The fact that John Rathfon is in the fight to end prostate cancer can be seen all over his face.
Well, all underneath his nose, and down either side of his mouth, at least.
The Ketchum firefighter is growing his 'stache as part of a international fundraising effort called "Movember."
During November each year, Movember is responsible for the sprouting of moustaches on thousands of men's faces, in the U.S. and around the world. With their facial hair, these men raise vital funds and awareness for men's health, specifically prostate cancer and other cancers that affect men.
Rathfon's grandfather died from testicular cancer and his dad, Barry, a local veterinarian, is a survivor. Which is just what the younger Rathfon expects to be.
"I'm predisposed to it and I'm keeping track of it," he said.
The hair on his usually clean-shaven face is a conversation starter and donation generator.
"I wasn't going to do it at first—it's pretty cheesy looking," Rathfon said with a laugh. "I forget about it until someone starts looking at me funny. It's a way to educate people. You don't have to have Dr. Jellyfinger any more, there's a blood test."
And, said Ketchum urologist Dr. Pat McLaughlin, it's knowledge that is vital in intervention on what is currently the leading cause of death for men.
"With the new form of screening, we've been able to decrease [prostate cancer] mortality by 46 percent since 1988," he said.
However, he said, finding accurate indicators of prostate cancer is still a work in progress.
"The thing that is most significant is that we are changing the way we screen in regard to risk patterns and family history," he said.
A man with no genetic link or other contributing factors has an 18 percent risk of developing prostate cancer, but, he said, if you have one family member who has had it, your risk doubles.
He said awareness of the male cancer is lower than that of breast cancer, though the statistics are nearly mirrors of each other.
"And this is such a treatable cancer," he said.
Ketchum Fire Capt. Tom McLean said he joined the Movember movement after chatting with Rathfon and hearing the stats.
"I thought, you've got to be kidding me, and decided right there that it's a worthy cause," he said.
All proceeds go to the Prostate Cancer Foundation and Livestrong, the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
Barry Rathfon said he didn't know about the fundraiser until his son signed on, but that he applauds the effort.
"Preemptiveness is much more effective than trying to catch up," the elder Rathfon said. "It's a tough deal, but the odds and the treatment choices are better the sooner you know."
McLaughlin advised that at age 35-40, men get a baseline PSA number through a blood test, then repeat the test regularly to watch for a change. Even one point change is a red flag, he said.
John Rathfon encouraged people who see men with new facial hair to inquire about it this month.
"I guess if I am going to endure this embarrassment, I want to make sure people know that getting tested these days is no big deal," he said.
In addition to raising money for prostate cancer, the Ketchum Fire Department is also hosting the Ketchum Street Fight on Dec. 3 to benefit the Advocates too.
The public is invited to compete in a series of team events including sandbag carries, obstacle courses and a fire engine push. It's $100 a team and requires strength and strategy. For details contact the department at McLean at 720-7717.
And last but not least is the annual "fun raiser," the Firefighter's Ball, which will be held this Saturday, Nov. 19, at the Limelight Room at the Sun Valley Resort. Tickets for anyone 21 and older are $15. There's a cash bar and lots of potential for embarrassing moments to be immortalized in the photo booth, McLean said.
"This is a great social event, a great people-watching event and a chance to meet all your local firefighters," McLean promised. "Ketchum formal—come in anything you want."
This department is composed of 70 people, 85 percent of which are volunteers. They make about 1,000 emergency calls per year.
McLean said there will be music by Sole Purpose, as well as slide shows running showing how funds have been used for education and outreach as well as a victim's relief fund.
"But the ball isn't as much about fundraising at it really is the highlight of our year for fun."
32nd annual Firefighters Ball
- Meet your local heroes, take a twirl on the dance floor and get a picture made in full fire gear at the always-popular photo booth, Saturday, Nov. 19.
- Doors open at 8 p.m. at the Limelight Room in the Sun Valley Inn.
- Tickets at the door, $15. Music by Sole Purpose.
To learn more about Movember visit www.us.movember.com or ask anyone around town who suddenly seems to have an interest in facial hair or call Capt. Tom McLean at 720-7717.