Gideon Apor, of Parow, started thinking about what it would take for more men to get checked for prostate and testicular cancer, after he faced the old finger-up-the-rectum exam himself.
It’s a procedure many men would rather avoid, but those who do, run the risk of not having prostate cancer detected at an early stage when it is more easily treated.
When the 45-year-old IT company boss went for his check-up in 2015, he told the doctor he didn’t feel comfortable about being examined in that way. He asked if there was some other way to detect prostate cancer.
“He said a blood test could also be done, and because I had medical aid I was able to do it. I got the all-clear, but I realised, in that moment, that many men do not have access to this level of health care.
“That is when I decided that we need increased awareness about this type of cancer in our society.”
Gideon spent the next two years developing something he hopes will help get the message out: shoelaces with flashing ball-shaped LED lights and “#HEALTHYBALLS” on them.
“In any sporting game, be it rugby or soccer, if the ball is not healthy there will be no game, and it is the same when it comes to men’s health,” says Gideon.
He is now trying to get sports bodies, retailers and corporates to market the laces so he can donate 10% of the revenue to the Pink Drive.
The NGO does breast-cancer awareness but it also has a “More Balls Than Most” campaign focusing on male sexual health.
Gideon also wants to create brochures and pamphlets to tell the public about testicular and prostate cancer.
According to the Pink Drive, prostate cancer is the leading cancer in men in South Africa, and more than 4 000 men are diagnosed with it each year.Testicular cancer is the most common malignancy in men aged 15 to 35. April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month. Black men are more predisposed to developing both prostate and testicular cancers, according to the Pink Drive’s statistics.
Originally from Nigeria, Gideon has lived in South Africa for 20 years. He says there was no awareness about this type of cancer when he was growing up and that in African culture it is taboo to talk about male sexual health.
“People were not even talking about this issue and men are too scared to have the test done. We need to create dialogue among them about this issue in order for us to normalise this type of cancer and reduce the stigma,” he says.
“I want to tell men that prostate and testicular cancer is not a death sentence. The weapon in beating the illness is through education and early detection. My advice to men is to go to the nearest clinic and get tested.”
According to the Pink Drive’s Fébé Meyer, the More Balls Than Most campaign was started five years ago and the funds raised by Gideon’s project will help men without medical insurance.
“As an NGO we are grateful for the funds that come our way because we don’t receive any government funding. We are going to use the funds to do prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screenings for medically uninsured citizens.”
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