November first is the official launch of Movember, a month-long fundraiser for men’s health issues spearheaded by the Movember Foundation. There are shave down events happening all across the country (and globally!), even here in Music City. As a testicular cancer survivor, Jackie Lee is one of the foundation’s newest ambassadors. We met up with the country singer this morning, Nov. 1, at Barlour 3 in Brentwood, TN fresh off a clean, complete shave to kick off his Movember efforts.
You just helped kick off Movember here at Barbour 3. Can you tell us about the shave down event and what it’s all about?
Absolutely! A little pre-story: This week last year is when my hair fell out from treatments. And this was not planned to be that way, but it was just so bizarre. Movember Foundation reached out and asked if I would be an ambassador for this year. Men’s health awareness is something very close to my heart. I hope what we’re doing today is encouraging for someone and that they don’t feel so alone. And obviously, with the whole shave the face/grow a mustache tradition this month – I hope that by doing this, and with my buddy, Dallas, doing it with me – it’s a reminder you’re not alone, you don’t have to be scared that you are alone, and you don’t have to be embarrassed either. After today, I hope some dude sees this and knows he doesn’t have to be embarrassed for anything he’s going through.
The Movember Foundation is the leading global charity addressing men’s health issues. As a survivor, what does it mean to you to spread awareness and help continue such an important conversation?
It’s a really big deal. When I came out with my “Long Year” video showing all of the stuff I went through, we were about to hit “send” and it was really hard for me to do that – it’s just a really vulnerable thing to talk about. Guys tend to be a little bit more prideful, and a little bit more rough and tough. And so, it’s hard to, number one, admit you’re going through something; and, number two, accept help on its behalf. I hope today sends the message that you’re not weak for getting help and you’re not weak for needing other people to stand with.
Through your own battle and personal experience, how has music been an outlet for you?
We get into such a single driven world with what works on the radio, and I kind of stopped writing songs that just meant something to me. Going through this process I kind of got back to that a little bit and wrote songs not caring if anybody heard them; they were for me. And that helped a lot, just being able to say something.
What would you tell someone going through a similar situation?
I would offer them encouragement. In the beginning I felt very alone. I felt like Lance Armstrong and I were the only people in the world that had testicular cancer. And he felt so unreachable being a bigtime celebrity and athlete. It felt really lonely, but then after word had kind of gotten out about my diagnosis, I found out about two more people; two people that I knew personally, that had testicular cancer, too. But, no one talks about it, because it’s just very, very touchy. You have a lot of emotions going on, I understand – but you’re not alone, there are other dudes dealing with this.
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In 1932 a beautiful woman named Catherine Hall had a baby boy out of wedlock and she was ostracized and completely shamed by her community. So badly that after 3 months of trying her hardest to take care of him she knew the only option was to give her baby up to a good family that could care for him and she could move as far away as she could to run from the ridicule. She took the train to Seattle and lived out the rest of her life. The baby boy’s name was Jack Midkiff and miss Catherine…. your great grand baby is doing just fine.
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The Movember Foundation works year-round tackling men’s health issues, including prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention. To help support the cause into the future, what are some ways people can get involved?
There’s so much people can do, but honestly, awareness is huge. By nature, dudes tend to be quiet and just don’t talk about things. And that’s the biggest issue. Let it be a conversation, and Movember Foundation is doing a great job keeping it to the brand – not just this month during Movember, but all throughout the year.
And as far as the shave down goes, you decided to shave it all off today – does it feel weird to have it all gone, and what can we expect to see a month from now? What are your own mustache goals?
Well, I was going to keep it, but then they said to shave it all and grow the mustache. So, I guess I’ll have to keep shaving the sides. I can literally feel every bit of wind, breath, and whatever on my face right now! I haven’t had a straight razor shave in probably 2-plus years, so this is bizarre. But a month from now, oh man – that thing better grow in hardcore! I want a ferret on my upper lip – that’s what I want to see by the end of Movember [laughs]. And with posts and stuff too on social media, I hope if people see it they ask about it – that opens the door for conversation, and even more opportunity to explain why I’m doing this. That will all help spread awareness and continue the conversation.
For more information about Movember and the Movember Foundation, visit www.us.movember.com. It’s not too late to participate in Movember within your own community! Whether you shave down or want to donate, there’s lots of ways to get involved and to ultimately help “stop men dying too young!” Movember Foundation’s 50 Million Men campaign launches in 2019 and will offer “a range of health promotion initiatives, digital health products and programs that seek to improve the health of 50 million American men over the next 5 years.”