International Men’s Day

For those of you who may not be aware, today is International Men’s Day.

I know what you’re thinking… and no everyday isn’t International Men’s Day.

IMD (I apologise for the acronym but I’m a millennial, I can’t help myself) was created and is honoured in many countries around the world as a means to address the issues that affect men and boys.

The 6 pillars of IMD are:

  • To celebrate the contribution that men make
  • To highlight discrimination against men and the inequalities that men and boys face
  • To improve gender relations and promote gender equality
  • To create a safer world for everyone
  • To focus on men’s health and wellbeing
  • To promote male role models

The focus for IMD this year is positive male role models and today I’d like to tell you about one of the most positive male role models I think I’ve had the honour to meet.

I met him just over a year and a half ago. We met while I was attending the first ever Business Growth Enabler conference (my role at the time) and I remember being really excited that we were able to visit our head office in Scotland. I was also excited about meeting my colleagues from around the country and I vowed to take a selfie with every single one of them. We got to Edinburgh early on Thursday afternoon and headed to the conference venue. Later that evening as we were seating ourselves for dinner I remember there was a man I didn’t recognise collecting for a charity raffle. I remember asking which charity it was for and one of my colleagues explained that all would be revealed later.

After a wonderful dinner and accomplishing my mission of most selfies taken in one evening I spent the rest of the night getting to know some of my colleagues from outside London. The next morning we had to be up super early and we headed into the conference centre, I recognised the man who had been doing the charity collection the night before as he sat next to me.

I don’t know if you’ll remember but May 2017 was unseasonably warm and in Edinburgh which has a bad rep for being chilly was absolutely boiling. We’d spent a jam-packed morning in a conference venue with no windows hearing from various people from around the industry doing talks all aimed at helping us be better in our roles. As it was approaching the end of the conference I’m sure my colleagues’ feelings were the same as mine. All I could think about was getting out of the inferno and catching my flight home after a long two days.

The final speaker ‘Kevin’ was introduced and I remember feeling a flicker of surprise as the unassuming charity collector who was sitting next to me got up to take the floor. My curiosity peaked, at who this stranger was and what he had to say, I leaned forward in my seat and he proceeded to tell us his story.

He began speaking and I remember feeling a growing lump at the back of my throat and a tingling sensation in my tear ducts.

It transpired that Kevin works for the bank and he detailed how after experiencing worrying symptoms over a 6 week period he visited the doctor. On 6th November 2014 at age 49, Kevin was diagnosed with T4 advanced prostate cancer. This means that the cancer had spread to other parts of his body and was therefore not curable. I remember him saying that he was then told that he probably only had two years left to live, three if he was fortunate.

It was so surreal to hear this man (who I’d assumed was just another regular person at the conference) talk so directly to a room of over 100 people, most of whom were strangers, about his diagnosis. I was transfixed. He shared with us how he came to realise that now at the moment of having to face head on his impending mortality he wanted to truly live.

As well as spending as much time with his family and friends as possible he wanted to prove that he could still do things and make a difference by raising money for Prostate Cancer UK. Before his diagnosis he had already entered the Brighton marathon. I was so in awe as I have no doubt there are many who, finding themselves in a similar situation would just give in, and let fear engulf them, becoming inert. I would call myself a pretty motivated individual but I can’t honestly say that if I were to receive similar news, I wouldn’t be a puddle on the floor.

I have untold amounts of respect for Kevin as he is doing the exact opposite. After taking part in a few marathons and races, he entered a race which I can only describe as my own personal version of hell aka The Marathon Des Sables.

If you’ve never heard of it (I hadn’t until that day) it’s a 150+ mile race in which the competitors have to be self-sufficient for a whole week while they traverse the Sahara carrying everything they need on their backs (like a tortoise). They have to run over sand dunes and mountain ranges and on the longest day entrants have to do a double marathon, all this in temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius.

When I heard this, my immediate thought was. He must be insane! I know for a fact there are many who would be at the peak of their health and wouldn’t even entertain a nightmare about having to do this. This thought however was swiftly followed by the highest level of respect I may ever have felt for anyone I’d actually met. By the time he finished speaking there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, the whole room rose as one to give him a much deserved standing ovation.

Since that day Kevin has gone on to sign up for ever more challenging races including racing in the marathon des sables not only a second but a third time and its polar opposite Fire and Ice Ultra and the spectacularly crazy Likeys Yukon 6633 Ultra in addition to many many more races, marathons and super long walks..

Inspirational doesn’t quite cut it when I think of what he’s achieved and to add to all this Kevin pays for all of his own costs so all of the money he’s raised so far goes directly to Prostate Cancer UK, which is a whopping £200K+ and he will keep raising money for them as he is dedicated to also raising awareness.

When I was a teenager I loved the film ‘She’s the Man’ starring Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum. The film is inspired by Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night in which the protagonist Viola Davis pretends to be a boy so that she can play on the boys football team. There is one scene in particular that always makes me laugh where Channing Tatum’s character Duke is injured and Viola begins to react with concern before realising that she is supposed to be a boy and corrects herself responding. “Suck it up, be a man and rub some dirt on it”.

Although I find this scene very amusing it does point to a slightly darker issue in which our society tells men and boys that it’s not ok to admit when you’re hurt and this extends to acknowledging their health concerns. It’s so important that we encourage the men in our lives to be aware of what is going on with their bodies and to take care of themselves both physically and mentally!

Hearing Kevin’s story has made me want to be a better person and to do what little I can to help make a difference to the lives of others. I receive Kevin’s monthly blog and he always says that he hopes that he is able to inspire others to do something no matter how small while they are still able. I’d also like to highlight the fact that although Kevin was told that he maybe had two years to live, 4 years later he is still here running rings around most of us, and I am blown away by his strength of spirit and commitment to his cause.

I truly do believe that there are angels on earth and I think this man may be one of them and I was fortunate enough to have him sit next to me for a few hours on what I thought was just another Friday.

I salute you Kevin I just want to say thank you so much for showing me what it means to be an astronomically amazing human being! And Happy International Men’s Day!!

To read more about Kevin’s story or to read his blog please visit

https://www.makethemostofit.org   

Please find the link to Kevin’s Just Giving page if you would like to donate you can also see his plans to raise even more money for Prostate Cancer UK

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/kevin-webber7

If you’d like to see some of the other fantastic things Kevin has done please find his previous Just Giving pages below:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/kevin-webber6

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/kevin-webber5

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/kevin-webber4

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/kevin-webber3

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/kevin-webber2

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/kevin-webber

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