wednesday (Jan. 2).
Dr. Leigh Sowerby, co-founder of the Manuary campaign for Head and Neck Cancer, had his beard straight-edged off at the David E. White Barbershop downtown.
Sowerby and co-founder Doug Angel, a fifth-year resident at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, hope to more than double their 2012 total of $11,000 in 2013.
They want to raise at least $25,000 for the London Health Sciences Foundation’s Head and Neck Cancer Research Fund in 2013, and they want to spotlight how prevalent head and neck cancers are, especially among men.
It’s a challenge competing in a way with the marketing machines working for breast and prostate cancer, the latter of which now has the internationally recognized Movember movement generating more than $30 million a year in Canada alone.
“It’s very important for us to get on the radar,” Sowerby told London Community News. “For all comers, the five-year survival rate is only 50 percent,” he said. “So it’s deadly among the common cancers.”
He said a major focus for Manuary is a lack of funding for men to be vaccinated against Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Better known as a virus that can lead to cervical cancer in women, it is free for females Ontario. But HPV is linked to cancers in the oral phalanx area (base of the tongue and tonsils), according to Sowerby.
“Men are disproportionately affected by head and neck cancers,” Sowerby explained. “So this is something that is relatively easy that we could be doing for future generations.”
Head and neck cancers tend to be difficult to treat, often involving disfiguring surgeries. He mentioned the potential loss of the voice box, or the use of part of a leg bone to replace a portion of the jaw, invoking film critic Roger Ebert as a visible example.
“So these people tend to be marginalized,” Sowerby said.
Sowerby started a second Manuary chapter in Edmonton, Canada’s other head and neck cancer research hot spot. He plans to expand the Manuary brand across Canada toward the 2014 event.
All of the money raised in London will stay in the city with LHSF.
Angel said the idea came about as he and Sowerby were literally just chatting one day three Januaries ago.
“We were both thinking about growing beards, so we said why not do it for a good cause? And it has grown significantly since then.”
He said not many people realize how prevalent head and neck cancers are.
“Unless they know someone who has been affected directly, it’s unlikely they realize how serious the effects on a person’s day-to-day life can be,” he said. “This is a good way to promote awareness.”
According to Christine McKernan, LHSF senior development officer, the Manuary kick-off represented one of over 100 community events the LHSF benefits from each year.
“We’re lucky to have the government fund all it does with regard to health care,” she said, “but it is nice to be able to provide extraordinary care, and attract top-notch researchers like these gentlemen to provide that care, and that’s what this fundraiser allows us to do. We really do have the best and brightest.”
Sowerby and Angel are actively working on more events with local businesses to help them meet that $25,000 goal. At least one restaurant is on board with details to come. What’s sure is Manuary will come to what will probably be a very itchy end at the Facial Hair Face-Off event at Up Front restaurant (at Richmond and Queens Streets) Jan. 31 starting at 7 p.m.
For more information and to donate, visit www.manuary.ca.