Men’s Health Still Matters…
,,, and We Can Promote Men’s Health with Intentional Brotherhood.
(c) 2015, Davd
Movember ended before Radiation Treatment did, but barely: My last session with the narrow slippery table and the elaborate attack-X-ray machine was December 3. My days are no longer dominated by Radiation Treatment, the times when others chose to schedule it, and the Special Toilet Training it required.
I celebrated the end of those constraints by lunching on pirogies, a Ukrainian folk meal which might be uh, anti-laxative. For those who live well east of Winnipeg, or outside Canada and Ukraine, they are made from wheat pastry, stuffed with flavoured mashed potato, and usually boiled or fried rather than baked. The standard dressings for them are chopped onion fried in bacon fat, and sour cream; with those dressings, especially if the potato be flavoured with cheddar cheese, they’re delicious.
Pirogies eaten—with an apple to help sequester cholesterol and saturated fat—i rested a lot during the rest of that Thursday. I rejoiced in having more days when my support dog Fritz and i can enjoy one another’s company all day, when i need not leave him locked up in a basement apartment wondering what i’m doing that he cannot join, locked up homeless as he and i have been homeless these past four and a half months. Friday afternoon, he smiled as he slept… we were together all day
Reflection time, “windup” time; Movember is over and now, so is my Radiation Treatment. My next scheduled time to be at Cross Cancer Institute, they told me as i left, will be for a check-up in March. Until then, and probably all of 2016, i will remain a pharmacological eunuch. Between now and then, i should expect my body to gradually recover from the radiation damage, while the tumor, with luck, will remain devastated. Odds are, i was told, i will not need to return to Cross Cancer Institute for further treatment, just for one or more follow-up examinations.
An appropriate setting, this first week of December, for a tentative assessment of the diagnosis process, the treatment, the likely consequences.1 It seems much more likely than not, that i’ve gained 3-15 years of lifespan from getting into treatment this year. This fall has not been fun, for me or Fritz; we’ve been going through the unpleasant part and next year, we should gradually get back into the pleasures of retirement and being wise old characters.
It does seem clear that changing physicians in 2014, got my prostate cancer diagnosed and into treatment before it spread; and men over 55 should insist on PSA and those uncomfortable finger examinations. That points to a dangerous flaw in the system: Physicians who don’t do basic prostate cancer screening shouldn’t be in primary charge of older men patients2.
Cross Cancer Institute and the Alberta Cancer Society have treated me well. I’m not planning to complain about my provincial taxes next spring, probably not for years. I can’t drive for others as others have helped me get to treatments, not with these old eyes in the state they’re in; but maybe i can do something toward providing lodging during treatment for men who need it, especially men who have support dogs. The many PTSD sufferers who served Canada in Croatia, Rwanda, and Afghanistan are getting older; and more prostate cancer patients will need dog-friendly lodging as time goes on.
Men’s health—in my experience and opinion—deserves more attention than it gets; and mimicking women’s health initiatives won’t always, maybe not usually work. For instance, men are more likely to work long hours, more likely to work in remote or shifting locations, and thus, less likely to have regular connections to the medical care system.
Movember Clinics providing PSA tests [and finger examinations, perhaps other men’s health examinations and advice] look to me like a good use of Movember donations—and for that matter, of public health spending generally3. They shouldn’t be restricted to Movember, but it’s a good month in the sense that most farming and fishing and a lot of forestry work is wound up, daylight is short and so construction overtime tends to be less, and the snow’s not deep yet in most of Canada—most men have time to go to clinics, and decent driving or bus riding conditions in which to get there, in November. The Movember emphasis is appropriate… but Movember clinics are not all there is to improvement.
Health promotion for men (like education for boys) should take into account our greater need to be physically active. Sports for fun (especially fishing and hunting), commuting by bicycle, even pushing lawn mowers and getting in the firewood, are more valuable to us than to women.
