There’s an interesting phenomenon that strikes the farms and ranches of the Northwest this time of year. It hits just about the same time the frost lies across the ground in the morning and your breath carries a sting on the way in and a wisp of vapor on the way out again. Men of the west buck up, head to the backs of our closets to dig out neglected pieces of flannel, and offer our disregard to our razors instead.

You’ve thought about it already, haven’t you? Can I get away with not shaving today? Well, if you haven’t begun letting the stubble show by now, your time is about to come, because I want you to drop that single-bladed habit.  I want you to drop it for a month, and I want you to drop it for a reason: No-Shave November. This is bigger than the laziness or creature-comforts that ordinarily cause us to let the razor sit idly. No-Shave November isn’t just about channeling our inner Gabby Hayes for nothing — it’s about raising awareness for prostate cancer and testicular cancer.

Gabby Hayes

This might be the most uncomfortable subject I’ve discussed recently. It’s an important subject, though, and I tried to think of a way to make it less uncomfortable before it struck me: nobody should ever, EVER be comfortable with the idea of prostate cancer or testicular cancer, because chances are, it will affect us in some way over the course of our lifetime.  Consider these facts from the National Cancer Institute concerning these cancers:

  • Prostate cancer is the most common cancer found in men, affecting over 15% of American men.
  • Nearly 240,000 new cases have been discovered in 2013, resulting in nearly 30,000 deaths.
  • If caught early, the survival rate is over 98%.
  • Testicular cancer is not so prevalent, but this only makes it that much easier to overlook.

Not being a doctor, I’m not going to pretend to offer you medical advice, but that third point there astounds me. True, the chances of developing prostate cancer are amazingly high, but if caught and treated early, the chances of surviving it are even higher! This astounds me, and gives me all kinds of hope!  However…it has to be diagnosed to be treated, and this is where No-Shave November comes into the picture. You don’t have to be a medical professional to know that with any cancer, early detection is key, and it is as relevant with these cancers as it is with any other, if not more so. Getting a diagnosis and treatment early in development is life-saving, and this isn’t just for the men reading this. It’s for all of your dads, uncles, grandfathers, sons, brothers, hunting buddies, fishing co-liars, best friends, and arch nemeses, and it’s why I want you to let those whiskers cover your clock.


No, your beard itself won’t protect anyone from developing life-threatening cancers, but the combined effort of No-Shave November is to bring awareness to those cancers, and the importance of early detection. Let the world ask what that crop of chin cabbage is doing on your grill, and tell them proudly that it’s there to remind men to man up and get checked! When they ask why your kisser is bristled, remind them that it’s about saving lives! If they should mock the rug on your mug, you tell them that even though the test might be a slight pain-in-the-butt, but it’s not nearly as bad as the potential, and to get checked.

Ladies: I know you like that man of yours to be clean-shaven, but there are eleven other months for that. I’m not about to recommend any particular razor-related habits to you personally, but whether the face furniture on that man of yours comes out mangy or manly, remember that he’s out to save lives, and those aren’t just whiskers — they’re follicles of hope!

As for me, I take a long time to grow a good beard, and the hipsters and Mennonites seem to have quite a head start on me. If you notice eyeliner filling in any gaps on me this Fall, please be gracious. It’s all for charity, and maybe it’s just No-Shave November, but on me, maybe — just maybe it’s Maybelline.

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