by Abby Milloy
It had been five years since my dad had a physical, and I was on a mission. At first, I tried subtle techniques to get him to the doctor’s office. I casually emailed him American Cancer Society’s guidelines for cancer screening tests based on age—“Just a friendly reminder! J”—and I sent him inspirational news stories of people who had been saved by early detection. None of it worked. I suspect it was because my dad is a pretty healthy dude.
He’s your stereotypical chatty runner; he has a habit of asking me thoughtful, open-ended questions about my life on long runs while I’m desperately sucking wind. He can also kick my butt in tennis, which, given that I had professional coaching, is frankly a little embarrassing. So, after my initial failed attempts to prove that despite feeling healthy he should still go to the doctor, I had to enforce the same discipline that he used during my childhood: if your behavior doesn’t improve and I don’t see doctors’ appointments by next month, I’m taking away all your birthday presents.
I accept that my status as the resident pesterer doesn’t exactly have dudes lining up to talk to me about sensitive health issues. My own father didn’t want to listen to me about a basic physical exam. But I refuse to relent for even one second because I see firsthand the devastation caused by a cancer diagnosis every single day, and I also have the privilege of seeing how my fellow pesterers rally.
As a LIVESTRONG Navigator, I spend my days talking to people who have been touched by cancer. Moms and girlfriends ask me about sperm banking; they also ask for information about cancer diagnosis and treatment options. Dads want to hear about clinical trials and financial and insurance resources. Friends want to know how they can support the newly-diagnosed. Siblings call to connect their brother to emotional support that they aren’t able to provide—support from another survivor who has truly lived the journey. I am honored whenever a guy calls me asking for help on his own behalf, and I always try to make his experience as painless as possible. It takes some serious courage to talk about the health of your man parts with a female and complete stranger. In the end, it doesn’t matter who calls or what they ask for; what’s important is that someone asks for help. Fighting cancer takes a village.
My dad initially laughed at my threats, but ultimately surrendered to my persistence. I now apply the same resolve to ensuring that all men get access to information and support during their cancer journey by any means necessary. That means if I can’t get men diagnosed with cancer to listen to me (heck, the men in my own life don’t listen to me), then I’ll send my message to the people who pester and love them.
Call me, whoever you are. I can help – 1-855-220-7777.
Meanwhile, I’m starting on my next pester project: getting my boyfriend to check himself half as often as he checks his fantasy lineup.