When you see a young man fight for his life, and lose the battle, it changes something in you.
It was this experience that changed the life of South African actor Sobantu Nqayi, best known for his role as Zuko Ntuli in the e.tv drama series Umlilo. It is also his motivation for becoming involved in the Movember campaign.
“My friend, my stunt double, Thembalethu Tyutu, was given two months to live when his cancer was diagnosed. He was just 28 years old. This was a fit young man with a huge future ahead of him,” Sobantu said. “He was the kind of guy who would walk into a room, and change the whole mood. People flew from all over the world for his funeral.”
His last film, Safe House, was dedicated to his memory.
“We hear of cancer and we take note, but you don’t really take it seriously until it happens to someone you know,” Sobantu said. “It is different if you hear of an old person who has lived a good life, but this was a young man who wasn’t ready to go. He just never stopped fighting, but eight months after his diagnosis in 2011, his body just gave up.”
For Sobantu, that was a real wake-up call. “It impacted me a lot, and it changed my whole perception of what cancer is. I realised that cancer can happen to you at any time. You have to take care of your body and do your annual check-ups,” he said.
Sobantu is determined to change the culture of men - and black men in particular - that prevents them from talking about their problems.
That’s why he has signed up as a Mo Bro this Movember, when men are encouraged to start 1 November clean shaven, and to grow and groom a moustache for the entire month, effectively becoming a walking, talking billboard for the 30 days of Movember.
“We have to destroy that stigma,” he said. “We’re told to ‘be a man’, and hide your emotions. And for what? If you don’t talk about these things and get help then you are going to die and leave your family bereft! So many people are afraid to even talk to a doctor so they don’t look for help until it is too late.
“We will never know for sure, but if Thembalethu had had a scan before the cancer got to his bones, maybe he would still be here today. Men need to take action. They need to talk about their health and get help when they need it,” he said.
Sign up for free at www.movember.com. Grow a Mo. Support a Bro. Commit to MOVE or hold and attend an event. For more info, download the Movember app on your mobile device. Follow Movember on social media: @MovemberRSA on Twitter or facebook/MovemberSouthAfrica.