It’s 10:30 am and the three-hour countdown starts. Three hours until another Kiwi man dies of a preventable illness.
By the end of the day, that death toll will be at eight men.
By the end of the week, 56 men will have died.
That’s 2,912 by the end of the year.
That’s almost 3000 men who could have been saved.
Where does the responsibility lie? Who is held accountable for these deaths? There’s only one answer to that question, and men, here is a clue, it’s the person you see in the mirror every day.
It took me a long time to get over my lazy attitude when it came to my own health.
It’s a mentality I grew up with, and one so incredibly ingrained in New Zealand society. It’s easier to live in ignorance. It’s easier not to act because acting means confronting there could be a health complication.
But the go-to attitude almost always believing not acting means nothing is wrong.
But the truth hurts.
At 10:45 am there’s two hours and 45 minutes left. Coffee time.
As men, we feel invincible. Nothing can touch us. Health is for that soft lot.
About three years ago I had the biggest health scare of my life.
It started off like any other morning. My alarm went off at 3 am as per usual. I hit snooze three times before I got up and made my bed.
Trying to make as little noise as possible, I jumped in the bathroom, and began my daily routine. Wash, shave, and shower.
But my usual routine became not so usual. As I was washing, a shot of pain went up my body. I touched the spot in question again, and there it was… a lump.
My instant reaction was to ignore it and trivialise the situation. How silly of me for over-reacting. Instant gratification instant cure. I left it for a whole week. How stupid of me more like it.
By Friday, the pain had increased dramatically, the lump had grown in size, and my mental state had really taken a beating. Telling myself nothing was wrong was one thing, believing that was something entirely different.
In fact, I didn’t believe anything was wrong until I was at a friend’s birthday party that weekend (the stupid decisions kept coming), and passed out mid-event and was taken to hospital.
At 12 pm, an hour and a half to go. It’s time for lunch.
I woke up in Auckland Hospital, confused, still in pain, and feeling as stupid as ever. If only I had nipped it in the bud a week ago, it wouldn’t have escalated that far, and wouldn’t have been as serious as what it was now.
The facts: I had developed an infection in one of my testicles, which if left untreated, could have become worse, possibly even cancerous.
The infection had made its way through my entire body, the size of my testicles were comically and unbelievable large and growing alongside the pain.
The outcome: bed-bound in hospital for over a week, hooked up with an antibiotic IV.
In hindsight, a quick visit to the doctor and some meds wouldn’t have been so bad.
Almost 1 pm. Just over half an hour.
Here I was contributing to the statistics.
I could have been one of those 2912 men that die every year. Luck was on my side this time.
Since then, my approach to my own health, mental and otherwise, has been a lot more heightened.
I’ve been incredibly aware of what my body is doing and what I’m putting in it.
I no longer find it embarrassing to talk about my health. In fact, it’s actually been incredibly powering to be able to say things like “I’m feeling a bit depressed today,” or “I’m going for my sexual health check.”
For the first time in my life, I feel I have reclaimed that power over the unknown, and in my own mind, destroyed the soft-weak-take-my-man-card-off-me stigma I once was so incredibly afraid about.
As men, its no secret we live shorter lives than women.
We’re more likely to die of heart disease, and diabetes is very fond of us.
Most alarming of all, we’re three times more likely to die of self-harm.
These are the facts.
Now it’s up to us to change those statistics.
It’s time for us to stop being part of those statistics.
It’s time for us to stop killing ourselves.
At 1:15pm, 15 minutes. Just 15 minutes left until another man dies.
I stop and think to myself, in the time it’s taken me to write this, we’ve lost yet another person.
Was it worth it?
Was this article worth a life?
Aziz Al-Sa’afin is a MHW ambassador and a broadcaster on The AM Show.