Health promotion for men should confront misandry, and especially the lie that men are privileged. Living a lie is mighty unhealthy, and the notion that men in general are privileged, is a whopper. That “if the genders were reversed” test is one good way to estimate misandry, and social programs that flunk it should be revised. Self respect is not pride, and if my Ph.D. in sociology serves me well, much of the depression among men is a symptom of oppression.
It’s bad advice—it’s misdirection—to send men to women for support if other men can provide it, in a social milieu where so many women feel entitled to privilege. Men with good marriages will get support from their wives without being told to; men with bad marriages shouldn’t be asked to rely on them; and the same goes for relationships other than marriage. There are good women, millions of them—and there are other millions of women whose effect on men close to them, in today’s biased legal and bureaucratic system, is too frequently toxic. If in doubt, i recommend, choose buddies—the word is based on brother, and we Christians are supposed to treat our fellow Christian men as brothers (as likewise with Muslim men4).
It’s not only monks who can benefit from intentional brotherhood. Monks provide us with examples of men living, successfully, as brothers not born to the same mother nor father, and successful for centuries. Their examples can be adapted for men who have other main interests than religious ritual5. Indeed, students in “fraternities” at universities and colleges are basically adapting the monastery model. Millions of men of all ages, who have been abused by misandry or have seen others abused and become wary of marriage, can benefit from the social efficiency of intentional brotherhood
Developing intentional brotherhood has had to wait this autumn, while i camped in an apartment and went every weekday to Radiation Treatment. I was willing to proceed but my first attention had to go to treatment and its special requirements. Now that treatment is done, my healthiest choice is not a solitary apartment but the fellowship of intentional brotherhood—and it’s not mine only. Fellowship is healthier, it’s more efficient, it’s more fun. The most challenging part, especially as we begin making intentional brotherhood a common choice and a respected alternative to marriage, is probably to identify sets of buddies who can group up into successful households. As intentional brotherhood becomes commoner and more respected, ways of identifying will develop; and the pioneers will make the going easier for those who follow.
My grandfather was a pioneer, and my favorite relative. The development of the PSA test that got my diagnosis started, was a different kind of pioneering than Grandfather’s. It’s the wrong time in history for me to walk halfway across the continent like Grandfather did; i don’t have the biochemical and physiological training to devise blood tests; but maybe i can contribute to the development of intentional brotherhood. It’s an appealing idea; i have experienced intentional brotherhood among monks and enjoyed it; now it seems i have been given a few more years in which to spread and live that way of life.
I’ve got work to do. Care to join me? Brotherly fellowship is good for men’s health.
Brown, Grant A., 2013. Ideology And Dysfunction In Family Law: How Courts Disenfranchise Fathers. Calgary and Winnipeg: Canadian Constitution Foundation and Frontier Centre For Public Policy
Nathanson, Paul, and Katherine K. Young, 2006. Legalizing Misandry: From Public Shame to Systemic Discrimination against Men Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.
Wells, H. G. 1920: The Outline of History: The Whole Story of Man. New York: Macmillan. Cited in the Project Gutenberg Ebook edition, 2014.
1. “Tentative” is not meant as any affront. The March assessment should produce the first prognosis; and even then, it’s all estimate. As an Arthur Hailey novel pointed out, the final diagnosis is made post mortem.
2. To keep the details clear—the physician who didn’t do basic screening wasn’t practicing in Alberta; i came to Alberta for treatment, on the advice of clergy, because i have close relatives here and not there… and i’m much more likely to stay here than return.
3. Perhaps there are some already, just not where i’ve been this past decade or two.
4. The classic Islamic reference seems to be to Muhammad’s last speech at Mecca (e.g. Wells, 1920: ch. XXXII Muhammad And Islam, § 4); the Christian references are many (e.g. Matt 12: 46-50, Matt 23:8, Matt 25:40,45, Mark 3:32-35, Luke 8:21, 11:28 … plus Jesus’ tendency to refer to his disciples and followers generally as “brothers”.)
5. Religious ritual is a better use of time than many, but it’s not for everyone, not even for half or a quarter of all men. To those who are called to religious ritual, i say, enjoy. To those who are not, i say, let’s learn the distinct virtues of a co-operative household.