Brett Morrison believes his wife Sarah, who died six months ago this week, will be having a laugh at the fact his bushy beard has led to him being the face of “Decembeard” – an awareness month for bowel cancer.
Numerous times he asked her if she’d like him to shave it off and each time she told him the decision was his own – it was his face. “She’ll find it quite funny that it’s my beard that’s doing the job,” he said.
The beard, combined with Mr Morrison’s passion for the cause, has made him the New Zealand face of a global campaign to raise awareness about the little-talked-about cancer.
Mr Morrison wants New Zealanders to recognise the symptoms of bowel cancer so they understand what to look out for and can give their GP all the information.
Initially diagnosed with anxiety symptoms, the cancer had spread to other parts of Mrs Morrison’s body before she was diagnosed with bowel cancer.
“It’s a lot of little signs that can lead to the bigger picture. Most of the population don’t know a lot about bowel cancer in New Zealand, it’s not really spoken about,” he said.
Bowel Cancer New Zealand executive officer Fiona Colbert said Mr Morrison, who already had an “amazing” beard, was a quintessential Kiwi who had been “so out there” raising awareness of bowel cancer.
Eloquently spoken, the tattoo-loving surfer could relate well to young and old, she said.
“He’s just got such a lovely personality and cool outlook on life. I want to bottle it,” she said.
Most importantly Mr Morrison had a powerful story to share and was passionate about encouraging Kiwis to know the symptoms of bowel cancer.
“We need to talk to our doctors. Our GPs are working very hard but there’s too many sad stories in New Zealand at the moment because there isn’t a screening programme,” she said.
Ultimately Mr Morrison wants a bowel cancer screening programme in New Zealand. He has been talking to MPs and is calculating the cost to the Government of putting a patient though chemotherapy treatment as well as the lost taxes for themselves and their partner or caregiver.
“The initial cost (of a screening programme) will be quite expensive but once it’s running I think it’s going to be a lot cheaper than not screening,” he said.
This Thursday will mark the six-month anniversary of Mrs Morrison’s death – another difficult milestone since he lost his soulmate far too soon.
“I think the key will be to acknowledge it and do something different and nice but not to sit at home and dwell on it,” he said.
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* Raising money and awareness for bowel cancer.
* Bearded men can grow a beard, dye it pink, decorate it or shave it all off.
* Runs from December 1 to 31.
* To register or make a donation visit www.everydayhero.co.nz