PORTLAND – While some people cycle centuries, tee off in a golf tournament or run road races to raise money for cancer treatment, research and awareness, Dr. Lou Jacobs has a different idea.
He has decided to fight cancer with his moustache and is hoping others will join him.
“It doesn’t involve exercise,” Jacobs said. “Not everybody wants to run a marathon to raise money. It’s a good way to get a group of guys involved in raising money.”
The “My Stache Fights Cancer” fundraiser kicks off today and runs through the end of the year. Jacobs is asking people to donate money to benefit the Cancer Community Center.
“It’s an interesting, creative idea,” Dr. Roger Inhorn, medical director of oncology and hematology at Mercy Hospital, said. “I think that sometimes, something like this can take on a life of its own.”
The handlebar moustache Jacobs is sporting has been a year in progress. It all started when his mother was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer. He began joking then about growing the moustache to raise money.
Shortly after she died in May, his father was diagnosed with leukemia and Jacobs decided to follow through with the idea. The significance of starting today is that Jacobs’ father is starting treatment to prepare for a bone marrow transplant.
“One in two people will be diagnosed with some form of cancer at some point in their lifetime. That’s 50 percent,” Jacobs said.
With the market of athletic events raising funds for various causes well saturated, Inhorn said ideas like Jacobs’ open opportunities for a completely different demographic. Just as when the Maine Cancer Foundation launched the Pink Tulip Project, Inhorn said he was skeptical at first of growing a moustache for a cause.
“I think sometimes things like this capture people’s imaginations,” he said.
Tim Lambert of North Yarmouth has already contacted Jacobs to see how he can get involved. Lambert’s father died of an emphysema-related illness and has other close relatives succumb to cancer.
“I saw this and said, ‘That’s a way for me to get involved,’” and an excuse to grow facial hair, Lambert said.
Typically growing a beard from the day after Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, Lambert said he’s going to start growing his beard today and see if he can great a “full mountain-man beard” by the end of the fundraiser.
“I just think it would be something the average guy could be involved in when they may grow a beard anyway,” Lambert said. Jacobs is hoping to raise at least $5,000 and get as many people involved in the effort as possible. If he raises $10,000, he will not only shave the moustache, but also his goatee.
A patient of Jacobs, Susan Maxwell of South Portland, has jumped into the action. Maxwell was a member of a relay team during the Tri for a Cure on Aug. 15 and Jacobs supported her, so she’s matching his donation for his fundraiser and “upping the ante.”
“We were trying to figure out how to bump it up more, make it more interesting,” Maxwell said.
She has committed to shaving her head of hair if $40,000 is raised by the end of the year. She said it’s her way of supporting Jacobs’ efforts and trying to appeal to a wider audience.
“Honestly, I hope to see what the shape of my head is (come January), because that would mean $40,000 got raised and that would be great,” Maxwell said.
While Jacobs said he has had a goatee in the past, the handlebar moustache is a new look.
“It’s very cool,” Maxwell said. “It really defines him.”
“Dad thinks it’s great,” Jacobs said of his father’s opinion on “My Stache Fights Cancer.”
“It’s kind of goofy,” Jacobs said. “I think (my mom) would have liked the energy behind it. It’s a little on the silly side, but for a serious cause.”
The money raised mostly will benefit the Cancer Community Center, with some funds going to a center for inflammatory breast cancer.
“My goal for this whole thing is to be the biggest, one of the biggest, nonathletic fundraisers for local action toward cancer education and management and research too. I think we need to focus more on the other aspects of cancer care,” Jacobs said.
As a volunteer and beneficiary of the Cancer Community Center’s programs, he added, the organization helps those with cancer and their families through support groups and buddy systems.
“There’s a lot of services to help people get through this instead of just trying to find cures,” he said.
Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: [email protected]