It is that scary time of year again and no I’m not talking about Halloween! I’m talking about that month, once a year, when men attempt to grow the most grotesquely formed moustaches in efforts to raise awareness for Movember - a charity that actively promotes awareness and support for prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention to men.
What does this have to do with new balls, Wombles and my photography?
Well, let me introduce you to Flight Lieutenant Alun Pepper.
Al, Peps, Uncle Bulgaria, Britain’s Manliest Man, Lincoln’s Most Sexiest Person - you name it, he has been called it! But what sets Al apart from the average guy? Well Al took on testicluar cancer and won. On average, approximately six men a day are diagnosed, yet still many ignore the signs or feel embarrassed to see a doctor. This is why Al feels so passionate about openly talking about his cancer and takes his talks to school, colleges and workplaces around the UK to raise awareness and reassure men that it is ok to “talk bollocks” about the UK’s 17th most common cancer.
Let’s go back to 2006 and picture a rather slovenly Peps on a sofa, waiting to be deployed. Like most men, Peps is not shy to admit hands crept south and he was shocked to discover a lump. As an avid cyclist and Lance Armstrong fan, Peps was familiar with Lance’s own battle and wasted no time to make an appointment with the doctor, which lead to an ultrasound. Within four weeks upon discovery, Peps was undergoing surgery to remove a stage one seminoma and received one dose of preventative chemotherapy.
By 2011, Peps had been given the all clear, made ambassador of the charity “Orchid” (a charity that supports men affected by male cancers). He was also crowned Britain’s Manliest Man after gaining a mass social media interest in his story and backing from his amazing colleagues at the Royal Air Force, who also bestowed him the most appropriate of inappropriate nicknames - Uncle Bulgaria. If you are not familiar with the reference, Uncle Bulgaria is a character from the children’s tv series from the 70’s called the Wombles and Peps’ friends pointed out that after his operation, he was indeed a Womble (One Ball…)
Today, Al is still working with the RAF (having worked with the Tornado and Lancaster to name a few) and is raising awareness through his talks. Testicular cancer is reported to have a 98% survival rate if caught early enough and this is why Peps is so keen to raise awareness over raising money. He feels if he can get the word out there, not only of the symptoms but also to reduce the stigma and embarrassment of seeking medical attention then some good can come out of his experience.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
Typical symptoms are a painless swelling or lump in one of the testicles, or any change in shape or texture of the testicles and an immediate check up should be made with a doctor . The swelling or lump can be about the size of a pea but may be larger. Basically any change or irregularity should be checked such as:
an increase in the firmness of a testicle
a difference between one testicle and the other
a dull ache or sharp pain in your testicles or scrotum, which may come and go
a feeling of heaviness in your scrotum.
I was delighted when Al asked me to take some shots for his presentation. We captured his “smooth” side, his work side and took the shoot to the gym where he likes to work out and train for his passion of martial arts.
What Al and this interview have inspired me to do is raise more awareness through my photography; there will be more about this on my social media shortly! With a following of over 12,000 people across my channels, it feels like there is a platform that can be utilised for some good and if one person reading this blog gets health checked as a result then that can only be a good thing for sure.
So I’ll try not to wrinkle my nose at the gaudy sight of lip caterpillars this month, tag me in your efforts and let’s spread the word.
Until Next Time, Smile for the Camera
Love Carly x